I'm super new at this and I feel a bit lost.

Hello! Here's my quick story:

Getting a divorce
Buying a new house (I live in Rhode Island)
Never had a budget before
In total my boyfriend and I make about 65000 (I think. That might be too low. Though, because of the zombie apocalypse, we're both collecting unemployment right now)

I'm excited about budgeting, being truly responsible for my spending for the first time in my life, and not just sitting back and letting my bread-winner husband worry about that stuff.

The problem? 
I don't know how much to budget in each category. No clue. 

Since I haven't moved into the house yet (closing is this Friday), I don't yet know when my mortgage payment will be due, I don't know how much the water bill is, I don't know how much the electric bill will be, I don't know how much to budget for future vacations, school supplies for my son, etc. 

I feel very overwhelmed and I want to do this RIGHT, ya know?

I could use some guidance, some advice on how much/percentage to budget off for each category. 

I know, that's asking a lot, but I'm surprisingly not finding a lot of truly useful advice on the web about how much to budget in each major category.

Thanks everyone! 


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  • I can't answer your question directly but I can tell you this:  Even those of us who came in with some clues did A LOT of juggling and realigning in the first few months.  (I know I did, and that's what I see a lot in the forum posts from other people.)  Don't let it discourage you, especially as you will probably have to incorporate more changes due to your situation.  It's all a part of the process.  Hang in there and welcome!  Good luck!

    Like 6
  • It's often a guess for everyone at the beginning. I would start with your best estimate for those items that you've come across before (groceries, personal items, etc.), or look at your bank statements for the past year to guesstimate a monthly average.

    For those items you aren't sure of at all, such as utilities for the new home, you can often ask the utility companies for the average from the past. I believe they can supply a yearly average or monthly average - I'm not quite sure, but I know I did ask when setting up the utilities in my rental home. They gave me a figure to start with, and I knew in the summer costs would be higher for A/C, and in the winter costs would be higher for heat. 

    At first, it is a guessing game. For everyone. That overwhelming feeling will soon subside after you get a couple of months under your belt. Realize that moving money from one category to another (also called WAMing - Whack-A-Mole) will happen (most likely more often than you want).

    It's hard for us to give you a suggestion on what to budget for each category, as each situation is different. Try to find what information you have (bank statements, credit card charges, etc.) and see if you can track down other totals (past usage for the utilities). Good luck and welcome!

    Like 3
  • First of all, you can relax, it's not a big deal to get right numbers out of the gate. One of the huge powers of YNAB is Rule 3, Roll with the Punches. You make adjustments on the fly as needed based on your priorities. Just make your best guesses to start with and only budget money you have, no more. Like Orchid Device said, you can look at past statements for guidance but it's not super important to get your budget amounts right to start with. You will hone them in time.

    Like 5
  • Have a look at YNAB's Ultimate Getting Started Guide or Nick True's YNAB For Beginners - Quick Start Guide:


    These take you by the hand and guide you through your first budgeting steps.

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  • It may help to redefine what "getting it RIGHT" means. Instead of worrying about making perfect guesses, focus on following the rules, especially giving every dollar a job (any job for now!) and covering any overspending right away. Enter your transactions manually and reconcile often. YNAB is not a "set it and forget it" system - the more often you actively engage with your budget, the less scary it all becomes. 

    Like 5
  • melissa b said:
    I don't yet know when my mortgage payment will be due,

     Well, it's not that important. What's important it's to budget for it before it is due. I'm guessing you know how much it will be. Then the question is: can you budget for your mortgage now and still have enough to cover food + a bit before your next paycheck? If so, do so now. If not put as much as you can towards it. Put the total needed per month in the category name and/or a monthly contribution goal equal to the amount of the monthly payment, so you'll know to add money from the next paycheck. The money will then be ready to send whenever it is due. 

    For the rest, you might feel better if you budget very little to discretionary categories at first and leave a big pot of money in a "Things I forgot to budget" category. Then you can evaluate every discretionary purchase: is that worth it? And add money from the pot if you need to. At the same time, this should leave you some money set aside in case you guessed too low for your bills, etc. 

    It may feel like you are Ms Scrooge at the start, but it will be just for a few months until you get a better handle of the cost of things. And if you don't like thinking of yourself as Ms Scrooge, you can think of yourself as Ms Cautious.

    Like 3
  • Welcome to the party, and congrats on taking control of your money!

    Here's a secret: You won't get it "right" in the beginning. It's really, really messy as you learn where your dollars are actually being spent. And often you discover some things that can be bitter pills to swallow (I spent HOW much on eating out last month!?), but the longer you do it, and the more you stick to it, the better it gets.

    Here's a few quick tips:

    Worry more right now about getting the transactions in and recorded than how much money is in every category. Obviously, do what you need to do to put money into categories, but focus on making sure you're tracking where things are going. In the beginning that's most important because it will give you the bigger picture of where your dollars need to go, and where they might be slipping through your finger tips unawares.

    Buying a house is EXPENSIVE. You'll find lots an lots of reasons to spend money when you first move in. Like Oh, we've absolutely got to have a rug here, or a chair there, or curtains here, or, and, and, and.  - Or worse, oh, gee, we need a new hot water heater because this one just blew up. It's really difficult to budget for all those crazy things you had no idea you needed. But just know they're coming and follow rule 3 - roll with the punches.

    Go ahead and make categories for the big bills, even if you don't know how much they are and start setting aside funds. They'll be able to tell you when the water bill is due because it generally is due only quarterly, and in the negotiations they usually have to adjust for however long it has been since the water was due. Your neighbors will also be able to help give you ideas of how much the water bill is, too. You can ask the power company for an average, but keep in mind that it might not be accurate depending on whether or not the house has been empty or occupied, and possibly what they think of your credit (when we moved into the first house we rented, the power company told us that the power bill was almost double what it turned out to be. Partly I think because the BF had no history with them, and they wanted to be sure they were "covered" with the security deposit they charged him, and also because the former tenant likely ran the power bill up trying to heat/cool the house because he was an old man).

    After that, the cost of living in your area will dictate the rest of your numbers. On average, my BF and I spend about $350 to $450 per month on groceries for the two of us (that depends on how good we are about eating at home vs eating out, too). Depending on your cost of living in your area, it might be higher or lower, we live in Maryland, so costs aren't the lowest, but I don't think they're the highest, either.

    I also wrote a guide to getting started, so feel free to check this out: https://support.youneedabudget.com/t/h49pm4/far-from-the-usuals-guide-to-getting-started
    It's a pretty comprehensive list of everything I wish someone had told me when I started.

    Feel free to message me if you want to talk strategy. I manage 3 separate budgets (mine, my BF's, and my small business budget), so I'm used to juggling lots of crazy situations to make things work. Our personal situation has improved SO much in the past 7+ years that we've been working with YNAB. We started out very much in the red with credit card debt, and are both solidly in the black now (not counting the mortgage, and other major loans, of course). It's not easy, but it's so very worth it, and the peace of mind that comes with going to the grocery store and knowing you have the money to pay for groceries is amazing (and there's a certain peace of mind that comes with going out to eat and knowing that you don't actually have money for that, either, but that's ok because you have a plan and sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do)

    Like 2
  • We bought a house in January this year and I too didn't really know what to budget for items. It is surprising all of things you need to buy for a new house. Window coverings, rugs, shower curtains, toilet brushes, cleaning supplies, light bulbs, batteries for smoke detectors, miscellaneous tools, yard tools like rakes or a hose, etc.  It all adds up really quickly.

    We closed January 13th and our first payment was due March 1st but that could be different for you. I still don't have the full picture for the year yet.  I put in more than needed initially but keep in mind a lot of utilities will have deposits or charges for turn on. Trash service for us also had a startup fee to deliver trash and recycle bins. Both our gas company and electric company waived the deposits if we got a letter of credit from our former power company but some charged the first month ahead. I would ask friends or family members in your area if you can to get an idea. I tried that but a lot of people didn't want to give specific numbers but gave ball park figures. I also tried to save up the first month for each expense before we closed so I had a start and could pay startup fees.

    I live in Arizona so my utility numbers will probably be very different from yours (especially in summer). We have a gas furnace and stove but everything else is electric. Our gas bill has been pretty low. My last one was $17 but we are in summer and using AC. Our power bill is super high right now because of AC, me working from home and 109 degree weather. Water and Sewer are running us about $58 per month. Trash is $10.15 a month paid quarterly (recently HOA went out to bid for one company throughout the community). Before that it was $15.00 a month paid quarterly. Our HOA fee is $38  a month paid quarterly.  Groceries for two of us runs us about $500 a month. That will vary by where you live and how many people you are feeding. For the quarterly bills I make sure to budget each month so I have it ready when the payment comes due. I also budget the same every month so far and if there is any left over I leave it so if we have months of higher electric or gas use, I can cover it. I also recommend you start setting money aside for a home  maintenance fund. Once you have a house there are always things that need to be done and things like appliances need repaired or replaced or roof repair or painting.  If your AC is old or furnace is old, starting putting away for replacement.

    It is exciting to get a house and it is good you are already thinking about numbers. Good luck!

    Like 1
    • Maroon Piccolo Your experience is pretty similar to ours, too. It feels over whelming in the beginning, but you adapt and keep going!

    • farfromtheusual Yes, it does but it gets better. I love our house even though I know we have some expenses coming our way for maintenance. I just keep saving.

  • If you are closing this Friday, then your first mortgage payment will be due September 1.

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