In light of the recent budget and finances talk for the New Year, my husband and I thought that it would be the perfect time to post a review of the budgeting system that we’ve been using the past couple of months. We’re really excited to tell you about it and how well it’s working for us!

Seeing as he is the one that uses it, I asked my husband to write it for me! I’ll let him take it from here:

Finally, a simple, simpleton-friendly zero-based budgeting system!

Oh man, it saves me so much time. We just got the You Need A Budget
software about 2 months ago and I absolutely love it. In our house, although Steph and I discuss our budget, I’m the one who runs the mechanics, pays the bills, etc. Before we got YNAB Pro, I would spend 2-3 hours a weekend working on our budget, which included paying bills online, entering receipts into my home-brewed excel spreadsheet, reconciling those receipts to the statements from our bank account (when we weren’t completely cash based), as well as programming my custom excel spreadsheet to give me better insight and numbers for planning. If you just got exhausted reading that sentence (it makes me dizzy – but I have low blood sugar issues
J ) you can imagine how I dreaded Saturday afternoons.

Don’t get me wrong. It was worth what we gained – freedom from debt, learning to be content, accountability (even if only to ourselves – The numbers never lied to me…and sometimes I really wished they would…even just a little white lie!), and a consistent picture of our financial reality – but I’m so glad those days of laboring are over. I now get the same benefit (plus some) in a small percentage of the time, which means…I get to spend my time playing with the kids and/or hanging out with Steph… I am so ok with that!

As you may be able to tell I am very passionate about YNAB. The funny thing is, I’m not the only one. The user forums are packed with people much more passionate than I am. But let me tell you why I’m passionate about it:

  1. It is an excellent guide for smart home money management. Based on principles, instead of features and tasks (like many other home budgeting software packages) YNAB truly helps people manage their money wisely. Steph and I finished paying off our car loan using the YNAB system, and because we could see the method to the madness we barely felt the pinch, even though we really tightened our belts for about 6 weeks.

  2. Its incredibly easy to use and simplifies what used to be very complex for me. Instead of spending 2-3 hours a week, I now spend 20-30 minutes, and only that much because I’m so meticulous and have a secret (not anymore) passion for numbers and “what-if” scenarios. (Yes I know – I’m a total geek. You wouldn’t be able to tell by my carefully crafted exterior – but I’m a geek. J)

Now, let me tell you some of the pros and cons from my perspective.

Con – There aren’t lots of gadgets and trinkets and other “tools” to spend your time on.

Pro – There aren’t lots of gadgets and trinkets and other “tools” to spend your time on.

If you want some really cool revolutionary whiz-bang features, YNAB is wrong product (and some people truly want those things). But if you want a system that helps you to manage your finances in an effective, but simple way, I’m convinced there is nothing currently on the market that beats YNAB. When I first started using it I kept looking for where all the features were (I work for a software company). But after not too long, and without a bunch of crazy-cool but otherwise worthless features to waste my time on, I realized how simply everything worked. You give every dollar a job, budget for upcoming big bills (like new tires, etc), learn to live on last month’s income (as opposed to living paycheck to paycheck) and don’t stress as you make up for mistakes you make.

Pro – YNAB comes packaged and formatted to get you started quickly, with budget categories already set-up.

Con – I prefer my own categories. It took me 15 minutes to set them up.

Big Pro – YNAB is based on the concept of a zero-based budget, which is described by Wikipedia as: “the practice of budgeting every dollar of income that you receive, and then adjusting some part of the budget downward for every other part that needs to be adjusted upward.” Or as Jesse says, you give every dollar a job.

Con – It becomes much more difficult to live in the la-la land of "spending-more-than-you-have", a land I’ll sheepishly admit that I sometimes prefer (but only until the bills come in). Zero based budgeting forces a high level of accountability and yanks your head out of the sand quickly and consistently.

Now for the only real Cons I have:

Con #1 – YNAB is not yet available for Macs.This is truly a bummer for me, as our home computer is a Mac. However, Jesse (the guy started YNAB) informs me that they will have a MAC version out shortly, which I’m excited about.

Con #2 – If you don’t have a full month’s savings in your bank account yet (as Jesse strongly urges you to aspire to) it doesn’t function as elegantly as it will when you finally do have the savings. It’s not that the functions are not elegant, it’s just that it’s built around the idea of living off of last month’s income instead of the current month. That said, Steph and I are well on our way to living off of last month’s income, and YNAB has strongly motivated us to get there quickly.

Con #3 – YNAB doesn’t automatically download your transactions from your bank account, as some packages do. It will still import them, though. It just means you have to take an extra couple of steps to get the records in the system. But once they are there, they are super-simple to allocate!

Bottom line – even though I have a couple of small complaints, if I could give YNAB 6 stars out of 5 I would. It is a very powerful tool and has already helped us to manage our finances more effectively without all the stress (and the petty fights that accompany said stress). Simply said, It is helping Steph and I to be in control of our finances, instead of the other way around, and doesn’t require a Masters Degree in Advanced Calculus to run (What can I say – for a geek, I have a simple mind). That works for me!