A co-resident, let’s call him J, was responsible for opening my eyes to all things personal finance. J also introduced me to YNAB aka You Need a Budget. I bought this in Dec 2014 on some Christmas sale when it was still only available in the desktop version. Now it is a fancier web driven app.
Before using YNAB, I, like many, was a regular ol' excel spreadsheet gal. I made myself feel good by having all the budget categories add up nicely to my monthly paycheck. If you recall, I never saved any money and always ran out of money before the next paycheck.
My spending kind of went like this – do I have money in my checking account? Yes, I'll spend it. Meanwhile, I wasn't paying attention to the other categories I needed to set aside money for. I needed some serious help!
YNAB is not super easy to use right out of the box. I can almost promise you that you'll have some growing pains. The good news is that YNAB has a robust support center and tons of educational videos and webinars to teach you how to use their software optimally. When I switched from YNAB desktop to web version, they changed a few rules and I was emailing with their support team quite a bit.
My first few months with YNAB were interesting. I still went over budget, but each month got better and better. I slowly re-trained my spending habits. Remember that $20,000 credit card debt I used to have? Not only is it gone but I pay my cards IN FULL every month.
I can also confidently say today that I no longer go over budget and am saving quite a bit of money now (becoming an attending helped that part for sure). Learning how to use YNAB efficiently helped quite a bit as well.
Living within your budget revolves around clarity of the budget presentation and self-discipline. YNAB is a vital tool with which I feel I am able to keep disciplined and focused.
People ask all the time whether they should use YNAB vs. Mint. They are completely different programs. It really depends on what your needs are. If you are already great at spending within your means and budget (if you have one) – then Mint is a good option for you.
Mint gives you a snapshot of how you did. If you need serious help (like I did) and need to literally re-train yourself about budgeting and spending, then there is nothing better out there than YNAB.
YNAB is forward and proactive budgeting. You will know whether you can actually afford something in real time and not worry that your money will be taken away from other necessary categories. YNAB focuses on your cash flow. You can also add loans and investments for tracking purposes, but I don’t believe this function works too well. I’d recommend sticking to what YNAB was made for – cash flow. I use Personal Capital to get a more complete snapshot for all my accounts.
We use eMoney with our FA as well.
I hope you're in a better place than I was when I first started YNAB. Even if you are I’d recommend checking it out. It is free for the first 34 days. Use this link to get 1 month free.