You Need A Budget (YNAB) Review: Is it Really Worth it?

Money
Updated: 27th Jun 2020
Written by Drew Cheneler
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June 21, 2020
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Does living paycheck-to-paycheck drain you physically and mentally, not to mention financially? Does it feel like you can’t ever get ahead? That is how the founders of You Need a Budget (YNAB) Jesse Mecham and his wife Julie felt. As they looked for a way out, they couldn’t find a program that would help them get on track. When they couldn’t find it, they created it and thus YNAB was born.

Check our You Need A Budget Review to see how it stacks up.

What is You Need A Budget (YNAB)?

You Need a Budget does one thing – it helps you budget your money. There aren’t any frills. You aren’t going to become the next Warren Buffet or suddenly understand how to invest in stocks using it. What you will learn, however, is how to manage your money and stop living paycheck-to-paycheck. You’ll learn how to make your money work for you and you may even have fun doing it.

Find out why YNAB earned a spot on our list of the Best Budgeting Apps. Are you ready?

How Does YNAB Work?

You Need a Budget has one principal – every dollar needs a job. What does that mean? Basically, every dollar you bring in each month needs an assignment. The assignment could be to pay your mortgage, pay for groceries, or to sit in your savings account, but every dollar gets a job. Essentially, you should have $0 at the end of the month in your checking account. If you do, it means you’re doing it right.

The premise is simple. The program is extremely user-friendly and is great for beginners. You create categories that pertain to your spending. You enter your income and spending (every penny) and hopefully you come out ahead. If not, you pick up the pieces and try again next month, no one’s watching.

YNAB Is One of the Best Budgeting Platforms to Help You Learn How to Budget

Source: Youneedabudget.com

Here’s what YNAB really wants to teach you though. They want you to live off of ‘old money.’ What is old money? It’s not the money you earned this month. It’s the money you earned in the past. YNAB wants you to get in the habit of forecasting how much you need and budgeting for it early on rather than waiting until the payday that matches up with the bill’s due date.

It’s a simple enough program and it sounds like everyone should be successful, but don’t expect bells and whistles right off the bat. Give yourself time to get acclimated. If you find that it takes you a few months to get to the point that you’re living on ‘old money’ then so be it. At least you’re trying, right?

You Need A Budget Review: Standout Features

You Need a Budget has a lot of amazing features, but the ones that stand out the most are:

  • Education – YNAB is not just a budgeting app. They teach you how to manage your money. In their words their method is the ‘secret sauce,’ and anyone can do it.
  • Easily track your finances from anywhere – You can have access to your YNAB account from any device with internet. This makes it easy to stay on track at any time or even share the responsibility of finances with a partner, keeping you both on the same page.
  • Incredible graphs and reports – If you love looking at visuals, you will love YNAB’s graphs and reports making it very easy to see where you stand at any given point.
  • Direct import – You can set up your transactions to automatically import into YNAB, giving you less work to do to get your budget going
  • Color-coded category indicators – Know at first glance if you overspent in a specific category (will show red) or if you underfunded a category (will show yellow)
  • Free 34-day trial – If you are not sure (or even if you are) if YNAB is right for you, they give you 34 days to try it out. That gives you an entire month to go through your typical financial cycle to see if YNAB offers what you need to change your ways.

YNAB Review: How Much Does It Cost?

You Need a Budget has one plan but offers two ways to pay:

  • Monthly – $11.99 per month and you can cancel at any time
  • Annual – $84/year, but you can cancel at any time (save $59 a year)

YNAB offers a no-risk 100% money-back guarantee. They give a 100% refund at any time, no questions asked.

Benefits (Pros):

  • You will learn to plan ahead – If living paycheck-to-paycheck is draining you mentally, you may enjoy learning to plan ahead. It’s not a quick fix. It may take a few months or even longer. There’s no right or wrong, but eventually, you’ll catch onto the YNAB way and enjoy your money rather than panic about it.
  • It is more than budgeting software – YNAB makes budgeting fun. You won’t feel like you’re sacrificing or like it’s a chore to manage your money. The app and the accompanying education is fun, lighthearted and actually makes you want to learn to manage your money better.
  • You will learn to prioritize – Remember when we said YNAB does not require sacrificing. It truly doesn’t. You just prioritize your money. That’s what their categories are for, so you can see where your money is going and what you may need to change if you’re coming up short.
  • You can set and track goals – If you have monetary goals, such as saving for a vacation, buying a house, or saving for a big birthday present, you can set the goal and the dollar amount and then track your progress with pretty graphs.
  • There is a lot of support – You can get support in many ways. Do you love to read? Check out their blogs and articles. Are you more of a visual learner? Watch their videos. Prefer auditory learning? They have podcasts. If that’s not enough, they also offer a forum where you can talk to other users too.

Downsides (Cons):

  • There’s no customer service number to call – If you prefer over-the-phone support, you’ll be disappointed. While YNAB has a ton of resources online, it doesn’t offer a customer service number. If you can’t find your answer in their provided documents, you can send a message and get a response typically within 24 hours.
  • It’s only a budgeting app – If you’re looking to keep track of your net worth including your investments all in one place, you’ll be disappointed. YNAB is only for your income and expenses, nothing else.

Alternatives to YNAB:

  • Mint – Mint is like YNAB except it’s free and you can track your investments too. YNAB excels in the education department, walking you through learning to budget your money better, whereas Mint does more of the tracking of most of your net worth.
  • Personal Capital – Personal Capital is a combination budgeting app and robo investor. The budgeting app is free and gives you a 360-degree view of your money. The robo investor component requires a $100,000 balance and has an annual fee. It’s better suited for those looking to invest and manage their budget in the same place. Make sure to read our Personal Capital Review.

Is YNAB Worth the Money?

As YNAB touts, their users save $600 in the first two months and $6,000 in their first year using YNAB. It can be worth the cost if you’re going to listen to their advice and stop living paycheck to paycheck. If you take the advice on how to get out of debt, learn to prioritize your funds and eventually get to the point that you live on ‘old money’ then the cost can be well worth it.

If you’re just looking for a budgeting app that tracks your finances, but you aren’t interested in changing your habits, it may not be worth the cost as you could get the same features in one of the many free budgeting apps available.

How Safe is YNAB?

YNAB takes safety and security very seriously. They use a special type of encryption so that even if their database were hacked, the perpetrator couldn’t get the password information. They also encrypt all data stored on their servers. If you do cancel your account, all information is removed from the YNAB database permanently.

It’s important to note, however, that YNAB does keep your information for 120 days after canceling a free trial account and 3 years after canceling a paid account.

Final Thoughts: You Need A Budget Review

YNAB is great for those that are willing to learn new ways of budgeting. If you’re going to stick to your old habits, it may not be worth it. If you want to learn new ways and learn to enjoy your money, though, YNAB has a lot to offer.

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Drew Cheneler
Drew Cheneler
Drew is a recognized Credit, Small Business, and Personal Finance Expert. He has been quoted in CNBC, Fox Business News Section, The Huffington Post, Business.com, Moneyunder30, US Chamber of Commerce, and more. He is known for breaking down complex personal finance topics into action-oriented advice, so you can make the most of your hard-earned money.