I’ve now been using the You Need A Budget (YNAB) software for two full months and have to say that it has been a game changer.
Although I really liked the idea of YNAB (and wrote about it way back last summer), I wasn’t initially psyched with the idea of ditching my old budgeting software (ahem, a modest excel spreadsheet) in favor of their fancy-pants software. I watched a few of the getting started videos and understood all the concepts but was held back for a couple reasons.
- First and foremost (and what I wrote about it here) is the fact that I found it challenging until I was living on last month’s income. I know you can start at any time, and there are tips and techniques for budgeting when you have a variable income (like hubs and I have), but I just didn’t love it.
- The second reason was simply because I hadn’t really “committed” yet to the idea of it. It was very different from my previous budgeting method (which had been much more rigid and “set”), and since I hadn’t committed yet to YNAB (meaning, I was just doing the trial and unsure if I’d buy), I didn’t want to abandon my old budgeting techniques yet. That means I was basically committing myself to completing TWO completely different budgeting spreadsheets simultaneously (my old excel one AND the new YNAB one). It was, frankly, overwhelming. So I quit my trial early and didn’t look back for months.
In January I decided it would be a good time to give it a second try. I re-watched some of the beginner videos and emailed customer support to see if they’d give me another free month trial (They did. For the record they were super helpful and friendly).
Well, folks, I’m two months deep and I’m never looking back!!!
So what’s so different about YNAB? (again, I’m comparing to a simple excel spreadsheet)
- The constant back-and-forth between screens. I was used to having everything in a single excel sheet (I had a different page for each month), so initially it felt cumbersome to have to switch back and forth between the budget screen and the accounts screen (where you actually log all income and expenditures). It took some getting used to and was something I didn’t like initially. But now that I’ve got the hang of it, I love that I can easily see just the budget and compare between recent months (you can easily move forward or backward to look at your current month, past months, future months, etc.) It’s a nice and easy little comparison.
- YNAB allows you to set up savings goals inside of the program. I’m not quite ready to give up my Capital One 360 accounts….but YNAB sure makes them seem pretty pointless. One of the features in YNAB allows you to set up savings goals. Basically you can allocate money toward each of your savings goals (e.g., savings for Roth IRA, saving for cruise 2016, etc.) and your rainy day funds (e.g., savings for emergency fund, dental/vision, annual fees), so you can really easily see how much you’ve got in each category. I’ve used Capital One 360 in the past because I like to be able to have my money saved in multiple different categories, but with YNAB you don’t need to literally have the money separated into separate accounts. You can have it all in one account and, as long as you reference your budget, you know what all the money is for (so it doesn’t just seem like a pile of money; you already know every dollar has a job or a purpose.
- YNAB’s flexibility. This is probably the biggest game-changer, so far. YNAB allows for such fluidity between budget categories. I used to have very rigidly set categories that were identical from month-to-month. With YNAB my categories change based on my monthly needs. Need new clothes? Allocate money to the clothes category (I used to have one “catch all” category named miscellaneous that clothing would fall under). Spend too much money on household goods? Take away some money from the restaurant fund. Have money leftover from a lower-than-expected electric bill? Add more money toward debt payments! So extremely easy-peasy and really lets things be fluid and flexible between and within months.
I also know there are some really cool features I still haven’t even gotten into yet! You can run reports and make graphs from excel, but the reports feature in YNAB is just so seamless and easy! You don’t have to program any commands or know computer-lingo – you just press the reports tab and click on the type of chart you want to see (spending by category, by payee, spending trend, etc. etc. etc.)
Everything about it is so user-friendly and incredibly well planned and thought-out. One of my best friends is a designer (she does architectural design, specifically), and the YNAB program just seems like something a designer would have had a hand in. It’s not just created by some finance geeks (term “geeks” used affectionately). It serves a family’s personal finance needs, but is done so in a way that is elegant and efficient in design. I love efficiency. And who doesn’t love a little elegance? ; )
There are some cons though…
From my own experience, I would say that YNAB is not really something you can pick up overnight. It can be a bit overwhelming (this is coming from someone who already had a pretty decent budget, and I imagine it’d be even harder for someone starting with absolutely no budget). I would also bet that I’m not the only person who required a couple different tries for the program to really “stick.” In fact, I would say that if you’re interested, you might as well go into it expecting to have some growing pains and a little bit of a learning curve as you get used to the software.
But in spite of all that, I can honestly say I would recommend the program. Even with the cost (and BELIEVE ME, I was reluctant to shell over the money for the program and YES I did pay for it. In no way is this a sponsored post), I think it’s money well spent.
You can try the program free for a month (see here).
And if you’re a college student, you can even get the program 100% free!!! (see here). Can’t beat free!
Or, if you’re not a college student but are ready to invest in the YNAB program, maybe consider purchasing through my referral link here. You get $6 off the program (10% off the $60 price tag), and I get $6 for referring you. It’s a win-win!
If you’re going to invest in the program, I highly encourage you check into some of the free online classes. They even give away an activation code for free at the end of every live class (so you can try to win one for free….I’m never that lucky!)
If you’ve used YNAB, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the program! What is your favorite part of the software? What took some getting use to?