How YNAB Helps You Curb Your Sweet Tooth, Quit Smoking, and Become a Voracious Reader

I’ve focused in previous Whiteboard Wednesdays on keeping things simple so you can stay on track. While unsustainable effort can affect change, it’s only meant to move the needle–not keep it there indefinitely.

With keeping things simple, I’ve tried to help people use fewer accounts (if you’re using YNAB correctly, a checking account and long(er)-term savings account is really all you need–with the savings account being optional). I want people to use fewer categories.

In fact, my goal, by the end of 2011 is to have our budget categories (these aren’t master categories, but the actual categories themselves) whittled down to the following:

Bills (Fixed)

However, for many of you, you may want to go in the opposite direction, for a time. Remember, a short burst of unsustainable behavior can affect change. Something unsustainable you can try is to make certain categories very granular.

The saying goes, “Where performance is measured, performance improves.”

A YNAB user over at wi-fi voltage journals about YNAB fairly regularly. They decided to break out their grocery bill into two parts:

– Groceries
– Junk food

Guess what behavior they’re trying to improve there? It’s an excellent implementation.

Do you find that you’re addicted to purchasing shoes? Your “Clothing” category make look like this:

Clothing : Other
Clothing: Shoes

Do you want to quit smoking? For some, the financial drain can be motivation enough:

Miscellaneous : Other
Miscellaneous : Cigarettes

Do you play too many games? Buy too many comic books? Eat too many pizzas? Eat out too often? (Make these categories head south.)

Want to cook at home more? Want to read more? Eat more fruits and vegetables? (Make these categories head north. That’s right, spend more!)

Let me know in the comments section how you’re going to user your budget like a laser–pinpointing behaviors you’d like to change and measuring for results.