How Do You Measure Your Success?

Written by Lindsey Burgess  |  on


From Podcast #191: What if You Didn’t Have Reports?, the one in which Jesse works a Lord of the Rings reference into budgeting material.


We love reports—many of us love reports—because they tell a story. They show us how we are doing. And it is exciting to watch someone get out of debt as the red columns get smaller and smaller and smaller and the blue columns soar.

But YNAB’s most important report is not in the “Reports” section—it is your budget. It’s your categories, it’s your money and how your spending lines up with your priorities.

We can look at trends: “How much did I spend at Walmart in the last three months in the groceries category? How does that compare to my spending at Target in the last three months in the groceries category? Okay.” “What did my utilities look like in the last year? Okay, yeah.”

But let’s be honest, are you moving the needle? No.

You’re not really, meaningfully, making an impact on your finances by looking at a report and realizing that your utilities go up in the winter with heating, drop down in the spring when it’s nice and go up in the summer with cooling. It just is what it is.

So, reports around trends of where you’ve been, aren’t terribly exciting to me. What I care about is the report telling me what you care about and making sure that what you care about is where you are spending your money (and that report is the budget).

At the end of the day, if you’re looking at that report really closely, if you know that report inside and out, then your net worth (and it’s associated report) will go up. The spending trends report, where you’ve selected categories you don’t care about, that will go down. The spending trends report where you’ve selected categories you do care about, that will go up. You get the idea.

The budget telling you to spend more—oh my word, blasphemy!—on the things that matter most. And the report of all reports, the one report to rule them all (yes, I just threw in some Lord of the Rings) is the budget.

Stick to that, maybe you will have another reason to occasionally look at some other reports, but just know your budget (report) inside and out. And all the other stuff will take care of itself.


Until next time, follow YNAB’s four rules and you will win financially. You’ve never budgeted like this. For more about how to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck, get out of debt and save more money, faster—subscribe to the You Need A Budget podcast today! But until next time, follow YNAB’s four rules and you will win financially. You’ve never budgeted like this.

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?