Budget neglect is a real thing, and the side effects include guilt, dread and complete cluelessness about your money. And it’s no way to live. The cause of budget neglect varies—job loss, job transition, a big move, vacation—but the result is always the same. Simply put, you’re in the dark about your money.
As demonstrated by the recent solar eclipse, being in the dark for a minute can be kind of fun. But, as the North and South Poles demonstrate with their six months of darkness per year, it’s not the most comfortable place to live. (And, as a YNABer, you already know that more money awareness means more happiness. But less money awareness? Again, not a comfortable place to live.)
So, while your attention to budgeting may have been eclipsed for a short period of time, let’s return to the light. Shall we? Here are three simple ways to get back at it:
1. The “Shrug and Reconcile”
This method is the easiest one. It’s YNAB’s version of the Bend ‘n’ Snap. Here’s how it works:
- Look at your current bank balance.
- Look at your budget’s balance (which will only be as current as your last recorded transaction).
- Note the difference between the numbers—a little guilt is OK. Not too much, though.
- Shrug (palms up for added emphasis).
- Make a big, fat adjustment to your budget by recording a line item to bring you current with your bank balance. For example, if your bank shows $500 and your budget shows $850, record an adjustment (just like any other transaction) for $350 outgoing dollars. Now your budget and bank agree: you have $500. You can even label it “Big, fat adjustment.”
- Repeat the first five steps for each of your accounts.
- Resume budgeting as usual. Give every dollar a job!
Within minutes, you’ll be back in control and budgeting just like that eclipse never happened!
2. Make a Fresh Start
If you really want a budget do-over, try a fresh start. With this option, YNAB creates a brand-new budget that has the same categories and accounts as your current budget, but none of the old transaction data. It’s a lot like starting over, except everything is already set up and customized for you.
If that sounds good, all you have to do is click the link “Making a Fresh Start” which is in the drop-down menu on the top-left side of your budget. And you can always access your (now old) budget any time through the budget picker.
3. Start With a Clean Slate
If you feel like your budget is just completely out of touch with your current reality, maybe it’s time for a totally clean slate. And starting from scratch might be the best move—it gives you a chance to audit all of your accounts and categories so that you only keep the ones that are relevant.
You’ll have to add all of your accounts, connect them with your bank, create categories: the works. But with your previous budgeting experience behind you, you’ll be more strategic about how you frame out the new budget. You could even check out the YNAB subReddit and Facebook fan page to window-shop how other YNABers organize their categories. It’ll be (dare we say it?) fun.
You’re a Winner, Not a Quitter. Got It?
There you have it: three simple ways to regain control of your budget. You’ll notice that quitting is not an option. That’s because you’re human, slip-ups happen—we even built a software feature to help you start over (a.k.a. The Fresh Start)—so don’t feel too bad.
And don’t give up. You know that anxiety you’re feeling? That’s proof that budgeting really does make life better! When you’re minding your money, not only do you make daily progress towards your financial goals, you feel better overall.
So be happy! Kill that anxiety—turn on the lights and take control of your finances. And let it be at least, maybe, a century or two before you let life eclipse your budget, again. Deal?
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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?