You Need a Budget (YNAB) came out with a new program that is web-based, which I started using Dec. 30. Personally, I like the technical changes.
I decided to start fresh, update my categories, and this new perspective showed me that, hey, I actually have spending $$ available! Now, I didn't go nuts, and I'm still pretty focused on building my Freedom Fund...but I also didn't stress about buying new boots when I saw how worn mine had gotten. I didn't stress about buying a new laptop because my old one was going. I planned outings with friends without stressing about $$.
Sylvia's budget has also gone really well (and she too prefers the new YNAB). She decided to start community college and, for the first time ever, got my seal of approval to dip into her Emergency Fund :) Of course, I told her this can't be a regular habit, but given the timing, it was the best option. Now, we have a better understanding of how much she'll need each semester, and can budget accordingly. Neither of us regret that she took some time off before starting school again, and both of us are confident that community college is the right place for her right now.
She is also budgeting regularly for car maintenance, car insurance, registration, gas/parking and her insurance deductible. There's no way she could afford to live on her own right now, but she is developing good habits and staying out of debt.
Meanwhile, Riley and I have started a car/driver's license fund. As with Sylvia, she will have to wait until she has a job before she can really get going on driving (or anything else), but at least we're on the same page about things.
The new YNAB has an "Age of Money" feature. The goal is for the money you spend to be at least 30 days old. Sylvia and I both have "35 Days" as our Age of Money.
I decided to use my most recent 5th paycheck to fund one annual category in full to alleviate the "monthly" budget (as well as beef up my Freedom Fund), which I'll do again with the next 5th paycheck.
I'm also beefing up Theatre Tix to see Hamilton at least twice and Something Rotten on their national tours. And I have a really lofty goal for my Freedom Fund, but it's more than a decade away.
I'm not sure if it's truly financially viable, but it's a really great motivator to continue cutting costs where I can and dream about being able to afford what I really want!
But in the meantime, I'm making sure there are enough funds to not only cover our needs, but some of the more reasonable wants, too.
I think I'm even starting to believe that we are in the middle class after all!