I’ve been trying to find a way to help make paying my credit card debt easier. And at the same time, I’ve been working on figuring out the best way to create a budget.
I’ve been able to make a really basic budget by listing all the expenses that I know that I have every month (rent, utilities, online subscriptions). So I know what the minimum I need to make each month in order to survive (I’m almost there). But knowing how much money I need to make to pay essential bills doesn’t really help me for budgeting things that change from month to month like groceries, shopping, gas, and other expenses. Those seem really tough for me to budget for because I try my best to set aside a certain amount for it but things come up and then my entire budget falls apart. My system doesn’t allow for flexibility and unexpected expenses.
And I’ve tried lots of budgeting ideas and systems in the past. The big problem that I’ve found with almost all systems is that they were designed for someone with steady income. That’s not something that I have. While my box office job is pretty steady with my weekly pay (that would only change if I’m missing lots of hours that I can’t make up), my research job and babysitting work is not as stable. So I needed to figure out how freelancers budget (even though I’m not a freelancer).
I was searching around online and happened to come across You Need A Budget. This is totally going to sound like I’m being paid to say all this, but I swear that this is all my opinion and I’m not getting anything out of it (unless YNAB would like to give me a copy of the software for free!).
I’m in the middle of a free trial, but so far I’m loving this budgeting system. It really works for someone who has more random income. Basically every single purchase and deposit is recorded. You set aside how much you’d like to spend in categories like bill, savings, debt, and anything else you want and then you put in how much you have spent of each one. The idea is that while you may start out by using this month’s pay to pay this month’s bills, eventually the money you make one month will be going toward the bills you will have in the future (which will end the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle).
This might not really be helping me pay down my credit card debt, but it is helping me work on a budget and figure out where I can spend money that makes sense. And hopefully one day I can start working toward putting money away for the future and other things like vacations. But for now, the main plan for me is to figure out a realistic budget and to see if there is more money that I can be putting toward my debt and not toward things that really aren’t needed.
Like I said, right now, I’m doing a free trial of this system. But I’m pretty sure that I’ll be paying for it when my trial ends (I think it’s about $60). But I’d love to hear from any of you who also use You Need A Budget so I can figure out more tricks and tips to maximize the system and really get serious about figuring out my money situation.
Update: Since posting this blog, I have decided to spend the money to keep the YNAB software after the free trial. It’s really awesome. If you want to buy it, you can use this link for 10% off!