In my last post I asked for input on decent budgeting apps to help me track expenses on my fancy new godPod Touch. I got some nifty suggestions, namely to try You Need A Budget (YNAB). I checked YNAB out and realized it's...a budget. The program looks fabulous and the software seems quite impressive, but I already have a budgeting system and have no desire to plunk down $60 to have a nifty version of the same thing. To his credit, the creator of the program does note that you can do his program with a pencil and paper and don't need the software, which I really appreciated. I also dug a few of the concepts presented, namely living off of "last month's" income. (It's essentially creating a one-month cushion.)
But I already have a budget. I have been using, off and on (depending on my level of idiocy) the program outlined in Your Money or Your Life (AKA YMOYL and the program can be found for free at Financial Integrity.org) for years. It works for me and most accurately reflects my desire to have my spending in line with my values and my desire to live well below my means. Living paycheck to paycheck is a recipe for disaster, yo.
Yet the shiny allure of my new tech gadget inspired me to buy an inexpensive app to track expenses. I had been using a trusty pen and notepad or date book. It worked fine, yet I wanted to use my new toy. Like the genius I am, I didn't really learn how to use it properly, became frustrated and wanted a new one. Oh, I am such a good American Consumer. Really, I should get a medal.
After poking around YNAB and taking another look at the app I bought, I realized--I've got this. I don't need a shiny new toy. I can use the simple app I have or, god forbid, go back to using a pen and paper. My system was never broken, yet I was trying to fix it. So very clever, eh?
In the end, being in control of your financial life is really about common sense, paying attention and planning. It doesn't require any expenditure for a particular system. You do need a budget, but you don't need software (I should note, however, that everyone I know who uses YNAB loves it, as do those who follow YMOYL) or any fancy gadgets. You just need to know what's going in, what's going out and what you care about, so you can decide where your money will go. It ain't rocket science, as they say. Exploring these other options was a nice reminder that sticking to basics and keeping it simple is the best way to move forward.