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YNAB's 34-Day Challenge

Kick off 2019 with everything you’ll ever need to know to break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, get out of debt and save more money. Join us (and thousands of YNABers!) for 34 days, and 34 ways, to conquer your money obstacles and win financially. Get in on the fun.

Day 34 – Win a free year of YNAB!

To reward you for your efforts and support you on your budgeting journey, how would you like to win a free year of YNAB? You can enter to win by giving us feedback on this challenge. Fill out this quick, two-minute questionnaire (1 entry to win). Double your chances at winning by uploading a video with your survey!

Give Us Your Feedback Here!

The deadline to enter is February 15th, midnight, ET.

We’ll randomly select one lucky winner to receive a free year of YNAB, and announce the recipient in our February 25th Weekly Roundup! There’s no purchase necessary to win.

Day 33 – Give this book a look.

The Why

Whether you need a budget brush-up, could use a serious pep-talk, or require a solid walk-through on YNAB’s method, you’re bound to enjoy You Need A Budget—the book. That’s right, YNAB is also available in book form …

The What

Grab your bookmark, and check out You Need A Budget at your local library! Or, if you’d prefer your very own copy, you can pick one up here.

Day 32 – Create a budget template.

The Why

There’s a reason that we tell you to only budget the money that you have, but it can be a little confusing to new YNABers. In short, if you don’t have the money, yet, then you shouldn’t bank on spending it! So, what do you do if you don’t have a full month’s worth of income, and you’re itching for that month-long view of your budget? Enter the budget template.

The What

Read How to Create a Budget Template and, if you really want a deep dive, sign up for our live class, Set Up Your Budget.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 31 – Share YNAB, get free stuff.

The Why

Why wouldn’t you want to share the bliss that is budgeting? We’re not sure, but now it’s even more rewarding to spread financial peace—if your friends subscribe using your unique referral link, you both get a free month of YNAB, on us!

The What

When you subscribe to YNAB, you can log into your account details to find your referral link. Share your unique link with friends and, if they subscribe, you both get a free month of YNAB. Check out the full details here.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 30 – Make a date.

The Why

If you share your finances with a partner and want to supercharge your budgeting results, it’s very helpful if you’re both on the same page. The best way to get there is by scheduling regular budget dates. Make them once a month, or every time you get paid. Just be sure to make them! You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes to discuss your financial goals as a team.

The What

Read our Join Forces guide, immediately. Or check out How to Budget as a Couple Without Driving Your Better Half Bananas. You’ll thank yourself.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 29 – Roll over!

The Why

It’s nearly time to start a fresh, new month! This is a great time to reassess how your budget is working—does it support your long-term, financial goals? How did you do? Are there any categories that need more dollars the next time around? Are there any areas where you need to cut back? Let’s look.

The What

With a new month comes new bills and expenses. If you have any dollars left in your categories from last month, they’re still ready and waiting. If you spent all of your budgeted funds, you’ll have a gray zero in your available funds. The question is, how will you budget for February? You have a few different options …

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 28 – Cage match: groceries v. dining out …

The Why

It’s easier than you’d think to eat your way through all of your spare cash. That’s why, today, we’re going to look at how you divvy up your food budget—specifically, how much you spend on groceries versus eating out. But, more importantly, let’s examine how your food spending aligns with your big-picture goals.

The What

Take a look at your food transactions for January:

  • On the web app, click on the number in the activity column for your “Dining Out” and “Groceries” categories.
  • On mobile, tap the name of the category, tap “Details,” and then tap “Activity for Jan”.

Review the data—where and how much you spent—and assess what you’d like to change, and budget accordingly. Be realistic. If you know it’ll be impossible to completely quit eating on the go, then make room in your budget. If you spot a problem area, then consider creating a separate category to track just that type of spending (e.g., to-go coffees or weeknight dinners).

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 27 – A glimpse at reports …

The Why

So, now that you’ve been budgeting for a bit, it’s a good time to assess your spending trends. YNAB makes this easy with reports that show you, at a glance, exactly where all of your money goes and how your choices affect your net worth. Just remember, guilt will get you nowhere. Stay positive, and use the reports to inspire action.

The What

Crack open your YNAB account, and navigate over to your reports. For a tour of each kind of report, check out our help documents, too:

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 26 – About those categories …

The Why

Life changes and so will your budget! And that’s why it’s important to keep an eye on your category structure—because every category should support your big-picture financial goals. Let’s take a look at how this works …

The What

Spend a few minutes reading Are Your Budget Categories Earning Their Keep? and The K.I.S.S. Method for Budget Categories. Now give your budget a once-over, and fine-tune as needed.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 25 – Budget in all of the places.

The Why

Did you know that, in addition to our web and mobile apps, YNAB also plays with Alexa and the Apple watch? Well, if you don’t know, now you know … and you can budget wherever it makes sense for you!

The What

If you normally budget on your phone, then try our web app. If you’re usually on the web app, try the mobile app! And, if you’re feeling adventurous, check out the full ecosystem! Learn more about all of our official apps, here.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 24 – A seven-day throw down starts now.

The Why

When it comes to achieving big goals, it’s the little decisions that make all the difference. So, this week, boost your bottom-line by cutting back on your regular spending. Short, focused bursts of effort can make a big impact over time.

The What

Commit to your cutback! What’ll it be? Can you make coffee at home for two of your workday mornings? Or perhaps bring your lunch to work one day, instead of eating out? Maybe skip your Saturday pedicure? It’s up to you! Decide what it’ll be, and move that money to a higher priority budget category for this week.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 23 – A peek at your net worth …

The Why

Here’s the thing, your budget will work perfectly fine if you simply budget with your primary checking account. You don’t have to add car loans, mortgages or savings accounts. But—if you really want to nerd out (and you’re curious about your net worth)—you can track all of the things in YNAB. And that’s what tracking accounts are for …

The What

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read The How and Why of Tracking Accounts. It’s a short read, and it’ll explain everything. Track that.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 22 – Make a meal plan.

The Why

Now, we’d never tell you to stop eating out. But, if you’re looking for a fool-proof way to free up some extra dollars in your budget, you can’t go wrong with a strategic meal-plan!

The What

If you’ve never meal-planned before, don’t worry. We have a few resources that can help:

Now, give it a try!

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 21 – Get more for your money.

The Why

How would you like to spend less money on your bills? Funnily enough, sometimes you can! All you have to do is ask. And the more you can trim your monthly obligations, the more dollars you’ll have to conquer your big money goals!

The What

If you’re not a natural negotiator, fear not. With a little research and a dose of courage, you’d be surprised by how much power you have to influence your rates. First, skim your budget categories and identify your target bills. Insurance premiums, internet and phone service, and even credit card interest rates are all excellent candidates.

Next, research the going rates for these services online. You can even get quotes from competitors. Then call your provider and negotiate a lower price. You may not be successful every time, but it’s definitely worth a shot.

Pro tip: stand up and smile while you’re on the phone. It’ll put you in a positive, friendly frame of mind and aid your efforts!

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 20 – Trim the fat.

The Why

Remember that one time, when you signed up for a monthly subscription or membership that has, long since, been collecting dust? Well, ditch that dead weight! You need to keep things lean so you can move swiftly towards the calm waters of financial peace. Even if the cost seems small, it all adds up! So, if it’s not actively making your life better, it’s got to go.

The What

Make a list of all of your subscriptions and memberships, and don’t forget the annual ones! Now, lovingly hold each one in your hand as you contemplate the question, “Does this regularly recurring fee bring me joy?” (Thanks, Marie Kondo for the inspiration!)

If the answer isn’t a “Heck, yeah!” then it’s a “No.”

Now call, email or snail mail (ugh!) every provider on your “No” list, per their cancellation policies, and cancel! Congratulations, you just freed up more dollars to put towards things you actually care about. You’re welcome.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 19 – Hang with Jesse.

The Why

Whether you’d like to hear Jesse, our founder, wax poetic about budgeting lessons or hear stories about real people, beating debt and winning financially, then you’ve got to tune in to The YNAB podcast. Don’t miss the regular, weekly show with Jesse or the special Debt Stories episodes. They make the perfect companion on your morning commute!

The What

Subscribe to The YNAB Podcast on iTunes, Soundcloud, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts. And, if you like what you hear, we’d be honored if you leave us a review!

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 18 – Show your credit cards who’s boss.

The Why

Want to be debt-free? Then you’re going to love how YNAB handles credit cards. We’ve made it easy to see exactly how much money you need to budget for your next credit card payment. To get the swing of how it works, don’t skip today’s challenge!

The What

Grab a cup of something warm and tune in to this prerecorded class about how credit cards work in YNAB. If you prefer to ask questions, then sign up for the live class. And, if you’d rather read for speed, you can skim through our help documents.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 17 – YNAB like a pro.

The Why

If you maybe, sometimes, skip the instructions and dive straight into the fun, today’s challenge is for you. Our software is jam-packed with features to help you YNAB your way—some are simple niceties, and others might blow your budgeting mind. Let’s take a look …

The What

Take a peek at these lesser-known features of YNAB, and give ‘em a try!

  • Undo/Redo – Underneath the month name in our web app, and next to the import button, you’ll spot the undo/redo button. It’s often-overlooked, but oh-so-amazing.
  • Inline Calculator – Yes, you can do in-line calculations in YNAB. Try it!
  • Quick Budget – Budget at lightning speed on the web or mobile app.
  • Fresh Start – Everybody needs one at some point, and here’s how to do it!

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 16 – Dance break!

The Why

There’s a reason that we budget, and it’s got everything to do with living an enjoyable life. So, as a reminder of why we’re here (and, of course, for even more budgeting inspiration), we’ve compiled the rarely-heard budgeting versions of some pop hits. So, turn up your speakers and, like Lady Gaga said, “Just dance!”

The What

We think you’re so special, we made you a mixtape. Listen now, and crank up the tunes whenever you need a boost.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 15 – Practice a minute of mindfulness.

The Why

Dear YNABer, today we’re going to practice a small, easy and hugely empowering maneuver: entering a transaction into YNAB. If you’ve been relying on direct or file-based import, then you simply must experience the magic of doing it by hand.

But why, you ask? Two reasons. First, you’ll be more keenly aware of money leaving your budget. And, second, it’ll ensure that you’ve always got the latest, most accurate information. The coolest part is, you can still use direct and file-based import to catch any transactions that you missed without worrying about duplicates.

The What

Enter a transaction! You can do it using YNAB’s web app, but we’d suggest you try the mobile app—that way you can enter transactions on-the-go, immediately after you make a purchase. Learn all about Shannon’s go-to, never-forget, crumpled paper method, or check out our help guide about entering transactions.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 14 – Go on a spending fast.

The Why

Spending is easy, too easy. It’s so easy that sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re doing it. And that’s where a good, ol’-fashioned spending fast comes in handy. So, quit the extraneous purchases for 24 hours, or try it for a month—the time frame is totally up to you. The important thing is that you break your habitual spending long enough to get in touch with your true priorities. This is the ultimate exercise in recalibration.

The What

For a successful spending fast, you need to decide on two things:

  1. What you’ll cut—are you banning all discretionary purchases, or just a particular type of spending? Be specific. For example, do you want to stop eating out, altogether, or just stop visiting the drive-thru?
  2. How long you’ll fast—is this a weekends-only fast? A 24-hour fast? A 34-day fast? Commit to a doable time-frame that’ll challenge you.

Next, grab a pen and paper. Write down how you feel during your spending fast, and keep track of how much money you’re saving. Estimates are fine, but do keep tabs. If you’re miserable, that’s a good indication that you should budget some dollars for this category. If you’re doing good, then maybe you’ve found a place to cut back for good!

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 13 – Category madness!

The Why

Setting up your budget is both an art and a science, and there’s no one right way to do it. That’s why you should consider your financial priorities, and customize your budget to match! If, for example, you’re trying to dial back your spending on to-go coffees, maybe you’ll create a coffee category to monitor those purchases more closely. Or, maybe you’ll add emojis for easy, at-a-glance budget check-ins. Whatever you do, just make sure that it works for you.

The What

There are many ways to customize your budget, and that’s what today’s challenge is all about. Pick one, or try them all:

  • Are there any categories you can combine? For example, if you buy pet food, toiletries and groceries at the same store on a regular basis, would it make sense to keep them all under one budget category?
  • Are there any categories you should add or remove? Take a cue from Erin’s Dunkin’ Donuts category—see “The Dunkin Donuts Clause”.
  • Would you care for flair? Try emojis!
  • And, how about those names? Are you more inspired to fund your “Vacation” category, or your “Epic Vacation – Summer 2018” category?

Have some fun, and make your budget uniquely yours!

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 12 – Sign up for a weekly dose of YNAB.

The Why

Let us be your cheerleader, and sign up for our weekly Roundup—an awesome, short, informative (and occasionally hilarious) newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time, but we don’t think you will … 😉

The What

Come and get it! A weekly dose of inspiration, education and the latest YNAB news.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 11 – Harvest your dreams!

The Why

So, look, budgeting isn’t all about crushing debt and breaking the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle (as awesome as both of those accomplishments may be). To make sure that your new, budgeted lifestyle is sustainable, you need to leave yourself some wiggle room, a.k.a., fun money! And that’s what today’s challenge is all about. Allow us to introduce you to wish farming …

The What

Roll up your sleeves and grab your watering can, YNABer, because today you’re going to learn the art of wish farming! So, what the heck is a wish farm? It’s an awesome way to prioritize your spending in YNAB. Grow an epic vacation, new kitchen cabinets, a coffee maker or a pizza party for your five-year-old—the sky’s the limit.

Read this post, and plant your first wish, today!

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 10 – Start a new habit.

The Why

Financial wellness is like any other wellness goal—do a little bit, every day, for optimal results. Make it part of your regular routine, and you won’t even realize you’re doing it!

The What

Today, choose a new habit that will help you succeed at budgeting. It could be checking your budget categories before every purchase or establishing a regular budgeting date with your sweetie. If you need some inspiration, here are a few resources to help:

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 9 – Schedule a transaction.

The Why

Make it easy to budget for your recurring bills, and set up scheduled transactions. You’ll get a reminder to budget for the expense, and spend less time entering transactions. Winning.

The What

Set up a scheduled transaction! Learn how, here.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 8 – Check your budget, first.

The Why

Mind-blowing, but true: your bank account balance is not a good gauge of your money! Think about it, if you have $500 in the bank, you’d feel safe spending $100 on a trip to the grocery store, right? But what if your $425 car payment is due tomorrow, and it slips your mind?

… if you’d consulted your budget, you’d know that you only have $75 of wiggle room before your next paycheck. And that’s why checking your category balance in your budget (not your bank balance) is so important. The good news is, it’s super easy to do!

The What

Download our mobile app (iOS or Android). Now, start a new habit of checking your category balances before you spend! Headed into the grocery store? Pull up your grocery category! Stopping for gas? Check your fuel category. If you don’t have enough cash, try moving money in your budget before making your purchase.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 7 – Bond with other budgeters.

The Why

They say it takes a village to raise a budgeter (or something like that). And it makes sense. When we surround ourselves with people who have similar goals, it propels us and makes us better. So, it is with great humility and pleasure that we invite you to join our virtual community—a place where you’ll meet some of the best people on the planet. You see, YNABers are far more than just money-minded smarties—they’re truly wonderful, caring people. But you don’t have to take our word for it …

The What

Join us! Lurk, post questions, make friends, and swap encouraging comments! You can find the action here:

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 6 – Move money like a boss.

The Why

As Laura, a YNABer who went from living paycheck-to-paycheck to paying cash for a Tesla, said, “… budgeting is an act of predicting your priorities. Sometimes, your prediction will be wrong as circumstances change. This doesn’t mean you failed, it just means you can’t predict the future!”

We couldn’t agree more, and that’s why Rule Three is Roll with the Punches! If you need to shift money between your budget categories, it’s totally OK! In fact, our software is built to help you do just that.

The What

Become a money-moving master. You can learn how, here:

Now, try it out! Open your budget and move money between two categories.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 5 – Stay Classy: Get Schooled.

The Why

Once you get into the groove, you won’t believe how little effort it takes to be a brilliant budgeter. Of course, we all have to start somewhere, so make it easy on yourself—let the pros help you get started! Sign up for one of our free, 20-minute, online classes. We offer a variety of topics, and there’s always time at the end of class for your questions.

The What

For today’s challenge, there are three ways to play. Try one, or try them all!

  1. Attend a live class. Head over to our classes page, and pick a topic that appeals to you. If you’re not sure, Learn the Four Rules or Set up Your Budget are great places to start!
  2. And don’t miss a special series of Facebook Lives, this January, viewable on our Facebook page. Get reminders for Facebook lives, here.
  3. Or, check out our pre-recorded classes on YouTube.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 4 – Learn the method.

The Why

At YNAB, we do things a little differently than other personal finance apps, and that’s why it works! As hundreds of thousands of YNABers can attest, there’s magic in the method (a.k.a., The Four Rules), so let’s take a look …

The What

You can read about The Four Rules, right here or, if you’d rather relax and listen, why not attend a free, 20-minute class? Pop into Learn the Four Rules and let our teachers be your guide. Stick around to the end, and they’ll answer all of your questions, too. If you’re itching to listen, stat, then check out the recorded version.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 3 – Set a goal that matters.

The Why

Simple, but true: YNABers who set goals are far more likely to succeed. See, when you have money, you will inevitably spend it. But, when you have money and goals, you’re incentivized to set aside some of that cash to make your goals a reality. So, without further ado, let’s make a goal!

The What

First, choose a goal. For example, why not start saving now for Christmas 2019? For more ideas, read Make Your Budget Sticky with Goals That Inspire.

Second, create a goal in YNAB. It’s easy!

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 2 – Face your demons debt.

The Why

Many a YNABer has shown up on our virtual doorstep, motivated by the desire to escape debt. Big debt, little debt, credit card debt, student loan debt, medical debt. All kinds of debt. The good news is, you can! The first step is to simply look your debt in the eye. And, that’s what today’s challenge is all about.

The What

Make a list of all your debts. For each one, write down the name of your lender, current balance, interest rate, minimum payment and due date. Once you’ve gathered all of this information, you’re ready to make a plan. This is the exciting part, and it’s not as hard as you think! Here are a few resources to help you out:

  1. How to Snowball Your Debt & Reclaim Your Paycheck – Check out this blog for a step-by-step guide to setting up a debt snowball (a.k.a. a debt repayment plan). Skip down the page to “Slay Your Debt with a Snowball” and dive right in!
  2. Deal With Your Debt Guide – If you prefer watching videos, then give our debt guide a gander.
  3. YNAB Support Forum – For encouragement and assistance from Team YNAB and other YNABers, drop into our forum.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

Day 1 – Why are you starting a budget? Write it down.

The Why

New habits are easy when a challenge is fresh, but if you want your goal to have staying power, it’s important to stay focused on what you truly desire. So, what do you hope to gain through budgeting? Imagine a future where you’re in control of your cash—you’ve smashed your money obstacles and life is good. When the going gets tough, remember this vision and let it inspire you to stay the course!

The How

Set aside ten, distraction-free minutes today. For best results, find a quiet space to spend some time with an actual pen and paper. Leave your phone and computer in the other room, and consider why you’ve been inspired to start budgeting. Write down all of your reasons, the good and the bad.

Next, imagine that you’ve accomplished your financial goals—that you’re totally in control of your money. What would life look like? Jot it down. Use bullets, or fill up a whole page in your notebook. The important part of this exercise is to visualize and capture your “why”.

Finally, end with a positive statement, committing to change your life for the better. For example, “Debt-Free at Twenty-Three!

And, for best results, leave your notes somewhere visible, and reread often!

Let us know how it goes! Share your challenge results or takeaways on social with the hashtag #YNAB34days.

***If you’d like to get these challenges in email, sign up here!

YNAB.

Follow YNAB to get support and lots of great ideas on budgeting