YNAB: A Budgeting App For Conscious Consumers

An app + software system that will revolutionize the way you think about money.

If you’ve been under the impression that your bank account balance is a rocky reality, prepare yourself for an epiphany: the numbers are even more meaningless if the dollars behind them are unemployed.

Even if you’ve got millions, those little zeros whispering sweet nothings to you ledger after ledger, might very well be aloft atop a bubble set to pop. Or maybe you’re one of the 42% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck. Both camps, and everyone in between, could use You Need a Budget. YNAB for short.

Here are three examples of why you need YNAB:

#1: You own a car.

Cars are passive aggressive creatures that will blow a head gasket just as you’re about to pay off your Amex bill. You car knows you are about to pay off said bill because it heard you talking about it on your Bluetooth. Because it feels neglected (jealous even) it will drive over a nail, position its’ windshield under a falling object, attract vandals – it will stop at nothing to get you to notice how important it is. 

#2: The way some people are about pornography, you are about shoes.

Try as you may to prove that very silly and vapid stereotype popularized by those who shall remain nameless wrong, you really have quite the fetish. The higher the heel and pricier the tag, the more titillating the titillation. Avoiding retail outlets might curb your habit for now, but you know a relapse is right around the corner…on 5th Avenue. 

#3: You live under a roof.

Renter, owner – it doesn’t matter. A bill to screw all other bills will arrive on your register thus mucking up your entire delicately orchestrated monthly money management schedule. You chose direct deposit, not a bad move per se. But you can’t do-si-do with the devil; the same holds true for ConEd. 

Discernible in the examples above are three financial poltergeists that spook the hell out of money goals month after month, and year after “just getting by” year.

1.) Lack of foresight (cars have nasty mean streaks, we know this).

2.) Playing peek-a-boo with a bank balance (just because Citibank.com says you can afford luxe foot attire does not mean you can).

3.) Lack of preparation (winter happens, as do heating bills).

YNAB is ostensibly designed to help users overcome the demons that haunt most human-prone people by using a methodology comprised of four rules.

Rule 1: Give Every Dollar a Job

YNAB says:

Instead of deciding to buy something based on the big (or small) pile of money in your checking account balance, you’ll decide based on a category balance.”

This translates to: no more guilty dining experiences because you know you’ve got a mint sitting in your Restaurant category. The same goes for guilty shoe purchases. By playing peek-a-boo with your personal Shoe Fetish balance, when it’s time to walk away you’ll know to walk away.

Rule 2: Save for a Rainy Day

“There are no normal months…if you don’t plan for the high-expense months, you’ll be in a world of hurt.”

This is how your car wants you to feel: hurt, like a scorned lover. Put $20, $30, $50 or more each month into your Transportation: Repairs & Maintenance category and when the time comes for him to pull a power trip, guess who’s holding the clutch?

Rule 3: Roll With the Punches

“When you overspend in a budget category for the month, the software automatically takes what you overspent and deducts it off the top of next month’s money.”

This is ostensibly meant to end whatever binge/purge thing you’ve got going by taking the guilt out of budgeting.

Rule 4: Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

This is best illustrated with a graphic:

Save enough money to go an entire month without touching your regular income. Then the next month, spend last month’s income while earning this month’s income.”

Net Worth

You might be thinking: this is all very Suzy Orman-ish and conceptually sound, but is YNAB applicable for those of us living outside of Oprah land?

In a word: absolutely. YNAB is definitely worth a go, especially since the company recently increased its free trial period from seven to thirty-four days. Putting rules one and two into effect alone will engender untold financial savvy and freedom. Rule four is an ideal that might take time to come to fruition, but doable. Rule three, in practice, can be downright confusing.

But the interface is friendly, and the rewards surprisingly immediate.

However, it is advisable to start clean at the beginning of the month even though the company anytime is as good a time as any. Far from inducing any aha! moments, a mid-pay-period start could result in untold confusion.

Available as an App for $4.99 and downloadable software for $60.

Word of warning: the app will not work if you don’t have the software, so you’re looking at an overall investment of $65.

K. Emily Bond

K. Emily Bond is the Shelter Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in southern Spain, reporting on trends in art, design, sustainable living and lifestyle.