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Budgeting My Way Towards Financial Independence

Budgeting my way towards Financial Independence

Post Series: Budgeting

Since this is the first post I should probably start from the beginning: budgeting. It’s safe to say managing your budget is a key point to reach Financial Independence.

With the word “budget” being such a broad concept, I’ll lay down what I will cover in this post:

How I started budgeting

Well before I learned about FIRE, I kept track of my budget. In the beginning, I did it out of curiosity. Over time, this changed into a way to cut out useless expenses.

I originally looked into using an excel spreadsheet to keep track of my expenses, but during my search for templates, I stumbled upon YNAB AKA You Need A Budget.

I’ve been using YNAB for 6 years now. Mainly to keep track of my income and expenses and barely for its key functionality: budgeting (“every dollar needs a job”).

Window capture of the budget screen of YNAB4
The budget overview of YNAB4
Donut chart showing my spending of the current year, 2018.
The reports screen gives you various overviews in a clean chart.

Why YNAB?

You might wonder why I bothered with YNAB and not just use Excel or Google Sheets if I don’t use the key feature of the tool.

Well, I used the trial version of YNAB for a month, not planning to take the full version. However, this changed after I used that free trial. I really enjoyed the simplicity and clean interface, also the graphs it provided were excellent. YNAB offers more than just the budgeting part to help you with your budget.

Besides, I also don‘t need the full flexibility of Excel (or Google Sheets).

My needs are straightforward and are all met by YNAB4:

  • A place where I can generate a nice overview of my income and expenses
  • Straightforward graphs showing my spending
    • In a simple overview
    • My spending trends (how much I spend on what every month)
    • Income vs. expense
    • Net worth

Additionally, it provides the possibility to export to excel. This will come in handy if the software becomes unusable. In case you didn’t know, YNAB became a Saas, or Software as a Service, in 2016. Their complete support ended a year later on December 31st, 2016.

This move is understandable from a business perspective but for me, as a client, it would mean I have to shell out 75,6 Dollar (-10% as a YNAB4 user) annually.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s an excellent tool because of the aforementioned reasons. The web app just doesn’t offer added value for me. I’m a frugal person by nature and what they improved is mainly regarding how to better manage your budget.

Every euro already has a job

As a result of my frugal mindset I never really had a problem not throwing money down the drain.
Of course, we are talking about my teen years and early adulthood so expenses were limited. It’s not like most people in this period of their lives have major expenses anyway. That said, I did notice that some had a lot more difficulty in keeping their money in their pockets.

Interestingly enough, I read an article about this exact topic just this week. I will write a separate post later. Basically, Swedish scientists investigated the saving behavior of twins that showed that genetic predisposition is most important in the setting aside of money.  The saving behavior of identical twins was similar, while that of non-identical twins could differ, despite the same upbringing. Food for thought, right?

I have a natural tendency to think about how I use each euro I have, in other words, what job I give each euro.
The downside is that I can be indecisive when it comes to purchasing goods. Even smaller things such as earbuds, a new keyboard, etc.

50 euro note stuck inside a drain
Literal representation of throwing money down the drain.

Budgeting towards FIRE

My indecisiveness towards purchasing things is a nice way to take us towards the future: how will I handle my budget to finally reach what most (or at least those that read this blog) hope to achieve, financial independence?

After all, the money you spend on one thing is money you can’t spend on something else. This idea even has a nice name: opportunity cost. On top of that, what you buy has an impact on your budget for future purchases.

Keeping my expenses in check also helps me reach my personally set target Savings Rate (or SR) of at least 75%. With a savings rate of ~85%, I went over it by a good margin these last 6 months.

The term “savings rate” I just threw in there is something you will have come across if you reached this site to read more on FIRE, as such I doubt I’ll have to explain what it means. Nonetheless, it will come back later when I talk more in-depth about my way of living to reach such a high SR.

Keeping up with the Savings Rate

Keeping my SR at 85% is easy now due to my current way of living (with my parents), so I know it’s not realistic to think I can keep it up once I decide to move out. As long as I’m not on my I do plan to keep it as high as possible, i.e., around 85%.

Once I’m out, I’ll be happy with 75% or even 70%. The exact level will depend on how I manage of course, so only time will tell.

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