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YNAB Update


Now that we’re mid-month, and given that there were a handful of readers who also expressed interest in trying the free 30-day trial of YNAB, I wanted to give a little review.

Only problem is…..(CONFESSION)…..I haven’t been doing it.

I don’t know what my problem is. I think I just found it to be a bit overwhelming since its so different from what I’m used to. I honestly think it would work much better for me when I’ve already got my full 1 month’s salary saved up.

I’ve also found it difficult to keep up with since I still have a desire to keep using my regular Excel spreadsheet. This was just a one-month trial, so I didn’t want to just dump my usual Excel file and pretend like the month of July never happened (or at least, have no record of it). But it proved to be too much to try to keep up with both. Too bulky, confusing, and time-consuming.

So, yeah. I haven’t even opened it up since the first week of the month.

Part of me is considering whether I could reach out to customer service and ask for another free trial after I have my one month’s salary saved up. I don’t know why I feel like this will make such a difference, but I really do think it would help (perhaps because I’ll know exactly how much money I’m working with, given our variable and uncertain income). No idea if they would make an exception like this but it could be worth a chance to ask.

Another thing I’ve thought of doing (really I should say, another suggestion a reader had given), is to simply add my usual Excel file to dropbox (which I already have for work related things). Then I would have instant access to my budget and categories anytime I’m out, so it would function essentially the same as YNAB in terms of accessibility. Plus I get to use the software I know and am comfortable with.

I think another reason why YNAB has failed me this month is because I’ve simply been overwhelmed. The first week was spent traveling and then we come home and BAM, BAM – we have two huge and unexpected unbudgeted expenses back-to-back (many readers pointed out that these expenses shouldn’t have been fully unexpected…yet another way that I’m learning the importance of a good, solid budget). Oh, and I don’t get paid until the end of the month so right now it looks like we’re WAAAAAAY in the red (though I’m hoping husband will get another couple big checks and my check will come in, and then things will end in the black). Being in the red is a problem with YNAB (another reason why I think it’d be more beneficial if I start it once we have 1 month’s salary already saved up).

Sorry, I feel like I’m babbling. I have a stack a mile-high of work related tasks demanding my attention in addition to other “life” happenings, so I need to get going. Be sure to check back on Friday though. I’m finally going to spill the beans about a couple issues that are going to directly impact our budget (in addition to these so-called “unexpected” expenses I’ve been discussing, too). Lots of changes in the air.

If you were using YNAB’s free 30-day trial this month, tell me what you think! Has it been working for you? If not, what did you feel wasn’t working for you? I’m curious about everyone’s experiences!!!


  • Reply ND Chic |

    I have never used or even checked out that software. However, it seems to me that you are good at budgeting the way you’ve been doing. Why are you trying to change something that’s working?

    • Reply Ashley |

      Ehhhh, I think it’s debatable whether its “working” or not. I mean, I’m very careful about tracking all our money. But the problem has been that I keep going over budget in various categories (the main culprits have been eating out and groceries). I was thinking that if I had to use cash (money envelope system) or had a good budgeting software that maybe it would prevent me from going over budget. The money envelope system really didn’t stop me and I haven’t given YNAB an honest try. I am definitely trying to be more conscious of my spending though, so I may be able to make these changes on my own without any fancy new software programs. I’m just trying things out to see what works best for me.

      • Reply ND Chic |

        Are you going over in these categories because you don’t realize how much you e spent? Or do you lack self control? If its the first, can you just use a basic budgeting app on your phone to keep track of those two categories?

        • Reply Ashley |

          Ehhh, I’d say its a little of both. Definitely with groceries I’m more likely to go over due to not knowing the exact amount of $ left. The eating out category has proved more problematic from a self-control perspective. I’ve actually been thinking of writing a post on this topic to ask for reader tips for motivation. This has been probably the hardest thing I’ve encountered since I started blogging (in comparison, before blogging we were spending easily $200-$300+ on eating out each month). It’s been very tough to cut back to $75, and even tougher to stick with it!

  • Reply Sue |

    I did the free trial of YNAB and ended up purchasing it – I just love it! I am very, very…well, lets go with organized….with our finances and this program works out so well for us – everything has a place to go. We are currently working toward living on last month’s income but haven’t had an issue with YNAB while we are trying to meet our goal. I would say give it a chance just based on my own personal opinion but definitely go with what works best for you & your family.

  • Reply Jason |

    I cannot recommend YNAB enough. You will be able to move away from simply tracking your money to giving each dollar a job (one of the core YNAB principles). You will be able to more actively take control and have a better understanding of where you are especially when the unexpected happens.

    • Reply Jason |

      I totally forgot the forums which are really supportive (not too different from the comment sections here…) and is helpful for newbies to YNABing. My wife and I have used it ever since we got married so we are just over 5 years using it!

  • Reply Ian Tyrrell |

    Hi Ashley,
    I’m one of the YNAB dev team – if you need more time, definitely let us know: http://ynab.me/contactus
    We’re more than happy to keep your trial going so you can find out if the software is a good fit for you or not. You definitely don’t need to have a full month saved up first though, but I would highly recommend checking out our free classes here: http://ynab.me/freeclass Take as many as you want or need to!
    Here’s a link to a pre-recorded class specifically on dealing with variable income: http://vimeo.com/youneedabudget/review/74286993/3db743827a

    -Ian Tyrrell
    Senior Code Wrangler

  • Reply Kili |

    Hi Ashley,
    do you use a calender on your smartphone?
    if it’s really just those 2 categories (eating out // groceries) that are giving you a hard time, maybe update your calender everyday with the amount left in those categories?
    (e.g. Monday Groceries left $120; Eating out left $80; TuesdayGroceries left $120; Eating out left $60; Wednesday Groceries left $90; Eating out left $60)…
    this way, you’d always know how much there is left in those difficult categories
    seems like that should be easily & quickly be updated from your excel sheet…
    and maybe having it more available then just saved on the excel sheet in the dropbox could make you more aware of those categories?

  • Reply Jen |

    I did the free trial (after you mentioned YNAB here) and loved it so much I bought it on the 3rd day (search online for a coupon code and you could save $6 making it only $54). I am in love. It is so easy for me and hubby to see how much is left in each category on our phones before we make a purchase. I do wish there was full functionality on the phone app so that budget categories could be adjusted and so transfers from account to account could be easier to track on the fly.

    It took a full day to go through all of the videos/tutorials and I found them VERY helpful. Just give yourself a chance to get used to the software. I too preferred my old budget, but it wasn’t accessible everywhere and didn’t have some features I wanted. You should do what is right for you, but I cannot say enough good things about YNAB. I think you should try to give it another chance next month.

    Something they say on the YNAB videos struck a cord with me…No month is a “regular” or “normal” month. There will always be surprises like tooth repairs and vehicle maintenance. Just go with the flow and eventually you will get better at predicting the events in the future.

    Much love and great job so far, you are doing exceptionally well even with these hiccups!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks Jen, and thanks for the comment and head up about the coupon code. I do think I’ll try to give it an honest chance. I know YNAB is set up so you can start at any time, but for some reason it feels “cleaner” to start fresh at the beginning of the month. Also, my hope is to have enough money saved up to start next month with a full month’s income (fulfilling the “living on last month’s income” thing). I saw that a developer commented and said I could ask for an extension of my trial so I can give it a true chance, so I’m thinking that’s what I’ll do.

  • Reply Tania |

    I use Quicken, and even at that, I am too lazy to go over and re-categorize some of the purchases. I find it works to do it on a schedule. I try to do mine on Saturday mornings or Sunday nights.

  • Reply Maria |

    I use YNAB and dont have the full month buffer saved up. It is an excellent tracking tool, alot better than spreadsheets which is more or less a forecast.
    It takes an average of 4 months to build up one month of income but it can be used without the buffer.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I did take the starter class, so I heard the 4 month stat. My hope was to be able to do it in 2 (which would put us living on last month’s income starting next month!) Of course, this month has turned out to be exceptionally expensive and our income hasn’t been as high as the last couple months, so we’ll have to wait until the end of the month to see how things shake out. I do agree that YNAB can be quite useful. I saw that one of the employees from the development team commented and said I could ask for an extension of the free trial. I may do this so I can give it an honest chance. I know YNAB is set up so you can start at any time (don’t have to wait for a new month, etc.), but for some reason starting with a fresh month feels more comfortable to me. I think part of my problem is how I’m still straddling the line by clinging to my old system and toying with the YNAB system. For some reason I feel apprehensive about dumping my technique and making the change.

  • Reply adam |

    they need an online app. as soon as i found out i had to install it on my computer i quit immediately.

    • Reply Ian Tyrrell |

      We’re working on one.
      For now we only have the desktop app, which syncs automatically with the Android and iOS mobile apps (so you can enter transactions and see how much you have remaining in each category while away from the computer).


  • Reply scarr |

    I am a few weeks into my YNAB trial and it has really grown on me. At first I was a bit confused and overwhelmed because I had been doing things way differently. But, I started noticing I was using it every day and it kind of all just clicked one day. I will be purchasing the license at the end of my trial, my husband even agrees that it has been a great tool for us. We are not yet living off of last month’s income, but that will be a secondary goal: right now we want to focus on incorporating YNAB into our routine.

    I do agree with Adam, I would love to see a web app released eventually!!

  • Reply Steph |

    After many failed budgets I always ended up the same as you describe, because I was tracking after the fact or making a guess at how much I was spending. Not tracking at the time of purchase with a clearly set dollar amount, is how I always spent money, even with my “budget”. I love that I am not spending future income, just budgeting what I have right now! In other words I’m not spending next weeks paycheck or next months. The apps are awesome and easy to track spending on the go. Even my husband who ignores all things financial is on board. I am still in my free trial and I will definitely be buying YNAB (yes I will budget the purchase of the program). It just makes sense and I can clearly see why I always have always spent more than I anticipated. I have watched several video’s and have taken two of the live classes. It’s the first budget system that hasn’t confused and frustrated me. I noticed a video on their support page about starting YNAB in overdraft? Maybe this will help. Just my two cents, best of luck….

  • Reply Steph |

    Also unlike others, I love that it is NOT online and is stand alone software, I don’t like having my information online.

So, what do you think ?