My Monthly Budgeting Plan (Minus the Shame and Guilt)


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Photos by Chelsey Werth

I had just gone through another painful, failed attempt at budgeting with Joe. We capped off the experience with dual shame and guilt spirals, and yet another series of “We gotta get on top of this” vows.  

I’ve always had a good handle on our joint finances, dates, and rough budgets—so much so that I thought it was sufficient to keep a running tally of everything in my head (mistake #1). But as the business has grown, so have the headaches and disorganization. I can’t keep it all in my head anymore.

Name a budget-tracking software or platform and I’ve used it, but I never embraced it. I’d follow the instructions, input my numbers, and at the end of the month, I felt worse. Not only did we not follow the budget, but an unexpected expense or two would pop up and throw the whole carefully laid out system out of whack. I was terrible at predicting the unpredictable.

My Monthly Budgeting Plan (Minus the Shame and Guilt) | Wit & Delight

After this latest attempt spectacularly failed, I decided we needed a new system. Thanks to some research, and a friend that couldn’t stop raving about it, I learned about You Need a Budget (commonly referred to as YNAB). Spurred on by my friend, who vowed it would “Change my life” (I’ve since learned that YNAB users are passionate about this program), I signed up for the free trial. 

YNAB was nothing like the budgeting tools or spreadsheets I’d used before because YNAB doesn’t ask you to gaze into your crystal ball and predict what you’re going to spend. With YNAB, you look at the money you have RIGHT NOW. 

YNAB also has four rules you need to follow to be successful. These four rules have changed my relationship with money and, dare I say it, finally given me a budget.

Rule 1: Give Every Dollar a Job

Look at what’s in your bank account and decide what requires payment in the next two weeks. You start small and begin to categorize this money into specific buckets: mortgage, utilities, etc. Each of these categories is the job your dollar has. 

Once you have the primary categories covered, you can begin to place money toward other expenses you know are coming up or put it aside for a rainy day fund.

My Monthly Budgeting Plan (Minus the Shame and Guilt) | Wit & Delight

Rule 2: Embrace Your True Expenses

Looking at purchases would place a knot in my stomach. Taking a deep breath (and believing in the “life-changing-ness” my friend raved about), I took an honest look at what we were spending. 

This radical honesty takes a bit of getting used to, but part of this rule encourages you to embrace shifts in finances. These monthly expenses were what life looked like at that moment; they could change. This was liberating for me. Because I was looking at actual costs, I could (and oftentimes should) make changes. 

The program wasn’t restrictive but empowering. It’s okay that I spent $200 on my haircut/color this month, but next month, I’ll spend less. It’s like practicing balanced eating vs. a diet. Rather than denying myself a slice of cake, I’ll take one less bite.

Rule 3: Roll with the Punches

You will overspend, and you will under plan. It’s okay. 

Past planning tools assumed every month would look the same, but that NEVER HAPPENS, and there’s no way to accurately predict what may come. 

It’s OKAY to move money from one account to another. This is why there are rainy day funds (YNAB can help with this, too!). I recently started a bucket for travel and the holidays (talk about a spending hangover).

Rule 4: Age Your Money

The good vibes really started after a few months when individual buckets grew. When you don’t spend all of the money in a particular bucket, it carries over to the next month, meaning: leftover money. 

Finally. A POSITIVE feeling associated with budgeting. By following the three previous steps, I was able to 

  • trim excess spending (not drastically cut, but reduce)
  • be real with my finances
  • better understand where my money was going month-to-month

YNAB is not a passive tool but an active platform, one that does require a commitment and time. The YNAB community and series of video tutorials have helped immensely. There are lessons on credit card debt and budgeting when you are living paycheck to paycheck. Or if you are simply looking to better understand budgeting and see how your expenses fluctuate from month-to-month, there are lessons for that too.

Now that I’ve been at it for over a year now, I have a totally new mindset when it comes to money. Big-ticket items (power tools!) that in the past I’d buy on a whim and regret almost instantly are now a goal. I can set aside funds for a specific purpose, and when I meet my destination, I can purchase guilt-free. I feel aligned with my needs and my purchases, and have a great tool to check myself when I start to impulse spend. I have to remind myself that I already made a plan for that purchase. And if I didn’t I have the perfect opportunity to update my budget to allow for it. And that was how spending and budgeting finally became a little less scary for me.

YNAB has changed my relationship with money and spending; while there is still the occasional slipup, there is a lot less guilt and shame at our monthly financial check-ins. We reached out to YNAB directly to collaborate on this partnership because I believe in their system so much, I want everyone to feel what it is like to break free from the budget you can’t seem to follow. I hope you’ll try it out and embrace a new way of looking at your finances.

Sign up for the free trial. Give it three months, and you will notice a difference.

Editor’s Note: This post was sponsored by You Need a Budget. The compensation we receive in exchange for placement on Wit & Delight is used to purchase props, hire a photographer, write/edit the blog post, and support the larger team behind Wit & Delight.

While compensation was received in exchange for coverage, all thoughts and opinions are always my own. Sponsored posts like these allow us to continue to develop dynamic unsponsored content. Thank you for supporting our partners!

BY Kate Arends - October 12, 2020

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October 12, 2020 3:30 pm

Off topic, but could you share what those two Liberty prints are called in the 2nd photo? I’ve been looking for something similar.

Grace A.
October 14, 2020 2:22 pm

I’ve been using YNAB for just about two years now and it has been a GAMECHANGER. Before using it, I had a vague idea of where our finances were and just hoped things worked out (bold move, past me) and since using YNAB, we’ve been able to purchase and remodel our home (didn’t think we’d ever be able to do this!), we’ve paid off a few student loans and a car, and don’t feel guilty about when we spend money. I will rave about this platform forever, so thank you for bringing awareness to it!

October 17, 2020 3:42 pm

My husband and I have been using YNAB since 2013 and it is AWESOME!!! Empowers you to spend your money instead of feeling guilty like I used to. Living on last months income is a total stress reliever and absolute game changer! Helped us get out of debt and feel in control. Also makes budgeting with another person so much easier because the computer and dollars become more objective instead of pitting you against each other. Love that it’s forward thinking and in the moment instead of retrospective like so many other apps. We can’t say enough about it!!

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