Background: Quicken / Excel Spreadsheet / Dave Ramsey FPU
YNAB Experience: Started trial in Feb
Buffer: Not yet!
My Master Categories are the following:
(1) Cash Envelope Spending -- Groceries, Eating Out, Entertainment, Clothing, Personal Care, Miscellaneous
(2) Non-Cash Spending -- Gas, Home Maintenance, Furnishings, Lawn & Garden Supplies, Car Maintenance/Repair
(3) Gifts -- Birthdays, Christmas, Other
(4) Charity -- Tithing, Other
(5) Monthly Bills -- Mortgage, Utilities, Etc.
(6) Irregular Bills -- Taxes, Yard Waste, License & Registration, Medical, Vet, Mistakes
(7) Savings -- Emergency Fund, Buffer, Vacation, Retirement
(8) Reimbursements -- His work, My work, Family Gift Reimbursements
(9) Things We Want
I'm sure our categories will change a bit as we get more comfortable with using YNAB -- I've reorganized at least 2-3 times.
Even though we don't have a buffer, both of us are salaried, so we know what to expect for income. I budget based on this number, and just watch the "Budgeted Below" number, even if the "Available to Budget" is in the red. Our expenses for Groceries, Eating Out, and the like are budgeted almost the same every month. Unless I know we're doing something extra - like hosting a party or something - where we might spend more, those categories stay pretty much the same every month. We get paid twice a month (15th & last day...or last Sunday in my case), so on the 15th and the 1st, I withdraw half the month's budgeted cash for our envelopes. I do leave about $20-25/month of the Eating Out category in the bank account, because DH sometimes randomly decides to get coffee/muffin/lunch in the cafeteria when he hasn't brought cash with him.
At the end of the month, I zero out the Gas category and most of the Cash Envelope Spending categories, except for clothing. When I withdraw next month's cash, I subtract the cash amount I have leftover. The rest of the categories just carry over, and the remaining "Available to Budget" goes into a savings category. If for some reason, we do overspend, I typically adjust the same day, because I know I'm overspending when I do it. I usually take about 5-10 minutes every morning to enter the transactions and check to see what cleared the bank & credit card accounts.
I have the birthdays and the inconsistent utility bills filled in through the end of the year. The birthdays based on how many family members have birthdays in each month (we only buy for the parents and the siblings+their families that live close, thank goodness!) based on $20/kid, $40/adult (I put $.01 for the months with no birthdays so that I can use quick fill), and the utilities (electric & natural gas), have an amount in there based on last year's bills. I typically over-estimate the utilities by $10-15 from last year's. I should probably look into the budget billing thing at some point, just to make it easier. And maybe next year, we can more gradually save up the birthdays. Actually, now that I'm typing this, I might go adjust and recalculate. We have 16 birthdays through the year, and 10 of them happen from Feb to June, so now for the rest of this year, I can work on saving a set amount each month. And in case you're wondering about the family gift reimbursements -- I am one of 7 kids, so we all chip in to buy Mom and Dad larger birthday and Christmas gifts. Because I live near Mom & Dad, I end up being the purchaser, and need to keep track of who owes me what for the gifts.
The "Things We Want" category gets specific larger purchase savings goals, then after we purchase them, I typically re-categorize to a broader category, delete the category. It just makes it easier to have the money set aside specifically for those things. Right now there's about 5 specific home improvement projects in there, waiting to get some money.
The thing I love most about YNAB is the rollover category saving. It's so helpful to know that you've been putting that money "aside" for months, and it's just ready for you to use it! It was so hard to keep track of how much you should've saved up for X category by X time with any other way I tried.