I have my YNAB app installed on my phone so that whenever I make any purchases I enter it into the app. Later, when the transaction is downloaded from my bank, it’s matched to my entry and I’m done. That’s the gist of my spending workflow using YNAB.
I go to the grocery store nearly everyday on my way home from the cafe. Once I pay for my groceries, I enter the amount, the name of the merchant, and the category (groceries) into my YNAB app.
It’s the same spending workflow process whether it’s groceries or coffee.
I pay with my debit card so I select debit card instead of my credit card or cash which I have linked to my YNAB app as well.
Once I record my spending, the app notifies me how much money I have left over in this category for the month. It flashes as a green number so I always see it and record it in the back of my mind.
In the above screenshot you can see that I overspent in my coffee category. A red number is flashed at the bottom of the screen.
Planning my Spending
I assign specific dollar amounts to each category in the previous month. If I only want to spend $200 in my entertainment category then I assign that $200 in May for the month of June.
At the beginning of the month I look to see how much I have in my Travel or Entertainment category. If I decided to assign only $200 to Entertainment and know that some friends want to meet up for drinks and another wants to shoot pool a few times that month, then I’ll plan accordingly.
I’ve let my pool buddy know that I prefer to meet him earlier in the day when food is on happy hour and there is no charge for the pool tables. He doesn’t mind.
Overspending in a Category
Let’s say I overspend in my Entertainment category, as I usually do. I ended up spending $245 instead of $200.
To remedy this, I will steal from another category to cover the overspending. My app will flash a negative red dollar value, notifying me that I’ve overspent by $45.
Then it will ask me how I would like to cover this overspending. I click on the -$45 and choose another category from which I’d like to cover this excess. I might click on my Travel category or even Groceries and buy more staples for the rest of the month.
One option is to have a buffer category so that you can cover any excess spending using this fund.
The problem I see with this spending workflow is that you’ll get used to overspending. Instead, it might be better to cover any overspending with other categories.
This puts a little pressure on you because your entertainment category will eat into your grocery or coffee category. It forces you to be a little more strategic the following month.
Every few days my YNAB app downloads my spending transactions from my bank. If I’ve been diligent about entering the transactions at the point of sale, all I have to do is match them which takes seconds.
This completes my spending workflow. I know how much money I have left in each category and can plan my future spending accordingly.
On the main page, the accounts page, I can view the balances of each account. My credit card will have a negative value because that’s just how credit card spending is displayed.
I’ve been using YNAB nearly every day since 2012. It’s how I was able to pay down my student loans, maximize my retirement savings, and minimize my unnecessary spending.
It no longer seems tedious to me, it has become a routine. I would stop doing it if wasn’t benefiting me. I’m able to set money aside year after year and I continue to be able to maintain a low household overhead.
YNAB for Budgeting
I have used a lot of budgeting softwares, apps, and tracking methods. Nothing has come close to being as intuitive as YNAB.
Even though YNAB has a strong following, it’s still a niche community. Those who are interested in financial independence and early retirement are generally on board with YNAB.
The best way to describe it is that it stretches your dollars. The extra $100 here or $50 there would otherwise disappear from your budget in the hustle and bustle of life. Using YNAB, you assign that $100 a task – whether to pay down your debt or invest it.
I have no intention of saving $3M just so that I have wiggle room in my retirement spending. That’s a lot of years and effort of my life that I don’t care to dedicate to have the extra wiggle room.
Instead, I prefer to have a lean retirement by optimizing my spending workflow. If my spending needs to be $2,300/month then I will use YNAB to keep myself on track. This means that I get to retire years earlier than my colleagues and enjoy freedom sooner.