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Budgeting Using YNAB – Does it Really Help? Series Conclusion

Money on a budget

The jury is in on my series “Budgeting using YNAB – Does it Really Help?“.  I switched from Quicken to YNAB about 3 months ago, and have been making notes on what I liked, didn't like, and if I felt like it had helped.

The short answer is yes, switching to YNAB (You Need a Budget) was a good decision in my opinion.  Our partner Adam's budgeting course or Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University in conjuction with YNAB will go a long ways towards allowing you to hit your financial goals.

The main reason I switched was that the Quicken mobile interface left a bit to be desired, and I wanted some easy way for my wife and I to stay on track with our budget on the fly.  I was also concerned with the fact that Quicken has been sold to another company.  I had been budgeting for years using Quicken, so it wasn't a dramatic change for us, but I have found myself looking at the app and making spending decisions frequently based on those numbers.

This is in contrast to Quicken, where I would usually download a big batch of transactions and then hope it matched up with my budget after the money had already been spent.  YNAB is a much more in your face style of keeping track of your finances.  Yes, you can still download transactions from your bank, actually it does it automatically and you just have to hit import, but it really encourages you to put things in as they happen.

There are some downsides to YNAB, this is what I miss most from Quicken.

  1. Reports aren't nearly as nice in YNAB, although they get the core ones down ok.
  2. It is harder to track investments, you are essentially only tracking the account balance.
  3. It takes a little longer to import and match up transactions (if you miss entering them as they happen).
  4. It's tough to enter transactions in advance, need to wait until they happen to approve them.

The upsides outweight the downsides in my opinion.  Here are the key upsides.

  1.  YNAB is designed from the ground up to keep you on track with your budget.  It's in your face all the time if you are using it properly, works a lot like Dave Ramsey's envelope system.  It's harder to spend what you don't have with this app.
  2. It's extremely easy to enter transactions from your smartphone, even keeps track of location to automatically suggest which store you are in.
  3. Love the fact that it is instantly synchronized & available from everywhere.
  4. Makes it easy for spouses to see the budget and remaining funds and enter their own transactions.

Unfortunately YNAB will not magically make all your financial problems go away.  Since switching, we had a septic backup in the basement which is costing thousands to repair, and have racked up thousands more in medical bills.  Unexpected expenses will never go away, but I strongly believe that YNAB coupled with the planning tools provided in our partner Adam's budgeting course or Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University will go a long ways toward preparing you for them.

If you haven't tried YNAB yet, I strongly recommend taking part in their free trial and see for yourself how it works.  Good luck!

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Don Smith

Don Smith is a former bank director, general manager, and a business coach. Happily married with five children, he lives in Springfield, Illinois. To work with Don, please click here.

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