I recently wrote an article on Apartment Therapy on the Basics of a Household Budget that Works and decided to try YNAB, a budgeting software, after several commenters recommended it. I’ve used it for two months and I think it’s fantastic. It is in line with the principles I believe are essential to a good budgeting system, and it facilitates the 6 Habits of Successful Budgeters.
Here’s a breakdown of why I think it’s the best: Uses a zero-based plan. This essentially means that YNAB is set up in such a way so that you can easily assign every dollar of income to a particular purpose. You can read about zero-based budgets here and here (this second article is what got me into this method of budgeting in the first place).
Powerful built-in features. YNAB is so user-friendly that rather than merely being a tool for recording my budget actually helps me budget. It has built-in calculators right where you need them and it tells you the main things you need to know without having to search for the numbers (for instance, how much you have available to budget). There is also a reconciliation tool right within YNAB to help you match everything up to your bank statements. Spaces for leaving notes are also extremely handy so you can jot things down about reimbursements, upcoming payments, etc. right within what you use to keep track of your month-to-month finances.
Keeps everything real. What you see in YNAB is an accurate reflection of what is going on in your accounts. This helps you stay on budget because you can believe what you see. When YNAB shows you have $45 left for gas, you can feel secure that that’s actually the case. Similarly, when you see red, you know your cash is low. Being able to see the whole — accurate — picture at a glance is key for sticking to a budgeting system and motivates you to keep recording everything. Powerful resources and community. YNAB is not only an excellent budgeting tool, it’s also a community. There is so much information online about how people deal with certain scenarios, and YNAB itself has a wealth (hehe) of tutorials, information, and motivation.
Nice-to-use app. This may seem trite, but I’m much more apt to use an app if I like the interface! YNAB’s Android app (and I’m sure it’s iPhone equivalent) is totally user friendly and attractive, making it a breeze to record transactions shortly after they happen. And not having a pile of receipts or a long list on a bank statement to catch up on is always refreshing. I’m hooked. I’m SO glad to have found a tool that truly enables me to plan and stick to my budget according to my way of thinking. To try it out for yourself, download a free 34-day trial here. To buy the program is a one-time $60 fee (upgrades are additional). Seriously worth every penny. Oh, and if you’re a student, they give it to you free!!
To read more about budgeting, check out the other posts in this series: