YNAB, or You Need a Budget in its long form, is a budgeting system and software that helps struggling and even savvy budgeters to reign in control of their finances.
But somehow, there was a glitch in the system, or more likely, my brain; the software started to not make sense, I kept having to do a fresh start, and, perhaps less important but still a factor, my internship ended and I was essential broke and living on fumes. I couldn’t justify the $55 when it came time to renew1. I canceled and deleted my account.
New beginnings means a truly fresh start
I won’t get into it; you already know I am working now. So I decided to sign up for another free trial of YNAB. I did all the things I did formerly but this time, something clicked. The four rules began to make sense:
- Give every dollar a job
- Embrace your true expenses
- Roll with the punches
- Age your money
The rules I want to talk about are rules 1-3.
Give every dollar a job
So you get a paycheck. Assign each dollar a job or, just assigning those dollars to a particular category in YNAB, whatever it is that is important to you. For instance, I have a budget setup for dining out with my friends. I assign some dollars to that particular venture and I have money to do the thing without just spending on a whim or mood, whenever I feel like it.
Embrace your true expenses
I have to buy a new iMac. This is a true expense: a large, infrequent purchase I need to save for. I can create a goal in YNAB to fund this goal monthly and once I hit that goal, I can use the dollars I assigned to that category to buy my iMac.
Roll with the punches
So I dined out more than I allotted this month. That’s okay; instead of feeling guilt, I can take some left over dollars I assigned to one thing to cover the overspending in another. Now, this will essentially give me less in that category I pulled from to cover the overspending but this is a way to not feel like a failure when you spend too much in one category2.
I gave up too quickly before
I gave up almost after a month of using YNAB before. I admit, the mobile app is confusing if you are just coming to it fresh. I was also still micromanaging my money; if a charge didn’t show up immediately, I reconciled my account more times than I could count instead of letting my dollars do their jobs3.
I went back to Mint but that is just an aggregator of your expenses and not a true system for changing your behavior.
Back and better than before
I am pretty sure I am sticking with YNAB now for the foreseeable future. I’ve gotten better at Googling so if I don’t know a thing I can Google it or find it on their blog. I love this app and I have told as many people as I could about it.
Give it a shot. It’s free for 34 days and $83/yr after that. Nothing to lose.
I also couldn’t stomach looking at my savings drain with very little coming in. ↩
When you feel like you’ve blown your budget you are more likely to quit. That’s why this method is so damn good. ↩
Being below the poverty line for large swaths of my adult life means that I am constantly worried about not having enough. I haven’t done this in YNAB this time, at least not yet. I am hoping to not do it ever again. We’ll see. ↩