Monday 179: YNAB – You Really Do!

YNAB

Monday, 25 January 2016

A couple of months ago I tried out YNAB – “You Need A Budget” – software.  I liked it quite a bit, and so I paid to keep it past the trial version.  Today, as I write this, there are two versions.  The original was a computer-based one, which is now version 4.  Support for it will terminate with the end of 2016.  The latest version is cloud-based.  Of the two, I find the cloud-based one easiest to use.

Many bloggers like YNAB.  I understand why they do – it is simple, but not intuitive.  Watching videos makes it a whole lot easier, and it is worth your while to do so.  My only complaint about the computer-based one is I could never make very real sense of the credit card scenario, particularly how to do the interest / payment thing.  The online version is easier, although I may just decide to enter the “new” monthly credit card amounts manually with each statement and avoid addressing interest in the budget portion.  My willingness to learn new things is not predicated upon a willingness to spend hours learning…one, I’m lazy, two, I don’t want to spend the time.

Personal Accounts

Up front, I have no desire for any website, no matter their claims for security, to have access to my accounts.  My insurance has been hacked, Adobe has been hacked, and who knows who else has been hacked that has my information.  So, I just use totals, and label things as “CC #1” and so on.  I know what I am looking at, but no one crawls into my checking, savings, or brokerage accounts.  Both the computer-based and the web-based YNABs offer this ability to reconcile, just as does Quicken, but they also offer the ability to bypass this feature altogether.  I like this.  YNAB is much more user friendly – IMHO – than Quicken.

Costs vs Benefits

Version 4 of YNAB is a flat rate – $60.00 US.  The cloud-based version is $50.00 / year.  The benefit of the cloud version is that updates may be rolled out more quickly than the computer based versions.  The cost is more than I would ideally pay – I like free! – but I think it will be worthwhile for me.  The benefits are how easily I can update my accounts from any web-accessible device, such as my phone, tablet, laptop, or computer.  Good enough for me.  The computer-based version uses DropBox to keep things synced, and that, to me, is another pain I don’t want to deal with.

"Giant snowball Oxford" by Kamyar Adl - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Giant_snowball_Oxford.jpg#/media/File:Giant_snowball_Oxford.jpg

The Snowball

I have been futzing with my budget all this month of January.  I started out with ideas about how much to spend here and save there, but soon found that unless my money vanishes into the void of a savings account, I think less carefully about costs and spending.  So, with that, I changed the original $1000.00 / month savings to $2500.00 or more.

That was a hard decision because I wanted to keep the money in the checking account that is needed elsewhere.  I wanted a “pure” savings account.  If I see a lot of money in my checking account, I think I have a lot of money.  Maybe I do, but I prefer the “less is more” approach to most things – and that includes what is in my checking account.

So, into savings.  Many things need to be paid . . .

On March 1, there is the last tuition to be paid for grad school – $2560.00.  Property tax on April 10 is $3288.00.  The accountant will be about $450.00 in mid-February, and then we will see if we owe or get refunds, or both.  And, just so you know, I consider the accountant an absolute life-essential – like a good mechanic – because I used to get the short forms back from the IRS with corrections because the forms do not make any sense, no matter how many times I read them.

Moving Ahead

YNAB makes it easy to see what I have in my checking account.  I know my totals.  I see where my budget is “good” and “not so good.”  I see where more or less may be needed, and what new areas I may need to add.  The online version is rather more dynamic than the computer-based one.  For me, I think the visual knowledge YNAB provides will help keep us on track to meet our short and long term financial goals.

I recommend giving YNAB a shot –  it’s free to try for 34 days.  There is plenty of online support in both forums and in videos.

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