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Learn to Love Being (YNAB) Broke

The Difference Between Broke and YNAB Broke

I used to hate being broke. I guess that’s not much of a statement. I mean, who doesn't, right? 

But the truth is, even though I still sometimes feel broke, now I absolutely love it. How did things change?  Well, it’s no surprise that budgeting helped.

In the Before Times

I was paid every two weeks and, without fail, I’d have roughly $3.14 in my checking account two days before payday. If I needed groceries, I’d have to wait. Phone bill due? It’d have to wait till I got paid.

I learned that the most critical thing to remember was to put gas in the car.  If I had that, I could get to work and I could squeeze by until I got paid.

Of course once I was paid, I’d immediately start spending on the things I’d had to wait to buy. I’d pay bills, buy food, and put more gas in the car. I always focused on the essentials first. It just seemed like the checking account balance would go down almost as quickly as it went up. I was paid on Friday and felt rich through the weekend.  

But by Monday, the stress would start to climb, and I had to start being careful again. Once in a while, I’d misjudge and overdraft my checking account.

 There's no break from being broke.

The Part No One Says Out Loud

But there’s one piece of being broke that I never hear people talk about. It’s not just about the stress of worrying about paying bills—I mean yes, it’s super stressful worrying if you’ll make rent or if the phone will be shut off.  There’s no question about that.  

But it’s also stressful if friends ask you to go out for pizza and you can’t afford to do THAT.  Not having money means not being able to spend money on things you want as well. And as far as I’m concerned, that matters as much as the rent and phone bill. This is your life we’re talking about.

When you’re broke, you just never really get a break. Sure, you get paid and you’re temporarily “not broke”, but you know it’s out there, just lurking around the corner, waiting to pounce on you. 

Broke is coming for you any day now. Am I right?

Occasional self indulgences weren’t enjoyable, because I was always worried I might be spending money I’d need for something else later on. See what I mean?  There’s no break from being broke.

My thinking at the time was, “This is just how things are. It’s not me. I have nothing to do with this. Everyone has to deal with this cycle of being broke before payday.”

It turns out there were things I could have done. And once I started doing them, everything changed.

Now I'm YNAB Broke

Now I still feel broke from time to time, but in a completely different way. I’m YNAB Broke, and friends—you want this. You want to be YNAB Broke.

What’s YNAB Broke? 

YNAB Broke is a bit of a misnomer, because it doesn’t mean you’re out of money. To be YNAB Broke means you’re out of money in some categories, but you probably still have plenty of money in the bank. 

It’s when you feel like going shopping for clothes, but check your clothing category and see you only have $5.67 in there. But your checking account is FLUSH with cash. You can be YNAB Broke on the last day of the month and YNAB LOADED the next day. It actually means you’re doing a good job with budgeted spending!   

I never check my bank balance to decide if I can spend. I check the budget. Heck, I’m not even sure what the first digit is for my checking account right now.  

How can this be? Because I have money set aside for Christmas, home maintenance, vet bills, hiking gear, etc.  It’s just that I only have $5.67 for clothing right now. I can add more later if I want to though. But for now, those other categories are higher priorities.  

Budgeting made me YNAB Broke. It taught me to prioritize how I wanted to spend my money. I make decisions about all the money that arrives before the spending even starts. Don’t underestimate the power of this. There is a profound difference between spending on the fly and spending intentionally.

In the Before Time, I’d just spend money on whatever I wanted when I got paid. I paid whatever bills were due, sure, but the rest was mine. 

Imagine this scenario:

In the Before Time: I’d decide to go buy clothes and spend $200. Then the car insurance bill arrived, and I was short.  

After I Started Budgeting: Every month, I tuck money aside for the car insurance bill AND for clothing. The bill arrives and I pay it.  Now, I didn’t have as much for clothing since I set some aside for car insurance, but here’s the difference:

In the Before Time, once the money was spent on clothing— it was gone. I lost the option to do something different. Having cash on hand gives you options, and options remove stress.

I’d also worry about buying those clothes. “Maybe I shouldn’t buy clothes right now, what if I need the money later for something else.” All my spending decisions were riddled with guilt and worry. I lacked confidence. 

Now when I buy clothes, or anything for that matter, I enjoy it. I’m confident that I have money. Guilt free spending is the best kind of spending.

So, I’ll take YNAB Broke over regular broke any day of the week.

If you’re in the situation I used to be in, take control of your finances and learn how it feels to be the “good” kind of broke with a free 34-day trial of YNAB.

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