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Staying Successful With Your Money: Budgeting Habits & The YNAB Mobile App

October 19, 2019

It’s been a little while, you guys! How’ve you been? Busy? I hear ya! Summer–remember that crazy season of the year?–was busy around these parts, partially because I bought a house and moved, mostly uneventfully. I may have, in an episode of self-reliance (trying to get everything in place before my moving supporters came), crushed the front corner of the box on my rented U-haul truck on my neighbor’s brick pillar. I’m pleased to report that the construction on said brick pillar was excellent as it was not damaged in the incident. And because I have State Farm as my insurance company, my pocketbook is also just fine. Thanks so much for the great coverage, State Farm.

Anyway.

So I’ve been learning to be a homeowner and have had a blast furnishing a new place even as life continues to hum along at a busy clip. Even though the holidays and trips and BBQs and vacation-mentality of summer are over, are you also finding that you are busy and on the go more than you might like?  

Solving for that feeling of “busy” and figuring out what to keep and what to let go, is one of the ongoing quests of life. And while I am not yet an expert at a perfectly balanced life–if such a thing even exists–one thing that is helpful to keep as a constant in life is budgeting. My favorite subject:-) You had to know this was coming! Budgeting keeps your priorities visible, and makes sure you don’t accidentally spend way more money than you wanted to, and gives you a small sense of control and responsibility. 

And while it’s not without some effort, it’s a whole bunch like maintenance house cleaning. Cleaning the rooms in a home is so much easier if you take a few minutes each day to fold/hang clothes and put things away where they go, instead of dreading a quarterly deep clean. One key difference between cleaning and budgeting is that when it comes to budgeting, you almost certainly lose (overspend) money–and potentially lots of it– if you only check in infrequently.

So how do you keep up with your budget with an on-the-go life? Below are a few ideas and recommendations for using the YNAB mobile app.

The mobile app in my opinion is best suited for: 

  1. Checking category balances on the go. To make it easier, you can pin specific categories to the top of your app so you don’t have to scroll to find your main spending categories.  
  2. Entering transactions or at least importing and categorizing transactions, so that you have an accurate picture of your category balances. Doing so is a little different on mobile; you can read more about doing so here. Even splitting transactions on mobile is relatively simple once you’ve done it once or twice. This is especially critical if you manage your categories pretty tightly (I do:-)) or if it was a big purchase. 

Beyond that, here are a few tips for a few other things you may need in order to keep up with your budget on mobile.

Cover overspending:

If you overspend in a category, you’ll get a blue bar notification and a red dot indicator on the Budget view of your mobile app. Tap on it. YNAB then asks which category you want to pull money from to cover it. It’s really that easy.

Budgeting:

I for one look forward to budgeting new money with all my faculties and resources :-) and thus carve out time to budget on my laptop. However, if that is not feasible, you can still budget on mobile, and doing so is much better than the alternative of leaving dollars unplanned. 

Note: One thing you are not able to do on mobile is reconcile between your accounts and YNAB. If you were in a pinch, say, traveling for a month and didn’t have access to a laptop, you could still reconcile but you’d have to login to your YNAB using a computer browser instead of the app.

Summary:

Once you’ve fallen in love with budgeting using a web browser on your computer (desktop or laptop), it definitely is clunky to use the mobile app. I get it. And that’s even with having fewer transactions than many of you since I am not spending for a family. Plus, I am rarely too far away from a computer–both my job and my business are done on a laptop, so I don’t have much occasion to use the mobile app besides checking category balances and entering a few transactions on the fly. 

But, if you’ve made it this far (both in this blog post and in your budget), you are obviously vested in being successful with your money plan. I’d wager that’s because you are feeling peaceful and powerful about your money and your planning. If mobile budgeting will help keep you successful, it is totally worth the effort to learn at least a few tricks of using the mobile app. And if it still feels too clunky or hard, I’d challenge you to carve out 5-10 minute YNAB maintenance windows every couple days. With a name like that, how can you not want to have a similar party? :-)  I know that sounds simple, might I suggest creating a calendar reminder or a sticky note for yourself to remind you how much better you feel when you have your budget relatively current. I'll even send you a reminder in the mail if it will help! You're welcome:-)

Any specific questions or ideas about methods of staying up on your budget, please get in touch and let me know!