My husband and I have tried a few different budget apps the last few years, and the latest one we’ve settled on is YNAB: “You Need a Budget.” In light of our recent cross-country move and job changes, we decided to make the switch from free platforms such as Good Budget (which offers a lot for a free app) to a paid service that would allow us more options for fine-tuning our new budget. So far we’re happy with its performance and are learning more about the available features as we go. Here’s the lowdown on YNAB, and why you might want to check it out for your own budget needs.
How it Works
YNAB operates very similar to other budget apps, with a few extra perks. Its Cloud Sync technology connects your accounts across all devices to maintain to-the-second accuracy on your balances. You do have to manually download the transactions into YNAB from the banking websites though. As with any budget app, the sooner you enter the details, the more accurate your categories. Entering transactions immediately is by far the best habit to get in to.
Other options include:
- Viewing all your accounts simultaneously
- Splitting transactions between categories
- Generating various types of reports to analyze your finances
- Locating specific information with a powerful search engine
- Scheduling transactions
- Using a reconciliation ‘wizard’
- Setting aside monthly amounts toward large, irregular bills such as insurance premiums, property taxes, etc.
What Makes It Better?
Even though it requires a one-time $60 payment, this includes one license that can be used across countless devices and formats, whether Apple, Mac, PC, or Android. YNAB offers a 34-day trial to give you a chance to decide if their budget software is worth the price.
The 4 Rules of YNAB also make it unique:
- Give every dollar a job
- Save for a rainy day
- Roll with the punches (even when you make mistakes)
- Live on last month’s income
As my husband pointed out, the last rule is particularly key to the program’s mentality, since it directs you to constantly look (and pay) ahead. This keeps you one step ahead of unplanned expenses that might otherwise catch you off guard and leave you playing catch up, sometimes for months. Another great feature we appreciate about YNAB is the ability to easily compare months. Comparing month-to-month makes it easier to spot trends and spending categories where you’re consistently under or over-budget that may need some tweaking.
Actually, you don’t even need to pay in order to benefit. The website offers a wealth of free online videos, boot camps, articles, and other resources from their budget experts. The cost of $60 is to use the extensive YNAB spreadsheet software, which ties nicely with all the concepts explained in the videos.
Overall, YNAB reports that after one month of use, its users’ net worth increases by an average of $200. After nine months, that amount jumps to $3,000 additional dollars in your pocket. Of course, YNAB isn’t the only budget app that will save you money… experience proves that the act of tracking and planning your spending and saving on a consistent basis makes you richer, long-term. If you haven’t tried a budget app before, enroll in a trial with YNAB or another free platform, and see how much of a difference you see in your finances.