YNAB Quick Tips – Starting a New Month

The most tedious part of a budget is creating it at the beginning of every month.  What I do  within YNAB is create a generic budget that is what we typically use to budget as a starting point each month.  I just adjust all the numbers for where we expect to spend our money that month.  This gives us a quicker starting point to filling out the budget, and is really easy to do.

To do this, create your “starting point” budget in next month’s place.  Before you start budgeting for the month, just use the “Use Last Month’s Budget” feature to pre-fill the next available month.  This will copy exactly what you have for your template into the next month’s budget.  Then you can start adjusting the numbers for the month you’re actually budgeting.

There are a few exceptions that occur that are worth mentioning as well.  What about items you plan on budgeting for a few months, then the monthly amount changes? Or what about saving for a particular item, and you know you will be done on X month?  To handle those situations, I just go to the month where the changes occur, and fill out the one category to be the new amount.  By using the last month’s budget feature, it won’t overwrite values already pre-filled, so this technique works great.  As far as the savings goes, I just go to the month after when it’ll be done, and put one penny in the budgeted amount.  Then you’ll know to just take that out when you get to it.

Finishing Our Basement

I’m currently in the middle of the largest project I’ve ever undertaken: finishing our basement.  When we bought our house, they started work on a large family room in the basement.  They got the walls up, drywall up (both walls and ceiling), and got most of the taping and mudding done.

Then we made an offer on the house.  They told us they had to stop work on the basement as-is for that price. I was fine with that.  I figured they did most of the hard work, and I could just finish it whenever.

Four years later, I’ve decided that now is the time to complete it.  I’m adding a bedroom adjacent to the family room, so that will get a lot more livable space down there.  I’m doing all the work myself so far, which is taking a long time.  It’s hard to find some free time with two kids 2 and under and a pregnant wife at home, but I am making progress.

So far, I’ve got the walls all studded out and most of the drywall up on the walls.  I have one more sheet to put up, and still have to put drywall up around the window frame, but it’s mostly done.  I have the electric all hooked up, so we can use the outlets in the room.  Next comes the most tedious part of the whole project: taping and mudding.

Even though adding a brand new room to a basement sounds like a complicated process, it’s really not.  You just have to make sure things are level/plum, and check your measurements before you make any cuts.  If you’re a beginner, this site should help you out with framing:

http://www.familyhandyman.com/basement/how-to-finish-a-basement-framing-and-insulating/step-by-step

My only advice on drywall is to stick a scrap piece of drywall at the bottom to give you a little gap between the drywall and the concrete floor.  If you don’t do that, you run the risk of your drywall getting wet, which will ruin it.

Here’s what the “bedroom” looked like before I started working on it (this is the view from the door going into the room):

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This is the only picture I have of before. It’s looking through the doorway into the full unfinished area that I’m turning into a bedroom

And here’s what it looks like in it’s current state:

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This is the same picture as before, looking through the doorway.

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From the other side of the room, looking back out the door

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From the corner where the door is, looking at the wall with the window

The Starbucks Problem

I am in the minority on this, but I don’t get the concept of Starbucks.  I’m not a coffee drinker, so maybe that’s part of it, but I just don’t get it.  If I were given the opportunity to get anything I wanted at Starbucks for free all the time, I still wouldn’t ever go.  The thought is just so negative in my eyes.  To me, Starbucks represents everything about how most people don’t have savings, and live paycheck to paycheck.

If you go to Starbucks, you’ll easily pay $5 or more for a cup of coffee.  I suppose you go there because it’s “convenient.”  I would argue with that though.  Waiting in the long lines makes it incredibly inconvenient, and not efficient at all.  My wife had a gift card a while back, and I had to go stop and get her something while I was out running errands.  I think it took me 15 minutes just to get through the drive through lanes.

If I did drink coffee, I’d make it at home.  Even if you bought an expensive Keurig and drank a cup every day from that, it would still be a fraction of the cost of a trip to Starbucks.  They have every flavor you could imagine, too, so it’s not like you’d have to compromise on taste.  And it takes about 15 seconds to get your cup of coffee, compared to around 15 minutes to go to Starbucks.  You can do other things during those precious 15 seconds if you want, too (grab your coat and put it on, and it’s no waste of time at all).  Yet, with all this real convenience without even needing to leave your house, Starbucks still has a huge line all the time.

If you are one of the millions of people who go to Starbucks even a couple times a week, think about the amount of money you’d save by making your coffee at home.  In fact, if you are a regular Starbucks customer, you probably should take a look at other areas in your life where you are wasting money as well.  You could end up retiring tens of years earlier if you really understand the definition of convenience, and change your way of thinking to be able to save more.