YNAB, Robin-Hood Style

I’ll admit it. Sometimes I (Alex) rob from the rich so I can give to the poor. I have to. When gas swings from $1.24 to $1.50 per litre overnight (that’s $5.70/gallon for you all), I find I have no other choice.

Every now and then, circumstances arise that force me to fiddle with my budget allocations (an urgent need for epoxy, say, when my household budget is already maxed at the $40 mark). The category I adjust the most frequently? Gas for the car.

Especially as the month passes the midway mark and I eye my gasoline budget, I know I’m going to go into the red unless I reassign a few dollars. And I hate doing it, and I know the YNAB gods don’t want me changing things around all the time, but nicking ten bucks from my clothing category, ten from my business travel category and another ten from my new MacBook Air somehow feels better than starting a new month with that little red “Overbudgeted” figure bleating at me.

The upshot is that I’m doing more to figure out how to make fewer trips in the car. Now that a new Target has opened next to my grocery store, I can do my monthly household and toiletries stock-up 20 kilometres closer than before. That’ll save a bit of gas. And just yesterday morning, my eldest rode his bike along most of the route he would take if he were to bike to school – and he rocked it. If I can get the boys biking to school by the fall, my gas consumption will drop again. Then I won’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul.

You might be wondering why I don’t just set the gas category high to begin with. And I’ve thought of doing that, but there’s something powerful about those numbers in the right-hand column. They encourage me to . . . abide. Abide by the guidelines I’ve set for myself, as much as possible. Abide by my commitment to stick to the budget. Abide by finding ways to combine trips, to make plans closer to home, to leave the car parked as often as I can. In most categories, I handily live up to human nature by spending the entire amount I’ve allocated for that month. So if I set my gas budget higher in hopes of not going over…I’ll find myself at the pump more often than I should, telling myself it’s okay to fill up again, because there’s room in the budget.

For me, it makes more sense to set a lower limit, and see if I can live within it.

Do you shuffle your money between categories? And if you do, which categories do you tend to top up?