There are a plethora of personal budget software programs to choose from. One of these is “You Need A Budget.” It is the most extensive, but easy-to-use program I have seen so far. The program doesn't automatically download transactions (like Quicken or Mint.com), but it is a very simple & itemized to enter your own transactions. I personally like YNAB (You Need A Budget), because you they offer a free 34-day trial period, no credit card needed, to see if it is the best program for you.
- Product Name: You Need A Budget (YNAB 4 Edition)
- Website: youneedabudget.com
- Cost: $5 month or $50 per year
- Recommendation: YES
The folks at You Need A Budget, base their program & budgeting philosophy on 4 basic rules:
- Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck
- Give Every Dollar A Job
- Save For A Rainy Day
- Roll With The Punches
The intent of YNAB and its four rules, is to track how you spend your money & how to spend it wiser. Once you begin spending it more wisely, you have money set aside for those unexpected costs. Thus putting you on the path towards Financial Freedom!
So the first question everybody asks, including me, is how much does YNAB cost? It is $5 per month or $50 each year for the program, which is definitely on the high-end price range for budgeting software. If you have no clue what you are spending your money on, the subscription can be worth it & you can recover the cost with better money management.
Its similar competition, Quicken Deluxe is about $53 one-time on Amazon as of this review. Just remember, you get what you pay for. I used to be a big fan of Quicken, but after using YNAB, I see Quicken as being clunky & having to spend time correcting transaction errors when I linked to my accounts.
As a sidenote, if you search for a YNAB purchase discount, you can get a 10% discount.
*You can also win a free copy through YNAB. I will how explain later.
The big thing in the 21st-century tech savvy world, is YNAB has an app for your smartphone or iPad to track your expenses on the go! The primary reason I use a budgeting program is to accurately track how much I spend each month.
In the above snapshot, you have three options (1) Budget [Pictured Below] (2) Reports (3) All Accounts [This shows all the transactions, from all listed accounts].
You need to enter each transaction manually (no direct downloads to your various bank accounts like Mint.com or Quicken). Although you can upload/import files in the .OFX or . QFX formats that might assist in keeping track of your transactions. You can also import .CSV format, but YNAB only recommends this for advanced users as the file may not import error-free.
My personal preference is manually adding each transaction. I feel it holds me more accountable & I already balance my checkbook by hand. I can do both tasks at the same time. I've also lost patience with other programs that did the direct download of transactions due to duplicates or incorrect data formats. By the time I finished editing, I could have entered them all in by hand.
The above picture is a snapshot of the monthly budget. You have the option to look at two months simultaneously. What I like, is all the different “line items” in the various budget categories. Who would have thought about setting aside some money for car repairs & car replacement each month? I have overlooked several categories in my own paper budgets, that I didn't realize until using YNAB. This program is more detailed than the “free” programs where your various electric & water bills are lumped into one category “Bills & Utilities.”
The most recent program version of You Need A Budget, is YNAB 5 (Think Quicken 2015 or Windows 10). Some of the other key features I like are:
- Split Transactions
- Schedule Transactions (Like Paychecks or Phone Bills)
- Various Reports
- Spending (The one I find most useful)
- Net Worth
- Net Income
If you need help on a certain feature, YNAB also has tutorial videos that you can access.
I will briefly cover the pros of YNAB again:
- 34-day free trial to see if you like YNAB
- Syncs with smartphone or iPad app so you can record your transactions immediately
- Easy To Use Program
- Very Detailed Budget Categories
- You already know you spend $400 each month on insurance, but how much money do you pay for health, life, automobile, etc.?
- Requires You To Import or Enter Each Transaction
- Increases Your Knowledge of the Job for Each Dollar (Rule #2)
- Visual reports to track your detailed spending & net income
- Training & Tutorial videos plus an online forum for help & day-to-day budgeting advice
- Programs has annual subscription fee, instead of just a one-time fee.
- A little steep if you are just wanting a basic, no-frills budgeting program
- Cannot directly download transactions from your bank accounts
- More hassle to import or enter each transaction manually
How Can I Get A Free Copy of YNAB?
As I promised earlier, I will explain how you can win a free copy of YNAB!
If you visit YNAB's site, which you should do to try at least try this program for 34-days, you can also sign up for lots of other resources.
There is an option to sign up for free, live video workshops on different topics like “Getting Started in YNAB” or “Creating A Budget.” At the end of each class, one lucky winner receives a free copy. Classes are normally capped at 40 people, so your odds are no worse than 1 in 40 at winning. This is better than the lottery & most other raffles you enter.
YNAB also offers a blog & weekly e-mail list as well. They are very active and personal in budgeting. In fact, their intent is to make budgeting enjoyable.
Is You Need A Budget For You?
Upfront, I must say that if you already have a system that works for you, keep on doing it. If you need a budgeting system or are looking for a replacement that holds YOU accountable, this is a good one to try. I think everybody should have a household budget and a way to track your expenses.
I used to big a big fan of Quicken. Now I definitely feel YNAB is a lot better product dollar for dollar. Plus the additional resources on their homepage make budgeting more personal and achievable.
If you are just looking for a one-stop resource that automatically downloads all your transactions plus your current account balances, then I would suggest another service such as Mint or Personal Capital.
For my needs, YNAB seems to fit the bill. So that is the program I plan to use going forward due to its ease of use and the ability to track your expenses in-depth without much effort.
What do you use to keep track of your household budget? Please drop a comment or question below.
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.