How to Get a Month Ahead With Your Money

And Break Free of Paycheck to Paycheck Stress


How do you get a month ahead in your budget and start living on last month’s income? 

We’re so glad you asked!

As you get going with your budget, getting a month ahead is key if you’re someone who is trying to break the paycheck to paycheck cycle. And it might take time, but you’ll get there.

What Does it Actually Mean to Get a Month Ahead?

Another way of looking at getting a month ahead is that your budget for next month is completely funded before the new month rolls around.

Where Should I Physically Put This Money Once It’s Saved?

 In your checking account. 

How Do I Do This in YNAB?

You can use the forward arrows to dive into next month’s budget and start funding categories, or you can set up a category in your budget called “Fund Next Month” with a goal set to the amount of your monthly expenses. When the new month rolls around, you can “release” money from this category and assign it to be budgeted for next month.

Why Do I Want to Get A Month Ahead?

If you are trying to break the paycheck to paycheck cycle, getting a month ahead is like taking a giant step away from that pit. Imagine—the first of the month arrives and you already have all the money you need for the month. Wow! All your categories are a beautiful, peppy shade of green, and the money is just sitting there looking pretty. Amazing, yes? And that means any money that arrives this month can be used for the following month. You are perpetually ahead.

How Do I Get a Month Ahead?

The key to getting a month ahead is prioritizing. Let’s take a look at a few months of a happy new YNABer as they work to get a month ahead.

Month One

In this budget, the happy new YNABer started mid month and came in just under the wire. When all was said and done in January, there was just $25 left in the budget. $20 in groceries and $5 in transportation—shown in the green pills below.

The green pills show $20 left in groceries and $5 left in the transportation category.

Month Two

Last month our happy new YNABer was just getting started in flexing their prioritizing muscles. In February, they started setting money aside for non-monthly expenses like the six-month car insurance bill, auto maintenance, and that expensive but essential yearly Prime membership renewal. 

What’s happening behind the scenes is that our happy YNABer is learning to live on less money. It’s easier than they thought! Their budgeting muscles are getting stronger and stronger as they rein in the spending that doesn’t actually matter to them. This means they can prioritize what is important to them. At the end of February, they have $775 left in the budget. 

Month Two: $775 left in the budget (this is a partial budget view)

Month Three

In March, something great happened for their budget: they got a decent tax refund. But since they’re living on less, they didn’t need that money, and they’re focused on getting ahead. So they budgeted that money in April. How do we know?  Let’s zoom in closely on the header.

$1100 Budgeted in Future: Starting to Get Ahead!

See that $1100 budgeted in the future?  That means our happy YNABer took some of that tax refund and started assigning it to jobs in April.  Sure, it’s not enough to fund all of April, but it’s a really good head start. 

Now you may be thinking, “Do I need to get a tax refund to make this happen?”  Nope. Tax returns can provide a nice immediate boost, but you can do it any number of ways. Some people are paid every other week, and that means twice a year there are months with three paychecks. So they live on two paychecks and use the third one to get ahead. Look for those opportunities, take advantage of them when they happen, but even without them, you can still inch your way there.

Month Four

Let’s look at April.

Month Four: $1800 Budgeted in the Future

Now there is $1,800 budgeted for the future thanks to the tax return and cutting back in other places that didn’t matter as much.

Also, look at the total activity on the right—they’ve spent $3045 in the month of April. If they are spending around $3000/month and just pushed $1800 into May, you can see they’re getting close to being a full month ahead.

Month Five

This is what May looks like on May 1st—before a single paycheck has arrived. 

Month Five: Already Seeing Green on the First of the Month!

They’ve budgeted for immediate obligations and debt payments. The student loan is covered. Groceries are covered. These dollars are ready to trounce on those bills the minute they arrive. All these categories are funded before a single May paycheck arrives.

Month Six

By the time May is over, our budgeter has managed to push $2555 out into June. 

Beginning of Month Six: $2555 Budgeted in Future

Remember—our budgeter is spending about $3000.  We are so close to having a full month funded ahead!

Sure enough, by the time June is over, our budgeter has budgeted for all of July.

End of Month Six: $3325 Budgeted in Future (Enough to Cover Whole Month!)

Month Seven

On July 1st, they open their July budget—again, before a single July check has arrived—and see this: green all the way down their budget. They are a month ahead! WOO!!

Month Seven: They’re a Month Ahead!!

The money they make in July will fund August. The money they make in August will fund September. And just like that, our budgeter is a month ahead.

When you’re a month ahead, and you’re also funding non-monthly expenses, your dollars sit around and just—grow old. They age. And that’s our forth rule: Age Your Money. Say goodbye to that paycheck to paycheck stress (you won’t miss it). And those big life dreams you had that used to seem so far out of reach? They feel a little closer now with each passing month.

Want to get a month ahead on your money and not yet on the YNAB train? Sign up for a free 34-day trial and see what all the fuss is about.