Inspired by a few PF bloggers, I decided to take a look at my 2007 expenses as a whole. Of course, this is something I will be doing in the next few weeks when I finally sit down to do my taxes, but this time, the purpose was to see where my money was going. I feared that I was going to end up seeing huge amounts of money going towards restaurants and bookstores. I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t that bad.
And then I remembered why. Until September of this year, I was a barely employed law student. I spent the entire summer holed up in my apartment, reading bar review books over and over. It all paid off – I am a licensed attorney. But as soon as I moved and started receiving paychecks and paid off the move, my spending got a little more… free.
I thought I was doing ok. I was contributing to my 401(k) (or rather, my TSP). I was putting money into a long term savings account. And I was spending less than I was making. All good things, right?
I Need a Budget
When I sat down and looked at where my money was going, I realized that I could be doing a lot better. I could be saving so much more money if I actually paid attention to where it was going, rather than just looking at the overall amount. And if I budgeted, I could plan for those larger yearly expenses, like insurance payments.
I have used Microsoft Money for years to track my income and expenses as well as my investments, and I tried using their budget program, but it just wasn’t for me. It was too complex and too time-consuming to edit. I needed something much simpler. I tried an Excel Spreadsheet, and even that didn’t go over too well. After a bit of research, I decided to try out YNAB. I purchased the Excel version rather than the standalone, because, well, I like spreadsheets.
I’ve just about finished setting it up, and am very hopeful that this will be what I need to get me on track. I’d like to be able to make larger deposits into my long term savings account. I’d like to be able to plan some large purchases and not feel like I’m delving into my monthly expense account. Mostly, though, I just need to stay accountable to myself. If I’m going to spend it, I need to track it, and I have to have any overages from this month affect what I can spend next month (and the same with savings).
I’ll review YNAB in a few months and let everyone know what I think. So far, I’m excited about it!
Have you tried YNAB? What do you love about it?
Megan is a 30-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.