Bikes, Trailers, and Trampolines: YNAB Slows Consumption

My wife and I are enjoying new breathing room, with no outrageously urgent bills or expenses (like trying to pay off a $40,000 adoption debt in 12 months – a topic for another day). It feels great.

We’ve got a few spring/summer purchases in mind, probably totalling $1,500 – $1,800:

  • Bikes for Mark and Kate: ~1,000 to $1,200
  • Bike Trailer for Lucy: ~100 to $400 (depending on whether we find one used).
  • Trampoline for Charlie, Lucy, and the neighbor kids: $300 to $500

The bikes and trailer have major upside: I can easily bike commute to the YNAB office year-round (not scared of a cold breeze on my face), we’ll enjoy cruising the neighborhood as a family, and the trailer can double as a grocery-getter (hat tip to Mr. Money Mustache).

The trampoline would entertain the kids and keep them in the back yard, creating some always-needed down-time for Kate.

Those are real benefits – right now benefits.

But I’m holding off. I’m slowing down.


Because even though the money is in the bank, it’s not in the budget (according to Rule 2).

Which brings up a not-advertised-enough benefit of YNAB and the 4 Rules: slowing down consumption.

I could go out next week and buy two bikes, a trailer, and a trampoline.

But I want to go slower. I want to bring these new toys home knowing I got the right models at the right prices, having bought them with old money.

I want the satisfaction of knowing these were absolutely not impulse purchases, given the fact that my budget made me wait months (or a year) to pull the trigger.

Here’s how YNAB Works (see what I did there?) in the case of the bikes, the trailer, and the trampoline:

Bikes, Trailer, Tramp Savings Goals

Rule 2 in its Glory

I’d already funded a Trampoline ($350) goal with $50 in budget meeting a couple of weeks prior, but the bikes and trailer were a new idea, so I needed to get them into the budget.

Expecting to spend at least $1,000 on the bikes, I create a category in YNAB called Bikes and Trailer ($1,000), funding it with the grand sum of $10.

But with my ‘Available to Budget’ sitting at a satisfying $0, where do I get the $10? I take it from another savings category called Backpacking Gear ($1,000).

I’d funded Backpacking Gear with $25 during budget meeting, and now I’ve reduced it to $15 to free up the $10 for Bikes and Trailer.

See what I accomplished there?

First of all, I formalized my interest in bike ownership by giving it a place in my budget. Second, I acknowledged that life requires tradeoffs – taking $10 from my goal to buy some backpacking gear for the sake of my family’s shiny new bikes.

*Yes, I realize it will take over eight years to save up for the bikes and trailer at a rate of $10 per month. The $10 was purely to ‘seed’ the category. As new money enters the budget, I’ll fund the goal more aggressively.

Now, every time I need to assign new dollars to savings jobs, it will set off a discussion about which goal means more to us – which goal will get more dollars.

Our interest in the bikes, trailer, and/or tramp may diminish with time. If so, great. We reallocate the money to another goal. No harm done. On the other hand, we our enthusiasm might grow to the point that we start reducing amounts given to other categories to speed up the purchase.

YNAB will have helped us consume more slowly and consciously, reducing our stress and increasing our satisfaction and self-esteem.


13 Responses to “Bikes, Trailers, and Trampolines: YNAB Slows Consumption”

  1. alepinions

    Well said!

    If nothing else, taking this route enables one to think about something beyond the excited first day, preventing a rash decision that may fizzle out of excitement quickly. If we still want this after a month or two and continue funding the category, it was not a decision made too quickly!

    Patience is such an important skill!

  2. Kenny

    How do you categorize short term goals like these? I always lump mine into categories, but I feel like I don’t roll with the punches very well. For example, my wife’s laptop died (as in puffed smoke at me…dead). I didn’t have anything in my electronics (catch-all) category. Still haven’t bought her one, but I will probably look for about $500 across multiple categories over 2-3 months and then buy her one. I would much rather be intentional about my goals, but I feel like YNAB is missing a goal “module”. I guess I could add sub-categories, but what if it is something like “new fence”. That’s sort of a one time goal. I might need another one in 20 years, but I wouldn’t want to see “new fence” as a subcategory for 20 years. I guess I could hide it, right?

    Do you put all of these things as subcategories under savings?

    Just curious. I get a lot of the macro categories right, but I don’t target specific purchases well (like a new fence or a laptop). Maybe I’ve only been doing rule two at 50%.

    Please let me know where I might find some more details about rule two for these one-off type of purchases. Thanks. And great post.

    • mark

      Hi Kenny –

      This is actually a tip I picked up from Erin (our education lead) on a recent webinar about budgeting to your real expenses. The webinars are great – I strongly suggest people listen in on a couple. Even if you’re a YNAB veteran you’ll pick up some tips.

      To your question:

      I have my budget set up with a master category of Savings Goals, and several subcategories. Some of those categories (like Betterment) are for long-term savings, and then I have a few specific one-time savings categories (like those I’ve set up for Bikes and Trailer and Trampoline).

      Once I reach my goals for those one-off purchases, I’ll buy the item (which will zero out the category as the money leaves the budget), and then Hide the category so it’s not in my active view anymore. Then I’ll set new one-time savings goals, reach them, spend the money, and hide the category – etc etc.

      Sorry to hear about your wife’s laptop. That’s a bummer of an unexpected expense.

  3. Peter Butler

    I just got a bike trailer for my birthday – I’m pretty excited to get the kids out in it.

    The idea of picking up groceries in it (which I’m also excited about) is a good one, and ties into another idea I’ve been rolling around in my head for a couple of years now: I’d like to go a full month without getting into a car. It’s not necessarily a financial goal (I don’t drive too much as it is), but seems like a fun challenge, and an excuse to better analyze how much I/my family actually relies on our car to get around.

  4. David

    I love the idea of slowing consumption. Inspired by the Gravy post a week or so back, I chose to spin up my side company again doing night’s and weekend’s development work, however I sold most of my older hardware and found myself with older-than-I-would-like computer gear. To fix this problem, my wife and I went to the Apple Store (naturally), kicked tires, and actually choose not to buy. Instead, I choose to buy only the bare minimum software needed (~$150) to hit the ground running, and then buy the new computer when the “computer fund” actually had the money from new earnings without having to rob other funds. Oddly enough, it felt great to leave the Apple Store having bought nothing in favor of a slowed consumption plan. Thanks YNAB!

    • mark

      “It’s for the business” is by far the best excuse to buy Apple stuff. Your self control is superhuman.

  5. Kenny

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the explanation. That’s kind of what I was envisioning. I do like the Savings Goals master with subs for specific goals. This might completely revolutionize my rule two utilization. For example, my wife averages two years on a laptop, so I should have had a savings goal in place for that laptop. It really wasn’t an unexpected expense. Will be adding that in the April budget.

    Thanks again for the tip (and thank you to Erin also).

  6. Brian

    Hi Mark:
    I stumbled on your blog from a comment you left at ThinkTraffic. I’m glad I found you – I’m a big Dave Ramsey fan, and this blog looks like it has a lot of great financial info.

    Kenny – I’m not sure what your wife uses her laptop for, but if it’s mainly for online use, check out the new Google Chromebooks. They look pretty cool to me if you can store your work in the cloud, and they’re less expensive than standard laptops.

  7. Jennifer M.

    This makes so much sense. It’s like designating a separate cup for each new priority that you’re saving up for. You start throwing money in each cup, maybe shuffle some things around according to priority. Then as you get more income, allot more to each goal. I don’t know why I never though of goal saving and budgeting in this way before, but it makes a lot of sense!

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