You Need A Budget // Second Edition

[TLDR; You Need A Budget Second Edition is all about the fact that YNAB has truly changed my financial health, helped me eradicate $15k in credit card debt, and set me on the path to financial freedom]

Okay everyone. If you follow me on Instagram then you KNOW how much I love and adore You Need A Budget. I talk about it regularly, their sweatshirt is one of my favorite things I own, and Lily doesn’t drink out of my YNAB mug because “I know it’s your favorite one mama.” Last year I shared >>this<< introductory post to You Need A Budget, so today, I’m doing a second edition post.

You may be thinking “why do a You Need a Budget second edition post?” Well, because over the course of the last 18 months I have made HUGE financial strides, and I have tangible real numbers to share with you. We all love a good success story but more than that, we love to hear about the HOW and the WHY. If it can happen for me, then it can happen for you too!

YNAB changed everything around my money mindset, and I truly 100% cannot imagine budgeting any other way now. Like, I don’t know what I would do if this system just one day went away. So, I’m just not going to think about this.

What it is //

Here’s a quick overview of YNAB: It’s an online budgeting system that one could generalize and say it’s an online digital envelope system. It’s flexible, easy to use, and really helps you focus on where your money is going and what you want to do with it.

YNAB won’t tell you what to do with your money. It can only help you think about what is important to you and then aligns your spending with that WHY.

How I use it //

I have a significant number of categories in my own personal budget (I use it for my business as well!). But they’re broken up over these major categories:

  • Monthly Fixed Expenses
  • Monthly Living Expenses
  • Long-term (Irregular) Expenses
  • Giving
  • Unexpected Expenses
  • Lily + James
  • Childcare
  • Savings Sinking Funds
  • Just for Fun
  • Garden
You need a budget second edition photo of my categories in my budget

Every single category has a target associated with it, so it’s easy to see the financial progress I’m making on my goals.

As a single, working, mother my why is this: “To provide a life of stability for my children that provides experiences and memories over THINGS and to secure their future.” Because of this, it really makes me think about how I’m spending my money.

Each time I get paid, I assign all the dollars from my paycheck to the categories that are still underfunded. For example, I have a category for “Oil” under my long-term expenses, and I have a target for $100/month. When I get paid, I’ll add $100 to this category and it turns a blissful green, meaning I’ve met my savings goal for this month..

Once the money is assigned to a category, I try REALLY hard to leave it there and use it only for its intended purpose. However, one of the four rules of YNAB is to roll with the punches and I do that regularly and feel no guilt or shame over it.

But here’s an example of how my mindset has shifted:

  • I recently had an online shopping cart of stuff that was roughly $250. It was stuff I could totally justify as a “need,” but when I looked at my budget, that category wasn’t funded. Granted, I had PLENTY of money in my bank account to cover this, but that meant I would have to pull it from one of the following major categories: Lily + James; Savings; Long term expenses. That just wasn’t worth it to me. I had zero interest in pulling the money I set aside for the kids’ birthday parties, or adventure with them. Zero interest in pulling from my savings that I’ve worked SO hard to build. Definitely had zero interest in sacrificing any of my long term expenses, because the stress of scrambling to pay for my heating oil isn’t worth the online shopping. So I cancelled the cart and you know what? I don’t even feel sad that I don’t have those things I “needed.” I’m fine without it and I’m so glad I protected my savings.
  • There was a different time recently I made an impulse buy, and the ONLY place I could pull from to cover that expense was my savings. And I hated knowing that I dipped into my savings over something that I definitely didn’t need at the time, and could’ve easily saved up for instead with a monthly savings goal. I am trying to keep my savings account ready for the FUN stuff. Like the BIG experiences for myself, and for me and the kids together. There are big plans in store for my savings account. Which, by the way, is not my emergency fund, that’s a separate account altogether!

I feel like I am regularly making informed decisions about my money instead of letting money things happen to me. This is an area I have control over, and I am really feeling the benefits of it! I’m also planning for any and all future expenses that “could” pop up that would usually send someone into debt – home repairs, auto repairs, medical expenses, etc. That’s helping me to feel so much more confident and free in spending in other areas because I also know I’m planning well.

The Numbers //

I started using YNAB in the middle of 2020. Let me paint the picture for you: I was majorly pregnant with James; five months into single parenthood; my business had been completely wiped out from the pandemic; I was collecting unemployment and on state aid; I had NO idea what I was going to do for work; and was about $15k in debt from moving back into the house.

If I didn’t have YNAB to help me figure out where what little money I had needed to go, I am certain I wouldn’t have made it as long and as far as I did. Well, that and God, but that’s a different story for a different day.

So, I started the year 2021 with: $15k in credit card debt, zero savings, enough in my bank to last roughly 5 weeks of expenses, a newborn and a 4.5 year old.

By the middle of the summer: I had paid off all $15k in debt, I was no longer living paycheck to paycheck, I had about $1k in savings at the time, I was able to book and pay for a surprise trip for Lily that’s coming in April (~$1300). And I hadn’t even started my new full time teaching job yet.

Just absolutely wild.

Now, at the start of 2022, I regularly experience “YNAB-broke” (meaning you have plenty of money in your bank account but the category you want to spend from is empty), I’m able to take my kids on adventures, swing by aroma joes with the kids before school regularly, I’m not paycheck to paycheck, I’ve been off of state aid since the fall, and I have enough saved to get me through 2.5 months worth of expenses. Also, these are some of my long term expenses that are either fully funded or *almost* fully funded (and these aren’t included in my 2.5 months of expenses):

  • Car insurance deductible ($500)
  • Homeowner’s insurance deductible ($1000; I’m 1/2 way there)
  • New tires ($800) – I started this as soon as I bought my new vehicle. I called my local tire place and asked them what it would cost to replace four tires on the high end of the scale. Then I created a one year target for that amount. I don’t actually need new tires right now, but when I do, damn is it going to feel so good and stress-free to already have that money sitting there ready to go!
  • Auto registration ($120, 3/4 way there)
  • Health insurance deductible ($400)
you need a budget second edition photo of my savings target for new tires

My age of money is now 64 days, and that took me a LONG time to get to, but I’m stoked about it! What that means is that I’m spending money that landed in my bank account 64 DAYS AGO. The whole point is to try to get that age of money number to grow so that you can break the paycheck to paycheck cycle.

In conclusion //

This post should come to an end eventually, I suppose. My friends and family are probably sick and tired of hearing me talk about YNAB. However, I am not joking when I say that this budgeting system has helped me SO much. As a single, working mother of two very young children, I am so grateful to feel like I am the most financially stable that I have ever been in my life.

I’ve literally never consistently had this much money in my bank account.

And I want everyone in the world to experience this feeling. I want everyone to know there’s no shame in where you are at currently in your finances. Just know that if you want a change, it IS possible. I know there’s always the chance things will go sideways, but I feel confident that I can handle any money situation I find myself in!

And here we are, You Need A Budget Second Edition has come to a close. If you made it this far, thank you for reading. I only share about things that have TRULY impacted my life and this program is definitely one of them!

Okay, but wait, a word of caution – while YNAB is truly incredible, you will actually have to do the work. You can’t just set it up, not do anything and expect to see a change. It’s not a magic wand, but it’s pretty dang close. There’s an amazing facebook community that you can join, so many resources to help you get started and the best customer support team ever!

All right, NOW I’m done 🙂

Linda is a Portland-based photographer specializing in weddings and creating family legacies from Portland to Boston and across New England. You can see more of her work online at, on Instagram, or on Facebook. If you want to reach out directly:

Linda is a Portland-based photographer specializing in weddings and creating family legacies from Portland to Boston and across New England. You can see more of her work online at, on Instagram, or on Facebook. If you want to reach out directly:

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you need a budget second edition me wearing a YNAB sweatshirt

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  1. […] a trip like this will cost more for larger families. I used You Need A Budget back in June and created a savings target for the trip. This allowed me to see exactly what I […]

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You can usually find me adding books to my never-ending “to read” list; challenging myself to do things like not shop for a year; sneaking crispy m+ms from my secret hiding spot so I don’t have to share them with my daughter; and melting over seeing my children smiling at each other.

Oh and I guess I should mention - I’m a seasoned Portland wedding photographer who provides not only kick-ass wedding photos, but also a meaningful and laid-back experience from the time you book to the delivery of your final images. 

I share all things personal, business, tips, and life as a mom and business owner here on the blog!

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