You Need A Budget!

February 18, 2016

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By Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by YNAB — Design Mom Readers who click the link and sign up get three months free!

In one of our earlier discussions about family finances, several of you mentioned being big fans of YNAB. If you haven’t heard of YNAB before, it’s an acronym for You Need A Budget. I was intrigued that it was getting so many recommendations from you guys, and I put YNAB on my list of services to try. Then, last month, they reached out and wanted to work with me, and I was like, “YES! I’ve been wanting to try your service. Let’s do this!” So I signed up and have been getting to know YNAB ever since.

I can’t pretend to be an expert, because I’m still pretty new to the whole thing, but I can tell you what I’ve learned so far, and what I love so far. Which is plenty!

First a basic overview: YNAB is a personal budgeting website with a coordinating app that can live on your phone. They aim to make the best budgeting software out there, but will tell you their philosophy is even more valuable — they teach “Four Rules” that absolutely change the way people think about their money. And, YNAB just launched an all-new web based version that makes it even easier to be the boss of your money. So if you’ve been thinking about signing up, now is the best time ever to give their service a try!

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Three things I especially love about YNAB:

The biggest plus to me is that they offer tons of complimentary training. There are guides available for anyone to look at and they offer free daily, online classes. Plus, the YNAB service is free for all students! I’ve tried lots of budgeting tips and formats and ideas over the years, and nothing else I’ve seen is like YNAB — and I think a big part of that is the thorough training. It feels like you have a coach or a cheerleader helping you along. I’ve found it really encouraging!

I started with their guide called Learn to Prioritize (you can find all their free guides under the Learn tab) and thought it was incredibly helpful. By the end of it, I was so psyched to link up my account details and get going.

Throughout all the training, YNAB teaches Four Rules to help you stop living paycheck to paycheck, get out of debt, and save more money faster. And they will tell you when they explain those rules that even if you just followed rule #1 it would totally change your life in a positive way. Rule One- Give every dollar a job. Rule Two- Embrace your true expenses. Rule Three- Roll with the punches. Rule Four- Age your money. Don’t know what those mean exactly? No stress. All four rules are covered and then some in the guides.

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Second, I LOVE how realistic and reassuring the service is. When I’ve made budgets in the past, I tend to start with “ideal” dollar amounts. I write down the numbers I think I should be spending on each category. But YNAB doesn’t care about an imagined ideal. They want you to be super honest about exactly how you are spending your money right now.

No judgement. No apologies. It’s your money and you can spend it however you like. YNAB simply helps train you to see the reality of how you’re spending your money. And then, if the spending doesn’t line up with your priorities, you can begin to make changes. But first, it’s all about making an accurate picture of how your money is spent right this minute.

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Third, I really love the focus on flexibility! With YNAB, budgeting isn’t about restriction and cutting back and doing without. I know those are big reasons for not wanting to create a budget in the first place. But with YNAB, it’s all about how to do more of the things that matter most to you, and helping you gain total control of your money.

With YNAB, if your plans change, or you change your mind, then your budget can and should change too. No guilt, just adjust and move on.

Ready to check it out? Use this link, because if you click the link and sign up for YNAB, you’ll get three months free!

Okay, now I’d love to hear from all you budget pros out there! Have you heard of YNAB? Have you tried it? What are your thoughts? And for those of you who hesitate (or run the other direction) when it comes to making a budget, how does YNAB sound to you? Have you given up on any sort of budget, or do you feel like you just haven’t found the right technique?

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rachael February 18, 2016 at 12:40 pm

I find it odd to pay for a budgeting system when there are so many free ones out there. I used to use Mint regularly but now I find the automation of it actually made me lazier when it came to money. I read this blog and she has a template you can download and adjust at the beginning of every month, and I really like imputing my numbers once a week. It’s really eye opening to me that my budget is in the thousands of dollars every month, like I think that can’t be possible that I’m spending that much money. But that includes everything from groceries to saving for my kids education and my own retirement. I like looking at my budget sheets and finding ways I can cut down on my spending. I really don’t like paying bills, it seems like a waste of money so I like to take on mini-challenges, like only filling my car with gas once a month, or staying under my budget for groceries.


2 Design Mom February 20, 2016 at 10:27 am

I think it’s worth trying different systems until you find something that works for you. And I love the idea of giving yourself mini-challenges!


3 yvette February 18, 2016 at 1:17 pm

My husband and I have been using YNAB for about a year now and we love it! It took some getting used to since we had to input every purchase we make, but it is worth it because it makes you so aware of how much you’re spending. My husband has always been good with money, but this has made us even more responsible and with YNAB’s help, we will completely pay off our student loans by summer (only 1 year after he graduated)! And we make smart decisions about big purchases. If we want something big, we create a category in YNAB, and deposit a certain amount every month until we can afford it. I always recommend it to friends when they ask me about our budget.


4 Design Mom February 20, 2016 at 10:25 am

That’s fantastic, Yvette! Student loans completely paid off in one year? Wow! Huge congrats.


5 kate February 18, 2016 at 1:29 pm

i hate having a budget. hate it. hate sitting down to manage it. the whole 9 yards. Ill have to check out this YNAB seems like it maybe worth it. Thanks for the tip.


6 Katie February 19, 2016 at 3:07 pm

A lot of people hate budgets. I used to too. My husband wrote this article about dictatorship budgets and making your budget work for you. You may enjoy reading it.


7 Design Mom February 20, 2016 at 10:24 am

You’re definitely not alone, Kate. For me, the trickiest part is setting aside time in my schedule to do it properly. But I’m finding the mobile app really helps with that.

If you give it try, I’d love to hear how it goes!


8 Emily @ Pretty Handsome February 18, 2016 at 2:19 pm

I’ve been using YNAB for about two years now. It has worked wonders on how I handle my money. I still haven’t quite mastered the working one month ahead concept, but I’m in a much better place then when I started two years ago. It really helps me save for future things like Christmas or license plate renewals. They’re now figured into my monthly budget, so when the time comes to pay those things they’re not a surprise and I already have the money set aside. I also took some of the training courses when I first signed up, and they were extremely helpful too.


9 Design Mom February 20, 2016 at 10:22 am

So cool that you have figured out how to anticipate the “surprise” expenses. That’s wonderful!


10 Nicole February 18, 2016 at 2:56 pm

My husband and I have been using YNAB for almost three years now and love it! We find it so easy to use (and mostly easy to maintain). I especially love how we can track, project, and separate savings without having to have the actual money in separate accounts. And all our money, from credit cards to investments, is all in one place, so you know exactly where you’re at.


11 Design Mom February 20, 2016 at 10:21 am

Hearing that you’re 3 years in and still loving it is fantastic! So encouraging! Thanks, Nicole.


12 Marieke February 19, 2016 at 5:14 am

I LOVE your hair by the way…


13 Design Mom February 20, 2016 at 10:21 am

Thank you, Marieke! It’s such an easy hairstyle.


14 L February 19, 2016 at 12:45 pm

I keep hearing about it! Thanks for your take. I’ve reviewed the entire “Learn” tab and will be giving it a try!


15 Design Mom February 20, 2016 at 10:20 am

I am the same! I went through all the guides before I jumped in. Hah!


16 kalanicut February 19, 2016 at 12:48 pm

I know I’m supposed to be thinking about budgeting but I can’t get past staring at your fantastic haircut. Such a great cut and color on you! Okay, now I’ll try to think about budgeting. ;)


17 Design Mom February 20, 2016 at 10:19 am

I am still loving this haircut! So much. Thank you for the kind words!


18 Jocelyn February 19, 2016 at 8:20 pm

We love YNAB! If you use Mint or just a spreadsheet, this free trial is perfect to see how it is different (and better!). It is a little work, but for me at least, there is so much more peace because I know exactly what we have available in each category.


19 Design Mom February 20, 2016 at 10:18 am

I agree. I’m still pretty new and I can already see it’s very different. I think it’s all about finding a system that works for you.


20 Katie February 19, 2016 at 8:37 pm

We started using YNAB about a year ago. Before that, I had done it all – managed spreadsheets, used free and paid apps – everything. I had thousands of dollars of consumer debt and kept getting surprised by things I couldn’t pay for (air handler breaks, medical bills, etc.). Since finding YNAB, and especially the new version, we have made HUGE progress. $5000 in debt gone in just a few months, and two months salary in our account so we have plenty of buffer for unexpected things, AND we are finally putting aside money for college and retirement. We don’t worry about money anymore, and we feel so proud. The four rules changed our lives, and the software really made that possible. I highly recommend it! Well worth just $5!


21 Design Mom February 20, 2016 at 10:17 am

I love reading about your story, Katie! Congrats on wiping out the debt so quickly. Paying off a debt is one of the best feelings in the world!


22 Katie February 20, 2016 at 5:58 pm

We’ve been using zero-based budgets for many years now, originally using a homemade excel budget spreadsheet. About 6 months ago we switched to YNAB and have been really pleased. I love being able to see everything from my phone, and it has made it much easier to both be on the same page when my husband and I can see each others spending so easily.
We’ve also found it very helpful to connect with like-minded families. We participate in the YNAB fans facebook page as well as another Moms and Dads Who Budget facebook page and it’s so nice to have a virtual community to connect with around budgeting questions, issues and wins.


23 Lindsay February 20, 2016 at 6:02 pm

I am a huge fan of the YNAB philosophy. We have used their software for four years. I am sadly not a fan of the new web-based system. I’m sticking with the old software until it dies a slow death.


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