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You Need A Budget Review: YNAB Differentiating Features

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Initial Reactions: That Price Tag Scares Me

I recently finished my free 34-day trial with YNAB. One of YNAB’s differentiating features is standing out from other free trials. YNAB allows new users to try the software for a full month (not just 30 days) plus a little extra. Just one of the few things that set YNAB apart from other software and budgeting tools. 

Although I knew of the free trial, I was still skeptical about spending time using a budgeting software I might like and having to pay for it. For those who follow me or know my story, know that I am not a high income earlier. I have to be mindful of every dollar coming in and going out. 

A friend of mine from our local independence group swears by YNAB and has been using the software for years. He’s recommended it to me on numerous occasions, but I was always resistant. Why would I pay to save money? That made no logical sense to me. But I should’ve listened to him sooner. Some things just provide more value than their price tag shows.

The first week into the trial I knew I would be subscribing. The best part was that when I tried to subscribe, YNAB wouldn’t end my free trial early. My card wasn’t charged until the free trial period ended. I also got an extra month free for using my friend’s referral link. For a free month after the 34-day trial (with paid subscription) click here.

Other YNAB Differentiating Features

Aside from the free trial, YNAB has a few other different features. Enter the YNAB lingo. I won’t go into all the new vocabulary but I will hit a few key points that stand out to me. 

The 4 Rules

The 4 rules are a YNAB philosophy that I’ve used not only with money but with life. The best part is they are not YNAB exclusive. You can apply the 4 rules to your budget and life without being a YNAB user. 

  1. Give Every Dollar a Job. Simple enough. The common tenet of zero-based budgeting. Budget every dollar toward something. Savings? Count it. Investing? Count it. Debt? Count it. Know where your money is going. Whether it’s before you earn it, or when it hits your account. Know what you want it to do. 

2. Embrace your true expenses. I’m not a fan of the term true expenses. Most in the personal finance community refer to sinking funds. These funds are set aside for when life or emergencies happen. I prefer the term expected expenses. We expect the yearly expenses we owe. We expect health emergencies, car emergencies, home or other repairs, etc. Just because we don’t know when something will occur, doesn’t mean that we don’t KNOW it will occur.

3. Roll With the Punches. Life hits hard. Sometimes you have to duck. Sometimes you have to hit back. Roll with the bunches by fixing your overspending. Move money from your categories you don’t use as often or make some extra income to cover the overspending. Either way, I’ve never 100% stuck to my monthly budget by the cent. I shift money around all the time. 

4. Age Your Money. This is an older new concept to me. I never had words for it. Stop living paycheck to paycheck. We have all heard it. YNAB helps you focus on how to stop living paycheck to paycheck. Enter the age of money. 

In theory, aging your money means living off of last month’s income. YNAB gives an average of how many days go by between earning money and spending it. I’ve been very fortunate in the fact that my weekly pay, alongside saving up my yearly expenses, has helped me age my money close to 30 days in about a month. Rule 4 is my favorite rule of all.

Reports, Data, Videos, and Classes

YNAB offers a plethora of other free tools for your use. For all those interested in data reports, YNAB has reports on your spending habits, net worth, age of money, and more. I don’t want to spoil all the reporting features so try it out for yourself (or watch some tutorial videos on YouTube)

As I stated above, YNAB has excellent YouTube video tutorials and free classes. A few series from the channel even offer budgeting tips and ideas that can be applied to any software, not just YNAB. Although specific YNAB features are mentioned, there are still takeaways anyone can apply. 

User Friendly, Customizable, and Credit Card Aware

YNAB has so many features in the software and they have thought of almost everything. Have a suggestion for an update or feature? I have submitted a few features that I would like to see that would work a bit better in my budget system. 

The dreaded credit card issues. Most budgeting software doesn’t consider if you use a credit card and how to handle it. Aside from the one thing I wanted YNAB to do (show me how much money I could spend at any exact moment), the other great feature is the expertise in credit card budgeting. YNAB uses a category for credit card spending and transfers your other category spending to its separate credit card category and you’re good to go. Pay your credit card bill and have peace of mind. 

In addition, YNAB also sets itself apart with linking. Most budgeting software allows you to link your banks to your budget. YNAB goes a step further. Make a purchase and record it in YNAB. Oh no, your bank shows that transaction as well and the budget shows a duplicate transaction? YNAB links those transactions together and resolves the issue. Best of all, YNAB requires approval to link transactions. If YNAB gets it wrong, just don’t approve the link and edit the transaction. 

Assign What You Have, Don’t Forecast Unearned Income

Due to my anxiety, I sometimes struggle with being in the moment and patient. YNAB has helped me be more present in the moment and mindful of the future. When I assign dollars I have and only those dollars, I am aware of what needs to be paid first. This allows me to not stress about upcoming bills, knowing I have another check ready for those bills. 

I also order my bills per month by the due date. It allows me not only to see what is coming up, but what is due in the future. Bills that are due at the end of the month can be paid with future income. This allows me to pause and say, this bill can wait. It will be paid on the next paycheck. 

YNAB Differentiating Features: Final Thoughts

In review, YNAB handles complexities that most spreadsheets don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good complex spreadsheet. But I love the features YNAB has. Some prefer checking accounts with digital envelopes that automatically remove the spending from your envelope at every purchase. I came from a free checking account like that. I miss having it. But now that I have several accounts, I don’t mind YNAB being a “second step.” The mobile app is sleek and powerful. The web app is detailed but not overwhelming. YNAB has tutorials from experts who explain things in thorough detail. 

If I were to rate YNAB on a scale of 1-10? 9. There are some features missing that make weekly pay slightly inconvenient but have easy workarounds. I’ve also submitted these features to be added so we will see. Other than those features, I continue to be impressed when I make changes to my budget and see YNAB developers have thought of almost every unique situation for my budgeting system. 

Ready to try YNAB? Get your 34-day free trial here and get both of us a free month when you use my link.