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 Two).

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.