About seven years ago, before I found YNAB, I was sitting at my desk staring at an ugly, Excel spreadsheet in frustration. I had a stack of receipts next to me, and I was sure that I was missing some. It felt like an awful lot of work to enter these transactions into my budget if I didn’t even have them all—what good is an inaccurate budget, right? Not much.
But that wasn’t even my biggest problem. The real thorn in my side was anxiety about being trapped, for life, by my student loan debt. Financial freedom seemed like an impossibility. I wanted to travel, live in a nicer apartment and have plenty of fun money.
Instead, I worried about whether or not my spending habits and paychecks would align. Would I have enough for my car payment, this month, if I eat out one more time? Can I maybe replace all of my holey gym socks one day, ever? Is the healthier pet food too luxurious ($$$) for my financial situation?
And, meanwhile, I dreamed of a trip to Aruba or even just, like, concert tickets.
There Had to Be a Better Way
The funny thing about those bleaker days is that, while I was agonizing over missing out on all the fun (poor me!), I was leaking money left and right. I felt like I deserved some fun—a break from stressing about my student loans—so I’d sneak in little purchases on a whim and totally splurge on dining out. And all of that money? Well, I could’ve put some of it towards those concert tickets, just for one example.
It was no way to exist, and I felt bored. So, sick of feeling stuck in the grind of working and waiting for more money …
And sick of spending a lot of time not attending cool events …
And sick of not joining friends and family for special occasions because I didn’t have the cash …
And sick of a whole heap of other “nots” …
I decided that maybe my budget was worth the work. (Except, definitely not that dreadful spreadsheet version!)
I Don’t Excel at Excel
I wish I could remember how I found YNAB. I like to imagine that it rode into my life atop a white stallion, carrying a student loan-debt forgiveness letter and a round-trip ticket to Aruba. The reality is, I probably Googled “budgeting.”
I remember feeling my heart expand at having a mobile app (so fancy!), so that I could update my budget when I was out in the world. I was free from the odious task of collecting receipts, at last!
The Four Rules, on the other hand, didn’t quite click in the beginning. I’d learned to forecast a month ahead from my dad, so this “only budget the dollars that you have” rule stressed me out. But I didn’t give up. I muscled through an entire weekend of binge-watching YouTube videos and taking classes, and I arrived on the other side a true-blue YNABer.
YNABing Is Winning
If you’re thinking “A weekend of budgeting how-to videos and classes?! SNORE!” then I invite you to reconsider, like I did.
See, what you can’t fully appreciate, until you experience it for yourself, is that—even if you never fall in love with budgeting (although, I think there’s a good chance that you will)—you will fall in love with your new, budgeted life.
Sure, budgeting requires that you pay attention to your money, and that seems scary to a lot of us. And it definitely doesn’t sound fun. But, what is fun is making your money boring.
A New Kind of Boring
I practiced The Four Rules, dutifully giving every dollar a job, until it became second-nature. Six years later, I still enter all of my receipts into YNAB, as soon as I make a purchase. I also log into my budget, regularly, and reconcile YNAB with my bank account.
And it’s these unsexy habits that have made my finances predictably boring, in the best way …
- My bills get paid on time. I ditched the stress of trying to juggle pay cycles!
- I find freedom in knowing exactly how much cash I have to spend—there’s no guilt when I splurge because I know I won’t realize, after the fact, that I shouldn’t have. It’s all accounted for ahead of time.
- It’s such a powerful feeling to say “no,” when I’m tempted to buy meaningless stuff at the store. (And it’s so much easier to see that those impulse buys really don’t bring me true happiness—quite the opposite, actually!)
But, most of all, my budget feels like a tunnel—a blissfully uneventful tunnel. It pierces through the veil of uncertainty and worries, revealing light at the end. My budget is the path that’ll get me to my bigger goal of finally becoming debt-free and investing in the things I truly want in my life.
It’s not always easy, far from it, but my budget’s reliable. It’s predictable. It’s boring. And, with a little fun money along the way, it’s the most satisfying kind of boredom there is!