I don't typically promote products on my site but I really love You Need A Budget or YNAB. I've had a real hard time in the past with managing my money, I've accumulated a bunch of debt and pissed through a bunch of inheritance money. I've tried a number of programs like Microsoft Money, Quicken and Mint none of which worked very well for helping me manage a budget.
Part of the problem I think is that they treat a budget as this fixed thing where every month you budget $200 on eating out. Not only that but since they connect to my accounts, I'd rarely log in to see where I'm at with my budget. Additionally, it took a while for data to show up and if I manually entered transactions it was hit or miss whether or not the software would figure out that the imported transaction was the same as the manual transaction.
Being a software developer I had frequently thought about (and started a few times) building my own money tracker. However, I never got it far enough to work for me.
Early February I discovered YNAB and I was shocked at how great it is. For the first time in my life, I felt like I had a handle on where my money was going.
The first thing that's great about YNAB is that the software supports a sensible method to manage your budget.
YNAB Four Rules
- Give Every Dollar a Job
- Save For a Rainy Day
- Role With the Punches
- Live on Last Month's Income
You don't have to do all 4 to make a huge difference in your financial life. The two that I feel are most revolutionary are #1 and #3 which I've never seen implemented in another software package.
The way it works is every time you get money, you enter it into the system and specify what you want to spend that money on. You set main categories like Everyday Expenses, Insurance, Utilities and Pre-YNAB Debt (you set whatever makes sense) then you have individual budget categories under those like Fuel, Spending Money and even really specific ones like Amazon Web Services and Netflix. It's OK to have a category that only gets one transaction a month. You create the categories in whatever structure makes sense for you.
As you go through the month and spend money you categorize your transactions and it shows you how much you've spent in each category. If you're spending more than usual in a particular category you can "Roll With the Punches" and reallocate money in your budget to cover your expenses.
It works as a web app and a mobile app you can download on your smartphone.
To get you started YNAB has a bunch of videos and they do webinars as well if you're into that sort of thing.
If you buy through this affiliate link you'll get an extra month free when you sign up, and I'll get a free month as well.
If you hate affiliate links and don't want me to get the free month that's fine, you can go directly to http://www.youneedabudget.com/ and I don't get anything.
At the very least go through the free trial. I was blown away by it and I hope you are too. I really love this software.
Published July 16, 2013