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Why I Changed My Mind About Budgeting

Honestly, it’s hilarious that I work for a company with the word “budget” in its name. The word alone used to give me a stomachache that was a nice mix of stress and guilt. I would feel the walls closing in at the thought of having to check a spreadsheet to see what I was allowed to spend. 

As you may guess from the fact that I now work at You Need A Budget and have written the word “budget” two—whoops, three—times already, I no longer have these negative associations.

Why I Changed My Mind About Budgeting

What happened, you might ask?

I found out that budgeting actually gives you a sense of freedom and control. 

Wait! Ahhh, I know, I just lost some of you with that last sentence. Pre-budgeting Rachel would have been so annoyed by those words in that order. But can I convince you to hang on with me for a few more minutes? 

I would love to accelerate you from where I was before I started budgeting, past the first couple years I used YNAB, to where my mindset is now. I would love to spare you some stomachaches and guilty feelings, if I can.

It’s actually very simple.

How I used to think about budgeting: My budget tells me what to do.

How I think about budgeting now: I tell my budget what to do.

This second mindset is actually baked into the very first rule of our YNAB Method: Give Every Dollar a Job

Think about it—who gives jobs to others? Employers. Bosses. Business Owners. (Thanks, Jesse!)

And so, when we tell you to Give Every Dollar a Job, we are reminding you that YOU are in charge. 

You Are in Charge

Imagine this: you are hired to be the CEO of a corporation. You are about to have hundreds, maybe thousands of exceptionally diligent employees. 

The company requests that you spend about 2-3 hours on your first day giving everyone their work assignments. It’s a fair amount to process, but you can always change the teams people are on down the road, so you don’t sweat it too much. 

After that, they want you to do a 2-5 minute Zoom check-in every day or two, so that you can see what new work has come up and catch any red flags. Once that check-in is finished, you get to focus on the other parts of your life, confident that your employees are doing the work you’ve assigned them. 

Finally, once a month, you’ll take about an hour to make a plan for the new hires and what work they’ll be doing. (There is a good amount of turnover, but one of your main objectives is to reduce that over time.)

Sounds like a pretty sweet gig, right? 

I wish I had known, all those years ago, that this is the feeling of running a budget. YOU are in charge. 

How much freedom would you feel with a job that takes just 5 minutes a day? (Take that, Tim Ferriss!) How much control would you feel if your dollars went where you told them? 

If you want to take control of your financial situation but are combing the internet for solutions other than a budget, I feel you. If you set up a budget a while ago but avoid checking it for as long as possible, I’ve been there. 

Hear more beginner mistakes while trying to budget for the first (or fifth) time...

However, what if you checked your budget with the mindset of a boss checking in with their employees? Or a queen benevolently surveying her subjects? There is no question of who is in charge. 

That’s what budgeting gives you. You go from having an uneasy (or antagonistic) relationship with your money to being the one clearly and comfortably in control.

Want to give it a try?

Be the boss of your money by trying YNAB free for 34 days. We'll get you in that CEO role telling your dollars exactly what you want them to do, instead of the other way around. Try it free, no credit card required!

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Why I Changed My Mind About Budgeting