You Need A Budget Catch-all

I'm about 2 weeks overdue on my plans^^

I'm looking to grow my net worth a significant percentage..it'll be through a combination of direct savings (pension contributions, IRA, 529s for kiddos, HSA, etc), and paying down debts (student loans, car, mortgage, etc). I doubt I'll get much help from the stock market this year, but I've got monthly targets and I am going to do quarterly check-ins to keep me on track.

My goals for this year are to keep saving at the same rate (about 13% for retirement), don't take on any new debt, and luckily I am on track for some bonuses that would be about 45% of my salary so I'm hoping to take that and use it as a down payment for a house. Or pay off our 6.5% interest student loans, just depends on when we think we'll be ready to buy.

I just got my bank accounts and credit card accounts imported. I have no idea when I'm doing. The onboarding leaves something to be desired. I might also be in a weird place to start using it, because we have savings, and no more bills for the month.

I'm sure it'll make sense once I start entering bills for next month and get transactions showing up.

They have some pretty good getting started videos on their site if you want to take a look.

Chaz wrote:

I just got my bank accounts and credit card accounts imported. I have no idea when I'm doing. The onboarding leaves something to be desired. I might also be in a weird place to start using it, because we have savings, and no more bills for the month.

I'm sure it'll make sense once I start entering bills for next month and get transactions showing up.

The main thing to remember is that every dollar needs a job. If you have savings that shows up in your "To Be Budgeted" category, just assign that bulk number some longer term goal. If you have more money left after that, and all your immediate bills and things are already covered, start assigning money to next month's bills.

Then just try to keep your spending within those amounts you've assigned. If you go over a little bit, it's cool-- just move some dollars around to cover the overage, and adjust again with your next paycheck.

Also LeapingGnome is right: they have some solid tutorials on the site.

I might just suck at finding them, but none of the "quick start" sections mention that you can/should handle recurring monthly bills by setting up monthly balance targets, which seems pretty fundamental to me. Now that I know about that (and that is one of the first things they say to do in one of the 20 minute seminar videos, but I didn't look there first), I think things make more sense. I just have to figure out what all those are, and how I want to handle stuff like utility bills that's variable throughout the year.

I'm thinking I might have a harder time getting my wife on board with this. I think she already thinks of the money like this for bills, and hasn't quite connected that we should also be setting target budgets for other areas too. Right now, she goes "all the money goes towards bills first, including whatever goes on the credit card, the rest goes to savings". I don't know if she loves the idea of getting granular about what the stuff is that goes on the credit card, but that's really what we need to do.

The first month or so will probably be more about "let's see what we're actually spending money on", and then we can start working on setting budgets for those areas. I hope.

Honestly I rarely use monthly goal targets. For me, at least, recurring bills tend not to fluctuate so I can just move to the next month's tab and under Quick Budget for a particular category, just select "Last Month's Budget." If things fluctuate up or down, I adjust and reassign dollars to cover (or let extra roll over to the next month, if need be).

As for this

The first month or so will probably be more about "let's see what we're actually spending money on", and then we can start working on setting budgets for those areas. I hope.

Good call, and it's important to remain somewhat fluid with your budget, but I would personally recommend doing the inverse: Set what you consider a reasonable budget for categories like personal spending or whatever, and see how far off you are for the first couple of months. Then adjust appropriately.

In my experience, at least, without setting some sort of goal, I would start reconciling the budget and find that my personal spending was absurd. I found it's good for me personally to have a number in mind that I know I need to keep within striking distance, so I don't shrug off that budget entirely and just burn money.

For my bills that are variable like the electric bill I'll set a budget for the month that is roughly what I think it will be (like $150 in the summer and $50 in the winter) and then just adjust the budget when I get the actual bill.

And yeah the whole point of a YNAB-like system is to eliminate the blackboxes of 'whatever is on the credit card'. Have to track every dollar and every dollar has a job.

For variable bills, we average the last 12 months and assign that amount each month, plus a buffer to allow for price increases. There may be “too much” in the power bill fund over summer but it pays for the larger winter bills while keeping the budget predictable.

For myself, I absolutely benefit from having a spending limit that I can work against. I'll certainly be doing it for stuff like buying games, where I'm the only one doing it, it's entirely discretionary, and I probably spend more than I should. Cutting that is a no brainer for me. Where things might get rougher are areas like my wife's vitamins and supplements. I know those cost way more than I think is reasonable, but she considers them necessities.

We have that in our family too and it isn't an argument I win so I approach it more from a perspective ok that is fine and that means we have less for these other things.

I do my budget every month using the Quick Budget buttons in the right column. For fixed, recurring expenses (Internet, mortgage payment, subscriptions, etc), I highlight all the relevant rows and hit the "Budgeted Last Month" button to fill in all those. For more fluctuating expenses, I highlight those rows and hit the "Average Spent" button to fill in those. Then I can tweak them up or down if I know that's necessary.

I also check in on my budget every weekend and shift things here and there where necessary. Usually only takes a few minutes.

It's maybe overkill, but I've also started using the Target Goal savings feature for annual expenses. For example, I pay my auto insurance yearly, so I set up a line item with a target date for when I know that bill will come due. Every month, I use the "Underfunded" button and the appropriate amount for this month is put into that "bucket." For big annual expenses, it helps to even out the lumps. I even have a Christmas Presents fund in there.

The tricky thing I've found is understanding how they handle credit cards when you pay off your cards every month. The best tip I can give it just leave that money alone. Don't touch those lines. And it seems to work out?

I am finally giving up on the online YNAB and moving over to another app like EveryDollar or back to GoodBudget. Their program caused more issues than it solved and was so intuitively obtuse I couldn't take it anymore.

Good luck if you stick with them but it's so UI designed it isn't helpful.

My wife and I sit down every month before it starts or early on and run through our budget, it's pretty much the same every month but we adjust for gymnastics, kid costs, parties, gifts, etc.

Have you both figured out how you're going to work it together? If not I suggest the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover book to really get a solid plan in place. Budgeting takes a few months to get into. Just figuring out your ways so don't get frustrated when it goes to crap a few times. The important thing is you and the wife need to sit down and figure out why you're doing it together. Sometimes the why you're feeling motivated to budget won't jive with your partner. This can take a bit more discussion which is why the book above can help or listen to his podcast together. Great for getting on a budget plan.

I think I've mostly wrapped my head around using the tool at this point. Figuring out credit cards was a little weird, but if you have the account linked and categorize the transactions, and then mark the payment as a transfer instead of a transaction, it seems to work fine.

What's frustrating me right now is that our main checking and savings accounts are through Capital One. Apparently a few months ago, CapOne changed their login rules such that YNAB keeps losing your login status once or twice a day. Next time you log in, you have to get CapOne to send you the text message code and enter that in YNAB to get it to sync again. YNAB says their third party authentication service is working on a change to support it, but for right now, it's really annoying.