Adulting 101: Budgets

Adulthood sucks. It’s terrifying, stressful, and confusing. My least favorite part, by far, is dealing with finances. Sure, I had to do that when I was a teenager and those four years where I pretended to be an adult in college. However, that mostly included logging onto my banking website and praying I had some money in my account to go to dinner and a movie with my friends. Adulthood means I’m now paying bills my parents once paid for me (thank you, Mom and Dad!), and that’s not fun for anyone. I have rent, cable & internet, electricity & gas, student loans, and Netflix every month. Plus, I need money to buy things like food, clothing, and medicine. Those are all pricey, especially when living in New York City on an entry-level salary.

Luckily, when I moved to NYC, I did a little research and found an amazing budget software called You Need a Budget (YNAB). The software costs $60, which you can pay after a 30-day free trial. I decided to give it a shot, and by the time my trial was over, I realized I wouldn’t survive in this city without it. And after using it for more than eight months, I can truly say this software has saved me a lot more than my original $60 investment.

This is not a screenshot of my YNAB account. If I had $16,000+ in my savings and $29,000 worth of investments, I would cry tears of joy.

YNAB looks kind of intimidating when you first start it. However, it’s actually fairly simple to use and comes with access to free web classes that make budgeting with the program effortless. The software uses 4 basic rules that keep people from living paycheck-to-paycheck as well as help you save money for emergencies, vacations, etc. With YNAB, you assign every dollar in your accounts a job. In doing so, you know exactly how much you have to spend for that month in each category and how much you are able to keep aside for the fun things in life.

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Unlike most budget programs I’ve used in the past, You Need a Budget encourages you to be flexible with your budget (my favorite rule—Rule 3). What you set at the beginning of the month doesn’t have to be what you stick to for the rest of the month. For example, if you budget $100 for groceries but actually spend $150, you can reduce $50 from other categories that you may not be using as much as you thought you would. If you need all of that money, YNAB will deduct it from your spending allotment for the upcoming month. I usually overbudget my electric bill, giving me the opportunity to either save that money for next month’s electricity or add it to another category for the current month. It’s easy to adjust your budget throughout the month and spend only the money that you actually have available without feeling like you’re failing at budgeting.

YNAB requires that you manually enter each transaction into the program so that it can deduct from the appropriate categories in your budget.

You can even easily split transactions into multiple categories! (Example: if you spend money on both groceries and medicine at the grocery store)

When I was researching various budget programs before trying YNAB, this feature seemed to be a negative aspect in a lot of reviews. People wanted something simple that you could import from your bank. However, having to manually input all inflows and outflows of cash really makes you think twice about how much you’re spending. Plus, by entering it the day the transaction is made, YNAB is more updated than your banking website. This is especially helpful when my landlady doesn’t deposit my check for a week or two after I pay my rent, but I need to know how much money I actually have to spend.

In the 9 months I’ve been using this software, I haven’t overspent once. I also haven’t had to transfer any money from my savings account to use for rent or food. In fact, I’ve been able to transfer a significant amount of money into my savings and make a few higher payments than required on my student loans. It truly has been one of the most stress-reducing purchases I’ve ever made. It keeps me organized and relaxed about finances in a city where most people are constantly stressed about it. I highly recommend it!

For $6 off You Need a Budget and to learn more about the program, click here. If you’re a student, you can receive YNAB for free this way. It’s available internationally and can sync to your iPhone and Android for budgeting while traveling.