YNAB – A Budgeting Tool Review

Way back in 2014 I wrote a post about sorting out my budget and in that post I talked about using the software YNAB (You Need a Budget) to both budget and track my spending.

YNAB Logo

There are many tools out there, ranging from paper and pen, spreadsheets to software, there is no right or wrong solution you really do just need to find one that works for you and is something you are happy to use.

Tracking your expenses first lets you see where your money go and is really the first step if you want to wrangle in your money.

There is a new YNAB

YNAB had a big update a while ago and the desktop version which is now known as YANB4 got superseded by the New YNAB which is browser based with all your info just sitting in the cloud somewhere. Initially I was not a fan of the new YNAB for a couple of reasons:

  • I already owned the old one
  • The new one was a subscription based model (pay yearly)
  • It didn’t have reports and a lot of other things the old version did
  • It seemed to me it was big on bank statement imports but only catered for US banks

So, I happily went along my way with the old system. Then one day playing around on their website I logged back into the New YNAB, now they give you a 34 day trial which I recommend you check out. And I still had around 16 days left on it. I played around with it and soon realised there had been some big improvements over what I had seen earlier.

  • Reports were now built in
  • For me it handled Credit Cards better
  • I find it easier to track all my accounts, even one’s I’m not budgeting like savings accounts etc
  • You don’t need to import all your transactions
  • It has this neat goal setting ability now
  • YNAB shows you your net worth easily

YNAB Goal Setting

Change to the rules

As mentioned in the original post I did YNAB revolves around 4 rules, these have been updated:

  • Give Every Dollar A Job (Zero based budgeting)
  • Embrace Your True Expenses
  • Roll with The Punches
  • Age Your Money

So, these are a bit different in wording to the old rules they had. But basically, you make sure you allocate all your money to what needs it, put your money towards known expenses coming up, deal with things that arise and don’t spend all your money at once.

I like the new YNAB

There are people out there that don’t like the rule change or the new YNAB and that’s cool, people can decide on what they want to use. In fact, the old YNAB still works fine and so does the app, my flatmate is still using them. There might be a time in the future that they will have to stop supporting it, but at the moment it is still going strong.

I loved the way everything worked and looked and I took the plunge and ponied up the US$50 / year.

Importing the old stuff

Importing my old budget and all its data from the years’ worth of entries was really easy, once that was done I decided to start from scratch again. A nice fresh budget where I tweaked my categories to better match what I was up to now. I still have the ability to easily load the old budget to look up anything from the past, like I spent $4200 on groceries (not counting random bad food purchases)

Report Example in YNAB
Example of a report, which you can drill down multiple ways

Change of thinking

Visually being able to see my goals for each budget category has made a huge improvement of me budgeting amounts for future payments. I can put in an amount and an end month and it tells me how much each month I need to budget and visually shows me how well I am doing. This is very simple and can be achieved with a calculator, but for some reason, this resonates with me, sure it would be a lot better if it could handle fortnightly pays and picking a day as an end date but it is helping me reach my goals more than ever.

Being based in the browser with a subscription base helps the developers with their cash flow and means updates will be quicker, and easier to implement. For 2017 they are currently working on getting the phone app which lets you see your budget and add transactions completely up to speed to how the browser version works and looks which is exciting to hear.

Summary:

For me, YNAB is the perfect tool for me to manage my money. It might not be for you and that’s fine, it just means you need to keep looking, and playing around with things to see what gives you the best option and the best chance to get your money under control.

Make sure to check out there 34 day trial, check out the website which is chock full of info about budgeting in general and the software and has a lot of resources and training material so you can get the most out of the software.

What do you use to help manage your budget? Let me know in the comments.

2 Comments

  1. Cheri

    Reply

    Hi. Came on here for your bullet journalling advice via another link (I searched bullet journalling on Facebook, after I tried to join bullet journal junkies but it’s a closed group so couldn’t gain any information immediately – annoying). After a quick scan of your page I decided to stick around. I’m sick of reading about “washi tape” etc.
    ANYWAY, re budgeting, I have used an excel spreadsheet for years. It fulfils my need to fill out forms and tick boxes (bullet journal a-ok). I love entering formulas and seeing $25,000.00 show up as “savings” in a year or two (once I extended it further and was in the $50k), although the $25,000.00 has NEVER eventuated. Actually, very little has eventuated lol.
    I did find it VERY useful to track our savings when I was on maternity leave and see how soon I would have to go back to work, which helped me to curb spending during that time. (2 years ago now… haven’t had savings since then…). It was also good to track when I could pay off more on our car or hire purchases etc so get rid of them faster. HOWEVER, was hard to keep up with and I’d have to constantly start again because I’d left it so long, accrued MORE debt or a new monthly bill had arrived/gone and I couldn’t blardy figure out how to “freeze” the left column so that I could scroll right and not have to keep scrolling back to column A to see which line I was looking at. Turns out I had to update my MAC operating system so that I could update my microsoft for MAC.
    I am going to use YNAB. Since my 3 days of bullet journalling has me feeling so very very very accomplished, I will take another stab at something else to which the internet (particularly your blog) has enlightened me.

    • WebSam

      Reply

      Hi Cheri

      Thanks for the comment. Yeah I understand the Washi tape thing, I’m not very creative or artsy at all, while I do appreciate the work people put in, it’s not something I do. I love spreadsheets too, and have played around with so many budgeting templates and all sorts of things with clever formulas.

      With the bullet journal stuff I think you need to experiments, try new things, find out what works for you and don’t worry what other people are doing, some people I think just like showing off their artwork more than actually using their journal. My friend Nancy is right into it, and has set up this site: http://www.journaljunkies.co.nz for bullet journals here, it’s just started up but I know there will be awesome stuff coming to it soon, as well as a Facebook page.

      I totally understand the keeping track of things and everything changing all the time.

      Check out the free trial of YNAB, I really do like it and use it all the time, something to look out if you use the Chrome web browser is Toolkit for YNAB extension, it gives you a lot more options, is totally free, and is really useful for anyone going from the old YNAB to the new version.

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