I thought it would be interesting, and helpful for new users, to hear how everyone goes about their actual budgeting process throughout the month. It would be best if everyone can simplify things so that they are clear and concise and probably describe their average process since it likely changes a bit each month. I'll go first:
Background: Former Microsoft Money user
YNAB Experience: Entering Month #7
Buffer: YES (I started with one)
My Master Categories are the following:
(1) General Expenses - Fun Money, Misc., Groceries, Dining Out, Baby Stuff, Clothing, Gifts, Gasoline, Haircuts & Healthcare
(2) Bank -Misc., Groceries, Dining Out, Baby Stuff
(3) Monthly Bills - Every Monthly Bill has its own subcategory
(4) Rainy Day Expenses - Christmas, Time Off, Home Repairs, Auto Repairs, Vacation, Emergency Fund
(5) Known Lumpy Expenses - Car Registration, Membership Fees, etc.
As soon as I have entered my final paychecks from the previous month and know exactly how much I have to budget I start thinking about it and will even start filling in the numbers for the majority of categories where the amount isn't dependent on our wants or needs. I like to finalize all accounts on the last day of the month and then discuss the more variable categories (i.e. mainly General Expenses) with my wife to make sure that we have everything that we can think of covered. Currently, I then put any extra into the Time Off category. The Bank category is a holding spot to allow me to fund Misc., Groceries, Dining Out & Baby Stuff one week at a time. I have found that this works much better for my wife because she tends to spend money that is available in the category. I tend to keep YNAB updated every couple of days and when I'm refilling the Bank categories I will often play a little whack-a-mole to make sure that we're on track to stay within our overall budget. At the end of the month I balance the budgeted with the spending to free up every available dollar to be reallocated to one or more of the Rainy Day categories. Because of the way that my wife views the available to spend amounts it works better for us to not let the extra roll to the next month in a General Expense category. This is something that I learned in the first few months and figured out the best way to correct. Last month was the first official month in the black. We were never too far off and have some savings to rely on, but there's been a learning curve with having about 30% less net income after my wife cut back to part time when our son was born. More expenses plus less money plus YNAB still equals long term success.
My goal is to keep the budget as simple as possible while still making it work for our needs. Some people prefer to have many many categories, but I simply don't care to know how much money was spent on soap vs. shaving cream. I try to use categories that are quickly and easily identified on receipts to make entry as user friendly as possible. I HATE trying to figure out which category to use and consider having to do this either an opportunity to identify another easy category distinction or sometimes and opportunity to combine two that have a grey line between them.