In life, some people prefer chocolate while others like vanilla. And when it comes to personal finance, there will always be people who are comfortable managing their money using an Excel spreadsheet, while others prefer something a bit more sophisticated — well … as long as it’s easy to use. Thankfully, for those who fall in the latter camp, there’s You Need a Budget (YNAB).
With YNAB, budgeting isn’t a restriction. It’s about how to do more of the things that matter most and having total control of your money.
Another thing to consider is that, with YNAB, income and spending transactions can be entered manually, imported directly, or even scheduled. For the most up-to-date balances, you can even enter your spending with your mobile device!
YNAB also allows you to set goals — one of my favorites is the “Pay Off Balance By Date” goal, which is designed to help you focus on paying down a particular debt. And it has a flag feature that allows you to highlight certain types of transactions across multiple spending categories; this comes in handy if you want to track, say, tax deductible expenses.
Budgeting with YNAB is flexible. If your plans change, or you change your mind, your budget can change too. And if you want to move cash from your rainy day fund to your checking account, that’s no problem either — you can easily transfer cash from one account to another.
By the way, YNAB has been around for several years, but they recently launched an all-new web based version with intelligent-budgeting features that make it easier than ever to be an effective household CFO. You can check that out here.
YNAB has companion apps for Android and iOS too; loading the YNAB app on my iPhone was fast and easy. And while their software is terrific, their philosophy on budgeting and money management is just as important. YNAB encourages its users to focus on their “Four Rules,” which are designed to help change the way people think about their money so they can stop living paycheck to paycheck, get out of debt, and save cash faster.
In fact, YNAB is all about teaching you how to live differently, which is why their education and support services are a key product benefit; they offer free daily, online classes designed to help you get out of debt and live the life you really want to live. Best of all, YNAB is free for all students.
Here’s a brief overview of YNAB’s “Four Rules”:
Rule #1: Give Every Dollar a Job
This is the foundation of your budget. The key is to have a plan for every dollar you earn; YNAB helps you do this by providing the means to prioritize what’s important to you and then assigning every dollar you earn somewhere within your budget. By ensuring every dollar “has a job,” you end up with a roadmap for spending your money wisely.
Rule #2: Embrace Your True Expenses
Whether it’s unanticipated car repairs, medical bills or other pop-up expenses, life is littered with unexpected surprises that challenge us from time to time. This rule helps you prepare for those surprises by making the unpredictable, well …predictable. YNAB helps you keep your budget on track by encouraging you to set aside money for those unexpected expenses before they arrive — so they aren’t stressful later.
Rule #3: Roll with the Punches
The problem with traditional budgets is that they are usually too rigid; as a result, they discourage us from altering our original plans — even if circumstances call for them to change. Of course, this is one of the biggest reasons why many people eventually abandon their budgets altogether. YNAB promotes flexible budgeting by allowing you to clarify your priorities and set goals as they change over time. For example, YNAB automatically adjusts your budget from month to month to account for any occasional overspending that may occur from time to time. Best of all, it does it subtly — so you don’t have to worry about painful financial shocks.
Rule #4: Age Your Money
Nobody likes living paycheck to paycheck. But when the gap between when you earn money and when you spend it is too small, your dollars barely have a chance to get settled in your account before they’re out the door again. The solution is increasing your financial security by aging your money — that is,extending the time between receiving money and spending it. One of the best features of YNAB is its ability to show you just how old your money is. You’ll know your financial stability is increasing as you observe yourself spending last week’s money, then last month’s money — instead of this week’s paycheck.
All in all, I think this is a terrific product for those who are serious about managing their personal finances.
Photo Credit: You Need a Budget