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Got 20 Minutes A Month? Then You Can Budget.

Budgeting can seem like this big, serious undertaking. But really, if you have 20 minutes a month, you can budget.

I spend about 20 minutes every month budgeting. Here’s how:

Your Phone Is Your Best Friend

You have the YNAB app on your phone, right? So, as you spend money, record it. Then we have bank file import, or direct import, you can use either one of those options. Spend a couple minutes every day, or a couple more minutes once a week, and import and categorize your transactions. Stay up to date. We make it easy.

Goals Are Your Other Best Friend

Add goals for everything. Use it like a budget template. You might say, “Well, Jesse, I don’t have a goal for what I spend on clothing.” I don’t either, but you can set a funding goal, something like, $100 a month, or whatever. So you set a funding goal, a target category balance goal, a goal by a certain date.

Whatever it may be, put a goal on every single category. That immediately makes your category balances yellow if a goal is not on pace to meet its target. When you’ve got all those yellow category balances on the right side, those are signals to you that you should get going on that and fund it.

Auto-Assign Is Your Last Best Friend

Finally, now that you’ve got your app, everything is firing, you’re up to date. You’ve got everything imported and reconciled for the accounts side, then you look at the budget side. You’ve got goals set up for every single category. Then you just click the Auto-Assign button and you are off to the races.

You can basically just say, “Hey, I want you to fund for my scheduled transactions. Then I want you to fund for all of my goals and then the rest we don’t know what to do with.” So you would just go in and fill in the details. But, if you’ve set up goals for everything, YNBAB will just essentially just say, “Oh this is the template; okay, we’ll run with it.”

Time Check! So far in the actual 20-minute session, we’re maybe one minute, two minutes in. If you want to keep up to date on the reconciling, maybe we’re eight minutes, nine minutes in. If you spend and spend and spend and spend, maybe you’re 12 minutes in because you’ve got a lot of transactions. You’re staying up to date, so we’re going to be a minute in on this with the Quick Budget. Then the work begins.

Adjust And Tweak

There is no “normal” month. So this is where you’ll need to sit down and adjust things.

Your To Be Budgeted number at the top, we won’t send that below zero; we don’t want to, right? So you want to make sure that gets to zero and you want to just move money around as needed and make adjustments as needed. And I would be surprised if this took you 20 minutes.

For me, and Julie, I do the balancing part, keeping things up to date. She enters stuff on her phone, that’s the deal. We keep it up to date. We’ve done goals for everything. I make sure it’s all reconciled. I hit the Quick Budget button.

Call In Your Partner (Who Is Hopefully Another Best Friend)

Then a final step over here would be a picture of Julie, and it would be, “Call Julie in” because everything is ready to roll. And Julie just comes in for the tweaking because she and I agreed a long time before on what the goals are.

So it’s just a matter of saying, “Hey what am I forgetting? What do we need to think about?” She’ll come up with six or seven things that I wouldn’t have thought of. As a team we come together. We made adjustments as needed and now we’re good to go. That all happens in less than 20 minutes a month.

Don’t make it this arduous process; just knock it out. Set up the framework, you’ll be good to go.

If you can’t wait until next week for more whiteboard wisdom, subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you have a question or an idea you’d like us to address in a future Whiteboard Wednesday episode—we’d love to hear from you: email@youneedabudget.com.

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Got 20 Minutes A Month? Then You Can Budget.