This married father of two wears shorts all winter because he can't afford pants.

Let’s call him Rob. You might think the post title is meant to mock Rob; it is not. Those are Rob’s words (about having to wear shorts all winter because he can’t afford pants), and I thought that one line did a great job of summarizing his severe cash problems.

Rob made a post in a forum about how he felt like YNAB didn’t really suit his situation or his budgeting style, and challenged a member of the YNAB team to do a better job with his finances than he was doing with plain ol’ Notepad (I believe he’s referring to the Microsoft plain text editor as opposed to actual pen and paper).

Let me give you a portion of Rob’s forum post (although not the part where he talks about ‘shorts all winter’); you’ll see this man knows exactly where his money needs to be and exactly when it needs to be there:

“Right now I have three parts of income this month. Two paychecks and one stipend from my wife’s student loans. This MONEY HAS TO GO THIS MONTH (OCTOBER). Not just to this month, but on VERY SPECIFIC DAYS of the month, or else one check may go through wrong and suddenly five more will bounce. I can’t have that, I have already 965 dollars overdrawn in my bank.

If I follow me schedule on notepad, I will know the exact day and method to make payments to make sure they clear. For example: I do not get my paycheck until 10/4. However, rent is due on 10/1. In order for it to not be marked as late, I either have to drop it off on that date to the landlord, or mail it postmarked by the 1st and get there no later than the 5th. So…using my method, I can actually know that I need to MAIL the check on the 1st, taking it to the post office and making sure they set a delivery option for the 4th since the 4th is a Friday and even if they deliver it on the 5th the landlord isn’t open then it won’t get the delivery actually until the next Monday the 7th, and will count it late.

So, I know, by my method, when to drop it off and by what means. I also know that the paycheck is not going to be enough to cover my rent, and I still have a couple hundred dollars in bills to pay. So, I have to know that I need to go to the bank, on Friday, the 4th, after my check deposits, and talk to a teller so that the transaction posts immediately and not pending or else it will cause extra OD fees, and withdraw the money needed for the phone payment, groceries, and gas, and other household needs.

Then I leave enough in the bank for the rent check to overdraw me but still clear the bank. I budget in the overdraft fee into my budget and account for it, but it’s a necessary evil to pay bills. I then move that negative to next weeks paycheck, in which I am going to have a bigger check, and will be able to get mostly brought current. By then I will have renewed by covered checking “month” which technically starts on the 20th each month, and gives me two free overdraft fee waivers each month.

So I know that my 18th [of the month] paycheck, I can withdraw what I need to, and then write one or two big checks for the car payment and insurance, and and allow them to overdraft me, and the two overdraft fees would be waived.

Then on 10/22 my wife gets her stipend, and I have to budget in paying my uncle back 700 bucks, while bringing electric to only 30 days behind, and getting the car insurance and phone bill caught up from their past due status. Then budgeting in groceries and gas along with that, along with some household repair items we have been putting off, along with new shoes for the kids, and some patches for my shorts that have a hole in the back.

Now, that is JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG to the complexities of my budget and how I do things.”

I know there are members of our community who’ve struggled through similar cash crunches, so I’m going to let them comment on how they made it work.

I’ll just address the issue of whether YNAB would improve your current workflow. The answer is…probably. If you bought into the YNAB budgeting philosophy and gave it a few months, I think it would simplify your system and reduce your stress. But I don’t need to hard-sell it to you. YNAB’s own founder has often said he’s a fan of any budgeting tool that a) helps a person achieve his/her financial goals, and b) reduces stress and time spent thinking about money.

You might do just fine with your Notepad workflow, with one small change:

Create a bill in your budget called “Buffer.” Pretend that bill is every bit as urgent as the light bill. Allocate $20 or $50 per month to that “bill”, then work whatever number of extra hours you need in order to make sure that one bill gets paid. In a year or two you’ll have $500 to $1,000 saved up in this buffer; you’ll then be able to use it to break this hyper-stressful bill timing and overdraft cycle.

Yes, YNAB would make it easier to create, fund, and track that monthly “bill” called ‘Buffer’, but all that really matters is that it gets paid.

Best of luck to you, and hope you’re able to get ahead of the bills in the near future.