A Fool of Myself

The Personal Finance Tool Bag: You Need A Budget

Screen capture of a You Need A Budget report
Since I started blogging about my family’s personal finances, I’ve mentioned the tool You Need A Budget a few times, and based on the questions I’ve received on Facebook and in person, it seems that Chris and I’ve turned a few people on to it. So I thought I’d take a blog post and give you the low down.

I have to give credit to Chris for finding YNAB in April. He did the initial work of setting it up on our computer (twice — once for his account, once for mine) and on our phones. We love that a purchase of a single license covers the whole family — computers and phones. YNAB syncs your budget and transactions across phones and your computer using Dropbox, so it requires a bit of set up, but it’s not difficult. And if you do run into trouble, YNAB has a super helpful support page on its website.

Features We Love

  • Syncing wherever we have an Internet connection. As long as we remember to enter our transactions when we’re out and about, our budget and checking account numbers are always up to date. If you like Dave Ramsey, but find the envelope system a little cumbersome, YNAB can be a great hack for the envelope system.
  • Easy-to-use interface. YNAB is pretty, and I like pretty things. But more than that, YNAB makes adding transactions, tweaking a budget, and analyzing spending easy with just a few clicks.
  • On-budget and off-budget accounts. We have three accounts — checking, savings, and cash — that are on-budget, and several other accounts like our credit cards and retirement funds that are off-budget. YNAB makes it easy to create transfers (scheduled, if you like) between all of these accounts. I like these off-budget accounts so much that I use them for gift cards and the resale stores where I have a credit.
  • Straightforward budgeting. YNAB makes budgeting a breeze by keeping the numbers flexible. If you need to move numbers around in the middle of the month, you can. As you’re planning for the months ahead, YNAB will calculate averages across several months so you can be honest about what you’re spending. And if you even need to go back in time and move money around in the past so it is available now, you can.

I could go and on about why we love YNAB, but you really should try it for yourself. YNAB has a 34-day free trial, and then it costs $60 for the computer software. Phone apps are free, but they don’t really work without the computer software.

Have you tried You Need A Budget? If you have any questions or tips, post them in the comments!


4 thoughts on “The Personal Finance Tool Bag: You Need A Budget

  1. Well, I couldn’t get Matt to spring for YNAB, but apparently he’s had an account on Mint for years (so there’s already a lot of data in it) even though he does nothing with it. So I think for now I’m going to try to start using it. I fully credit you and this blog series for prompting the conversation, though, which is no small thing!

  2. Yay! My wife and I tell people about YNAB if they seem slightly interested. 🙂

    I was stoked to see that they offered the desktop app at 50% off for a couple of days during Cyber Monday.

    Spending Trends (under Reports) is really helpful — and inspiring! — to see how much we’ve paid towards debt.

    I like these off-budget accounts so much that I use them for gift cards and the resale stores where I have a credit.

    Fascinating! I haven’t thought of this angle. Can you describe how you do this in practice? (Ooh, there’s another idea for a blog post.)

    For example, here are accounts/services that come to mind where I, personally, wouldn’t want them to be Budget accounts: PayPal, Google Wallet, Dwolla.


    Side note: I found your blog by searching on WordPress.com for “YNAB”. 🙂

    • Bryan,
      Thanks for the great comment! I’m so glad you found my post! I’ll definitely write another blog post about using the off-budget accounts for gift cards and other accounts. Will try to get that out in the next week.


  3. I need YNaB (even if my husband isn’t on board (yet!) because we “accidentally” spent the money I’d transferred from savings to checking to pay our personal property tax bill on random crap in December, then we got hit with back fees to cover the overdraft when our check for the taxes finally cleared. Clearly, I need a budget!!!

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