The March Challenge: Category Cleanup

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the month of March marks the first day of spring. At last! It’s nearly time to tuck away our snow boots and coats and possibly partake in some good, old-fashioned spring cleaning.

Don’t worry if you’re reluctant to grab the mop bucket and suds. If actual cleaning isn’t your jam, then how about a quick sweep through the old budget categories, instead?

Your budget categories are important. Too many, and you’ll get lost in the minutiae-it becomes difficult to keep track of what’s important. Too few, and your budget becomes so simplistic that it can’t do its job (we need some level of detail in order to effect the behavior changes that will help us reach our financial goals).

The Objective

The sweet spot is clarity, which comes when you identify the magic number of categories that works best for you. In other words, the minimum number of categories that you need for awareness and the maximum number that you can have before you’ve breached simplicity.

Cleaning Categories 101

Depending on your natural inclinations, you may find that you fall into one of two, uh, categories:

  1. You have way too many categories. (e.g., You never even use that “Movies” category, because you always record your movie ticket purchases under “Entertainment.”)
  2. You have a few larger, umbrella categories. (e.g., You lump all of your monthly, repeating bills under “Bills” and wonder how much you’re actually allocating to those small, monthly subscriptions that are always catching your eye. And, what, you’re up to three fitness memberships, now … right?)

The best way to know if you have the right number of categories for you (this number is different for everyone) is to consider each of your categories, and ask yourself the following:

  • Does this category give me greater awareness without creating unnecessary tedious work?
  • Does this category help me change my spending behavior?

After you’ve assessed your existing categories, consider any that might be missing. Chances are, you won’t have any missing categories because we tend to add categories, naturally, on an as-needed basis.

And don’t miss The Dunkin’ Donuts clause-great food for thought as you consider your category needs.

Join the Challenge!

This month, we challenge you to make your budget categories spick-and-span. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can get this one done and dusted, so schedule a 15-minute date with your budget, right now.

And, join the fun! Shout out your discarded categories or new additions on social using the hashtag #YNABChallenge319. Share a screenshot, or just tell us all about it. We can’t wait to see what you find.

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