YNAB victories: They never get old

goalsbadFive years ago, my daughter started going to sleepaway camp for a week each summer. We’d send in the minimum $50 deposit in March and then, in mid-July, we’d drive two hours into the woods to a classic summer camp compound. We’d make our way through crowds of excited campers and their parents to a central log structure in the midst of a cluster of wooden cabins, where we’d check in and pay the balance due.

Five years ago, we didn’t have a budget. So for the first two years, the final payment of several hundred dollars came as a surprise. Sure, I knew when I paid the deposit that I’d need to come up with the rest of the money by July, but July always arrived sooner than I expected. And since I had no method for setting aside camp tuition, the money was never there.

Those first two years, I handed off a fat check to a camp administrator and smiled with what I hoped was an air of confidence. “Of course this check is good,” my smile would say. (No one ever questioned me, so I guess I was pretty convincing.)

Then I’d feel shame and doubt nagging at me as we lugged sleeping bag, pillow and duffel bag off to my daughter’s cabin. Oh, the check would be good. But whether it was, at that moment, worth the paper it was printed on, I could not say. As soon as I got home I’d check the bank balance online. At best, the balance would cover it. At worst, I’d transfer a few hundred in from somewhere, anywhere, to make sure the check would clear.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but this was pretty much my normal, stressful, pre-YNAB way of life. Once we found YNAB three years ago, however, I started setting aside 1/12 of camp tuition in a Summer Camp category each month. What a difference it has made.

My daughter leaves for camp again soon, this time as a counselor-in-training. Today while tidying up the budget I noticed that there was more money in the Summer Camp category than we’ll need. In fact, unless the camp springs some new charges on us, we should have $177 left over. (Insert fist pump here.)

I’d like to say, after three years with YNAB, I get less giddy about the occasional budget victory, but nope, I’m still amazed that I have reached the point where I am not only prepared for irregular expenses but sometimes even over-prepared.

Next week, as I write a check for camp tuition, I won’t have to fake my confidence. My very genuine smile will say, “Here’s your hefty camp tuition, and I can’t wait to get home today to figure out how to maximize the extra $177 in my budget. I am ridiculously happy about this surplus.”

Of course, this smile no doubt looks the same as “I’m just another goofy camper mom.”

But I’ll know the difference.

8 Responses to “YNAB victories: They never get old”

  1. Michelle

    Sounds identical to the summer camp in Virginia MY daughter just returned from. Exact same scenario too. $50 deposit…. OK. Remainder due $700…. uhhhhhh?! Whaa…. Luckily, this year, she won a scholarship to pay for camp. But since we can’t count on that next year, we are taking our newbie YNAB selves and preparing for it in the budget. Yay for YNAB!

  2. Veronica Prescott Kreemer

    I ferl the same way sbout our daughter’s soccer travel/club fees. For the past few years we have been budgeting 1/12th of the fees each month, as well as estimates for travel and summer camps. Love that we have the money before we have to write the checks…and that never gets old!

  3. foxtrailsoz

    Loved this blog entry!!! Really made me smile. I’m only a ynab newbie but the pleasure you get from these things being paid in advanced is awesome.

    My step-son has a rather expensive scouts camp over summer here in Australia. The cost is $3,500.00. We’ve started putting the money aside now and not say in December and go. OH NO….. Old habits would have been to reach for the credit card.. Not now jessiebird… NOT now :-)

    Who ever knew budgeting could be this exciting!

    • apieceofvt

      I guess what’s so funny to me is that we spent so many years not being prepared and always being shocked when the big expenses came. “What? An annual event — again?” LOL. No more.

  4. Hans-Helge

    I experience almost the same, however I don’t have children yet and its not a camp in my case. But I live with friends and my roommate pays some bills and we pay him the money for internet and other things.

    Two years ago, I waited until he asked for the money, then I waited some time to give it. Some weeks ago I asked him in advance if I can pay my debt. Because it does not make any difference for me. I already assigned the money to a category, so I saved it. It feels pretty good to know whenever he asks for the money I can pay him directly.

  5. Eric

    We just got back from camp today and I must say, I’m definitely making sure we’re even more prepared next year.

    Plenty of everything. Now, it’s not that there wasn’t enough for everyone to enjoy and have a great time… However, planning ahead, just in case something does happen (usually it does regardless), will make sure that we’re overly-ready and can have twice the fun with the experience.

    Gotta love camp and gotta love YNAB for making camping an awesome time!

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