I finally finished putting together my budget for 2009, and while I still have some math to do and some statements to recieve, over all, I'm pretty happy with how 2008 ended up, financially speaking. Oh, sure, my investments aren't good and my retirement accounts are best ignored, but in terms of the things I can control - budgeting and spending and saving - things went very well.
Reviewing YNAB, I discovered that most months, I went over budget. Of course, some of that is cumulative - go over budget a few hundred dollars in one month due to an unexpected expense and there's that much less to spend the following month, making it harder to not go over budget again... lather, rinse, repeat.
I'm not sure how it happened, but in December, I managed to stay within my budget. No overages whatsoever. Which meant that while budgeting for January, I felt like I had so much money to budget! It was actually a pretty exciting feeling. I sat down and figured out all the major expenses I see over the year, and even some of the minor ones. Based on the dates these expenses are due, I figured out how much money to set away every month in order to be able to pay the bill. In some cases, this was under $5 a month. But budgeting $5 every month for 10 months is a whole lot easier than just coming up with $50 in a single month. This wasn't something I was able to do last year, and I'm hoping that it helps with the budgeting for the coming year. I'm also setting aside money every month for any unexpected expenses (this is in addition to an emergency fund - forgetting that I have to pay bar association dues is not a proper use of an emergency fund).
I realize what a geek I sound like, but I get excited when I set up a new budget. YNAB worked like a dream for me in 2008, and I'm excited to see how much better I can get at budgeting in 2009. It really is true - budgeting can be a challenge at first, but after a while, it becomes natural and you find you're staying within your budget without really thinking about it at all.
Coming later this week, the final numbers from my 2008 Net Worth calculations. If nothing else, it should provide a good starting point for this time next year!