The One Question That Makes Your Priorities Crystal Clear


For a long time, I had a category in our shared budget called Savings Goals: New Bike.

The one I have is pretty tired. And, even though it is embarrassing to admit, I’m a bit of a gear junkie. In fact, recently at the starting line of a triathlon, I had a hard time even looking at my sad, old bike in the transition zone next to all the nicer/newer/faster models.

Goals Make Things Happen…

So I made it a goal in our budget. Over the first three or four months, I think I only put $75 in there. Eventually, I moved that $75 somewhere else, and then deleted the category altogether. It just wasn’t attracting any money.

Which is fine. In fact, it is a good reminder that it probably isn’t that important to me in the long run. meant it turned out to not be as important to me as I thought.

Unless They Don’t…

If I’m being honest, I actually hate swimming, so I will never do as many triathlons as my wife. I really just love running, and that category has no trouble attracting cash.

But this isn’t about endurance sports. It’s about my budget—and it can be about your budget, too.

Don’t Overthink It

I talk to a lot of people who wonder whether or not they should add a category for whatever their version of a new bike might be. Are we ready to add a category for a new car? For the landscaping, we’ve always wanted to do around the house? For that insanely expensive Italian espresso maker? A new couch?

Here’s the answer: just add it.

By adding a category, you haven’t committed to anything. But it serves as a great reminder as you are giving every dollar a job. That’s where your decision-making energy belongs, and where you can trust the budget.

Because over time your budget will tell you whether or not that category belongs. If it is important to you, it will attract money. And if it isn’t, well that is helpful information as well!

Just add it. And then watch how it impacts your decisions. The next time you sit down to budget a new paycheck, or your next budget date, how does that new category, that new bike, compare to your other priorities.

Does It Attract Money?

If it attracts money, it’s a priority. It belongs in your budget.

You could be well on your way to a fully-funded Hawaiian vacation. Or not, in which case, you are probably putting your dollars toward something that is ultimately more important to you. Great. Either way, by trusting your budget and the process of budgeting, you’ve clarified what’s important to you. And that is the real win.

 

Todd Curtis is YNAB’s Chief Customer Officer. He obsesses about helping people budget their socks off. So they can buy new socks.