The police officer, school teacher, engineer, firefighter, attorney, doctor, professor, designer, manager and rocket scientist all have one thing in common: they’re killing it financially with YNAB.
My husband is a software engineer, working to become a backend web developer. Due to a variety of blessings, as well as our adherence to a budget, Andy has been able to leave a comfortable, though stifling, position at a large company to pursue his dream of working at a small, agile firm. It was this comfortable position that initially allowed me to follow my passions to find employment at a small, non-profit ministry. I manage the non-profit's office, keeping track of donations and spending, and also am involved in more hands-on ministry with both pre-schoolers and families in local low-income schools. We've been married for just about nine months. We were married shortly after I finished college. At that time, he'd been working full-time for close to a year and living well within his means. We do not have any kids.
We started using YNAB as a couple the first month of our marriage. We used it mainly as a tracking device so we could learn each other's spending habits and observe where our newly combined income was going. We attempted a joint budget spreadsheet during our engagement, but it was unwieldy and also wasn't a very good meter of spending since I was still in college. YNAB allowed us a good first glimpse of our "real world" financial situation.
I had always kept track of any money I spent in my checkbook’s paper register, as well as reconciling it (by hand!) with the bank statement every month, but as a college student, my expenses tended to vary drastically from month to month, depending on what social activities were happening. I had no consistent budget, per se, but I was spending within a set amount each month. I retroactively tracked my spending but had no experience with proactive budgeting. Conversely, Andy was somewhat of a connoisseur of financial software. Before we were married, he toyed with various expense-tracking and budgeting software, including Mint, Wesabi, Buxfer, and even Quicken. These helped keep him out of debt in college, but none seemed exactly right. Prior to getting started with YNAB, Andy had a pretty comfortable savings buffer of a few thousand dollars, but we had no idea how marriage and the real world were going to affect our spending!
Andy brought his prior experience with other budgeting software to the table when he started using YNAB. Since he had that knowledge, the transition was not hard, but the overall experience was much more satisfying. YNAB offered the best combination of qualities he was looking for, especially the ability to track transfers between accounts, not to mention its surrounding philosophies which aligned well with his own. I still leave many of the nuances of managing our finances to Andy, but as far as day-to-day use, I didn't experience much of a learning curve with YNAB. My learning process had more to do with facing "real world" finances in general, and YNAB did nothing but help with that!
A few months ago, Andy felt dissatisfied with his job and wanted to explore avenues for self-study (with an eye towards changing careers). Thanks to YNAB, we were able to take an average of our spending from over the past 8 months and figure out the difference between what I make each month and the amount we spend. Since our savings are also tracked in YNAB, we could calculate precisely how many months we could exist without his income, and were even able to see that we would still have an emergency buffer. Thanks to the comfort these logical calculations brought, Andy was able to resign from his job. He is much happier with the path his work is taking, and we can rest easy knowing that our finances are under control. We never would have felt the freedom to make this decision without YNAB to guide our calculations.
Despite Andy's considerable experience with other personal financial software, YNAB still changed his way of thinking about a few aspects. For instance, no other piece of software he found easily allowed creating a buffer and marking income for use in the next month to avoid living paycheck-to-paycheck. This is now a key part of our budgeting strategy, even though we were able to start doing this immediately. We also love knowing each dollar's job, and in fact I challenge myself each month to spend below the budgeted amount in each category. Having a set grocery budget, for example, has encouraged my to explore the world of couponing, and so far I am having a blast! Reading the YNAB book also greatly enhanced my feelings about the software. I am both a word person and a people person, so knowing the story behind the project helped make it real to me. I feel like by using YNAB I am part of a community of like-minded people striving toward a similar financial goal, which makes me excited to use it every time I record a purchase.
We've had the "luxury" of never being in debt, so we are maybe a bit unique among YNAB users. However, we credit YNAB with providing the means to stay that way! Even while Andy is pursuing his dreams--and not bringing in a steady income--we are debt-free, with savings that will last us at least a year.
Despite having little experience with financial planning, the success we've seen with YNAB has led me to become quite passionate about the concept of budgeting! While I wouldn't be comfortable teaching a class on it yet, I do love telling others, especially my friends, about our story, and YNAB is always a part of that. I also think often about YNAB in terms of my work with low-income families and the power that a little bit of financial knowledge can provide. Philosophizing aside, it is YNAB that allows us day-to-day to enjoy eating lunch out with our friends, downloading the occasional MP3 album, and enjoying guilt-free thrift store shopping. Because we know every penny that comes in, and where and when it goes out, we are free to spend our money in ways that enhance our enjoyment of life. YNAB keeps me accountable when spending the money that we now share, and it keeps us accountable to each other in ways that don’t force either of us to micromanage or nag. I used to think having a budget meant you were strapped for cash and had to make a lot of sacrifices. But I've learned that it's really a conduit to great freedom and peace.
We are free to spend our money in ways that enhance our enjoyment of life