YNAB stands for “You Need a Budget.” This should be an obvious goal for most Latter-day Saints, as we’re encouraged by the Church to make sure we have, and stick to, a budget. The YNAB software, plus their free training, helps turn your budget into a system, rather than just a mere goal. Goals often end up being unrealized hopes, while systems help you get where you want to go.

YNAB was created by a BYU student, and now ranks as one of the most popular budgeting solutions among techie and lifehacker types. Since I’m not currently using it myself (Jill and I are working on implementing it), I thought I’d let you all hear from people who are actively using it. Here’s what some of my friends, who are active YNAB users, have to say:

Tyler Smith:

I’ve been stumped when asked why I prefer it over Mint. I haven’t used Mint for a long time. I feel YNAB requires just the right amount of attention and proactivity to keep me on top of my budget, without getting me bogged down in the drudgery of budgeting. I love the mobile app, which uses GPS location to smartly pre-fill my expense entries at places I frequent like gas stations and grocery stores. More than anything I love the YNAB philosophy and the support and resources available on their website. It gets me into the spirit of budgeting and transforms it from something dull into something empowering and enjoyable.

I love the encouragement YNAB gives toward looking forward. I love how they encourage you to save enough to be one month ahead instead of one month behind.

I agree about the necessity of manually making entries. It’s what keeps me looking at my budget. The android app (and I assume iOS, as well) makes this process painless, though.

Patrick Lynch:

I’m really new to it, so my feedback isn’t based on extensive usage… but…here’s what I have so far:

Pros:

  • Very easy to use. I haven’t run into any big issues in setup or usage.
  • A lot of resources available to get questions answered. If you have a specific circumstance that you feel would make this hard to use, check out the resources first before you write it off.

Cons:

  • The biggest for me is that this isn’t cloud based. I would love to take a few minutes at work when I need a mental break from work to input recent transactions, review the budge, etc, but I can’t. My work computer is locked down and doesn’t allow me to install anything on it without clearing through IT and I doubt they’d allow this program. I also have a desktop and a Chromebook at home, and would love to be able to review my budget on my Chromebook. My desktop is in my bedroom, so I don’t want to go in there when my wife is asleep, and risk waking her up just to review budget stuff. This, in my opinion will be the single reason we may not continue to use it. I have found that I could remote into my desktop, but this doesn’t present the program as well, and it’s a little cumbersome. I honestly wouldn’t do this unless there was an emergency.
  • While there is a YNAB app, it just allows you to enter transactions, not really do much more. Right now, it hasn’t been as useful because I don’t pull out my phone and log all expenditures. Add that my spouse also spends money, and she’s not using the app well either, we ultimately just regroup every couple of nights on our budget.
  • Due dates for items within budget. My wife really would like to see the due dates for items on the budget so she can know if it’s something we pay on my first check or 2nd check of the month, or from one of her 2 income sources. Our pay schedules can sometimes lend itself to  paying a bill later one month than another I get paid twice a month, my wife gets paid from one job every other Tuesday, and another job is every other Friday.

[added later:] After using it for 30 days, my eyes have been opened. This takes a change of mindset, not just changing your habits. I’m still trying to fine tune it, but it’s flexible enough to change with our life, not the other way around.

Justin Wagner:

The biggest difference I see between Quicken or Mint and YNAB is that YNAB is about being forward looking on your Budget, rather than just looking backward to see how your spending matches up against a fairly static budget.  To that end, YNAB makes it easy to change your budgeted amount (either on a PC/Mac or on an iPad) whenever your priorities change.  For me, the key to making the budget easy to follow and maintainable, has been to manually enter all of our expenses.  Many people will complain about this method, and say it is too much work.  However, I feel that being financially stable is worth that work, and I know that I’m more on top of my financial situation when I do it.  There is no software that can change human spending behaviors, they can only hope to inspire and motivate the change.  For me You Need A Budget (YNAB) has helped me have the tools needed to implement the budgeting philosophies I learned from Dave Ramsey

You Need A Budget (YNAB) doesn’t host your data on their site, so they cannot offer a completely web-based solution.  Given the fact that their pricing model is a one time fee, I can’t see them providing this cloud storage/computing without changing their price model.  I have found that their integration with Dropbox for syncing between devices is very rock solid and reliable.

You should peruse the blog called +Six Figures Under , the author there, Stephanie, does a really good job of explaining the trade-offs of YNAB.  In fact she just published an article about it.

The biggest change I would like to see, is the ability to modify budget amounts from the iPhone, which currently doesn’t exist.

Leeland Woodward:

I love it—when I was in college and decided that I needed to get a better handle on my finances, I was extremely close to giving up on the search for a program that had all the features I wanted (forward-looking budgeting based on current account balance, mobile integration so I could enter transactions on the fly as they occurred, etc.). Literally the day after I decided I’d never find a program that did everything I wanted, and decided I’d probably have to write the software myself, I found YNAB, and it’s feature set was exactly what I wanted out of a budgeting program.

Morgan Erickson:

YNAB works amazingly if and only if you use it. When I do, my money works for me…When I  don’t, I struggle. I highly recommend YNAB to anyone, especially those living paycheck to paycheck. It helps!

Alanna Francom:

I love YNAB for personal (family) finances. I have used it now for 2 years. It is the only program that I have stuck with using for this long. I have not gotten bored with it, and it keeps me motivated.

Daniel Fletcher:

One of the things I’ve enjoyed so much about You Need A Budget (YNAB) is how it’s more than a tool or piece of software code.  As the owner regularly points out, what the software accomplishes could probably all be done with pen and paper.  However, the company provides oodles of extracurricular (outside the “product”) information and encouragement, which I value as much or maybe more than the software itself.

While I realize all the “extracurricular” material is assuredly “budgeted” for in the company’s plans, I feel like the value proposition of a one-time $60 purchase for everything I get is outstanding.

One final thought:  I recently sat down and finally participated in a live webinar called “Getting Started with YNAB” (there are also recordings available).  I realized I was committing some fundamental errors in how I was budgeting and thinking about it.  Now I feel even more effective in my budgeting, truly prioritizing what matters most.

If you have yet to give YNAB a look, I strongly recommend it!

Do you use YNAB? If not, what’s stopping you?