Why YNAB is Perfect for Procrastinators

Written by Lindsey Burgess  |  on


From Podcast #200: Perfect for Procrastinators, the one in which Jesse shares about his favorite wallet and how tiny habits can help make procrastination a non-issue.


The truth of the matter is we are all procrastinators. At some point, we all end up just kind of not doing the things we should be doing and scrolling Facebook instead.

Bless you, person, who read this and is proud that you don’t have a Facebook account. My hat is virtually off to you. I admire your fortitude and I do wish to be more like you.

For the rest of you that found this post while scrolling Facebook, this one’s for you.

Even though we are all guilty, that doesn’t make procrastination any less of a problem. I think in all of our own lives, in different ways, procrastination becomes a problem at some point. It’s just that YNAB is not one of them.

YNAB is well suited for you procrastinators out there (read: everyone). Because with YNAB you are saying, “Well, I got a dent in the car, but I don’t have enough to pay for it right now, so I’ll just get it fixed later when that Rainy Day category is fully funded and ready to roll. Or maybe you see something that you really, really want, but your Fun Money category isn’t quite high enough, so you wait—and then, lo and behold, that thing goes on sale and you have the money and you snatch it up. Procrastination is key.

And then, the flip side—of course, there is a flip side—when people want to fix their finances, they’ll say, “Okay, I’m going to set everything up and then I’m going to directly import all my transactions at some point, and I will see what happened.” And as the task becomes increasingly larger and more overwhelming, the tendency to procrastinate the dreaded task increases. Meanwhile, the task gets larger. And so it goes.

If you are putting off the management of your money, procrastination can really hurt you. The trick to getting ahead is harnessing that procrastination power into the spending of the money, or rather the not spending of the money. The key is to procrastinate the spending until it fits in with your plan.

The ideal workflow is to insert YNAB into those moments of your life where it’s absolutely important, and then let it gracefully exit where it’s not so important. The goal is to make YNAB so much a part of what you do when you spend money that there is nothing to procrastinate.

So, when you reach for your credit card, you also reach for your phone. As you swipe your credit card, you place the credit card back into your wallet.

(Sidenote: You want to know a really good wallet? Bellroy. I’m not being paid to say this. I got one for my birthday from the team. It is a super thin, super nice wallet. I’m loving it.)

Back to your card, you put the card in your wallet, you slide the wallet back into your back pocket and then you reach for your phone. And you record the transaction. That’s a trigger. Wallet in the pocket—grab the phone. Wallet in the pocket—grab the phone. After I put the wallet in my back right pocket, I will grab my phone and add a transaction.

This thinking is from B.J. Fogg, a researcher at Stanford, whom I love—I might even have a little bit of a man-crush on him—because the behavioral triggers that he teaches, called tiny habits, work so well. If you haven’t heard me talk about it before, look it up—B.J. Fogg, Stanford, Tiny Habits.

The core idea is that you set up a trigger, like, “After I fill-in-the-blank, I will fill-in-the-blank.” And the trigger has to be small and predictable and happen without any effort on your part, like putting your wallet back in your pocket. I KNOW I will do that. I know I will put my wallet back in my pocket.

“After I put the wallet back in my pocket, I will fill-in-the-blank.” That blank is where you put a tiny little habit. B.J. would coach me here. If I could channel him, he would say, “Do not say ‘I will record the transaction that just happened on my phone.’” He would probably tell me, “I will grab my phone. I will take the phone out of my pocket,” or maybe, “I will slide my hand into my pocket and touch my phone.”

You know, you do the wallet, keys, phone check with your pockets? Maybe something like that—where you just slide your hand in, there’s the phone. Now, will I grab the phone? Yes. Will I unlock the phone? Yeah. Will I tap on YNAB? Absolutely. Will YNAB prefill all my categories super-smart with the geolocation stuff and all that? Absolutely. And then I’ll just enter the amount, click, click, tap, add transaction, and then I’m done. No procrastination necessary.

I did not commit to add the transaction. I committed to touching my phone after I put my wallet in my pocket. I want you to sit here for a moment, and really think about it: “What trigger happens every time I spend money?” And it might be something like putting that wallet in your back pocket.

If you’re a woman, maybe you carry a purse and there is a trigger, something you always do with your purse.

Maybe it’s grabbing the receipt from the cashier if you’re a receipt-grabber and you always take that receipt, maybe that’s your trigger: “After I grab the receipt from the cashier, I will grab my phone.”

You are looking for a universally-applied trigger to help you remember to add your transactions into YNAB at the point of purchase which would make procrastinating your money management a complete non-issue.

It is a tiny habit. I encourage you to use it. This is how we insert YNAB into the workflow so that you do not procrastinate the management of your money. And so that you can better (strategically) procrastinate the spending of the money.

I’m not saying you should procrastinate spending for its own sake—that’s not fun at all. You’ve traded some of your life for that money; you should use that money. What I’m talking about is procrastinating if it doesn’t fit in the plan or until it fits in the plan (read: budget).

Please do the tiny habits exercise. “After I fill-in-the-blank, I will fill-in-the-blank.” It works.


For more about how to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck, get out of debt and save more money, faster—subscribe to the YNAB podcast today! Until next time, follow YNAB’s Four Rules and you will win financially. You’ve never budgeted like this.

Your Next Step

Budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. So what do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress?