It is all about the variable

Last updated: December 05, 2016

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Until last month, we struggled to keep up with our savings rate. We felt frustrated about our failure to reach this 40% goal, yet simple to attain when one claims to be a Mustachian.

I have read articles titled “Pay yourself first!” or “Save upfront, and live off the rest.” None worked.
The issue was this variable in our budget.

We were doing it wrong

So far, we assigned every dollar a job in this order: planned expenses such as electricity bills, emergency expenses such as car repairs, variable expenses such as groceries, irregular expenses such as an improvised pizza-party with friends. And then, we assigned the remaining amount to the savings category.
This was our variable.

When receiving our 13th salaries, we would first book our holidays. And then, the leftover would go towards our savings.
This was our variable.

We tried to save 40% of our income upfront. But we failed. We would eventually overspend in the “Dining out” category, and my aversion to red numbers in some categories would make us withdraw money from our savings to cover the over budget.
This was our variable.

Favor green over red in YNAB was the mistake. A mistake which allowed us to avoid unpleasant discussions when one partner would buy something unplanned on his own, or to lazily not bother about these few spendings, as we were already saving a big chunk anyway.

How we finally save like true Mustachians

Last November, we reversed our budget: savings, planned expenses, emergency expenses, variables expenses, and then, irregular expenses. Irregular expenses are our new variable. No matter what, we save 40% first.

You may wonder what happens if we overspend in one category? Well, as we should have always reacted to this situation: consider it as a debt incurred on next month budget.
This tweak changed everything.

Now, constructive discussions happen more often. Priorities are (re)defined. Stash steadily increases. 50% savings rate feels reachable. Financial Independence is in sight again. Life changing.

What about your variable? Are you ready to re-align your budget with your life goals?

Note: special thanks to @momanddadmoney for their enlightening autopilot-budget blogpost which was the starting point of our new strategy.

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