Learn From Your Data, Don’t Live For It Part 2


From Podcast #174 – Learn from Data, Don’t Live For It, the one in which Jesse suggests that (gasp!) data isn’t everything.


Data. You do not live for it; you learn from it. That is the mantra. And we tend to marry ourselves to data for some reason that is surprising to me. People will write in and say, “How do I get my nine years of data from Quicken into YNAB?” and we say, “Mmm… Maybe you should just archive that bad boy and start afresh, going forward.”

Analysis—historical analysis—is interesting. And I love history, right? I thoroughly enjoy it. I’m reading an excellent book called The Boys in the Boat about the rowing team that went to the Olympics in Berlin back in the late 1930s. I love history, but I’m not a big data junkie when it comes to caring about what I spent three years ago in October for kids’ clothing. I can guarantee it was lower than it is now—and that’s probably the only trend worth reporting.

You look for trends with data. You can learn from what trends uncover. You say, “Whoa! This is going up. Why would that be?” You look for anomalies and, most likely, those are points where you can say, “Hey, did we miss Rule Two on this one? Whoa! Big spike in outflows. Oh, the life insurance premium totally blindsided us.” The data can show you that.

The data can also tell you that you’re doing awesome and that’s great, too. But it’s important not to be too attached to our data for no good reason.

I have it on good authority that Dave, one of our star teacher assistants, who is just phenomenal, starts a new YNAB file every six months. He starts completely fresh. And he knows that the forward focus is where you make progress, not on being married to the data that’s behind you.

So, I’ll just leave you with that. Make sure that you’re focused mostly—like 98%—forward-focused.

Look back a little, particularly the short-term history, only to inform your behavior moving forward. I love seeing net worth climb over a year or two, but you know in your heart of hearts, you know if you’ve made progress. Do you really need that graph hanging around forever? If starting fresh would mean that you can simplify some things, which would mean that you would engage more readily, which would mean that you would use the Four Rules more often and have your priorities top of mind more often, then do that. That’s what we really want.

We want you thinking about the future and your priorities; your goals and how you hit them. Use data to inform that. Don’t live for it, just learn from it.

Until next time, follow YNAB’s four rules and you will win financially. You’ve never budgeted like this.


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!