My YNAB Experience after about 2 weeks

April 5, 2013 at 11:42 pm Leave a comment

This Sunday will make two weeks that I’ve been using YNAB.  Using it has been a joy.  It’s super-easy to input my daily expenses.  If you go through a drive-thru, you’ve got plenty of time after placing your order to enter your total into YNAB, even if your mobile YNAB hasn’t learned the location yet (based on past transactions and your GPS coordinates).  If you are buying something at a register and have people behind you, it’s not a big deal to take a few steps to the side and enter your transaction into your smart phone.  This gives you great power, because you can actually see how much money you have remaining in your budget virtually all the time.  That is empowering.  I feel like I have a great grasp of my financial situation now, even if it isn’t so great of a situation to be in.  Instead of just “feeling” like my finances are in a good place, I can see exactly where they are, any time throughout the month.

I’ve come to the conclusion that this will be a very difficult month, though, but things should get a little easier next month.

You see, I had fallen into the credit card trap.  In the beginning, everything was great.  I’d spend money all month long on my credit card…  Lets say this happened during February.  My check arrives at the end of the month.  During the first week of March, my bill would come, and I’d enjoy NOT paying it until the beginning of April, around the time that my next check arrived.

Sounds great, right?  Use the bank’s money for a full month before having to pay it back.  Pay it back in full so you don’t have any interest charges.  That’s how they lull you…

You might be able to guess what happened next.  That thick cushion of bank money that I was floating on every month made me feel like I was in great shape financially.  I wasn’t budgeting, so I didn’t really know how much of my money was “spoken for” at all times.  When something would come up that I wanted, I wouldn’t give it a lot of thought.. I figured that I could afford it.  It may have been a night that I didn’t want to eat what the wife had planned for dinner, so we’d go out to a nice restaurant.  Or it may have been a new tool that I felt like I just had to have.  Sound familiar?

Finally, it happened.  The end of a month arrived… Let’s call it April…  I didn’t have enough money from the check I had gotten at the end of March to pay off the CC bill that had arrived in the beginning of April.  So, I had to pay it with the check I got at the end of April.   This cycle continued.  I felt a little powerless to resist it, perhaps even a bit in denial that I had a spending problem.  Perhaps I have a natural talent for politics?

So, how am I coping with this now that I’m trying to move forward with a budget?  Well, I paid about 80% of my March CC bill, and I’ve decided to convert the remaining 20% plus the balance I ran up during the month of March to long-term debt.  I just took out a 0% balance transfer card to take the pressure off, and I can pay low monthly payments on it for the next year.  By then, I should be firmly in control of my finances.

YNAB is different

I’ve used lots of tools to track my spending…  Quicken, Microsoft Money, iBank, MoneyWell, Quicken Essentials… And probably some others that I’ve long forgotten about.  Most of these tools have some sort of budgeting features in them, but they all seem like an afterthought (with the exception of MoneyWell).   Almost all of these apps are basically electronic check registers.

YNAB is not a check register with a budget feature bolted-on.  In my mind, it’s really a budget program with a nicely integrated check register.

While watching one of the many tutorial videos on the YNAB website (the credit card one, I believe), the video said something along the lines of:  it doesn’t matter how something is paid for, whether the funds came from a checking account, or a credit card, as long as it was budgeted and tracked.  So, with that in mind, you could pay practically everything during a month with a credit card while keeping an eye on your budget, and you’d have the money sitting in a bank account at the end of the month to pay it all off.

I really think that YNAB has changed the way I think about money…

P.S. I was really tired when I wrote this, and realize now that I should have probably written this when I was more lucid.  Sorry about that.  I stand by my last statement above, though.

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Entry filed under: General.

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