This post was most recently updated on November 20th, 2017
You need this!
But I stink at budgeting!
Is that what you’re thinking right now? There’s a budgeting program that’s almost magical to use. It does nearly all the work for you. It’s called You Need a Budget (YNAB). Clever name, huh? I know it works, because I’ve used it. I’ve also used Mint, Excel, Money, and Quicken, but they didn’t do the trick for me. YNAB has a philosophy that’s hard to beat, and the program works extra hard to keep you motivated to save. Other programs track your money, but don’t accommodate unexpected expenses or put your unused dollars to work right away. And they don’t help you get past your budget failures. Because everyone fails at budgeting sometimes.
What does YNAB have to do with travel?
YNAB has a four-step philosophy that ensures you won’t fail at budgeting for the expenses you want to pay for. And you want to travel. YNAB equals more fun travel for you!
Travel is never a monthly expense for us but if I want to travel, I have to set aside money monthly for it. I was able to budget about $180 per month. When we decided to go to Italy for two weeks, I knew that wasn’t going to be enough, but I didn’t have any extra income to put in my Travel budget. I made a mental note of budget categories that could be flexible: clothing, postage, lunches out, dating, household supplies, gas, gift and entertainment. I also looked for budget categories I could omit entirely. My husband and I decided to drop our Cable budget because we found we weren’t watching that much TV and we could watch most of what we enjoyed online. Reducing some categories and dropping our Cable budget allowed us to raise Travel to $250 a month. Still not enough, though.
Now I needed to look more closely at those flexible budgets. Perhaps during some months, I could spend less and pass the savings on to our Travel budget. And that’s just what we did. It’s easier to pass up a new pair of shoes or stay home and watch a Netflix movie instead of paying for theater tickets if you can see where your saved dollars are going. Maybe your budget is really tight and there’s not much wiggle room at all. We’ve all had times like that. You can make gifts instead of buying them, pack lunches instead of eating out, and combine errands or carpool to save on gas.
What happens when the car breaks down, and you need to pay for repairs? Ideally, you’ll have a Car Repair budget you’ve been building with monthly distributions. It might not be enough to cover all of your expense, but it will certainly help. With YNAB, your Car Repair budget will show a negative balance that carries over to the next month. But if you keep putting money in your Car Repair budget every month, that balance will eventually become positive again!
YNAB will ask you “How do you want to handle overspending for this category?” and you will have two choices:
- “Subtract it from next month’s Available to Budget” OR
- “Subtract it from next month’s category balance
In other words, learn to live on last month’s money. That way you’ll always have a buffer. You’ll be in control. (And you’ll love that!)
You need this to put your dollars to work for you!
But back to our Italy trip dilemma. If you’ve created a budget category, transferred all savings to it, and it still isn’t enough, there’s another way to fund it — increase your income and apply it to your favorite budget category! Options include:
- Start a paying hobby
- Ask for a raise
- Add a part-time job
- Find higher interest-earning options for your savings
In our case, we used a combination of the above. We do Christmas Caroling for pay during the Christmas season. I have a sporadic home-based business that earns a little bit of extra money (extra, as in we never knew when to expect income from it, so it often got spent without a plan). And we moved some of our savings to an online account with better interest. We also did some price comparisons on utility packages and saved some more money by bundling. I’ve written the details of our savings and earnings in my article, How to Save Enough Money for Travel. But it’s important to understand that no amount of increased income or savings will help you if you don’t budget and know exactly where that money is going.
The real key is keeping a budget, and YNAB really does have the best product. If you’d like to “tour” the YNAB budget process and gain some new inspiration, please click on this link: YNAB tour. The exciting thing is that YNAB really wants you to be successful. You can sign up for a free 34-day trial. You won’t be asked to provide a credit card number because it really IS free. There are also free classes, tutorials, a blog, and online support, too. When I had questions about how to input the income taxes that were being withheld from our checks, YNAB answered my question with detailed samples within a day. There’s also a forum of other happy YNAB users who help each other out with motivation and answers.
And our trip to Italy? We went for two glorious weeks in 2014. When the time came for us to leave, we were still just a little bit short of the total we felt we needed for our Italy expenses. However, it was then that I realized I had regular monthly budget categories that could be put towards our trip the month we left. Since we’d be gone, we could spend two weeks’ worth of groceries, gas, utilities, entertainment, dating, lunches, and household supplies on our trip. And our Gifts budget would give us money to spend on souvenirs. I may not have realized that without YNAB showing me the numbers!
Some more YNAB bonuses (we all like a bonus, right?)
- If you’re a college student, you may qualify to use YNAB free. See here.
- You can import transactions from your bank or credit card easily. Then all you have to do is assign each transaction to a budget (put those dollars to work!)
- YNAB spreadsheets are easy to use and understand, and there are some fun reports to help you visualize your spending, too. (click on image to enlarge)
- YNAB gets a 4.4 out of 5 stars from customer reviews on Amazon.
- Every time you overspend, it is automatically deducted from next month’s income. It’s like having your mother there to correct you (do you need this? — Yes, if you still want to travel!) YNAB knows you’ll make a few mistakes, but keeps you on track.
What I want most of all is for you to be able to travel! Travel is an experience that changes you, gives you life-long memories, and strengthens your relationships. You need this! If you think you don’t have enough money to travel, please give YNAB a try. It won’t be long before you’re making your reservations, too. You need this budget magic in your life!
Note: I have been using YNAB for my own budgeting needs for several years. While this is a sponsored post, it is an honest reflection of my experiences and feelings about YNAB.