Update: I paid off my credit card. 🙂
Numbers give me anxiety. I associate numbers with being behind in math class the entirety of my school years, having to take a foundations math class (while simultaneously taking an advanced English class) so once I started making an income, I just kind of crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
Fast forward to summer 2018 when Artemis came into our lives. With Artemis came a lot of expenses: vet visits, Monday-Friday daycare, flea/tick meds, food, etc. And then, before I knew it, the holidays were upon us and my credit card debt began to climb. And then we had some pricy car trouble (ah yes, the joys of owning a 10-year-old car)—so that went on the card too.
Okay, it never got, like, really bad. It’s been worse, for sure. But the balance was higher than I was comfortable with. I made an off-hand mention of wanting to watch my money this year and my older brother recommended I use a budgeting app called YNAB (aka You Need a Budget).
I’ve been using it for about a month now and I’m really having a different understanding of where our money is going. Within a few days, I was way more conscious of all the small purchases that add up fast and we’ve adjusted our lifestyle a bit in reaction to the numbers we’re seeing in our budget.
It’s also helping us save up for future purchases: a new sofa, a down payment for our next car, my trip next year, Colby’s next computer, etc. Instead of throwing a bunch of money at big expenditures all at once and hoping for the best, we’re putting away a set amount for months beforehand. When the day comes to spend that money, we know where the money came from and we know we’re safe to use all that money without eating into essential living costs.
In addition to saving up for things we want and need, we’re also stashing cash for car maintenance, home repairs, and other eventual costs we know are going to come up at some mystery date in the future.
This app also trains you to check your budget instead of checking your bank account balance before making a purchase. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s changed how I think about money and spending. Looking at our budget has also made me adjust spending in some areas—in fact, I called my cell phone provider, asked them to adjust my bill as much as they could to get it down. I got rid of the Canada-wide calling I didn’t use anyway, I now have more data than I had before and my bill is down by $50 per month. That’s $600 per year I could be spending on something else.
That’s another way YNAB trains you to think differently: I’m suddenly stopping to think, “Do I want this? Or would I rather this money go to [blank]?” I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been bad with money before, but I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. And that’s progress.
I admit: YNAB is a little confusing at first. I recommend watching Nick True’s video below to get a feel for how the app works.
I never thought I’d ever get excited about budgeting, but 2019 is all about getting my life in order and YNAB is a huge help. The YNAB community on Facebook and Reddit are, like, rabidly enthusiastic about the app so if you have any questions about it, there are a lot of people who will excitedly fill you in. YNAB also a bunch of video tutorials and daily workshops to show you how to get your money to do what you want it to do.
Yes, the app costs money but the free trial is more than enough time to sample this powerful tool.
Jillianne Hamilton is the author of Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, its two action/comedy sequels, and The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII. She is also a graphic designer, a history enthusiast, and a dog mom. Learn more.