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 YouNeedABudget.com
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.
By Jonathan Ping | Budgeting | 2/2/06, 1:00am