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After Struggling to Budget, This Book Made It Stick

If there’s a budgeting app out there, I’ve probably tried it (here’s looking at you rhymes-with-shmint). Yep, I’ve tried the well-known apps, my local bank’s app—even my husband’s elaborate spreadsheets. I would start out with a fresh budget and high hopes, but eventually I’d give up—frustrated. I was convinced that I was just bad at money.

So when I stumbled across a blogpost on A Cup of Jo mentioning the budgeting tool “You Need a Budget” (or YNAB for short), I was skeptical. Was this just another soon-to-be failure for the books?

After checking out the YNAB website, I noticed something—this guy Jesse Mecham (YNAB’s founder) also had a book!  It felt like a painless way to test the waters and see if YNAB was really worth the hype.

I got a copy on audiobook, and I listened to it start to finish. It changed everything. Here’s what finally made it all click:

I felt no judgment.

As I started the book, I expected to feel guilty that I had fallen off the budgeting bandwagon yet again. Guilty that I still didn’t really know what a 401(k) was, or for spending way too much money eating out each month—but the guilt never came.

Instead, it felt like Jesse was talking directly to me. He wasn’t telling me how to spend my money, but he was painting a picture of what my life could look like without all the money stress.

The guilt never came.

I started thinking about money differently.

I had always thought “budget” was a bad word. To a person who loves to spend money, budgeting sounds restrictive and, well…not very fun. In the first few chapters, I learned that budgeting is really about deciding what kind of life I want to live and making a plan with my money to get me there. Now instead of feeling queasy about the word “budget,” I was asking myself, “what do I want my money to do for me?”

Once the book laid out the Four Rules, I realized where I had gone wrong with so many past budgets. With those, I would create these beautiful budgets with the best of intentions and then not give them another glance until the end of the month. By then, it was too late to make any course corrections. This is why Rule Three: Roll with the Punches is my favorite (are we allowed to have favorites? Because I definitely do). When I realized that changing my budget doesn’t mean I’m failing, it’s just part of budgeting—that was freeing.

I was inspired by all the stories.

Peppered throughout the book are real-life stories from Jesse and his wife, Julie. They had a conversation about adding breathing room into their budget so Jesse could afford a fifty cent donut habit—I can picture it so vividly even now.

Budgeting is really about deciding what kind of life I want.

There were stories from others—I loved reading how Owen and Laura reconciled their very different money habits and became great budgeting partners. How Alex stopped living paycheck to paycheck and put his credit cards on autopay. It gave me that if-they-can-do-it-maybe-I-can-too streak of confidence.

After reading the book, I started to budget—for real.

I finished listening to the YNAB book in the summer of 2018. It turns out I’m not actually bad at money! I even enjoy budgeting! I’ve paid off $20,000 in debt, saved up for fun vacations, and I now make financial decisions both big and small with a lot more confidence than I did before. Yes, I still love to spend money, but now my spending is aligned with my priorities. The book gave me the tools to change my life and get rid of money stress. I’m forever grateful.

Want to check out the YNAB book? Read more about the last (and probably first) budgeting book you’ll ever need—or buy a copy on Amazon.

Hear more from Ashley over on our YouTube channel!

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After Struggling to Budget, This Book Made It Stick