YNAB Second Impressions
Tiffany White
by Tiffany White
3 min read

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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.

The first time I tried it I was working and was all in. I skimmed the The Four Rules, read a few of their blog posts and BOOM I was feeling the money rolling in and saving it.

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:

  1. Give every dollar a job
  2. Embrace your true expenses
  3. Roll with the punches
  4. 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.

  1. I also couldn’t stomach looking at my savings drain with very little coming in. 

  2. When you feel like you’ve blown your budget you are more likely to quit. That’s why this method is so damn good. 

  3. 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. 

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