Tag Archives: YNAB

7 Quick Takes on Reading, Planning, and Dating

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

As evidenced by the “old news” in last week’s 7QT and my ridiculously overdue 2016 year in review post, I am still clearing out my backlog of things I wanted to share here. Will you humor me with just a few more oldies?

For the third year in a row, I was among Pocket’s top 5% of readers. Or maybe it was the opt 1%. I can’t remember! I neglected to clip the email properly to share a screenshot, so just trust me; I read a lot in Pocket.

If you like to read articles online (or watch videos), but find yourself wandering down the rabbit hole of links or worrying about wasting data loading ads on your phone, you’ll enjoy Pocket. It’s been revolutionary for my reading habits. Why scroll through Facebook aimlessly looking for something to read on the go when I can read articles I have already curated?

— 2 —

I don’t have the link to my Pocket Year in Review anymore, but I do have my Goodreads 2016 Year in Books. I was pleased with last year’s reading. I read plenty of nonfiction early in the year and slipped in some awesome fiction towards the end, and I met my overall book goal. Goodreads has been excellent for my book-reading in much the same way Pocket has for articles.

Read ALL the books!

— 3 —

I was much less pleased with my life planning. I still have the plan, but I haven’t reviewed it for at least six months. I’m pretty sure it still shows calling my grandmother once a month as an action item, and she died in August.

I am expecting to have some time in the near future for some extensive revisions, though, so I was glad to pick up a free life plan review tool from Building Champions back at the turn of the year. The video is no longer available, but the review tool (and the free tool for writing your first draft of a life plan) are still there.

We plan vacations, and we plan weddings, but have you ever planned your life?

— 4 —

I am still reading and loving Verily magazine. I especially like their “Gentlemen Speak” feature, which consists of articles written by real men or roundups from interviews with the same. Before I met Mr. Man, I often wondered why the nice, smart, charming, churchgoing men I met were never interested in me. We clicked so well! Wasn’t there something more than just “not feeling it” or the standard-but-infuriating “intimidation” factor? Andrew Mentock offers a few novel ideas why a great conversation doesn’t always lead to a date invitation.

Fun fact: I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Mentock (not to be confused with Mr. Man) in person. The Internet is maybe not such a huge place after all.

— 5 —

Related to the dating theme, I was fascinated by an essay posted in ZENIT about the effect that promoting chastity has had on slowing the spread of AIDS in Uganda. Americans in particular seem to think of Africa as one homogenous zone that needs saving, where AIDS spreads like wildfire. That’s not true any more than it’s true of the U.S. The A-B-C method really can work.

— 6 —

I manage my email really well, so I tend to stay subscribed to email lists for a long time and actually read what they send (or unsubscribe properly). I was not, however, expecting to hear from Small World of Words. I participated in their word association study online so long ago that I have absolutely no memory or record of it.

It was neat to see the results, of course, but getting that random email was also a reminder of just how long scientific research takes. We tend to just hear about results—especially when they are sensational—but I always forget that it might have taken years of data collection and analysis to get to those conclusions.

— 7 —

My life as a YNABer is still going well. I am currently casually mentoring a recent convert to budgeting. It took some encouraging to get past the idea of waiting for a “normal month” before committing to building that first budget. There’s just no such thing as a normal month!

There will always be something unexpected. Your car will need repairs. Your child will get sick. A bill will arrive. There’s a reason I built my first budget with a category called “Stuff I Forgot to Budget For.”

Budgeting is not about being able to predict the future or relying on historical spending data. It’s about using the money you have now to pay for the things you need now, some things you just want, and things that you’ll need later. Budgeting is about facing reality.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Not Alone Series: Financial Responsibility


Money and budgeting seem to be at the top of many New Year’s plans. Finances can add stress to a relationship, but it’s obviously preferable that we know how to manage our finances before we are married, as well as have some sort of idea of how we want to share finances once we are married. What are some of your recommendations for planning your finances and budgeting your money now so that it will be less stressful down the road? Do you hope to share accounts with your spouse or have a yours/mine/ours system? How have you seen other couples manage their finances in a way that works well?

I remember very well when we talked about marriage the last year I was all-but-directing RCIA. Deacon John said, “The number one topic couples fight about is finances.” He pronounced it “fih-NAN-ces,” though, not “FI-nan-ces” like everyone else I know, so I remember it because I was bewildered for a second. Then I realized what he said and started nodding in agreement. The fact wasn’t surprising at all; it was just a pronunciation problem.

So yes, money is a big problem for everyone, not just married couples, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to discuss this topic in the Not Alone Series. There isn’t always much we can do prepare for marriage in general (as opposed to preparing to marry a specific man), but we can absolutely improve our personal finance knowledge, skills, and practices. It’s our duty as good stewards of the time and treasure God has given us. There’s no use thinking you can put off making a budget because you’ll just let your husband handle the money. If you never get married, it’s all you.

I spent 2015 focused mostly on personal productivity and efficiency, but 2014 was all about personal finance. I hit the nadir of my rudimentary money management system when a federal holiday, paycheck timing, and my end-of-month and beginning-of-month bills collided. I panicked because I literally did not know if I would be able to pay for everything. It was the good, productive kind of panic, though, because it led me to You Need a Budget (YNAB). (And yes, everything was paid for.)

YNAB saved my financial life. I talk about it like a love story. YNAB revised its methods and software at the very end of last year, so I unfortunately can’t endorse the current web-based version and the current phrasing of the Four Rules (because I don’t use them), but YNAB 4 (a.k.a YNAB Classic) is still my jam. Read my YNAB love story, and drop me a line or comment if you want to hear more. I have the same enthusiasm for YNAB as I do for GTD, grammar, and Jesus. Maybe those shouldn’t be on the same level, but they are!

I guess my greatest financial asset is my budget. I have a budget, it’s a good budget, and it works. I can point to literal thousands of dollars in cash that I have saved and spent on needs and wants. I don’t live paycheck-to-paycheck. My net worth is positive. I haven’t had to access my Baby Emergency Fund (I read The Total Money Makeover) since I finished building it. I have no credit card debt, and I’ve paid for Christmas in cash for the last two years. I just paid for a couple of car repairs in cash and without blinking, and although I have student loan debt, I have a plan to pay it off early. Based on my experience, I am convinced that zero-balance budgeting is the only way to live.

My only other marriage-related financial advice is to never have a “yours, mine, and ours” system. Marriage is supposed to be about total self-giving, right? I hear plenty about how that includes your fertility, but I almost never hear about how that includes your money, too. Yeah, it’s scary not having a contingency plan, and it’s scary giving up control, but isn’t it all a little bit scary? I say just go ahead and toss in financial risk with all the other risks you’re taking going into marriage, because holding back your money is a risk in itself. On a practical level, I also agree with YNAB that having multiple bank accounts that you use for specific purposes adds unnecessary complexity to financial management, which is already complex.

My money management philosophy used to be to just work, pay everything, always be a little confused, and hope for the best. No more. Now, I am on top of it. Take note, potential husbands: the faint of financial heart need not apply.

Next week’s topic: Spiritual Motherhood

Most of us single ladies (and many married women) aren’t mothers here on Earth, but that doesn’t mean we’re not mothers at all. Christianity has a long tradition of “parents” who become our leaders, protectors, guides, and counselors by spiritual means instead of physical. Do you have spiritual children? Godchildren, adults you sponsored through the RCIA, your close friends’ kids, or students? How do you build relationships with them as a mother? Have you ever spiritually adopted an unborn baby in danger of abortion, or a priest? Are all women called to be mothers?

View past and upcoming topics here or like our Facebook Page for regular alerts.

Link up with Rachel at Keeping It Real.

7 Quick Takes on Cuddlr, Bromance, and a Positive Net Worth


— 1 —

Way back in the day, some of the ladies in campus ministry formed a book club to read Girls Gone Mild (that’s mild, not the other one), by Wendy Shalit (issued in paperback as The Good Girl Revolution). It was in that book that I discovered cuddle parties: an explicitly nonsexual group pajama party where participants pay money to cuddle with other people. It was an illustration of the way that all touch has become sexualized and how desperate people are for physical contact.

In the age of Tinder, the situation has not disappeared. It’s just moved to a geolocation app. Caitlin Dewey wrote a brief Washington Post blog article about her experience with Cuddlr, “the Tinder for cuddling.” So maybe there’s no hope for humanity after all.

— 2 —

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Fr. Mike Schmitz? Not only did he tell the story of St. Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli in his homily last Sunday, but he also has this video with the best, briefest description of the C.S. Lewis-style four loves I’ve ever heard:

For what it’s worth, I don’t mind “bromance” as a term. It’s better than assuming all close male friends are in a romantic relationship with each other! (They might be, but they might not be.) It’s a shame that we can’t find a linguistic way to overcome our social misguidedness (the instinct that always wants to turn best friendship into romance), but I can see a redemptive value there. We can use the concept of bromance as a scaffold toward understanding philia. We can infuse eros with a much more pure, disinterested love. That’s a solid goal, right?

— 3 —

I ran into my friend Gabby at dance class this week. She’s the same friend whose Groupon post on Facebook got me to start dancing in the first place. It was her first week on Level 3 of West Coast Swing, so I told her that I found last month complex, but not hard, per se.

Then I had to eat my words. This week was much more complicated than Week 1 of last month! I started the class by having the best dance ever for my warm-up, so I was not expecting to hit a wall like that. I am humbled. I am reviewing the summary video I took (the first video I have ever wanted or needed to take) like it’s crime scene footage!

— 4 —

I also went out for a West Coast Swing fundraiser party over the weekend. It was awesome to be in a room full of people who, by definition, came to dance WCS. I got a good balance of asking and being asked, and I got to watch some incredible dancers. I even successfully managed a duck-out move, which I have failed miserably at before. It was a great night.

— 5 —

The ordinary synod on the family has started at the Vatican. The best response is to pray. Here’s the prayer Pope Francis suggested at the end of last year’s synod:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
In you we contemplate
The splendor of true love.
We turn to you with confidence.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
Make our families, also,
Places of communion and cenacles of prayer,
Authentic schools of the Gospel,
And little domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth
May our families never more experience
Violence, isolation, and division:
May anyone who was wounded or scandalized
Rapidly experience consolation and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
May the upcoming Synod of Bishops
Reawaken in all an awareness
Of the sacred character and inviolability of the family,
Its beauty in the project of God.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Hear and answer our prayer. Amen.

— 6 —

I went to the annual liturgical minister renewal day at my parish on Saturday. I was so proud of myself for being on time, and then…

I had enough time to sit down and tweet while I waited. I could have mingled, but I found a fairly quiet spot and read the book I’d remembered to bring. Then…

So then I felt better. I don’t mind going to this thing once a year, but I do wish they would just do regular Morning Prayer instead of an adaptation.

— 7 —

On the bright side, when I got home, caught up with entering my receipts, and closed out last month’s budget, I had this surprise waiting for me in my YNAB reports:

If you remember my YNAB love story, I had a negative net worth (not including my now paid-off car). By following the Four Rules, I have managed to chip away at my debt, get control of my cash flow, and live by my priorities. This is seriously good stuff.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

7 Quick Takes That Are Legitimately Quick Again!


— 1 —

I got another referral credit for YNAB! Thank you, anonymous purchaser!

At this point, that means I spent 10% less when I bought it and have earned another 20% of the original purchase price ($60) since then. I’m not saying everyone will reap the same rewards, but it’s worth a shot, right? I have almost attained a positive (cash) net worth in about a year and a half thanks to YNAB. Refresh your memory on my YNAB journey, and then use my discount/referral link to save on getting YNAB for yourself!

— 2 —

I published my thoughts on the dumb-sounding phrase “capital-T tradition” yesterday. After the traffic I’ve been getting from my first post about Wunderlist and GTD, I knew it was time to press publish on that one, too.

One additional thought I have is about the word “tradition” at all. I prefer to use the words “custom” and “customary” in place of “tradition” and “traditional” when I talk about practices and beliefs that can change. For example, it’s not “traditional” to receive Communion on the tongue; it’s customary. There are several options that have been more popular or less popular over time. You can choose the one that works for you, and you are not a bad Catholic if your favorite isn’t someone else’s favorite.

“Traditional” is also easy ammunition for picking fights. As I heard on an episode of the Catching Foxes podcast recently, why do we always seem to argue only with people who believe and do 95% of the same things we do?

— 3 —

I dance West Coast Swing so that I can eat more cupcakes.

The fun, social applications, and exercise are just gimmicks.

— 4 —

That video with Jackie Francois Angel and Bobby Angel I mentioned last week had a couple of money quotes from Bobby, too, that stuck with me:

Loneliness is God knocking on your heart, asking you to spend time with him.

The great part is that even if all you do is whine to God about how lonely you are, he’ll listen. He gets it. It was lonely on the Cross, too.

Jesus, I trust in you. That’s a really easy prayer to say, but it’s a really hard prayer to do.


— 5 —

Further on dance, this week was my first time in Level 3, and it was awesome! The class was very full, but we managed to all warm up to “Uptown Funk” (slowed down slightly) without colliding. Slot dances are the best. I recognized several faces I’d seen in previous levels and at social dances. The patterns we learned were tricky, but I feel pretty confident about them.

I had two great moments. First, one of the leaders seemed un-confident when I rotated to him, but after we went through the pattern the first time, he said, “I do believe you’re making me look good.” Aww, yeah. Then, the next leader could sense that I was getting it, so he dipped me! I still can’t quite get my form right, but we both stayed on our feet, so I’m calling that a win.

— 6 —

I got to visit one of our in-progress construction sites for work this week. I’ve been to another one, but that was so close to finished that the client had already moved in. The air conditioning was on there. This one is mostly just piles of dirt with a couple of cool features in progress. I’m pretty sure I kicked up the style of the site about ten notches by being (a) the only woman, and (b) still dressed nicely, even though it was Friday, because I always dress for work. Getting to see the people and, well, dirt that becomes paperwork and dollar signs on my end definitely widened my perspective.

— 7 —

Today was my brother’s first real college football game. He is a sophomore by credit but took a redshirt year for eligibility. They won! I came in heavy on brains in the family, so he helps balance it out with some brawn.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

7 Steps to Falling in Love with YNAB: Part Four


Almost a full six months after the last installment, my series about how I fell in love with YNAB has finally come to an end. It was a year ago that I finally downloaded the 34-day free trial version and took all the live classes I could. It was a year ago that I finally got control of my money. I sit here now, with literal thousands of dollars more to my name and with a positive net worth in sight. I couldn’t have done it without YNAB, but there’s one more step to my journey.

Step Seven: Following All the Rules

YNAB has four rules. The final rule was the most difficult for me and took the most time for me to be able to follow: live on last month’s income. There is such wisdom in that rule. If I suddenly lost my income or faced a gigantic bill, I would have a whole month to make a new plan, find the money, and avoid going into debt (or at least not borrow one more penny than necessary). It makes sense.

I couldn’t do that right away, though. YNAB taught me to look ahead for rainy days. I go home to visit my family every Christmas, and since YNAB requires me to account for all my spending as I do it, that meant saving up enough cash to purchase my plane ticket. I saved aggressively in September and October, and I actually found the cash. I can’t quite explain my surprise after years of putting on my credit cards and bracing myself for bill payment in January. I saved for YNAB (which I got for $6 off using a referral link), and I budgeted for my CrashPlan subscription, but I never thought I would be able to save cash for Christmas.

Yet I did. I bought my plane ticket in the middle of November, and although I paid for it using my credit card, I had the cash to cover it sitting in the bank that same day. I saved so aggressively that I even had enough cash left for all my gifts and Christmas cards. (I wound up sending Epiphany cards, but that’s not the point.)

Two years ago, I had to skip sending Christmas cards because I was so broke. This past Christmas, I had hundreds of dollars available just for gifts and cards. In the meantime, I socked away the extra money I found by saving aggressively toward my Rule Four Buffer.

It was hard to watch that Buffer grow when I really wanted new clothes, play tickets, and more dinners out, but I held onto my lifelong sense of discipline. In January 2015, I got Buffered. My annual bonus from work was the tipping point, and since then, I have been living on last month’s income. It feels glorious.


My lowest daily balance in my checking account for the month of November was 5 times greater than the lowest in May.

I paid off my car loan and saved enough cash to put 4 new tires on my car without blinking.

I budgeted the entire month of June in under 30 minutes on Friday night.

My only regret is that I didn’t start budgeting sooner, the very first time I heard of YNAB. Please don’t make my mistake. At least give it a try. Read the four rules. Ask me questions in the comments or via my contact form. There is freedom in having a budget!

Additional Resources

Holly Johnson at Get Rich Slowly describes how to build a zero-sum budget without YNAB. I’m not just in it for the referrals, I promise. It is entirely possible to build and maintain a YNAB-style budget without YNAB. But are you actually going to do it? Why not let YNAB do it for you?

In addition to writing for Get Rich Slowly, Kristin Wong also curates the Two Cents sub-blog at Lifehacker. Like the rest of Lifehacker, Two Cents curates other articles online, but it focuses specifically on personal finance advice from experts and readers. I’ve found it indispensable for following PF topics without needing to follow each source separately.

7 Steps to Falling in Love with YNAB: Part Three


The first part of my YNAB love story featured growing in awareness and planning for future cash flow needs. The second part detailed the credit card float and my new approach to balancing my checkbook. Next came one eureka moment and yet another cloud in my financial picture. Read on for the silver lining!

Step Five: Easy Transaction Records

As I mentioned in my very first YNAB post, I had tried to budget using Excel before. When that didn’t work, my Excel “budget” turned into a transaction log. It was an excellent transaction log, though, because I never fell out of the habit of tracking every single penny that went into or out of my life.

I had one problem staying on top of my records, though: I could never remember cash. (That’s probably why I’m not an envelope budgeter.) When I use my debit or credit card to buy something (or even when I pay by check), I have an automatic record of my spending. When I paid with cash, I had to make note of it somehow and get that note into my Excel spreadsheet back at home. (I hadn’t converted to GTD-style ubiquitous capture yet, either.)

Before I had a smartphone, there was a lot of guessing (and even more forgetting) when I spent cash. Even after I got my first iPhone, I didn’t have a system. Sometimes I made a note in the native Notes app, but I rarely remembered to transfer that note to Excel. I emailed myself for a while, but the habit didn’t stick. I needed a way to record cash that was uniform, fast, and easy to get into my transaction log.

YNAB solved that problem. The software comes with a free app (which is also available during the 34-day trial) that syncs mobile with desktop. It was the missing piece to my budgeting life. Now, I spend, I enter the transaction on my phone right away, and my records are updated. Done.

The YNAB Classic app, however, was where I had all of my problems.

The data sync options weren’t the greatest. We live in a world where security is important and it’s only a matter of when your information will be stolen, not if. (By 2015, I was up to one unimportant online account and one set of college records, not counting Heartbleed. My dad had a cell phone contract started in his name by someone else.) I won’t go into detail about my previous problem with YNAB information security here (because volunteering that kind of information is just silly), but it was less than ideal.

Similarly, I loved that the app syncs transactions automatically, but I wished I could change the budget from the app. (As of 2018, YNAB now does this!) With the Classic version of the app, my budget was automatically updated to include scheduled transactions, but when I couldn’t roll with the punches on the go, I had to brace myself for later. That definitely affected my workflow. It could also throw things off to have my paycheck hit the bank several days before “payday” but not be Available to Budget until the scheduled day. I’m very glad to have that change now.

I have seen the difference in dollars, though, especially since I became Buffered, so I’m sticking with YNAB despite some room for improvement with the app.

Step Six: Acknowledging Interest and My Negative Net Worth

My friend Carly DeFelice runs an Austin-based personal finance business called The Finance Plan. She gave a presentation at Spirit & Truth last year about personal finance and Christian stewardship. She spoke some about budgeting, but she also spoke about interest.

I don’t have credit card debt anymore, and I paid off my car loan this year (the agonizingly slow and steady way), but I do have several thousand dollars in student loan debt. I’ve forbidden myself to take on any more non-free education until I pay off my debt. None of it is from graduate school (thanks to ACE and AmeriCorps, that was free), but I still have my undergrad loans. Since I pay toward them every month, they are categories in my budget.

It was YNAB that first made me acknowledge the reality of my student loan interest. YNAB allows you to track accounts off-budget. For me, that’s my student loans (individually, since they have different balances and interest rates) and my retirement accounts from my current and previous jobs. I pay the same amount each month toward my loans: a little principal, a lot of interest. When my loan account statements come, I update the balances in YNAB. I was stunned the first time I realized how much interest my loans accrued every month! Looking at that number convinced me that I needed to pay extra toward my debt. Seeing the numbers made them real.

What was even more real and frightening was my net worth. YNAB generates a number of reports automatically. The one I spend the most time with is the Net Worth tracker. YNAB only knows about the accounts you enter. I track all my accounts in YNAB, so I can see the grand total of my cash, checking account balance, credit card balances, savings account, student loans, and retirement accounts.

Added all together, I faced the truth: I have a negative net worth. I owe more than I have. There’s another truth, though. Slowly but surely, my debt is decreasing (especially with my recent loan payoff), and YNAB shows me exactly how much less I owe and how much more I have, all the time.

Awareness of my baby steps toward being debt-free is awesome.

There’s one more step to my YNAB love story, and then I’ll offer some conclusions about this journey toward financial awareness and freedom from debt. Stay tuned!

Additional Resources

Kristin Wong, writing for Get Rich Slowly, shared her decision to go back to the envelope system even after paying off her debts. Constant awareness is key. I’m not sold on the absolute necessity of actual paper money, but the YNAB app is a virtual envelope system if you’re into that.

7 Quick Takes on Debt, Lent, and Grammar


— 1 —

I have officially paid off my first student loan!

I honestly didn’t think I could do it. I read The Total Money Makeover. I’ve considered the merits of the debt snowball versus the debt avalanche versus every other method of debt repayment. Using YNAB meant that I had to save up cash for Christmas, car repairs, annual bills, and a trip to my friend’s wedding in Boston. (That last one hasn’t happened yet.) I thought I would be on the “slow and steady (and expensive)” plan for the next many years.

Then I wrote the check to my lender. And now that loan is gone!

I have four more, and the last one is several times the one I just paid off, but gaining this momentum gives me so much joy. I couldn’t have done it without realizing that You (I) Need a Budget.

— 2 —

National Grammar Day was two weeks ago, but I took Grammarly’s “What Kind of Grammar Lover Are You?” quiz just last week.

The Pedant's Grammarian

I’m choosing to see this as a good thing.

— 3 —

As it turns out, I only subscribed to one set of daily Lenten emails: the series by Fr. Robert Barron. They are so good, guys. His message on the Parable of the Prodigal Son helped me see it in a whole new light. I finally understood the role of the father a few years ago, and now I understand the non-prodigal son, too. Mind blown.

— 4 —

I did not subscribe to Best Lent Ever, because I don’t always find Matthew Kelly meeting me where I am, but this video about the one thing that keeps him (and me) Catholic is fantastic. Just watch it. (I can’t embed it. Sharing fail.)

— 5 —

These quick takes have taken me so long that I’m going to call it a day with five. If you’re itching for more, check out my post today for Austin CNM about confession. Anyone can tell you how to go or why. I’ve got insider tips. Check them out and add your own in the comments!

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

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