You Need a Budget (yes, you do)

Every so often, I’ll be posting about a tool I use in my daily life that makes things run more smoothly. It can be a virtual tool, a physical tool, or … is there anything else?

Today’s tool is a piece of software called You Need a Budget, also known as YNAB.

Update, February 2018

In late 2015, You Need a Budget changed their software to a subscription model. It’s still an excellent app (even better, in my opinion) and I still recommend it highly. Stay tuned for an updated review; I’ll link to it when it’s posted.

There’s a new referral code; it gives us both a free subscription month.

Do I Need a Budget?

Yes, you do.

I’m not talking about the set in stone, track every penny, don’t spend any money type of budget. Nobody, not even the poorest person, needs one of those. What I need, what you need, what everyone needs, is a flexible tool that lets you track what you spent money on in the past and how you’d like to spend it in the future. Your plans will change, your budget needs to change right along with them.

YNAB lets you do this painlessly.

YNAB MobileThe package consists of a desktop program, and free phone apps, for iOS and Android. The phone app is optional, but helpful. [I don’t have it, my phone is too old.] You can use it to record spending on the fly; it senses your location and fills in the spending screen as much as possible. It also shows you your account balances and how much you planned to spend this month.

“Roll With the Punches”

YNAB also has some of the best online support I’ve seen anywhere. [And I began doing help desk support in 1990, so I’ve seen many, many support methods.] This support covers not just using the software, but the concepts of budgeting and money management. [Roll with the punches is one of the 4 core rules, and it means you need to change your budget when your life changes.] The support comes in many forms:

  • documents at the YNAB website
  • videos on the website
  • a very active forum
  • a blog, with at least 3 posts per week
  • weekly YouTube videos
  • and live, interactive webinars on a variety of YNAB topics.

All of the above is free, plus there’s a workbook you can buy.

Listen to Your Auntie Hilda

I used to be a corporate financial analyst — sort of a super-accountant. I can build a complex spreadsheet in 15 minutes with my eyes closed and one hand behind my back. I’ve tried every type of money management system out there, from the 800 pound gorilla (that suffers from extreme bloat) to tiny startups (that went poof! in the night) to cloud-based apps (that always lost my link to my accounts). I even tried a “roll your own” spreadsheet. I know money management software.

YNAB is the second best money manager I’ve ever used. [The best is no more, Andrew Tobias’ Managing Your Money. If it linked to the internet I’d find a DOS emulator and a floppy drive and still use it.] It’s far and away the best software currently available.

YNAB has a 34 day trial period, long enough to give the app a full test and let you work along with the webinars (and maybe win a free copy — they give a copy away in each webinar.) The software is rarely discounted, but I have a coupon code that lowers the price.  I get a small amount when you use the code, but that’s not why I recommend it — it’s a good program that does what you need.

YNAB budget screen

Sample YNAB budget screen. I wish my budget looked this good!


The YNAB Coupon Code:

If you go to YNAB through this link, the discount will be automatically applied.


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