Once upon a time, I fell in love with budgeting. The end. (Or as my husband always replies, “No—the beginning.”)
Okay, so there’s more to that story.
I had never done a zero-based budget until a few years ago, even though I’d faithfully saved money since elementary school (further proof that I’ve always been a nerd).
Instead, I simply kept a running list of the money I’d earned and spent.
Because I lived at home with my parents, and didn’t have many recurring expenses, I had never given budgeting much thought.
Then, I met my husband. We fell in love and started talking about our future life together.
Before long, the subjects of money and living expenses came up. Benj and I wanted to have an accurate idea of what living on our own would cost.
So, being the nerds we are, we set up a mock budget together. Before we were even engaged. For fun. Because that’s what normal couples do, right? (Right guys? C’mon, anybody?)
We had fun estimating costs, running numbers, checking out apartment complexes, and talking to others about their expenses (i.e. groceries, insurance, etc.).
It was during this process that Benj introduced me to You Need a Budget (YNAB for short).
I had never heard of this budgeting software before, but I took to it like a fish to water. YNAB was easy to understand and to use on a daily basis.
I even used it a few months later to budget for our wedding! It kept me accountable and stopped me from ordering live swans and ice sculptures.
The wedding went off without a hitch (pun fully intended), and Benj and I have been budgeting together with YNAB ever since.
What’s the best way to budget?
There are so many ways you can budget— from spreadsheets to paper planners, and apps to online software, like YNAB!
If you’re just getting started with budgeting, the number of options can feel downright overwhelming. Even if you’re a seasoned budgeter, you might be nervous to try something new.
Budgeting programs function differently depending on the philosophies of the organizations that designed them.
I’d recommend finding a method that…
- aligns with your personal financial principles
- helps you reach your financial goals
- makes budgeting easy
- encourages you to budget regularly
- and removes stress from your life
Benj and I have found that YNAB ticks all of those boxes for us, so we are more than happy to invest in it!
Is YNAB Worth the Money?
For us, the short answer is absolutely yes, it’s worth every penny!
YNAB saves us far more money than it costs us.
Their website states, “On average, new budgeters save $600 in their first two months with YNAB. Oh, and more than $6,000 after one year.”
That’s a lot of savings! But I’m not surprised.
We’re personally able to save hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars every year simply because we can easily track every dollar that comes in and goes out.
Here are some of the other reasons why we love You Need a Budget.
1. YNAB holds us accountable
At any given time, a quick glance at our budget tells us everything we need to know.
The month isn’t even half over… Do we need to reign in our grocery spending?
Is there enough money in “Household Supplies” to pay for that purchase? If not, can we cover it with a different category?
YNAB’s simple design makes it very clear if there’s been any overspending. If the total at the end of a line item is green, then you’re good! If it’s red, you need to cover your overspending.
2. YNAB makes budgeting fun
Good budgeting software removes so much of the stress and frustration that surrounds budgeting. It does the hard work for you.
This allows you spend more time dreaming about your financial goals and helps you to have fun!
NOTE: If you’re looking for more ways to make budgeting fun, check out this post for 10 practical tips to change the way you budget!
3. YNAB helps us reach our savings goals
With YNAB, you can set savings goals right inside your budget! Consequently, you’re reminded of them on a regular basis and are more motivated to reach them.
Benj and I have set both smaller savings goals, like Christmas and family trips, and larger ones, like our emergency fund and our first home.
You can set a goal with a Target Balance amount, and then choose whether you want to fund it as a Target Category Balance, Target Category Balance by Date, or a Monthly Funding Goal.
For instance, let’s say you want to save $600 for Christmas. You’re starting in April, and you want to have the money by October, so that’s 6 months away.
You could set the Target Balance amount as $600, select Target Category Balance by Date, and enter the date as September, 2018. This would evenly divide $600 over 6 months, reminding you that you need to fund the Christmas category with $100 from April through September.
Until you fund the Christmas category with $100 for the month, the line item stays yellow. Once it’s funded, it will turn green!
Also, when you click on the category, you can see a chart with how many dollars you’ve budgeted for Christmas thus far, and how many dollars you have to go.
The goals feature is super helpful! We love using it.
4. YNAB makes reconciling a snap
The worst part of budgeting is trying to track down old transactions that you forgot to record. When you link your bank account to your budget, YNAB will automatically import those transactions for you.
Plus, the phone app makes it super easy to enter receipts, so you’re more likely to record them as you go.
5. YNAB shows us where we’re struggling
Benj and I can easily look back through the months and see which categories we’ve tended to overspend in.
Then, we can decide whether we’re being too loose with our spending, or just not funding that particular category with enough money.
The Reports feature is also incredibly helpful for this!
6. YNAB shows us the big picture
Speaking of the Reports feature, you have “all of your income, spending, assets and liabilities in reports that are easy to filter, manipulate and dissect”, as YNAB summarized on their site.
This is really helpful for seeing your progress, planning for the future, and lots more. Plus, it’s just plain interesting to play around and see how much you’ve spent and saved in different categories.
Is YNAB Right for You?
The best way to find out whether or not YNAB is right for you, is to try it out free for 34 days!
If you use my referral link, we’ll each get a free month! Plus, you can get a free month of YNAB for every friend you refer!
YNAB’s site says, “When you refer a friend or family member, and they subscribe with your referral link, you both get a free month of YNAB! We’ll keep track as friends sign-up and subscribe so that it’s easy to see your free months multiply!”
*BONUS TIP: If you’re a student, YNAB will give you 12 months for free in addition to your 34 day trial!
I’d love to know how you budget, as well as your favorite budgeting tip!