Tomorrow is New Year's Day, But Budgeting Has Me in a Thanksgiving State of Mind

After YNAB’s two week holiday break, I woke this morning covered in Chik-fil-a wrappers and styrofoam take-out containers from the local Thai joint. And empty Coke Zero cans. And apple pie crust.

Bleary-eyed, I stumbled to my computer and fired up YNAB.

“I haven’t looked at my budget in over two weeks,” I told my brother (who also YNABs) over instant messenger.

“I reconciled this morning,” he replied. “It was a bloodbath.”

I imagined I’d be in for the same, given the lack of attention I’d paid my budget during the time off work. We’d had family in town; we’d eaten out a ton; we’d gone to the movies with the kids. We’d generally lost our minds.

I imported transactions from my bank and credit card (something I normally don’t do) and assessed the damage quickly:

  • Groceries: -$60
  • Restaurants: -$192 (bam!)
  • Other Medical: -$73
  • Entertainment: -$55

Total December Overage: -$380

Hm, that’s not so bad. Exceeding budget by close to 8% isn’t pretty, but could have been much, much worse.

But wait! Discretionary surpluses!

A quick scan through my budget revealed some nice under-spending (numbers shown are the remaining category balance).

  • Household Needs: $153.98
  • Fuel: $5.20
  • Kate’s Fun Money: $39.74
  • Mark’s Fun Money: $28.74
  • Clothing: $54.07
  • School Supplies: $9.17
  • Christmas: $51.14

Total December Surplus: $342.04

Actual December Overage: $37.96

And that’s why I love budgeting, especially budgeting the YNAB way. In a month where we shut our eyes to the budget and basically went (what felt like) hog-wild, our consumption binge put a $38 dent in our finances. And thanks to YNAB Rule 3, that $38 comes out of next month’s ‘Available to Budget’ money. No big deal.

How Budgeting Saved Me from Myself

I’m wondering how this happened. While I was ignoring my budget, I knew the day of reckoning was coming. I assumed it would be awful. Bad enough that I’d have to dip substantially into my emergency fund to cover the binge.

The only thing I can figure is ten months of budgeting has rewired me – changed my internal definition of normal.

This is exciting. It means YNABing has made me better at money in spite of myself.

I still got that nice little consumption buzz during my budgeting break. It felt like a walk on the wild side. I wanted to turn to the stranger next to me at the movies and ask “Hey, did you check your Entertainment category balance before you bought these tickets? NEITHER DID I. So, you think Kristen Bell did her own singing?”

But, thanks to the budgeting habit, the buzz wasn’t followed by a nasty hangover, ie credit card debt.

And that’s why I’m grateful for budgeting as we kick off a new year, and I hope you are, too.

If you don’t have a budget, start one today. If you’ve had one, but you’ve ignored it a little too long, make a Fresh Start (live class). In either case, giving every dollar a job is the key to making it a great year for your finances.