How We Budget

… We Make it Fun!

When You Need a Budget reached out to Ryan and I we were (legitimately) so excited, because A. we already use and love YNAB, and B. We totally geek out over budgeting! So we couldn’t say “Y-E-S!” fast enough.

How you manage your finances is extremely personal, and how you manage your finances if you have a partner takes it to another level! However you do it, I think we can all agree that managing money can be very tricky! For Ryan and I, it’s been a learning experience for sure, but one we have really enjoyed. To be fair, both of us were majorly pro-budget before we started dating and it was often something we spoke freely about. Ryan was even teaching budgeting classes at our church when we met, so when I say we really geek out over things like this… I REALLY mean it! ha!

Also, I grew up learning how to budget. My parents taught us the “envelope system” (which is very similar to YNAB!) and it’s how we “managed” our allowance. At the end of every week my sister and I would get $5 in one’s and we’d sort our dollars into envelopes that lived in a little piggy bank jar. There were 4 envelopes: Tithing, Savings, Daisy (our dog), and Spending. Each envelope would get a dollar and savings would get two. And if we saw something we wanted at the store, we could only get it if we had enough “spending” money. It was brilliant and it worked. We were the thriftiest kids you’d ever meet… and honestly, as adults too! Ha!

So when Ryan and I got married we were actually really excited to budget together and it’s one of the first things we did when we came back from our honeymoon. We chose to combine our finances and make decisions together on how we spend our money. Everyone does this differently, and however you choose to handle your finances, make it the right way for you! This just works for us, and again we enjoy it.

We’ve had seasons of more and we’ve had seasons of less, but with keeping a fairly strict budget we’ve been able to feel in control of our finances what ever the season, while still being able to move forward with our financial goals. All of that to say, we really try to be good stewards of what we’ve been given, but we will NEVER EVER do this perfectly. Like if you could only see how many times we’ve eaten Chipotle or ordered Starbucks during this kitchen renovation it would make you SWEAT. Even Ryan the other night was working on the budget in bed and looked over to me and said, “Ash, the amount of money we’ve spent eating out this month is un-freaking-believable, we’ve gotta figure out a way to rein it back in!” But honestly, we wouldn’t have really been able to acknowledge that if we didn’t have a budget…. even if we’ve totally wrecked it the last two months.

So if you are new to the budgeting thing, it’s all about knowledge, grace, and growth!

Okay, that’s a very long intro, but I wanted to give you a little backstory and the why behind what we do. I’ll let Ryan chime in now, because let’s be real THIS. IS. HIS. LANE.

How We Budget

Hi Everyone, Ryan here!

If you’re unsure about taking the plunge and starting your budget, remember this one thing: You’re In Charge. Don’t let a pile of bills, debt, lack of job, or whatever else lead you to believe that you don’t have the power to call the shots on where your money goes. Good budgeting can change lives, save marriages, and turn dreams into realities.

Below is a little bit about mine and Ashley’s approach to budgeting, why we use YNAB to keep us on track, and hopefully enough reason to start budgeting today if you don’t already!

P.S. If you want to check out YNAB for yourself, take advantage of their 34 day free trial!

~

In a past life I was a licensed stockbroker and pretty much spent the first 10 years out of college working in corporate finance and investment sales. So I actually enjoy budgeting. But even with years under my belt working in finance, budgeting didn’t always come easy for me and for a while right out of college I was totally upside down financially. I mean, the number of times Christmas rolled around and I had nothing saved for gift giving. Or when my car insurance bill came due (Twice a year, every year since I turned 16…the nerve!!). Not to mention sending my checking account into the double digits when my car needed a new set of tires.

I can blame some of that on my level of income in those early years, or student loans, but for the most part, it came down to my lack of self control and poor planning.

At some point I realized things had to change, and I finally got on a budget -ish. I would type out some high level expenses in excel (or, I even had a printable “budget” I would fill out each month – talk about time consuming!). That helped, but I was still treading water, leaving bills unaccounted for and not saving for the future like I wanted to.

How to Create a Budget in 4 Steps:

Enter YNAB. An absolute game changer. It took the guesswork out of budgeting, tracked every expense, let me set goals, and actually helped me reach them. YNAB tracks everything across all your bank accounts, credit cards, savings and retirement accounts. You can even track cash (no envelopes needed).

Getting started with budgeting takes a lot of self control, but outside of that it’s really quite simple following YNAB’s Four Rules for Successful Budgeting. Here’s a breakdown of the rules and how Ashley and I apply them in our home.

Give Every Dollar a Job

Another way to say it is have a spending plan. Here’s the principle: if your income is X amount of dollars this month, then you must “spend” the same X amount of dollars this month. By spending, I mean budget. Each month Ashley and I have a budget that reflects our priorities, needs, savings goals, and actual expenses. We make sure that every dollar goes toward a category, be it groceries, gas for the cars, hair cuts, streaming services, savings…etc… Every single dollar of incomes gets put into one bucket or another. No exceptions. Nothing left over.

YNAB makes this part so easy, and if you find the task daunting, they have tutorials and templates to help you get started.

With a budget created, we each have the YNAB mobile app and we can see what we’re spending each month and how much is left in each budget category. It helps us make decisions like opting for a home cooked meal if we’ve maxed out our eating out budget for the month.

Embrace your True Expenses

This is where we take our spending plan to the next level. When we first made our budget and “gave every dollar a job”, we left some huge things off the list. Below are just a handful of them (in our actual budget, these are in the “true expenses” and “savings & goals” buckets). It’s deceptively easy to create a monthly budget, then get into a jam when Christmas or an Anniversary rolls around and there’s no money saved or budgeted for gifts!

Beyond that, we try to think of other sneaky expenses:

  • doctor visit co-pays
  • contact lenses
  • credit card annual fees.
  • car maintenance
  • vehicle tag renewals
  • birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Christmas

We save for each of these every month so when those bills inevitably come due, we’re ready!

Roll with the Punches

This is where the grace comes in to play that Ashley mentioned earlier. No matter how hard we try, there’s usually something that’s over budget or takes us by surprise.

When I was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago (thankfully, all clear now!), all of the sudden healthcare bills climbed to the top of our priority list. Our income didn’t change and our expenses went up, so we had to re-allocate a few items in our budget. Usually, it’s not something that big. Sometimes it’s small stuff like eating out. Again, when it happens, we just course correct by re-allocating budgeted dollars from one category (let’s say “clothing” budget) to cover for the one that’s over (say, “dining out”). Sure, it means we have less to spend on clothes that month, but making these decisions puts the power bank into our hands.

But another reason we love YNAB: It’s really hard to do this without an app. We don’t use cash for the most part so envelopes are useless. Tracking it with YNAB is really the only way to go.

Age your Money

A.K.A. Stop living paycheck to paycheck. Honestly, all activities lead to this point. It’s when, after living by the three rules above, you can can get to the point of spending the money that’s “30 days old” as YNAB puts it, and once you get there, you’ll never want to quit your budget.

~

As Ashley said earlier, we will NEVER do this perfectly. Budgets are incredibly personal and unique to everyone’s needs, circumstances, and goals. But they can also change lives and there’s no better time to start than today.

We 100% recommend giving YNAB a try for 1 month (free 34 day trial!), and see what a difference it makes, whether you’re paying off debt, have a big savings goal, or just want to keep closer watch on your spending.

In partnership with YNAB

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4 Comments

  1. Ashley
    September 18, 2020 / 11:14 am

    YES. All the YES’s. YNAB is life changing. Love that you all are in the YNAB community too! Thanks for sharing!

  2. September 18, 2020 / 8:03 pm

    Loved reading this post. As a single woman who now has a mortgage and all of the expenses to take care on her own (by God’s grace). I always love reading how others manage their finances, so that I can learn from them . Thanks for sharing

    • September 21, 2020 / 1:59 pm

      Ebonee! I love hearing this! You are amazing!

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