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12 Oct 2016

What Is Your Budgeting Personality?

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by Jesse Mecham

We’re all budgeters; we’re all in this together, but there are many different ways to approach it. Some are certainly more unique than others, and I love all you crazy budgeters out there. I love that we can all make it our own.

Here are a couple of the most common budgeting personalities that I’ve experienced over the years:

Detail Dan

Dan is just 100 percent, all-out obsessed with the details. If Dan reconciling, and he is off by a few pennies, he will spend a long time—as long as it takes—to find that difference. He could just maybe make an adjustment transaction and move on, but no, the details.

Typically, Dan has a lot of categories. For Dan, there is power in the details. The positive is that you get a lot of information, and with a lot of information you can, potentially, make better decisions.

The flip side is too much information might mean that you’re not using it at all; that you’re feeling overwhelmed. Or that you get so caught up in the maintenance of these details that you lose steam.

The idea is to budget for the long-haul and make it something that works easily into your life. It doesn’t have to be so hard to work incredibly well. So, if you resonate with Detail Dan, just be aware of the risks and rewards.

Changing Charles

Charles has a thousand hidden categories. He has Fresh Started more times than he can count.

We actually promote the Fresh Start because the longer you budget, the more you learn, about your own tendencies, habits, and over time, you start to evolve. Sometimes a Fresh Start is super helpful, in allowing you to apply what you’ve learned more effectively. But that is not why Charles does it, he is just always changing his focus, his goals, and his priorities.

The positive is that, perhaps, Charles is being very thoughtful. If he’s being very introspective and is asking himself, what is most important to me? What should my money be doing? Maybe it’s useful to him. But the downside is, if you change that often, most likely, you haven’t really done the work to properly prioritize.

So all the changes you see Charles making are for change’s sake—they are not making any real impact. Charles changes course and his mind a lot. It can be good if you’re being truly introspective. It can be bad if you just are using that as a way to avoid actually committing to what is most important.

Orville the Overcomplicator

This one is my favorite because you don’t get to use the name Orville very often. Orville the Overcomplicator has made a system, involving many, many accounts and many, many details. Orville just likes things to be a little more complicated than we at YNAB suggest.

The positive is Orville is engaged and on top of things. He feels like his system is custom just to him and that it works. While an outsider wouldn’t understand what Orville’s machinations are (or why he needs them), but Orville gets it and he finds it empowering. The flip side to Orville’s overcomplicated system is that it can be tough to maintain. There is the law of diminishing returns, where his incremental unit of effort is delivering an ever-smaller unit of actual benefit—something to be aware of.

What other personalities have I left out?

At the end of the day though, it all kind of comes back to balance. All of our approaches have strengths and weaknesses, and we have to be aware of ourselves, what works for us, and how we can always be improving.


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