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  • Writer's pictureEmbrace TFC

You Need a Budget

Updated: Jun 11, 2018

An Embrace Team Member Reviews YNAB 

Did you know, only 1 out of every 3 Americans maintain a household budget?

There’s a reason. Budgeting is HARD.

Back before I was married, I did my best, but my old, clunky homemade spreadsheet only got me so far with managing my money well. Then I met my husband, and he introduced me to You Need a Budget (YNAB).

My husband found YNAB when he realized he needed a robust budget to stay on track with the mortgage for his new house. Thanks to this system, he managed to target and cut down his spending by 80%! Thanks to YNAB, it is so easy for us to talk about money, because it’s a simple, functional budget system that really works. It takes a modern spin on the old-school “Envelope” system, where you separated your cash into different envelopes. With YNAB, it’s all digital. At the start of each month, you decide how much money needs to go in each life category (groceries, gas, splurging, etc). Then whenever we make purchases, the amount is deducted from those categories and keeps us on track all month long!

What we love most:

1. YNAB lets us define our own categories for spending. We aren’t stuck with just a generic “savings” category, but can create a specific spending goal for a new stove, or buying a bunch of new baby clothing for our newborn daughter!

2. How modern it is! We can use it both on our computers and also on our phones through the app.

What we have learned from YNAB:

1. Know how much money you have. We never realized how important it is to know exactly how much money we bring in month-to-month, to then know how to spend the right amount.

2. Tackle fixed expenses first. Housing costs, utilities, and daycare – we now figure out what our regular monthly expenses are and deduct them from our monthly income. By writing these down, we were able to find places where we could comfortably cut back and switch to a less expensive cell phone plan or a closer gym to save money.

3. Plan for the future. This means putting money away in an emergency fund. Roughly 66% of Americans don’t have the emergency savings they truly need! Now, we know that if the transmission on my car quits, we have money to fix it without worrying about our electric bill. We also save year-round for the short-term future, things like vacations and gifts. With what we save from January to November, we can buy presents for family and friends in December, without having to tighten our belt in the new year.

4. Leave room for fun. Don’t plow ALL your money into savings. If we tried to do that, we would eventually resent the budget and ourselves. By setting aside some money every month for our hobbies and family outings we don’t feel restricted - and we can even save a little of that mad money every month for a bigger outing or a fancier hobby purchase.

5. Be flexible. Some months we don’t spend all of our money we’ve budgeted for gasoline, but we go overboard with great sales at the grocery store. It’s okay to shuffle that around, because not every month is exactly the same. If we find we’re repeatedly spending more on groceries and less on gas, we can rewrite our budget to reflect what we actually do.

Other resources we love:

1. We learned a LOT about financing from Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University. You can access tools and resources for using his method on his website.

2. Our local Virginia Cooperative Extension Office was very helpful. Their free or low-cost classes offer invaluable resources on budgeting, saving and managing debt.

YNAB has given us a healthy attitude about money and confidence in our future. A lot of people treat a budget as a punishment intended to deprive themselves of new clothes or a trip to the movies. Now, we realize it is an agreed-upon plan that lets us go to the movies without worrying we’re spending too much, because we set aside money for family fun after taking care of all our necessary expenses.



About the Author: Katharine McLeod has been with Embrace TFC since summer 2016. In her role as the Winchester Foster Parent Recruitment Coordinator, Katharine travels throughout the Northern Shenandoah Valley talking to community groups and business partners about what it means to "embrace" foster care. Her favorite part of her work, however, is meeting with potential foster parents and helping them with the first steps on the journey of a lifetime!


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