Why That Budget Doesn’t Work

We all have different methods for handling our money. Most of them don’t work.

Written by Erin Lowell  |  on


OK, so your budget doesn’t work. No surprise, because managing your finances can be a confusing mess.

What’s really going on here? Why doesn’t your budget work?

Well, at the root of it, it comes down to the method behind your budget. Whether it’s official or accidental, having some kind of a method is inevitable. I hate to break this to you—you have a method now (even if you don’t even realize what method you’re using). Whichever way you think about, manage, and spend your money is your method. It’s just not working.

Let’s look at some common money managing methods that are the reason your budget doesn’t work, leaving you feeling stressed and stuck.

Living on Credit

First there’s the “Living on Credit” Method. Expenses come up that you didn’t anticipate. How could you have possibly known that your car would need new tires just after your heater went out in January? You don’t have the money for that crazy month, so you’re “forced” to put it on the credit card. You intend to pay it in full, or at least tell yourself that you do. You get the bill and pay what you can. Then you debt grows—and your anxiety worsens.

Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Most people have tried the “Paycheck to Paycheck” Method. You get some money, spend some money, then wonder where the money went. You felt like a king on payday, but now you’re broke, can’t buy groceries and you’re driving around on empty until the next paycheck arrives.

Living Windfall to (Hopeful) Windfall

Or what about “The Windfall” Method? If you can just make it until that tax return, bonus or check from grandma comes in, you’ll be okay. But in the back of your mind, you know you’re relying on an influx of money that may never come. Talk about shaky ground. You know you’re living beyond your means, but things just seem to work out…most of the time. Sure you’re always living in stressful anticipation, but that windfall will come save the day soon, right? …right?

Just Keep the Balance Growing

Maybe you’re using the “Just Keep the Balance Growing” Method? You actually make enough money to get by and aren’t really in danger of overdrafting. You just keep an eye on your bank balances and try to make sure they’re a little bigger than they were last month. You see that number growing, and you feel good about it. But you just feel like you could be doing better. You never feel like you can really get ahead or start pursuing some real dreams.

The “Perfect” World

Maybe you’re an optimist and you use the “Perfect World” Method. You make $5,000 per month. You should be able to plan your budget for the entire year on January 1st because every month is the same. My life is super predictable, right? Then, when your son needs braces and your car needs new brakes, your perfect world is shattered.

Try the YNAB Method

These methods and countless others don’t work. They may trick you into thinking you’re okay for awhile, but reality always catches up with you. 

But I think you know your method isn’t working for you. Isn’t that why you’re reading this blog and poking around our site? No one goes looking for money management solutions when things are going great financially. No one says, “Boy, howdy! My finances are in awesome shape. I should do something about that!” 

Other methods don’t work. They’re reactive, they’re not intentional, and, worst of all, they don’t offer you lasting clarity or control.

The YNAB Method is based around four simple rules:

  1. Give Every Dollar a Job. This rule starts to work you out of a deeper hole of debt.
  2. Embrace Your True Expenses. This rule protects you from that crazy month that blew your budget last time.
  3. Roll With the Punches. This rule gives your budget flexibility so your budget doesn’t break.
  4. Age Your Money. This rule helps you live on last month’s income so you can break the paycheck to paycheck cycle once and for all.

If you use YNAB’s Four Rules for budgeting, you will gain total control of your money. You will reach your goals. You will reduce your stress about money. It’s worked for hundreds of thousands of people. It’s worked for me, and it will work for you, too. 

So give it a shot! Sign up for a free 34-day trial. Take some of our free live workshops. Or read all about the Four Rules right here. You’ll be ecstatic once you see how the YNAB Method is different from what you’ve done before. So try it! You’ve got nothing to lose—except all that debt and stress.


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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?