If you’re new to YNAB, we’re willing to bet you might’ve tried budgeting before. Maybe it went something like this:
You listed out your expected income and expenses. It took some digging, but it felt good. Then you kept track of what you spent. When life didn’t go as planned, the budget couldn’t keep up. It felt like a big letdown. You then decided budgeting isn’t for you. Budgeting makes you sad, even downright mopey. Or maybe you’ll try it again in a few months when life “calms down.”
But it’s not your fault that your budget didn’t work. It’s because you were using a flawed system. In that budget, there was no way to decide what was more important, no guarantee the month would go (and pay out) as planned, and there was zero room for flexibility. As soon as life didn’t line up with your predictions, the budget failed in one giant womp-womp bummerfest.
And now for some good news: there is a budgeting system that works. This system has helped hundreds of thousands of people gain control of their money. These are normal people who had credit card debt, order dessert in restaurants, and buy things at Target they weren’t planning on buying. It’s the same budgeting method that can help you too.
It starts with a few simple rules: four to be exact.
What are YNAB’s Four Rules?
- Give Every Dollar a Job
- Embrace Your True Expenses
- Roll With the Punches
- Age Your Money
Rule One: Give Every Dollar a Job
In Rule 1, every dollar you bring in gets a specific job (and we only give jobs to the dollars you currently have). Maybe some dollars get the job of paying for electricity, or maybe their lofty calling is paying for this month’s groceries. You want the unemployment rate for your dollars to be 0%, so give each one a job. You get to choose. You’re the boss.
Rule Two: Embrace Your True Expenses
With Rule Two, no more getting walloped on the side of the head with the twice-a-year car insurance, the three-times-a-year water bill, the yearly Amazon prime fee. Rule Two teaches you how to bake these non-monthly expenses into neat-and-tidy monthly costs. You save for them equally all year, turning your monthly expenses from unexpected crunchy surprises to spoonfuls of smooth monthly consistency.
Rule Three: Roll With The Punches
Rigid budgets break. They break on paper, they break your heart, they break your budgeting willpower. So with Rule 3, we future-proof the ol’ budget.
When you overspend on groceries (note we said when...not if)—just move money from another category that’s less important. Our community calls this WAMing the money, which stands for Whack-a-Mole(ing). Picture that arcade game: a mole pops up one place, then disappears below the surface and pops up another place. That’s your money, just reappearing in a different spot where it’s needed more. Go to town and WAM away.
Rule Four: Age Your Money
If you’re here to break the paycheck to paycheck cycle, this rule is gonna be HUGE. Like life-changing, stress-busting, happy-dancing huge. Think of it like this: with Rule Four, you use last month’s money to pay this month’s expenses. You’re using “old” money instead of “new” money. We’ve got a handy little calculated “official age” in the YNAB app. While we don’t have a “right” number, we will say once it hits 30 days you will be living on last month’s money, and that’s something worth celebrating. Side effects of following Rule Four: forgetting it’s payday, not being afraid of the bills in the mailbox, and telling all your friends about this budgeting app magic.
When people put these four rules into practice, the average person saves $600 in the first two months, and $6,000 in the first year.
Without further ado, let’s get you set up for budgeting success.
Video Course: Four Rules for Less Money Stress
24 Videos | Total Run Time: 58:25
Learn more about the Four Rules and the mindset that’ll get you in control of your finances in this free video course.
What you’ll learn:
- How to break the paycheck to paycheck cycle
- Why your budget failed in the past
- How to make a plan for your money
- How to smooth out your monthly expenses
- What your money needs to do next
- When to prepare for unexpected expenses
- How to spend money on what’s actually important to you
Follow this method and you’ll break the paycheck to paycheck cycle, get out of debt, and gain total control of your money.
At their heart, these rules—and this method—aren’t really about money. They’re about creating the life you want.