I used to be the first in line excited to buy new technology, particularly Apple products – So much so, that friends and family dubbed me iAndrea. I won’t lie, I looked like a pop-up Apple Store at times having all my devices spread out in front of me, but those times have passed. I’m still happily using my iPhone XS and my Apple Watch 4, and my iPad, and computer are definitely showing their age at 5 years old. The products being released these days, from Apple and other companies, just haven’t been compelling enough for me to purchase.
That is until yesterday.
Yesterday Amazon announced an all new Kindle Paperwhite, and to say it checked all the boxes of what I was hoping for is an understatement.
I’ve been faithfully using my Kindle Paperwhite from 2013 all these years and it’s served me well enough that I never needed to upgrade.
It’s even served this blog well over the years as my post on adding wireless charging to it has been one of the top ranking posts of all time. For a while it was even the top search result when you searched for wireless charging Kindle.
I couldn’t be more excited to upgrade my Kindle to this device after all these years. I even moved money around in my budget to move up my “New Kindle” purchase sooner.
If you’re not interested in wireless charging, you can save yourself $50 and get the standard model which is still pretty fantastic, but I’ve gone full in on the wireless charging lifestyle so it’s worth the convenience.
In addition to wireless charging (on the Signature Edition), both new Paperwhite models also switch to USB-C for charging and include a larger screen with an adjustable warm light. The Signature Edition also features auto-adjusting light sensors.
Coming from an ancient model, I’ll also be able to take advantage of the flush screen, waterproof rating, and bluetooth audio.
I couldn’t be more pleased with the new Kindle, and although I’m sad I’ll likely be losing some of my blog revenue due to people no longer needing wireless charging adapters, I think this Kindle is going to be a great device for so many people.
Do you use a Kindle or other e-reader? What are your thoughts on them or the new Kindle Paperwhite?
*Amazon didn’t ask me to write this, although there are affiliate links in this post. I truly just adore my Kindle and haven’t been this excited for a new product in a while.
A side effect of this setting is that I could no longer manually order my tasks to reflect the order I planned to do them during the day. As I shared in that earlier post, when first made the switch, I thought I’d be fine with this tradeoff because my areas and their respective projects are ordered by priority. This meant my highest priority tasks were always at the top for me to do first thing in the morning.
In theory, this change was great for my workflow. In practice, it was less so.
Sometimes those highest priority tasks weren’t things I could do in the morning. Making a handful of phone calls while the other half is still sound asleep in the next room probably wouldn’t go over well. Similarly, if my morning was full of appointments, I probably wouldn’t have time to handle putting together a report. I also tend to work better on reports in the afternoon anyway.
At the time of making that change, I even noted that I was already finding myself jumping around in the list. Little did I know just how much jumping I would end up doing. Over time, I found myself spending a LOT of mental bandwidth simply scanning through my list multiple times a day to figure out what I could work on next.
Ordering my list manually allowed me to build out a plan for my day every morning, and I no longer had that plan.
My solution ended up being a fairly straightforward method that I adopted from my Erin Condren paper planner days. While there’s now a few different layouts, the original Erin Condren planners I used broke each day down into three blocks, Morning, Afternoon, and Evening.
Things 3 already has a This Evening section, but I’ve manually created tags for This Morning and This Afternoon. (Cultured Code, if you’re listening, an option to have a This Morning or This Afternoon section could be nice.)
On mornings where I’m feeling a little more overwhelmed, I can go through and find all the tasks in my Today view that I need and can do first thing in the morning and tag them with my morning tag and (optionally) do the same with the afternoon tag.
Once I’m done, I can filter my Today list by the This Morning tag which reduces my Today list to only tasks I can do that morning and nothing more.
I’ve been using this method for a few weeks and I’m actually really liking it.
It’s also a bit reminiscent of my days using Omnifocus’s start times which prevented things from showing up until I could truly do them. As an Omnifocus user, I loved start times. Why see a task before you can work on it?
I’ll tell you why.
I’d start my day with no clue of how many tasks were scheduled. I’d check everything off for the day and revel in the feeling that my tasks were done, not knowing another task (or tasks) had a start time later in the day.
In the worst case scenario, I wouldn’t see those tasks until the next day missing them entirely. The more common scenario was that my task list started to seem neverending – “Congratulations! You’ve done all your tasks for the day! Just kidding! Here’s another one at 9PM!”
The lack of start times in Things 3 was actually a good thing for my life, but I still did miss that ability to filter things.
Now by using tags in Things 3, I still see every task I have on my Today list at the start of the day so I know what I’m in for, but I also have the option of breaking it down further if necessary.
This last month marked my one year anniversary of using the app, You Need a Budget, or YNAB, and to say I’ve been dying to share my progress is an understatement.
I figured YNAB would be one of those things to pass the time while stuck at home during the pandemic. At the very least it’d be something to do during the couple weeks I’d be stuck at home. Little did I know, I’d still be here a year later, and little did I know much YNAB would change my finances during that time.
I want to start out by saying I’ve been incredibly lucky to not only keep my job during this past year, but also by being able to work from home this whole time. I truly feel for those who didn’t share my situation.
Regardless of what my situation had been, finding YNAB at the start of the pandemic couldn’t have been better timing. The world was facing the uncertainty of a pandemic, and I was almost $9000 in debt with basically nothing in the bank.
Creating a Plan
My first month of using YNAB was all about creating a plan. It turns out despite using Mint for all these years, I really had no clue what to do with my money. If there was more than $1000 in the bank, I figured it was safe to spend, so I did. Instead, I had a great idea of where my money went in the form of nagging “overspending” alerts, which weren’t all that helpful after I’d spent my money. YNAB flipped Mint’s budgeting model on its head and forced me to create a plan for every dollar (rule 1) before I spent it.
Paying Off Credit Cards
My second month of using YNAB ended up being one of those rare months full of unexpected money (why can’t they all be like that!) – a 3 paycheck month, tax refunds, and a stimulus check. In the past, I would have squandered this extra money on random things from Amazon, but armed with my plan, I put the extra money to work for me towards the goals I had set out.
My first goal was to pay off my credit cards, which I’d been unsuccessful at doing pretty much ever since I got the cards. Thankfully, I never wracked up tons of credit debt, but I always seemed to have some combination of around $2000-4000.
Thanks to the extra income in April, I was able to pay off all three of my credit cards. My initial goal was to pay off 1 card by the end of 2020. I’m also happy to say that thanks to the way YNAB forces you to treat credit cards as if they’re debit cards, I’ve continued to completely pay off my cards each month ever since. Getting paid to use a credit card is a lot better than paying interest.
Paying Off the Car
My second goal was paying off my car. Pre-YNAB this seemed like a goal I’d be able to tackle by December 2021 at the earliest, but I ended up doing it in August of 2020. This was actually an even bigger deal to me because I actually accomplished another goal, of becoming debt-free other than the mortgage by the time I celebrated my 30th birthday which I hadn’t even imagined being possible 2 months prior.
Feeling YNAB Broke
One of the reasons I was consistently over budget using Mint was that I wasn’t planning for what YNAB considers True Expenses (rule 2) – things like that yearly Amazon Prime subscription, a new set of tires, or the appliance that inevitably gives out at the worst time. Every month one or more of these true expenses would pop up, and because I hadn’t planned for them, I’d pull out the credit card to pay for them.
With YNAB, I started setting aside money for those true expenses. As each one came up, I added it to my budget and started saving a little for it each month. Eventually I was able to convert a number of my monthly bills to annual plans saving even more money.
As a result, my bank balances started to climb, which is also around the time I started feeling “YNAB Broke” as YNABers like to say. My bank account had more money in it than I’d ever had, but suddenly all those dollars already had jobs. I didn’t have $10,000 in the bank to spend on whatever I wanted. It was already earmarked for car insurance or Christmas gifts.
As time went on, I stopped noticing my bank balances altogether. Category balances are what I check, and since they rarely have more than a few hundred dollars in them, you feel broke even though you have more money.
Getting a Month Ahead
One of YNAB’s other tenants is to try and break the paycheck to paycheck cycle by getting a month ahead (or in other words, using last month’s income to pay this month’s bills). It’s rule 4 and they call it aging your money.
This was one of those things that seemed a bit overblown to me but turned out to be unexpectedly rewarding. Each month as my debts went down and more of my true expenses were accounted for, paychecks seemed to get me funded a little further down the budget until one day I realized the whole month was funded and I was still expecting another paycheck for the month. It seems simple, but starting the month knowing everything is accounted for has added so much peace of mind to my life.
Building My Emergency Fund
After getting a month ahead, I refocused my sights on my emergency fund. I had saved up $1000 (Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step 1), but my eventual goal is to have 6 months worth of expenses. I currently have around 2 months of expenses saved for this. Paired with being a month ahead and saving for true expenses, I consider this really a 3 month emergency fund, which brings us to today.
My Goals for 2021
Finally feeling secure in my finances for the first time in my life, I pushed pause on increasing my 3 month emergency fund to 6, and set my sights on the future.
I recently opened a Roth IRA with M1 Finance, and pressed paused on the emergency fund because I wanted to max out my Roth IRA for 2020 and knew I only had until April to do this. (The IRS has since extended the deadline to May.) As of this past March, I’ve reached my goal. Going forward, I’ve built monthly contributions of $500 into my budget so that so I won’t need to play catch up to max out my contributions for years going forward.
My other goals for the rest of the year, all of which I’m on track to complete, are as follows:
Finish saving for our wedding
Refinance our condo to a 15 year mortgage
Complete saving a full 6 months worth of expenses in case of an emergency
Prior to finding YNAB, I assumed I just didn’t make enough money and my financial situation doomed unless I got another job. I felt stuck with no way up. It turns out my income wasn’t the problem. It was my behavior.
In just one year, I went from living paycheck to paycheck and $9000 in debt to being debt free. The net worth graph from the past year says it all.
My friends and family think I’m a bit YNAB-obsessed, and truthfully I am constantly singing its praises. I’ve definitely drank the Kool-aid, but honestly, if you’d shown me this graph a year ago and told me it would be mine today, I wouldn’t have believed you. Trying YNAB has truly been one of the best decisions I’ve made and if this is the progress I made in one year, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future.
And if you want to try YNAB for yourself, the links to it included on this page will get us both an extra free month if you choose to sign up after the 34 day free trial. Did I mention there’s no credit card required to sign up, so it’s totally risk free. They aren’t some sketchy company that will immediately sign you up at the end of the trial.
The reason for my dabbling was due to a feeling of uneasiness when using Evernote. For years, I’ve been increasingly less and less confident in the Evernote’s future or the company’s values, but in the absence of no better alternative, I stuck around hoping the tides would turn.
Suffice to say, the tides haven’t turned, and their recent app updates removed several of my most used features. Sure, Evernote keeps saying that they’ll bring these features back in the future, but this is also the same Evernote who said the new versions would be better than ever. Spoiler alert: They’re not.
One thing that has changed, however, is the world of Evernote competitors. It’s hard to say there are no better alternatives anymore, especially now that my needs have simplified, which is why I started thinking about what I truly needed out of a personal knowledge management system.
Topping the list of must-need features:
I need to be able to save important emails easily for reference.
I need to be able to add multiple file types.
I need to be able to link to notes both within and outside of the system.
My obvious first choice would have been Apple Notes, which I’m already using for sharing notes with my other half. Unfortunately, while it does meet most of my needs, it doesn’t have any sort of integration with my email app. Note links are also quite clunky. You pretty much have to pretend to share the note with someone to get a note link.
The highly-praised Notion was next on my list, but quite honestly I don’t have the patience to set up a database from scratch.
I also tried OneNote, but, my gosh, the interface is “oh-so-Microsoft Office” and seemed way too fiddly for my needs. No thank you.
At this point, I’ve settled with Bear. I’m still getting used to the tag-based structure, but overall, I’ve been liking it a lot more than I expected. This is in part to the simplification of my organizational needs from when I last tried it. There are a few things I do miss, like tables, but those seem to be on the road map so hopefully, the wait won’t be too terribly long. It’s also worth mentioning that Bear’s Pro subscription is around 20% of what a year of Evernote Premium would cost me.
With that said, I really do hope the best for Evernote. As a note-taking service, it’s still a pretty great option for most users, I’m just not sure I’m most users anymore. If they can prove me wrong, I’m still keeping my options open, but for now Bear seems to be my best bet.
With the introduction of widgets in iOS 14 going viral, it seemed like the perfect time to give an update on my home screen, and for the first time in what seems like years, my home screen is drastically different.
As I mentioned in past posts, I’ve always considered my homescreen to be dashboard for my day, and thanks to iOS 14, I can actually do that.
At the very top, I have Fantastical displaying my calendar. I love that Fantastical’s widget shows both my calendar AND the weather. This widget stack
also includes my Today list in Things and Dark Sky for the weather.
The next widget is Fitness. This is not a stacked widget. I briefly toyed with combining the next stack, but I like seeing my activity stats all day everyday. As you can see from this screenshot, I still need to get today’s workout in. You’ll also notice I modified my exercise minutes to reflect my realistic goals.
The final widget stack used to live to the right of the Fitness widget, but as anyone who’s ever tried arranging a home screen knows, apps and widgets seem to have a mind of their own, and this one kept moving to the next line. After moving it a handful of times, I gave up and left it where it is now, below the Fitness widget. Maybe my phone knew I’d like it here more, because having all my apps under my thumb makes them much easier to access.
In this third widget is Streaks, which I use for tracking my sleep, mindfulness minutes, exercise, and stand hours. One could argue a few of these are redundant since they’re already included in Fitness, but unless Apple comes out with a 1×2 widget, anything less than 4 habits looks weird in this widget. Also in this stack is Waterminder. One of my favorite features of the Waterminder widget is that it will switch to the front with a warning if I haven’t logged water in a while.
As a side note, most of my water is tracked automatically throughout the day with my Hidrate Steel water bottle. Both Hidrate and Waterminder sync to Apple Health, so I mainly use Waterminder to manually log non-water beverages.
As far as apps go, I have:
– Waze, of course, for quick access to directions
– YNAB for managing my budget on the go
– Gyroscope for getting a more holistic view of my health and wellness. I mainly use this for tracking my mood over time
– Lose It for tracking my calories because apparently the connection between calories, exercise, and weight doesn’t come naturally to me
– Castro for my ever growing list of podcasts
– Pocket for reading on the go
– Spotify for music
– and last but not least, Travel Guide, which is an excellent companion app for Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It’s basically a calendar and task list for the game.
My dock is the same as it usually is: Drafts, Messages, Safari, and Things, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
And that’s it for my home screen – just the single one.
iOS does add the ability to hide home screens, so I may play around with trying out some temporary home screens, (e.g. one for travel), but I’m not exactly traveling right now so I’ll leave that for another day.
All my other apps have been moved to the App Library, which has been another welcome change but in an unexpected way. I actually think the way Apple auto-categorizes apps is quite terrible, but interestingly enough, the fact that it’s so bad is a perk for me. Because I generally can’t find an app unless I swipe over to search, I find I’m much more willing to keep apps on my phone knowing it’s harder for me to get to them and waste time.
I’ve been using Things for years at this point, and while my workflow has changed here and there, there is one thing that has remained the same.
I’ve always kept the option to organize my Today list by project turned off, opting, instead, to order my tasks manually.
At least, that was the case until about 2 weeks ago.
With the defined boundaries of my day now gone due to working from home, I started noticing that I was resenting my Today list. Despite being relentless about what I put in my Today list, the list just felt overwhelming, and who needs to be more overwhelmed right now?
So in an effort to bring some control back to my day, I’ve done two things.
The first, of course, was setting my Today list to be grouped by project (Preferences > General > Group to-dos in the Today List by project or area). This meant giving up my ability to reorder my list manually, but with my areas and projects already ordered by priority, my Today list more or less ends up ordered close to how I’d have ordered the tasks on my own. I do have to jump around the list a little bit depending on how late the other half sleeps, but it’s not been terribly difficult to adjust to.
The second change I’ve made is to create a lone project called Daily Tasks above all of my areas. This is where my non-negotiable tasks go – things like exercise and taking a mindfulness break at some point during the day. It also includes the chores I include as part of my daily home reset.
For reasons I can’t explain, separating these daily tasks from my other tasks has removed a great deal of overwhelm. Instead of a sea of endless tasks, my brain has no trouble looking at the list, seeing them front and center, and thinking, “Okay, these are the things I do every day regardless, and these are the other tasks I hope to accomplish.”
I’m not sure whether this change will stick once things get back to a new normal, but for now, it’s a welcome and simple change to my workflow that has helped keep me on track.
When I started using You Need a Budget (YNAB), I kept hearing the term “true expenses.” Rule 2 of YNAB’s philosophy is actually “Embrace your true expenses.”
For non-YNABers, true expenses is a foreign concept. It’s not taught anywhere, but it’s single-handledly responsible for the biggest mindset shift I’ve had in months.
True expenses are those things you know are going to happen eventually. You might not know exactly when they’ll happen or maybe they happen every few months, every year, or every few years.
Amazon Prime is due next April. Your oil will need to be changed. Your cat will have an unexpected vet bill. Your windows will need to be replaced. The list goes on and on.
The point is they’re definitely going to happen someday, and if you know they’ll definitely happen you might as well start planning for them.
The problem is despite knowing these things will happen, they usually catch us off guard because we aren’t taught to plan for them. They throw a perfectly planned budget into chaos because suddenly you have to account for an extra $500 to cover that car repair. But let’s face it, there is no perfect month. There’s always something extra that happens above your normal month.
With YNAB, I quickly got into the habit of setting aside money monthly for those true expenses. Mom’s birthday’s in a month? No problem, I’ve been setting aside a few bucks every month and the money’s there waiting for me to buy her a gift.
True expenses not only help keep you from getting thrown off course when something out of the norm happens, they help you establish a baseline for what is actually the norm. I no longer think of my my yearly Disney+ subscription as a $70 email reminder that catches in me off guard. Instead it’s just another $6.36 that I set aside each month for expenses.
Seeing a clear breakdown of what your life actually costs per month including your true expenses is a real eye opening experience. Being able to see exactly how much my lifestyle costs allowed me to cut out subscriptions I no longer needed because I could see the true cost.
That being said, the lesson of true expenses doesn’t stop at budgeting. The real power is extending it to other areas of your life.
Working at a university, I understand that the start of the semester is a busy time, whereas other times are less busy. When I think of that in terms of “true expenses”, I can start to figure out if there are things I might be able do differently or spread out to other less busy times of the year so that I’m not quite as stressed during that first week or so.
And with that, it is the start of the semester for us, so I may be absent from the blog for the next few weeks, but I will be back with new content. I promise.
Thank you for all the kind words you all continue to send in, and if there’s something you want me to write about (Things, YNAB, productivity, tech, anything really), let me know!
A number of my budget categories in YNAB reflect variable spending. These are things like groceries, gas, household items, personal care, and dining out. These categories also reflect areas where, if not careful, my spending can run amok pretty easily.
To combat this (and to make budgeting easier), I’ve set “Needed for Spending” goals on each of my variable spending categories. YNAB categories are essentially virtual cash envelopes, so the beginning of the month, I start with a capped amount available to be spent. Unlike cash envelopes, however, once the money runs out of a category, I’m not out of money entirely. YNAB still encourages me to “roll with the punches” by moving money from other categories.
Most months, I’m pretty good at staying under the amounts I’ve set. However, some months, I find myself more inclined to fall into a shopping binge and do need to pull from other categories.
In general, I try to limit myself to only pulling from other variable spending categories. I’m okay with pulling some money from my personal care category to cover an impulse bottle of wine on a Friday night. I’m less okay with pulling money from car maintenance to cover one.
How YNAB’s need for spending goals work tends to raise a number of questions and concerns for users because they don’t always work like other goal types. In my opinion, YNAB’s thought process is right though.
In short, when you budget into future months, unlike other goal types, YNAB expects you to budget the full goal amount regardless of how much you have available in the current month. The amount you need to budget doesn’t get reduced. This is because YNAB can’t know whether or not you’ll spend what’s currently available before the month ends. For instance if you have $75 to spend on dining out towards the end of the month, there’s still a possibility you may still spend that money before the month ends. Budgeting $75 less could leave you shorthanded in the next month if you spend that $75 between now and the beginning of the next month.
Some people combat this rollover problem by putting all of next month’s funds into a “next month” category and waiting until the first of the month to budget. I, on the other hand, still prefer to budget as a get paid because, quite frankly, I find “YNABing” fun. The more budgeting I get to do, the better.
In my case, when the first of the month rolls around and my available amounts from the previous month roll over, my categories are usually overfunded, which is actually a pretty good problem to have. I treat the money from any overfunded categories as a sort of mini-payday that I can then rebudget into the future. With my spending being lower due to the pandemic, that mini-payday typically amounts to around $200-$400, which is a pretty sizeable chunk of change.
I find getting my mini payday at the start of the month good enough on its own, but as an added incentive to curtail my impulse spending throughout the month, I go one step further. I set aside 10% of that mini-payday for items in my wish farm. Because of this, throughout the month, I’m constantly thinking, the less I spend on eating out or impulse buys, the sooner I get to buy something on my wishlist.
Overall, it’s only a couple hundred dollars a month, and in reality, it’s not new money. Mentally, though, my mini-payday at the start of each month has really helped reframe whether Chick-Fil-A breakfast for the third day in a row is actually worth more than buying myself a new Mac. (I decided it wasn’t.)
If hindsight is 2020, maybe 2020 wasn’t the best year to pick health as my yearly theme. Nevertheless, here we are.
I’m nearing my 4th month of working from home due to the pandemic, and the biggest lesson I’ve learned during those 4 months is just how easy it is to slip out of a routine.
Skipping things I didn’t pay much attention to, like my afternoon walk, now suddenly have an incredible power to spiral my default behavior right back to sitting on the couch if I’m not careful. At the same time, I’m also being mindful that it’s okay that I’m not performing at the levels I normally would. These, after all, are not normal times, and giving myself a break is necessary at times.
With that being said, my intention for this year was and still is to focus on my health. I’ve just had to readjust my expectations to effectively fight the gravitational pull towards my couch. For that, I’ve been taking a page out of the ideas in James Clear’s Atomic Habits and BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits and accepting that doing something regularly, even if it’s small, is better than doing nothing at all.
I’ve been using a combination of Apple’s Activity app and Streaks to set my goals. Using the Activity app’s trends tab, I set my goal to be only slightly above my average. If the app says I’m getting about 9 minutes of exercise a day, I’ll set my goal to 10.
Right now I have goals set in Streaks for “Move” calories, walking distance, stand hours, exercise, sleep, and meditation. Streaks syncs with Apple Health as well so the actual effort of tracking my goals is minimal, and because the goals themselves are only slightly more than what I usually do in a day, I’ve actually been meeting the goals almost every day. In fact, most days, I exceed them. Contrast this to a few weeks ago, when the idea of meeting any of them let alone all of them seemed out of reach – this is a win in my book.
Because I’m going off of the average trend, the goals feel achievable even on my worst days. More importantly, as the trend goes up, I’ve been incrementally increasing the goals (albeit slowly), which much to my surprise hasn’t felt as onerous as it had in the past.
Maybe, by the end of the year, I’ll be back up to where I’d hope to be, but for now, making progress a little at a time feels good. And feeling good is something we could all use a little more of right now.
In my last post, I shared how YNAB has helped me get a better handle on my finances. Today, I want to share how I’ve organized it.
When you start using YNAB, they pre-populate your budget with a selection of recommended categories. I’ll be honest, I didn’t find them all that helpful. Having not read the book yet, I actually found them confusing because the category group names, like true expenses or quality of life goals, are terms people generally don’t use outside of the YNAB community. Additionally, not all the categories were relevant to me. For these reasons, I deleted them all and started over.
I structure my budget categories and groups in a few ways:
Category groups are listed from highest priority to lowest.
Category groups are also arranged based on where the money lives (i.e. checking vs. savings).
Within each category group, categories are named with and listed in order of their due date.
Each category has a goal.
Structuring my budget this way allows for two things:
I can fund my goals from top to bottom as money comes in, always knowing my money is going to the next most important area.
I can verify how much money needs to be in my checking account or should be in my savings account at all times.*
I can use the quick budget feature to not only quickly budget my money when it arrives, but also quickly estimate how much money I need to set aside each month.
*Technically YNAB will tell you that your budget is only a plan for your money and where you keep your money is irrelevant in terms of the budget, but given I don’t want to overdraft my account or miss out on interest I could be earning, I don’t buy into that.
So what are my category groups?
Current Baby Step – This is where I put my top priority savings goal according to Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps. Currently, I’m on Baby Step 2, paying off my car, so this is where car payment lives. Once I’m done paying off my car (hopefully by the end of the year), this group will include building up my 3-6 month emergency fund. I separated this out to call extra attention to my main financial goal. Whenever I’m done funding the upcoming month’s goals, I dump any extra money I may have leftover towards this goal.
Credit Card Payments – YNAB automatically creates this category. Because my cards are paid in full, I don’t actually need to budget any money for these categories. Anytime I make a purchase on a card with the money I’ve already budgeted for, YNAB automatically moves that money to these categories so that I’m able to pay off the credit card when the bill is due.
Monthly Bills – This is where my fixed monthly expenses live (e.g. my mortgage payment, my Spotify subscription, etc). Anything in this category group is something that costs exactly the same amount and is due on the same day of each month.
Variable Expenses – I think of these as my cash envelopes. These are categories like groceries, gas, or eating out where I may spend more or less each month, but I aim to spend less than a certain amount.
Upcoming Expenses – These are fixed, recurring expenses that occur less than monthly, but will be due in the next 30 days.
I want to take a break here to point out that the category groups up to this point represent my checking account. Moving forward, the following categories switch to my savings account. As mentioned previously, I use this separation of category groups to quickly see how much should be in my accounts at any time and help me to know exactly how much to transfer between accounts.
Subscriptions/Recurring Expenses – The previously mentioned Upcoming Expenses and this category work together. Again, these are expenses that do have a fixed amount but occur less regularly (like my yearly Amazon Prime subscription). For GTD fans, these two categories essentially work as a tickler file. Once I’ve paid a recurring expense in the Upcoming category, I move it back to the bottom of my Subscriptions/Recurring Expenses category and reset its goal for its next due date. In this way, everything is ordered by date, so I always know which subscriptions are coming up next, how much to pull out of savings to pay them, and I can begin saving for them again right away.
Sinking Funds – This is where I save for expenses that will happen eventually. I just don’t know when they’ll happen or how much they’ll cost (e.g. home maintenance, health, vet bills).
Long Term Savings Goals – This category is where I keep future savings goals like my 3-6 month emergency fund, our house downpayment fund, and my future Tesla fund. (A girl can dream…) Right now, I’m focusing on other priorities, but I look forward to the day when I can actually fund these. (For now, this category group is hidden from my budget since I’m not actively contributing to them.)
Wish List – This is exactly what it sounds like. Anytime I want something I put it here, and eventually, it may make its way to my Wish Farm to be funded. (I also keep this group hidden to keep my focus on my current goals).
Gift Cards – This category keeps track of the money I have on my Starbucks and Dunkin cards that I use for rewards points. I also keep track of my Amazon gift card balance, as well as Apple Cash. Whenever I make a purchase using these categories, I move the money to one of the appropriate categories above to accurately categorize the spending.
One of the rules of YNAB is to “roll with the punches,” so YNABers (people who use YNAB) are actually encouraged to adjust their budget as needed, and I adjusted my categories quite frequently during the first month or so. I’ve since settled into a groove with this category structure, so that’s how I structure my budget in YNAB (at least for now).
I hope everyone’s doing well during this time. Well at least as best as well all can. Stay safe everyone. Until next time.