Domestic Me

The One Thing I Never Talk About.

MONEY.

There’s a reason, it’s because I suck at money.

Not in your typical way, I don’t have expensive habits or tastes that cause me problems. I get my hair cut a few times a year at the walk-in place next to Target, I only ever wear mascara and I only do that about once a month. I carry purses that cost $30 – but when I have splurged for a fun Fossil bag – I carried it for 3 years. I don’t have “money problems” in a typical way. But I know that there are a lot of people out there who are looking options of becoming debt free, as sorting out their finances is a priority for them.

My way is actually so atypical, it’s hard to explain. The first round of issues occurred when I got divorced a million years ago. Single Mom in College with Credit Cards is what I like to call that phase of my life. I used a Scarlet O’Hara technique in money and just kept telling myself, “I’ll worry about it AFTER I graduate and get a real job.” That was when you first started being able to use credit cards for groceries and while that helped feed us, it caused me TONS of issues later because the debt I was in after graduation was excruciating.

So that was a huge issue, but then I spent 10+ years not doing a great job managing our family finances. I had this very simple budget and carried around receipts for weeks and when I finally entered everything in nothing ever balanced and we spent every month struggling.

Donnie finally took over a couple of years ago and things have only improved since. BUT! That’s not what this entry is about! This entry is ACTUALLY about budgeting tools. When Donnie took over we started with a Google Spreadsheet budget (I would have preferred MS Excel and learn how to use MS Excel tutorials but Donnie knew how to use Google better). He entered in items that were connected to the budget and the numbers would edit accordingly. He felt like this was a little archaic though, and would have liked to not to have to enter in all of the transactions, so we tried Mint for awhile. Mint synced with cards/accounts automatically, but you still had to go through and put their categories in the budget. And a lot of the “auto syncing” didn’t really make things easier. It actually made things more confusing. Especially because we were using one credit card for bonus so Donnie needed to make sure the cash from the bank was set aside to pay the bill every month, and it was tricky since that meant we were accounting for the same purchases twice. Mint did NOT like that.

So we went back to the spreadsheets for awhile. The spreadsheets were just so easily edited to suit our needs. Yes, it felt archaic, but it was also something we could easily manipulate because it wasn’t something so robust like Mint. The MAIN problem with our spreadsheets was that it was SO EASY to make a mistake. So, Donnie was still on the quest for something with a little more protection from stupid errors.

6a01347f997a3b970c0133f4fc1e9a970b-800wiTHAT is when he discovered You Need A Budget. It is, for all practical purposes, a really robust spreadsheet. It has suited our needs PERFECTLY. It has an app on our phone so, as soon as I get gas, I can enter it into the “transactions”. Gas is tricky because it doesn’t show up on our bill for the “real” amount until it clears, so Donnie would basically have to worry about that item for a few days longer than most. Same with anything that required a tip. He still rectifies with the bank account and the credit card every day.

ProTip: Everyone should log into their bank/credit cards every day, because that’s how you catch Credit Card Theft. We’ve had cards/numbers stolen twice but we’ve caught it because we log into our accounts every day to at least LOOK at them.

It does take a bit to set up, get your budget in place, set it up for different accounts so you’re tracking when/if you spend on credit cards or from your bank. But here’s something I learned, it should take time to deal with your money. It’s important and managing it shouldn’t be easy or an afterthought. I still suck at it, luckily, most of it’s out of my hands.

But once it’s set up, it’s just tracking your spending and making sure your purchases are put in the correct category. He checks every day and things that come through like grocery purchases from Publix, he just adds those transactions because he knows what budget category they are. But anything weird that I purchase, I add and categorize either from my phone or from my desktop. And I can add notes on each purchase to show what it was because somethings are not obviously one category and I need his feedback on where it should go. I can also split up a receipt and show that $40 of that Publix purchase was cash for a babysitter which falls under “entertainment” in our budget.

The splitting of receipts is KEY. So many purchases at, like Target, are for more than one thing. Birthday gift PLUS groceries. Or clothing PLUS groceries. Being able to split a purchase into two budget categories was something we couldn’t do easily with Mint or with basic spreadsheets. But YNAB makes it SO EASY.

We’re still a work in progress. It took a bout a year of monitored spending to really settle in on what our budget should actually be. When I was in charge we ate out several times a week. Now? It’s only once a week. BUT! We budget money for coaching because, in the big picture of our lives, that’s more valuable than a few meals out. We also budget race fees and kid’s sporting costs. These are all things we spent money on before, but I just kinda lumped into one under-funded category. It’s hard to sit down and make a perfect budget if you don’t monitor your spending. We’re about two years in of Donnie being in charge, and it took us one of those years to really work out the details of our budget.

Anyway – I’ve never talked about money before because I suck at it. I could still tell you horror stories involving me and finances, but I won’t. Because I’m actually really embarrassed about it. Instead, I’ll tell you some of our saving graces. 1) My husband, you can’t have him. 2) YNAB. It costs money if you want the connectivity between several devices, but it’s the best money we’ve ever spent.

10 thoughts on “The One Thing I Never Talk About.”

  1. This. This. A million times this.
    We use YNAB. Have for years, and it really has turned the tide on our financial future. We also went through Financial Peace University, and those concepts aligned perfectly with what we are trying to do in YNAB, and it helped to solidify for my husband what we were trying to do with YNAB. Now? The two older kids that have their own money and are out and about, are being taught how to use YNAB, and I told them that they will not leave our house to live on their own until they understand how to budget and how to live on less than what they make.

    My own money story is messy as well. It stems from being laid off when I was 8 months pregnant with my first and my ex-husband had just changed jobs and had no health insurance. It made me terrified and also managing money in the scarlett o’hara method.

    I wanted to point out, if you have an educational email address, you can get a copy for free, while you are a student. It’s the best money I’ve ever spent, though.

  2. I’ve never heard of ynab. I’ll have to look into it. We tried mint and I was too frustrated with automatic things that didn’t work and the splitting problem, as you hit on. Target as a category is pretty useless. Same fir amazon around here….diapers, groceries, etc are way different from a zillion other things I order from there!

  3. Thank you! I downloaded this after reading your post and can’t wait to try it. My budgeting skills used to be quite good and then we had kids. And, as with so many things in my life/our lives, everything seemed to go topsy-turvy. My oldest is now 7. It’s time for me to kick myself in the butt and get our lives organized again! Would probably help my anxiety, too…

  4. I love budgeting!!! I’m terrible at sticking to a budget but I’m fanatical about tracking my spending. I use mint and have for years and I think they make splitting transactions into different categories really easy. I also love that when I enter a cash transaction it automatically splits my last cash withdrawal so it reflects what I actually spent the money on instead of nebulous cash/atm. I do have to recategorize transactions fairly often but that doesn’t bother me. But I’m so glad you found something that works for you! I find knowing what my expenses are going to be and how much I should be putting aside each month tremendously empowering.

  5. This is very timely for me because I’m trying to wrestle my finances into submission and I’ve been trying to decide what tool to use. I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea of Mint because of the direct sync with my bank account aspect, so this sounds like a good way to go. Thanks for the recommendation!

  6. FYI, it is a ways off but for someone finding this entry in the future. Steam (online game store/download tool mainly) reduces YNAB to 75% off at the end of every year.

  7. That’s crazy! I just downloaded the free trial last Thurs and am absolutely in LOVE with this software. I have a long way to go till I’m off the wheel (we are riding the credit card float, as described by ynab) and I think all I’ve thought about and dreamt about every night since starting is budgets, spending, debt, etc. I genuinely see this software as potential to have a life changing effect for our finances. Now I need to go budget the software purchase.

  8. I love it when I run into a fellow YNAB-er! I kid you not – YNAB saved my marriage. Yup, a financial software is what brought my husband and I closer together. 🙂

    We fought, constantly, about money. I tend towards the hoarder side after spending my twenties in a financial free-fall whereas my husband’s approach was to put everything on credit cards and spend the next few paychecks playing catch-up. We had little savings and way too much debt. YNAB forced us to reach to a consensus on where we wanted to be financially and over time, it’s changing our mindsets about money and savings.

    It’s a great tool. I also love the four rules tied to YNAB – we’re still trying to incorporate them into our budgeting habits. Baby steps. Anyway, I’m glad you’ve found it and that it’s working for you and your family! Onwards to a better financial health.

  9. Reading these comments was so encouraging–my partner and I come from very different backgrounds regarding money and we too are in way too much debt. You think spreadsheets sound archaic? I’ve been SO happy that we could agree to just writing down what we spent last month in a notebook on the kitchen counter to talk about later.
    I’ll definitely look into this–and so glad you shared–it’s sort of up there with the mental health posts–way too many people suffer through things on their own because no one talks about them!
    Julie A.

  10. I LOVE, love, love YNAB. It has seriously changed everything I knew/thought about money and how to manage it. It makes it so easy to see where your money is going and the best way to put your dollars to work. We’ve been able to save enough to live on last month’s income and the relief of not living paycheck to paycheck has been huge. I feel like I am a walking talking YNAB infomercial.

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