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My Top 3 Personal Money Challenges

Personal budgeting challenges? Yeah, I’ve had a few–quite a few. I actually wonder if many people “succeed” with budgeting on their first attempt. It took years from the time that I got YNAB before I considered myself a “real budgeter.”

(Actually, “real budgeter” may be too generous. I might still be a budgeting intern, if we’re being honest.)

Budgeting is good for us. The benefits are tangible. The results are something that we want. So why do we all fall off the wagon so often?

We’re sold on the Four Rules. We see the advantages of budgeting, but for some reason, we just stop. One day we’re budgeting; the next day we’re not.

Here’s the top 3 personal budgeting challenges that kept holding me back:

I Kept Breaking Rule One

I didn’t even know I was breaking it (because I didn’t attend one of the excellent YNAB live classes, which would have sorted me out in no time) but I sure was. I kept forecasting, or trying to budget for an entire month before I had an entire month of money available to budget.

So I’d make these estimates across all these categories, and the total budgeted amount would look ridiculous (because it was), and I’d throw up my hands in frustration. “I guess budgeting works for some people, but not for me. The numbers just don’t work. I don’t have enough money for this.”

The numbers didn’t work because I was treating budget categories as guesses, rather than treating them as official jobs for each dollar. My budget plan wasn’t based in reality.

It was based on what might happen, sort of.

As an officially unofficial budgeting intern, I now understand that you always budget to $0, and you never budget money you don’t have.

I Wasn’t Entering Transactions

I overestimated the hassle of entering transactions…and underestimated the benefit. These days, YNAB’s mobile apps allow Kate and me to enter 90% of our transactions at the point of sale.Before cloud sync and the mobile apps, it would only have taken two or three minutes per day to open my online checking and credit card accounts, look for any new transactions, and square things up. Why was I so convinced the only “efficient” way to deal with YNAB was to wait for transactions to magically appear or to import them from my bank account weekly or monthly?

I’d fall behind on my transactions, then mess up the import process, so my numbers were always wrong, and I’d quit (again). The whole ordeal was frustrating and time-consuming.

My budgeting internship has taught me that nothing raises awareness like entering transactions at the point of sale and reviewing the budget daily. A successful personal finance plan isn’t “set it and forget it.” Aligning my spending with my priorities requires me to be dialed in to where my money is actually going and entering transactions manually creates that awareness.

Screen shot of a coffee purchase being entered into YNAB's budgeting app. Being more hands-on with budgeting can help eliminate your personal budgeting challenges!
Entering transactions at the register helps increase awareness. (And yes, Starbucks counts as groceries.)

Once I made it part of the budgeting process, I realized it’s a minimal amount of time and effort but ultimately makes decision-making so much easier. You spend less when you’re paying attention.

I Handled Credit Card Balances Incorrectly

I’m grateful to say I no longer carry any credit card balances.

When I did have balances (on cards I was still using), they constantly made a mess of my budget. One of two choices would have solved this problem, but I was too lazy to carry out either:

  • I could have stopped using the card until it was paid off, treating the balance just like any of my other monthly bills.
  • I could have read this excellent support article about handling credit cards in YNAB and followed through on their instructions.

All said and done, I can’t blame any of these circumstances for my budgeting setbacks. The reality is that I hadn’t fully converted myself to the joys and disciplines of budgeting.

Once the pain of not budgeting exceeded the temporary discomfort of creating the habit, YNABing became a breeze.

Once I got better at budgeting, I realized achieving financial goals is more fun than making impulse purchases.

Treat budgeting like more than a passing interest—commit to the internship. Work towards that title of becoming a “real budgeter.” The benefits package is worth the extra effort.

Still convinced your personal budgeting challenges would be easier to overcome if you just had more money? We hear you! Join our free money saving challenge to gain some much-needed momentum (and moolah!)

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My Top 3 Personal Money Challenges