Creating a budget is essential for keeping on top of your finances, but drawing up your own often creates too much headache and not enough results. We all know that budgeting is important, but actually sitting down and taking the time to write one is another story. Fortunately, you don’t have to if you sign up for You Need a Budget (YNAB), because this budgeting software does the hard work for you.
What Is It?
YNAB uses what it calls the “Four Rules of Cash Flow” to help you manage your cash. These are fully explained in the introduction to the software, but here is some brief information on the four rules.
Rule One – Stop Living From Paycheck to Paycheck. Not having a good handle on your money can create tremendous stress, and this rule is intended to develop crucial budgeting skills to avoid this.
Rule Two – Give Every Dollar a Job. Once you’ve set financial goals, you want to reach them as quickly as possible and this rule helps you to do this. Every single dollar has a role, whether it’s paying bills, building an emergency fund or being set aside for irregular bills that need to be budgeted for.
Rule Three – Prepare For The Rain. Emergencies will crop up and this will often be when you’re least prepared. Creating an emergency fund is the best way to deal with these unexpected and unwelcome setbacks.
Rule Four – Roll With The Punches. Things won’t always go according to plan, but this doesn’t mean that your financial goals have to be compromised. If you happen to overspend one month, that amount will be taken out of the following month’s available income.
Let’s look at an example to see how this works in practice. Imagine that you’ve allocated $1,000 as your budget each month, but unexpected circumstances caused you to actually spend $1,100. The extra $100 that you didn’t intend to spend will be taken out of the next month’s budget, and you’ll thus have only $900 to play with. You can choose which areas to cut back on to make up the difference. This feature isn’t present in most other budgeting programs, so it makes YNAB pretty unique.
How It Works
1. Add the accounts that you’ll be tracking
To add accounts, you’ll need to include the following information:
- Name (for example, checking account’)
- Current balance
- The date on which the current balance was correct
- The type of account (for example, checking/savings/investment account)
2. Add Transactions
You can add multiple transactions to track how much money is going out of your various accounts and a running total is kept at the bottom to show how much is left from your monthly income. You can schedule future transactions as well as ones that are more imminent. Once transactions have been added, your account balance is altered to reflect how much is really in your account once this money has gone out.
3. Create your budget
There are pre-determined categories that you can use (such as food, housing and insurance), but the interface is completely customizable and you can add your own categories as well.
4. View reports
See your spending patterns at a glance with handy and informative charts. This helps to make your budget look and feel real.
- Because it’s based on money principles and rules, YNAB teaches financial discipline and helps you to manage your money wisely
- Encourages the building of an emergency fund and living within your means
- A simple way to track your spending and assess where you can make changes
- Saves time and effort
- Installation is simple and quick
- Can import bank activity to avoid endless typing and this doesn’t involve giving your bank account details to YNAB
- Doesn’t contain any exciting tools or features, because simplicity is the name of the game and this won’t suit everyone
- To get the most out of YNAB, you need to have at least one month’s income saved, because the YNAB rules advocate living on last month’s income (not this month’s)
- At $59.95 for the full version, it’s on the pricier side. However, you can quickly and easily make back the purchase price in savings as a result of using the tool
One of my favorite things about using YNAB is its simplicity. If you like your budgeting software to have all the bells and whistles, this probably isn’t right for you. But as someone who wants to keep the budgeting process as simple as possible, it suits my needs perfectly.
If you want to try out YNAB before you buy, you can take a free 7-day trial when you initially download the software from the YNAB website. This is what I did, and I found that week to be enough time to play around with the features and decide whether or not the software was worth upgrading.