5 Common Budgeting Breakdowns...and How to Get Past Them

Written by Jesse Mecham  |  on


YNAB is a high-touch tool; the more you use it, the sooner you’ll find your budgeting rhythm. While you’re getting in the groove, you may hit a few of these stumbling blocks. Use the recommended reading (and videos) to help you stay on track.

“I can’t get ‘Available to Budget’ to match my current account balances.”

This was tripping up one of my coaching clients. In his case it was because a) he was riding the credit card float, and b) he still hadn’t wrapped his head around the concept of ‘Available to Budget.’ If you share this struggle, check out these two articles:

“I don’t know how many budget categories is ‘right,’ and I don’t know how broad/how narrow they should be.”

There’s not a right or wrong number of – or approach to – your YNAB categories. Your categories’ job is to help you maintain high awareness in each area of your budget. Read through these posts to help you form your own best approach to categories:

“I keep ‘falling off the wagon’ and getting behind on transaction entry. Then my account balances won’t match and my budget falls apart.”

If you have a hard time maintaining your budget file, try this 14-day experiment.

“Expenses keep sneaking up on me and wrecking my budget.”

This happened too often in my first few months as a budgeter. Three ways to avoid it:

  • Scour your online transaction histories (credit card, checking account) for infrequent-but-expected expenses you’d otherwise forget. Add them to your Rainy Day categories and assign enough dollars to handle the expense when it arrives.
  • Don’t try to be a hero. Budgets fail when the budgeter tries to simultaneously learn to budget and drastically reduce spending. Develop the budgeting habit, then let the budget naturally (magically) reduce your spending.
  • When you’re new to YNAB, create a category called “Stuff I Forgot” and assign it a chunk of money from every paycheck. Not only will this help you establish the saving habit, it acts as cushion when expenses do sneak up on you (credit to the YNAB teachers for this one).

“I’m slowly paying down a credit card balance, but still using the card. I can’t figure out how much my payment should be to cover new transactions, my snowball payment, and interest charges.”

Yeah, that’s a whole can of worms. Thank goodness we have this video and this support article that walk you through the process.

(Unless, of course, I can talk you out of using the credit card while you pay it off.)

If you’re struggling with any of these hangups, hang in there. The only two things you have to do to succeed as a budgeter are 1) Start and 2) Don’t Quit. If you’ll persist, mess up, start over, and persist again – you’ll get it. And it’s oh so worth it.

Your Next Step

Budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. So what do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress?