You Need a Budget- A budgeting software review (by my hubby)

In light of the recent budget and finances talk for the New Year, my husband and I thought that it would be the perfect time to post a review of the budgeting system that we’ve been using the past couple of months. We’re really excited to tell you about it and how well it’s working for us!

Seeing as he is the one that uses it, I asked my husband to write it for me! I’ll let him take it from here:

Finally, a simple, simpleton-friendly zero-based budgeting system!


Oh man, it saves me so much time. We just got the You Need A Budget
software about 2 months ago and I absolutely love it. In our house, although Steph and I discuss our budget, I’m the one who runs the mechanics, pays the bills, etc. Before we got YNAB Pro, I would spend 2-3 hours a weekend working on our budget, which included paying bills online, entering receipts into my home-brewed excel spreadsheet, reconciling those receipts to the statements from our bank account (when we weren’t completely cash based), as well as programming my custom excel spreadsheet to give me better insight and numbers for planning. If you just got exhausted reading that sentence (it makes me dizzy – but I have low blood sugar issues J ) you can imagine how I dreaded Saturday afternoons.

Don’t get me wrong. It was worth what we gained – freedom from debt, learning to be content, accountability (even if only to ourselves – The numbers never lied to me…and sometimes I really wished they would…even just a little white lie!), and a consistent picture of our financial reality – but I’m so glad those days of laboring are over. I now get the same benefit (plus some) in a small percentage of the time, which means…I get to spend my time playing with the kids and/or hanging out with Steph… I am so ok with that!

As you may be able to tell I am very passionate about YNAB. The funny thing is, I’m not the only one. The user forums are packed with people much more passionate than I am. But let me tell you why I’m passionate about it:

  1. It is an excellent guide for smart home money management. Based on principles, instead of features and tasks (like many other home budgeting software packages) YNAB truly helps people manage their money wisely. Steph and I finished paying off our car loan using the YNAB system, and because we could see the method to the madness we barely felt the pinch, even though we really tightened our belts for about 6 weeks.
  2. Its incredibly easy to use and simplifies what used to be very complex for me. Instead of spending 2-3 hours a week, I now spend 20-30 minutes, and only that much because I’m so meticulous and have a secret (not anymore) passion for numbers and “what-if” scenarios. (Yes I know – I’m a total geek. You wouldn’t be able to tell by my carefully crafted exterior – but I’m a geek. J)

Now, let me tell you some of the pros and cons from my perspective.

Con – There aren’t lots of gadgets and trinkets and other “tools” to spend your time on.

Pro – There aren’t lots of gadgets and trinkets and other “tools” to spend your time on.

If you want some really cool revolutionary whiz-bang features, YNAB is wrong product (and some people truly want those things). But if you want a system that helps you to manage your finances in an effective, but simple way, I’m convinced there is nothing currently on the market that beats YNAB. When I first started using it I kept looking for where all the features were (I work for a software company). But after not too long, and without a bunch of crazy-cool but otherwise worthless features to waste my time on, I realized how simply everything worked. You give every dollar a job, budget for upcoming big bills (like new tires, etc), learn to live on last month’s income (as opposed to living paycheck to paycheck) and don’t stress as you make up for mistakes you make.

Pro – YNAB comes packaged and formatted to get you started quickly, with budget categories already set-up.

Con – I prefer my own categories. It took me 15 minutes to set them up.

Big Pro – YNAB is based on the concept of a zero-based budget, which is described by Wikipedia as: “the practice of budgeting every dollar of income that you receive, and then adjusting some part of the budget downward for every other part that needs to be adjusted upward.” Or as Jesse says, you give every dollar a job.

Con – It becomes much more difficult to live in the la-la land of “spending-more-than-you-have”, a land I’ll sheepishly admit that I sometimes prefer (but only until the bills come in). Zero based budgeting forces a high level of accountability and yanks your head out of the sand quickly and consistently.

Now for the only real Cons I have:

Con #1 – YNAB is not yet available for Macs.This is truly a bummer for me, as our home computer is a Mac. However, Jesse (the guy started YNAB) informs me that they will have a MAC version out shortly, which I’m excited about.

Con #2 – If you don’t have a full month’s savings in your bank account yet (as Jesse strongly urges you to aspire to) it doesn’t function as elegantly as it will when you finally do have the savings. It’s not that the functions are not elegant, it’s just that it’s built around the idea of living off of last month’s income instead of the current month. That said, Steph and I are well on our way to living off of last month’s income, and YNAB has strongly motivated us to get there quickly.

Con #3 – YNAB doesn’t automatically download your transactions from your bank account, as some packages do. It will still import them, though. It just means you have to take an extra couple of steps to get the records in the system. But once they are there, they are super-simple to allocate!

Bottom line – even though I have a couple of small complaints, if I could give YNAB 6 stars out of 5 I would. It is a very powerful tool and has already helped us to manage our finances more effectively without all the stress (and the petty fights that accompany said stress). Simply said, It is helping Steph and I to be in control of our finances, instead of the other way around, and doesn’t require a Masters Degree in Advanced Calculus to run (What can I say – for a geek, I have a simple mind). That works for me!

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  1. Thank you for sharing. I have been looking at some budgeting programs, but I am not sure if I am ready to go past the old fashion pen, paper, calculator and envelope system!

  2. I love your blog! Do more reviews!
    Accounting and budgeting software is so very helpful, especially in our society of multiple credit cards, car payments, different banking accounts, mortgages, etc. We’ve been using Quicken for years and years now and are completely accustomed to it (as well as now we can compare spending with previous years – somehow categories fall off -entertainment, and new categories grow – homeschooling). I like their graphs and reports, and there’s even a place you can enter information on your dashboard (Mac). YNAB sounds better for its intentional planning, but I don’t think we can switch so late in the game!

  3. Thanks for reviewing this software. We have never settled on budget software that we liked. We might have to give this a try!

  4. Glad the review was helpful for everyone!

    Hester, nice to see you on here! Quicken sounds like a useful system for managing. I guess we just fell in love with this one because of the financial values that it promotes. Helps us stay focused. And I’m sure that one day we will have a little less recreation and a little more child and homeschool related costs! 🙂

  5. Thanks so much for posting this. My husband was in the same boat, spending hours at the dining room table trying to reconcile everything. I let him read this post and we very well may try out this software.

  6. You’re welcome, Rain. Hope it saves your husband some time! I hated seeing mine spend so much time slaving over the budget.

  7. Hi there,
    After listening to all the podacsts and reading some more about YNAB – I REALLY want to buy this!

    Did you ever try the basic version?

    I am trying my best to get out of debt and feel bad spending money on anything. Although I do know this will help 🙂

    Any thoughts…

  8. Stacy, we did also look at the basic version, and although we preferred the pro version, even the basic would be a great start!

    I completely agree about not wanting to spend money when you are in debt, however this is one of those few expenses that I would consider worth it. Having our budget so under control has helped us to be extremely careful with out money, and helped us get out of debt that much faster. The most important thing is to be on the same page as your husband in this, because if only one of you wants to really work with the system, it won’t work. But if he is for it, then I would say go for it!

    And I love your attitude on getting debt free! You can definitely do this!

  9. Dear Stephanie,

    You must be getting sick of me!!

    I just wanted to tell you that I called my husband and talked to him about it and said I wanted YNAB for my birthday and nothing else. He told me it was fine and to go ahead and order it.

    So, I did. And I even payed right from my bank acount instead of the credit card! Yay!

    I’m so excited.

    Have a great day.

    And thanks to you and your husband for letting us know about this product.


  10. I do the accounting for our family as Hubby is budget phobic and can’t deal with organized spreadsheets and stuff like that (read: not a geek like me). I just started working with YNAB and it looks interesting so far. I am reading Jesse’s introductory “book.” We’ll see how much time I save working out the bills and all (since I pay them and control all the money hahaha.)

  11. “The most important thing is to be on the same page as your husband in this, because if only one of you wants to really work with the system, it won’t work. But if he is for it, then I would say go for it! ”

    Stephanie, why do you say this? My hubby really wants nothing to do with anything to do with the money. He just basically lets me deal with it. Not sure how it won’t work as long as he doesn’t spend anything he’s not supposed to.

  12. Momo, I don’t think that husbands and wives necessarily need to have an interest in actually maintaining the budget software together. I think it’s fine for one or the other to take on that specific job.

    You mentioned that it works as long as he doesn’t spend what he shouldn’t, and that is part of what I mean by being on board. If both spouses aren’t committed to how the budget has been set up, the amounts, the limits within each category, the savings goals, the avoidance of debt, etc. then it’s easy for there to be a source of tension. Especially if the one who does the budgeting is working so hard at it, and the other spouse is not truly following along with what has been set, it could sow seeds of resentment.

    I guess I’m just trying to say that having unity in financial decisions and how a budget is set up and run is a big deal for overall marital unity. It’s okay for one spouse to do the lion’s share of the manual accounting work (ie. entering in the numbers and making it all balance), but it takes serious commitment and agreement on the part of both spouses to really make a budget work. Did that make my statement clearer?

    Thanks for the great question!

  13. Thanks for the informative article. YNAB is great budgeting software. I’ve tried it and used it for a while. But what I actually needed was to replace my pen and paper monthly budget, and wanted my software to be really, really, really simple to use. I came across another software called Innoslice (and few others that also are simple ones), but I chose Innoslice for my use. Hope it would fit the needs for many people who want to switch from pen and paper to software.

  14. Hi, Failed at manual spreadsheets. Does anyone have any current budgeting software that uses my bank account activity?
    I hate budgeting but feel I am spending more than making.

  15. Thanks again. My wife (computer expert) warned me from giving out our bank account id and password to anyone. She heard that a former employee was caught with customer id’s and passwords that she downloaded from their servers. One customer had funds stolen from their account!
    I appreciate your help so much though. I am still looking.

  16. After doing lots of research and reading your husbands review, now my husband and I are purchasing the “You Need A Budget” (YNAB) and are super excited to start saving more and managing our finances better. Thanks for your help and maybe I’ll come back and let you know how it’s going in a few months! Happy New Year 🙂

  17. My husband put me in charge of tracking household expenses and keeping our family budget, so you may say that I am the “designated” family accountant. He simply doesn’t have time to deal with this kind of stuff, but I don’t mind as long as he is busy making money 🙂 And I also use an online personal finance system that makes this entire process much easier and even enjoyable. It doesn’t matter how you’ve decided to budget your family expenses, it’s the result that counts 🙂 And if you are satisfied with the results, then stick to your preferred budgeting method, whether it be on paper, using Excel spreadsheets, or an online tool.

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