Friday, May 4, 2012

the budget

Time for a sales pitch. For the record, no one is paying me to say this.

I wanted to talk a little about budget and finances. I know it is a major concern for many families, and sometimes especially those pursuing fertility treatments or adoption. Max and I have never been good with money. I'm a spender. I love to shop and I love things. All kinds of things. Clothes, shoes, books, purses, pretty things for my house, jewelry...the list goes on. I can get quite out of control if I let myself. Max isn't a spender per se, but he also just doesn't think about money much. He's more of a giver. He will pay for things for people, buy things for the church and not get reimbursed, or allow me to buy something if he thinks it will make me happy. He's also not super realistic with the big picture in relation to finances nor about the consequences that financial issues can bring.

I have wanted for several years for us to get better control of our money and just be in an overall better place. We have tried many different methods and most have failed. I might be on top of it for a couple of weeks, then it gets too confusing or too time consuming or I decide I don't like the system. In the fall, all that changed. I found a new budgeting system, interestingly posted by another blogger, and decided to give it a try.

We started using YNAB (You Need a Budget) in September, and I am not exaggerating when I say that it has changed our lives.

There are two main things I like about YNAB. One, the budgeting system is the simplest, most common sense system I have ever used. And I have used a few. And two, there is a philosophy behind the budget. It's not just a place to record what you spend and build a budget. It made me think about our money in a completely different way.

There are four rules that build the philosophy behind YNAB. You can read more about them here. My take away from the rules is this - live off of last month's paycheck, give every dollar a job and make spending decisions based off your budget, not what is in your bank account. Again, that's my interpretation. Prior to starting with YNAB, we would typically end the month with less than $100 dollars in our checking account and with minimal savings. There were many months that I crossed my fingers that transactions cleared in the order I thought they would so we wouldn't go overdraft. Not a fun way to live. And how many times did I log in to online banking before swiping my card to make sure I had enough money? Now, I honestly can't tell the end of the month from the first of the month except for paying bills. I only log in online to record my transactions in YNAB. I don't have to focus on my balance because I am focused on my budget. And we are slowly working toward the goal of putting our entire paycheck toward the next month. It doesn't happen overnight, but we are definitely making progress.

Like I said, the system is super easy to use. It takes a few weeks to get used to things and make it a habit, but I can update our budget and get a handle on our current situation now in about 15 minutes, if not less.

I have never felt more at peace with our finances.

Full disclosure, there are two cons. First, it's not as mobile as I would like it to be. I don't know technical terms, but I wish it would automatically sync from the desktop app, online, another desktop and my phone without wifi. Evernote is an app I use that does that. I do think they are working on that, but as of now it's not great. I only do my budget work on my desktop at work, so if I'm away from the office for several days I don't have access to it. There is a mobile app, but it only syncs through wifi, and I don't have wifi at my office.

The second con isn't really a con. The software costs $60 (there is a free-trial). That gave me pause at first. I hate the thought of paying for something when I'm really trying not to spend money! But I promise, I have saved that $60 ten times over. No joke.

Anyway, all of this to say - money is a definite piece of the infertility pie. For many of us these treatments are coming from out of pocket. Our finances aren't perfect. I definitely still worry about the cost of things that may be coming down the road. But I know we will be better prepared for it because of this budget.

Again, no one paid me to post this. Just a friendly tip!


  1. Thank you for sharing! I've looked in to different budgeting methods over the years, but never really jumped on board. I am definitely going to look into this one!

  2. I began a budget when my hubby and I were married for a year. We were a mess. I would type out each months budget based on what I would earn and what our expenses would be. Then any left over from my paycheck would go into my savings or toward debt. I would give myself an allowance for two weeks and that is all that I would really have left in my bank account. The more I have in there to spend, the more I spend. So I literally pay the bills, take out all extra to put into the savings and have only my allowance to work with for two weeks. It really has kept me on track and only spending what I can afford.