You Need A Budget (YNAB) System Review

I’ve decided there are three types of people out there:

1) One who needs a budget, otherwise they’ll spend whatever they can get their hands on, and then some,
2) One who does a pretty good job by themselves, stays out of debt, but could defintely benefit from a proper budget, or
3) One who is so anal about their money, that they don’t need a budget. They already scrutinize every purchase before they make it.

Let’s face it. Most of us are #1 or #2. So that’s why I agreed to review the YouNeedABudget (YNAB) Budgeting Spreadsheets.

For those that have already tried to using a spreadsheet like Excel to budget, think of this as whatever you tried, but on steroids. Everything that can be automated by the power of Excel, has been. Colors added. Borders fancy-fied. Still, there are some important things to note.

For one, you must have one month’s worth of expenses saved up before you start using YNAB. This is because you are only allowed to spend what you earned last month. This might be a problem for some people, so a seperate Primer spreadsheet designed to help you save that 1st month’s worth is also included.

Next, if you overspend in one budgeting category during one month, then it will automatically reduce the amount available to spend during the next month. That way, you have to ‘catch back up’ to your original budget. You can’t just blow past your limit and go “Oops, spent too much. Let’s try that again.” Basically, it keeps you honest.

After using the spreadsheets in January, I came to the conclusion that the relative simplicity of YNAB is both its greatest strength and weakness. How you view it depends on your perspective.

Simplicity As Strength
Although there is a bit of a learning curve, it’s easier to use than MS Money and Quicken because all you really are doing is typing in everything. You don’t need an internet connection. Get paid? Type it in. Spent $10 on lunch? Type it in. Spent $1,000 on mortgage? Type it in, and see how much you have in each budget area left to spend as you go.

Simplicity As Weakness
Remeber all that typing-it-in? Yeah, it turns out I’m too lazy to do that. By the end of the month I had fallen off the budgeting wagon, with a pile of receipts building up on my desk. I need online syncing! Or at least file importation.

YNAB 2.0 costs $20. Compare that to Quicken Basic and MS Money Standard at $30, and it looks kind of expensive. But if you compare it to the time you’d save by budgeting manually or making something similar yourself, it starts to seem reasonable. It also comes with a 60 day full-refund money-back guarantee.

Am I going to keep using YNAB? No, but I’m not choosing anything else over it either. I have yet to find the perfect budgeting solution for me. But perhaps some people will find it fits their situation. For more information, check out

Thanks goes to Jesse, the creator of YNAB, who offered me the chance to try this out for free and review it. In addition, if you use me as a referral and buy it, I’ll get a commission.


  1. LOL, I never thought about the fact that there are three different types of people related to budgeting. So true. Heh, I think I am more of toward #2, but #3 sometimes. Actually, I finally started my budget last July and it really helped me alot, especially when I realized I was spending too much on eating out.

  2. Yeah, I like to think of myself as in between #2 and #3, but I may just be fooling myself. But tracking things better couldn’t hurt.

  3. I am also between #2 and #3. I never really wrote down a budget because I always run the numbers through my head and keep them updated there. Since we started to scrutinize our spending 2 years ago we really turned ourselves around from a deep crimson red to almost green($18 short at the end of January)

  4. “Next, if you overspend in one budgeting category during one month, then it will automatically reduce the amount available to spend during the next month.”

    I don’t like this. If you overspent on one category, reduce the amount left on other more discretionary categories. So if you overspend too much on food, you’ll need to cut back on entertainment, etc. That way you will feel the effect of your overspending.

  5. LSD, in a sense you’re doing exactly that. If you overspend in food by $30 in January, then you’ll have $30 less to spend in February – but NOT necessarily from groceries. That $30 comes out of the total amount you have available to budget at the beginning of February.

    So, in a sense, you could just budget $30 less in your entertainment category for February and call it good.

    The part you quoted could have been a bit clearer if it said, “then it will automatically reduce the TOTAL amount available to spend during the next month.” Just thought I’d clarify 🙂

    Thanks for the review Jonathan!

  6. Thanks Jesse, you beat me to replying. You can do it however you want. And you can make up the overspent amount over more than one month.

  7. I’m a number 2, I think, sometimes sliding into a number 1. My spouse is definitely a number 3. He really just spends the same amount if we have a budget or not.

  8. Then he’s not respecting the budget Claire! Shame on him 🙂

  9. stackbacks says:

    I am definitely number 1.

  10. Anonymous says:

    A free alternative from Microsoft. link

  11. One thing I think that a lot of folks might not realize about the YNAB software is that even though you can’t use it for its intended use until you have a month’s worth of expenses (not a stack of bills, mind you, LOL) saved up… CAN use it to help you figure out what your expenses are in the first place.

  12. A note about your observations. You do not HAVE to have a months worthof money saved up to start using the budget. You use the budget UNTIL you have a months $ saved up THEN you see the $0.00 at the top. I believe this is how it works and I’m loving it.

  13. Reply to “Tom says”

    Tom, this will help you save that first month. I follow the Dave ramsey plan and it fits like a glove. It also allows me to use Mary Hunt’s “Freedom Acct” on the same Budget sheet. Another Plus….My wife gets it.

    YNAB PRO Get it….Live it….Love it!!!

    God Bless!!

  14. Budgetgirl says:

    Have you tried YNAB Pro? I know this was written a while back but your one “con” about YNAB was that you had to type everything in and now you don’t have to (now you just download bank activity and import to YNAB Pro) so I say give it another shot 🙂

  15. Personal Budget Planning says:

    In my honest opinion, impulse buying is the biggest problem with people trying to save money. Companies spend multiple millions of dollars trying to convince you why you need to buy their product. Once you can deal with fighting the urge to spend the money you have, you’re well on the way to financial success. YNAB sounds like a great program, I will definitely be trying it out in the near future.

  16. Great review:

    “Thanks goes to Jesse, the creator of YNAB, who offered me the chance to try this out for free and review it. In addition, if you use me as a referral and buy it, I’ll get a commission.”

    So you aren’t using it, but you have no problem getting a commission off of it.


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