If you follow YNAB, you’ve probably noticed that we have a steady stream of (quite remarkable) success stories. Stories like How One Family Paid Off $50k & Saved $25k In 30 Months or Home Ownership in The Big Apple on $72k Per Year.
Depending on your situtation, these stories may seem totally relatable, or they might make your eyes pop, like, “Wow, that’s possible? How could I do that?”
And then you dig in … only to find out that, sometimes, these enormous budgeting feats were accomplished by not one but two budgeters (and maybe they had outside help). These stories can leave you feeling, well, a little deflated.
… Particularly, If You’re Single
If you foot the bill for 100 percent of your life (and you’re not expecting an inheritance from Great Aunt Winnie), then you might read these stories and react more like this: “I’m so tired of personal finance websites assuming that I’m partnered and can ‘live off one income’ while using my partner’s income to pay off debt.”
That’s an actual quote floating around the social web. And I get it. I’m single, too. I know how overwhelming it can feel to look at a (truly alarming) student loan tally and wonder if I sacrificed life-long happiness for a graduate education abroad.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t. Firstly, you can be happy, even if you have a ton of debt—more on that in a bit. Secondly, great financial successes are possible for us single people, too. And, thirdly, there are actually several benefits to managing your finances, all on your own. Don’t believe me? Keep reading.
Shift Your Perspective, Change Your Life
Before we get into the perks of budgeting for one, there are two important mindset shifts you need make:
Attitude Is Everything
Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, said it best, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
It might be a tough pill to swallow, but this medicine is so good for the soul. If you think you are defeated by your finances (and allow yourself to give up), then you are!
On the other hand, if you let yourself get curious about what you can accomplish, you’ll be amazed. Look for possibilities, not limitations.
Cut the Comparisonitis—It Creates Infinite Lack
The social media highlight reel phenomenon is real—but don’t let it get you down. We all know that there’s more to the story of our lives than what we post online or reveal in casual conversation. And the same is true for our friends. Just because someone’s success seems easy, or it seems like they had an advantage, doesn’t make it true. A perceived stroke of luck might have simply created a level playing field, filling in a void that you had no idea about.
… and, even if someone does have it easier than you? That’s just how it goes. If you spend energy being upset about it, it doesn’t help you. Wouldn’t it feel better to spend your time finding happiness with your situation, whatever it is? That’s where you can make a difference.
When you notice successful people, get curious about their stories, and let yourself be inspired. Or “unfollow” and wish them a good day. It will make your life richer.
Why Single-Income Budgeting Is So Good
Without further ado, here are five of my favorite advantages of budgeting for one.
1. There’s Nobody to Convince
You can decide to give up, or you can decide to start budgeting for a comfortable future. It’s completely your choice. What’s more, by default, everyone in your household is on board. If you start saving and redirecting your dollars to the things you truly value, there’s nobody there to drag their feet (and muck up your plan). That’s powerful.
Do you know how many couples are completely miserable because they don’t see eye-to-eye about money? It’s a thing. I’m not saying that you should stay single so that you have full control of your life, but enjoy the perks while you’ve got ‘em.
2. Your Budget, Your Way
Budgeting is part art, and there’s a lot of room for preference—from defining the priorities for your money (i.e., why you’re budgeting in the first place), to what to label your categories in YNAB. Do you like to manually enter your transactions, or do you prefer direct import? Do you put pet food under “groceries”, or move that to it’s own category? Would you rather pay off your debt using a snowball or an avalanche? You can set up a system that works best for you.
3. What Jobs Will You Give Your Dollars?
It’s much easier to cancel cable (for fifteen years straight) when there’s zero backlash from a TV-loving partner. And, if you can’t live without your daily pit-stop at the lunch joint near your office? Budget yourself some lunches, guilt-free.
As a single person, there’s no need to compromise about where you’ll carve out the dollars to pay off a debt or save for your dream trip. And when it’s time to travel, you can splurge on first-class airfare or go Greyhound. What aligns best with your priorities? Your call.
4. You Set the Pace
Sometimes you want to press hard. No eating out. No new clothes. Absolutely zero purchases from Amazon. Burn the one-click button! Other times, you need to loosen up. Maybe this month you’ll add an extra hundred bucks to your eating out category, or get your hair cut. It’s totally up to you.
5. Develop Self Trust
I’m still working on my version of financial freedom, but you know what I’ve earned in the meantime? The knowledge that I’m completely capable. When life was harder, I did all right. I’m not saying we don’t all need help, sometimes, but we’re also much stronger than we give ourselves credit for. When you notice how far you’ve come, it’s satisfying and it puts things in perspective. The knowledge that you can handle tough things makes life a lot less scary.
About Those Hurdles
When I said, “You can be happy, even if you have a ton of debt.” I meant it. We all struggle at some point. If your only option for fixing your finances is a dreaded lifestyle overhaul, just figure it out and do it. The sooner, the better.
Take one step, and then another. Your choices will add up. You’ll have setbacks, but you’ll also have some luck. Maybe you’ll discover a new career that pays more. Maybe you’ll find joy in a part-time job that lets you connect with your community. For better, or worse, all of this is temporary (and your finances won’t fix themselves). So enjoy the journey, even if you have some course-correcting ahead of you …
Find the Fun
I challenge you to get creative and reframe what happiness really means to you. Eating out, manicures, clothes, taxis … find the things that add up, and cut back. The things that really matter don’t cost much.
Conversations with good friends, exercise, exploring—there are so many ways to enjoy life when cash is tight. And it’s interesting to see how your idea of fun changes—you won’t even miss some of those old money leaks. Of course, if you do, shift your priorities and make a little space for them!
We say this a lot at YNAB: budgeting is about freedom. Find out how amazing it feels to make choices that set future-you free. You can still make happy (and more cost-effective) memories, in the meantime.