My relationship with You Need A Budget (YNAB) started out in a very innocent way. I requested a trial copy for research on an upcoming project – my eBook The Secret To A Successful Budget: Practical Advice for Creating a Budget That Lasts. Since YNAB is specifically geared towards budgeting, I thought a book on budgeting would be incomplete without introducing readers to this computer software.
But then it happened. I fell in love. No, not the kind of love you feel for a person. But, the kind of love that makes you say, “Wow, this is really cool.”
I should tell you I can’t use You Need A Budget because I frequently spend money and budget in multiple currencies. For this reason, I use Moneydance personal finance software for my own bookkeeping. But, if you are like however many million other people who only budget in once currency you should take a look at the You Need A Budget software.
The YNAB Philosophy
What differentiates YNAB is their approach and philosophy. Other programs sell just that – a program. You Need A Budget built a program around a personal finance philosophy (money management methodology). I like that. Even better, I like the simplicity and accuracy of their approach. Instead of asking, “What do we want this software to do,” they ask, “What do we want people to be able to do with their money,” and then they created a program around the needs of people. Here is the You Need A Budget money management methodology:
Rule One: Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck
Rule Two: Give Every Dollar a Job
Rule Three: Save for a Rainy Day
Rule Four: Roll with the Punches
Hmm. That sounds like something you would read on this website. In fact, that’s one of the things I liked best about this product. If you read this blog, you’ll like how they set up the program to help you track your finances in a highly effective, yet simple way.
Important You Need A Budget (YNAB) Features
- Easy to navigate. On a scale of 1-10, I’d put my computer knowledge at a 5-7. I know how to use these machines, but don’t expect me to do anything fancy. Once I installed YNAB, I was able to figure out how to use the program without reading a single instruction. That, of course, is the goal for any male.
- Download transactions from your bank (or credit union). With the YNAB system, you will need to visit your bank and download the transactions to YNAB. From there, they will be entered into a checkbook type register. In addition, you can manually enter any purchases you make. Depending on the number of bank accounts you have, this could add a lot of extra time as compared to programs which allow you to automatically download from all your accounts in one click.
- Designed to make budgeting simple. One difficult part of budgeting is figuring out what to do if you overspend or under spend your budget. With YNAB, they roll those numbers over to the next month. This is especially helpful if you have inconsistent income or spending habits.
- Compatible with Window, Mac, and Linux systems.
- Easy to access budgeting graphs and charts.
You Need A Budget Budgeting Feature
This is where YNAB really stands out from other programs. It automatically grabs the information you enter into your account registers and lets you know in a single page how your budget is shaping up. It highlights categories where you overspend and even shows the dollar amounts available when you budget. The categories listed above are standard, but you can easily customize the categories according to your own budget preferences.
With just one click, you can turn your budget into some easy-to-read graphs and charts that help you get a real sense of your budget activity.
What YNAB Does Well
The You Need A Budget program has a very specific goal – to help you effectively track your cash flow. While this software does not have a lot of extra bells and whistles, it does a fantastic job accomplishing its goal.
Who is the ideal YNAB user?
- A person who has trouble keeping track of their finances
- A person who cannot answer the question – where did the money go?
- A couple who is having money fights because they can’t pay their bills at the end of the month.
- Busy people who don’t want to give up budgeting
- Anyone who had a financial savings goal
YNAB’s Limitations (YNAB is not right for you if …)
- You budget in multiple currencies. That said, if you exclusively use one currency (doesn’t have to be USD as they do have about 100 currencies that they support – just not the Papua New Guinea Kina :() In this case, you should look into Moneydance.
- You want one program to use for a budget and track all your investments. YNAB does not allow you to track investment portfolios.
- You want the ability to download all your bank information in one click.
- You would rather use a free budgeting system.
If YNAB is not right for you then you might review this list of the best personal finance software programs.
My Final Verdict
If you are looking for a personal finance program that will handle all of your financial transactions, then you should look for a full service program like Moneydance or Quicken (I use Moneydance – here is my Moneydance review). However, if you are really trying to focus on making a budget and paying off debt, then this program is designed specifically to you. While You Need A Budget basically only does one thing, (budgeting) it does that one thing very, very well.
You Need A Budget costs $59.95. If you’ve never used it before, you can get a 7 day free trial if you click here.