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How Does it Feel to Get A Month Ahead?

Way back in 2014, I sunk a whopping 40.5 hours into an indie video game called “Papers, Please.” Have you heard of it? You play as a customs agent in a fictional Soviet Union-esque country. Every day, you work your way through a line of grumpy travelers, looking for tiny discrepancies in increasingly-complex sets of paperwork. And that’s pretty much the whole game! 

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Aren’t video games supposed to be fun? This sounds like a chore!” And, yes, it sounds boring, but I promise it’s an absolute blast. It’s just one of those games you won’t understand until you try it for yourself. 

Getting a month ahead in YNAB is kind of like that. It doesn’t sound like the sexiest financial goal. It might even sound a little boring. But once you experience it for yourself, you’ll never want to go back! You’re just going to have to trust me. Or keep reading.

Happy money

Getting a month ahead is going to take a lot more effort than downloading an 86mb game on Steam, so I understand if my word isn’t enough. That’s why we asked our Instagram followers to tell us how it feels to get a month ahead. And boy did they respond!

Hundreds of people shared how this simple financial habit absolutely changed their life. I’ll show you some of my favorite comments, and hopefully by the end, you’ll see the game-changing power of getting a month ahead!

What does it mean to get a month ahead?

But before we pour through the comments, let’s take a step back and talk about what we mean when we say you should “get a month ahead in YNAB.” This principle is at the heart of Habit 4: Age Your Money

The idea is to save up a month of income, so you can set it aside for next month. At the beginning of the new month, your categories will all be fully funded with real money that you have in the bank. Then, every time you get paid, you assign money to next month’s priorities, so that you can consistently live on last month’s income. You’ve broken the paycheck to paycheck cycle for good. 

Now, I could go on about the many benefits of following Habit 4 and getting a month ahead, but instead, I’m going to let the YNAB community describe it for you, cause there’s no better way to demonstrate how it feels to get a month ahead than telling real stories from real YNABers!

Getting a month ahead reduces anxiety around money.

Imagine how you would feel if you knew that no matter what happens, you had all your bills, expenses, and even wants covered for an entire month? I love the way Instagram user @Thismarioperez described it:

Money is no longer in control of day to day life. I’ve felt nothing but peace for the last 10 years. I have no way to quantify it, but I’m sure this will have enormous benefits to my physical health as I start moving into middle age.

I also love the way that @Jen_argetsinger put it: 

For someone with high generalized anxiety, being one month ahead has taken almost 80% or more I would say of the anxiety out of money management—just knowing that the current month coming up is covered gives a lot of peace.

More peace and less stress means better mental and physical health. The benefits are enormous. Perhaps though, you’re not feeling particularly stressed about your finances right now. You might find that after you get a month ahead, you’ll love it more than you thought you would. Take it from @Cathyc1515:

Being over a month ahead has taken a weight off my shoulders that I didn’t realize was always there.

You may have a system that you feel is working for you, but I guarantee you that adding this financial habit will take it to the next level. Getting a month ahead brings enormous peace. @Bjsanz_ summed it up perfectly:

I can breathe!

Getting a month ahead lets you make more mindful decisions.

I don’t have to tell you that life is full of surprises. And sometimes you have to make quick decisions with very little time to gather crucial information. But if you live on last month’s income, any time you have a disruption in cash flow or a large unexpected bill, you have more space to make mindful decisions. 

Those better decisions will pile up over the course of your life, and you’ll end up in a much better financial place in the long run. @Craftandcluster hit the nail on the head:

It feels expanding! I don’t feel a tightness in my chest every month anymore and know that if an emergency happens, I can make decisions on how to deal with it more logically rather than emotionally.

When you have a month’s income saved up and assigned to next month’s needs, you don’t have to be so reactive, and that can make all the difference. That goes for small decisions, but also the really big ones, like what job to take after a layoff. One YNABer, @msmocha60, said they could take their time after a layoff to breathe and find the right job for them. 

…I had been with the same company for 2 years. While I was at home on vacation, I got the dreaded HR and Manager combination phone call. I had been let go. I was a complete wreck. My friends were in a panic; now what? What will you do? I said that I am going to wait, take a breath, and redo my resume, and apply for jobs I want. They said you can do that on the crap unemployment pays (which really is crap)? I said… I am going to be just fine. That was February 10th, and I just paid my April rent, and still have money in the bank. I have redone my resume, but I don’t have to rush into a job just because I am about to be on the street. I can take a beat, take a breath, and not have to panic. And, honestly, it means a lot.

Heck yes, it means a lot! In fact, it means everything, because they don’t have to take just any job that comes along. We shouldn’t make a decision that important while in a rush and under a ton of stress. Because this YNABer was a month ahead and had an emergency fund, they could take their time to regroup and make sure their next job was even better than their last.

Getting a month ahead gives you more control over how you work.

When you break the paycheck to paycheck cycle, you can make decisions about how you balance your work and family life. @Hannahlpede shared:

I was able to go part time at work to be home with my baby more, still don’t know what my net paycheck will look like and have no worries about getting bills paid!

There’s nothing more valuable than being able to spend as much time with your family as you want without being handcuffed to a demanding job. That’s true financial freedom right there! 

@Pascalebri found more space to breathe as a freelancer:

Freelancer here: it meant being able to say no to gigs instead of overworking myself to exhaustion

If you’ve run your own business, you know that the temptation to overwork yourself is very real, because the more you work, the more money you make! But when you have a big-picture view of your finances, you know exactly how much you need to work to be okay, so you don’t have to let constant fear drive you to unhealthy work habits.

But one of my favorite comments came from @Bee.harts. They explained that being a month ahead allowed them to take a big risk in their career: 

With being (more than) a month ahead, I was able to leave the position I was in, to pursue a new job when I finished my last degree. It has been a slow build in clientele and it will likely be months before I’m making enough in this position to even match what I made in my last position. But the financial buffer that I had been able to build (with the support of YNAB), certainly helps relieve the financial stress associated with the change.
I miss my old position in a way, and definitely miss the consistency of my income. But I know the change is good for my long-term goals – so it has been great to be able to take that leap!

Taking career risks like this could prove to make an enormous long-term difference for this YNABer, but they would never be able to take the leap without a solid foundation. Getting a month ahead lets you be more emotionally and financially prepared to take these risks. 

You can take it from me, too! I’ve shared in my own story that if I wasn’t using YNAB and I hadn’t gotten a month ahead, I may not have ever taken a job here! And I am certain that would have been one of the biggest career mistakes I could ever have made. 

Getting a month ahead means you can put your bills on auto-pilot.

More peace, mindfulness, and control is all well and good. But before we get to the last point, I want to get super practical about your day-to-day financial life. How would it feel to put ALL your bills on auto-pay right now? If you’re not a month ahead, it probably feels terrifying doesn’t it? Not so for these YNABers:

It’s a game changer! I don’t have to worry if I have the money in my account to cover my bills. I have everything on autodraft and it’s great! @Sarahcatt

So much easier to budget when I don’t have to align paycheques to bills! @Dojo709

E-mails that used to give me small strokes (“your payment is due” or “payment will withdraw in 5 days” or even “your bank statement is ready”) I now barely glance at. The feeling is priceless, pun very much intended! @Countrymousejen

The feeling of peace knowing that you have all your bills covered before next month even begins absolutely is priceless! And what’s more, automating bill payments will free up a ton of time spent on worthless bookkeeping. That means more time and more energy spent on what matters—making sure the way you spend reflects who you are. 

Oh, and aside from the peace and the freed up time, you might just feel some well-earned pride in yourself:

It means I don’t have to worry about cash flow and that I’m just kind of proud of myself. @Leannerhodes2009

Getting a month ahead will give you more space to tackle any other financial goal.

The biggest benefit of getting a month ahead is it supercharges any other financial goal you have. Whether you want to pay off debt, invest more for retirement, renovate your home, or go after any other financial dream, you’ll always go into it from a position of strength.

Accomplishing the goal of getting a month ahead will give you the confidence and space to do anything you want with money! @Gissel.carolina nailed it:

Makes me feel like I have money. Like it’s safe. I’m not so scared to allocate money to other things in between those and saving overall has gotten easier. It’s nice.

It is nice indeed! Take it from @Iamjoacy, who felt safe going after an awesome vacation that meant so much to their family:

It gave me the option of saying things to my wife like: Babe, remember that trip that we wanted to go so bad but wasn’t sure if we could ? I checked the budget and it turns out we can do it without affecting our next month!

For @Nikolini.stuckembuckem living on last month’s income (and then some!) completely changed the money conversations with their partner:

Our Age of Money typically hovers around 100 days. When we sit down to budget the conversation is always: “What do we want to work towards?” rather than “How are we going to make it through the month?”

What could be more valuable? Getting a month ahead makes you more peaceful and more mindful. It lets you take more healthy risks from a position of strength. It lets you put more of the tedium of money management on autopilot and puts you in a place where you can tackle anything that comes your way—and ultimately, build the life you want. And that’s what YNAB is all about!

I’m sure you’re jumping up and down and looking for ways to send more money toward the goal of getting a month ahead. We’ve got just the thing for you! Try out the More Money Challenge, and we’ll show you exactly how to kick start this journey.



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