YNAB and Reconciling Reality.
I'm just over 6 months into using YNAB and it's been a huge game changer. It's taken a huge amount of guilt out of money usage and has made managing my money far less stressful (even... FUN...).
What it's put into very sharp focus for me is how far behind I feel and how insurmountable so much seems. I'm in my early 30's, with extremely low overhead: to kids, no car payment, no mortgage, not even pets. I have a terminal degree in my field, which was attached to some hefty student debt, but it's being tended to.
And yet. I can't make it much further past a 30 day buffer, and that's in a good month. The amount of money I'm making is really just enough to cover the bills, and some of the bills next month. The other jobs I'm applying for aren't offering a whole lot more, and are quite competitive. I'm so, so, so grateful for YNAB. Two years ago I couldn't see the forest for the trees with my finances but now that I do I don't even really like the forest that much.
Anyone else have harsh wake-up calls with YNAB? So happy for the tools, but a little bummed about the reality check.
Have you really explored your current expenses and made sure they are all necessary or priorities? Have you looked into lowering the costs of those you can't or won't live without? How much of your income is going towards debt? Once you eliminate that, you'll have more income to throw at savings. Over time, you will also continue to get raises and increase your salary. Try not to raise your standard of living as that happens so you can snowball that increased income.
I think this is a totally normal level of "YNAB Broke." In addition to Superbone 's suggestions, I'd say that really bulking up your True Expenses categories and getting a decent buffer going takes time—it sounds like you've come a long way already in 6 months!
For controlling spending, I suspect you're already doing this well, but I find that the YNAB magic—spending less without realizing how it's happening—works better the more consistently you're able to check your categories (and moving money when necessary) BEFORE spending.
But you're right: YNAB is really good at showing you the forest, even when the forest looks more like a clear-cut. 🌲
A few years ago someone shared about moving towns in order to manage $ better. I mention it, because some of those very big choices might not come to mind as s choice. Living in a part of the country that has lower living expenses could make a difference if your kind of work could be had there. Sorry i cant remember who it was who told the story. One of the ynab stories on the old forum (which seems to have disappeared now).