YNAB – You Need a Budget Review

Posted by Will on July 15, 2016

YNAB Review

Budgeting is not always a welcome task, but it’s important if you don’t want to constantly wonder where your hard-earned cash has gone a few weeks after pay day. The first step towards creating and sticking to a budget is having a tool that will give you the entire picture of your savings versus your expenses. One such tool tells it like it is: You Need A Budget. It can’t get any clearer than that — you do need a budget and this handy service will hep you do just that.

You Need A Budget is a web-based software that is specifically designed for budgeting all your income sources and putting a priority to expense categories. It’s also designed to be user-friendly and easy to understand. You can sign up for a free 34-day trial, after which subscription will be $5 monthly or $50 annually.

To start budgeting, you need to log in to your Dashboard. You can use the Quick Start guide that appears on the left panel to create your first budget.

Adding accounts

Accounts can be a source of income, such as your local bank, a PayPal account or cash that you have on hand. Give your account a name and select a category. If you want to connect or import your actual bank statement, you may do so by clicking Next (leaving “Use your bank login to import transactions” checked). If you don’t want to do this, you need to uncheck the said box and enter the amount available in that account.

ynab_add account

You can also add credit cards like Visa and Mastercard. Credit card balances will appear in red numbers, as these are considered expenses, or cash outflows. In the budget interface, you can to enter an amount you want to pay for the said card and set a payment goal to ensure that it is paid off by a certain date or paid with a specific amount every month.

Accounts will appear to the left panel under My Accounts. Click on an account to view or edit balance and other details. You can also add upcoming transactions (e.g., scheduled payout) by clicking on Add Transactions on the upper-left portion of the window. You can make transactions recurring, give them a name and set a budget category. By default, all positive amounts added in My Accounts will be categorized as To Be Budgeted, but you can change this to any other existing category when editing a specific transaction.

The Budgeting interface

Once you have added accounts, it’s time to plan your spending. On the left panel, click on your budget name (the default is My Budget). This brings up the budget for the current month. The default budget in YNAB already has built-in budget categories under different category groups, which include Immediate Obligations, True Expenses (non-urgent, but needed within the month), Debt Payments and Quality of Life Goals (vacation, fitness, education). To add a category group, click the plus sign on the very top of the list. To add a new category within a group, mouse over the group name and click on the plus sign.

ynab_my budget

Enter the amount that needs to be paid for each category under the Budgeted column. The Available column will highlight the amount in green if funds are available and in red if funds are insufficient.  The Activity column is a commulative amount of how much you’ve spent for each category.

You can set a goal to pay off debts or credit cards. Click on the debt/credit card item on the list and click “Create Goal” under the Goals section to the right. You can choose two goals: Pay Off Balance by Date or Pay Specific Amount Each Month. When you enter an amount for a category with a goal, it can either be highlighted in green, which means there is sufficient amount to fund it, red which means you are overbudget, and yellow which means the amount is not enough to meet your goal.


Goals can also be set for other categories that are not debt or credit cards. Click on the category and select “Create a Goal.” Here you have three options: Target Category Balance, Target Category Balance by Date and Monthly Funding Goal. The target balances prevents you from overspending for that category, which is ideal for impulse items like clothing and gaming. The Monthly Funding Goal is great for saving for future activities like vacations and birthdays and other special occassions.

When you’ve budgeted down to zero, it means there is no more money left in your account to budget. The Available column also works as a “money-laundering” feature that transfers money to other categories on the list. You can move a specified amount originally allotted for one category to another, or put it back into the To Be Budgeted category, which basically puts the money back to your available balance.

Any amount left after budgeting will carry over to the next month. However, all expenses you’ve indicated for the previous month will also be carried over to the next month, but they’ll appear under the Available column. You would have to add the actual amount manually under the Budgeted column to create a new budget for the month. If you have incoming transactions, it will only show on the date when the transaction is set to occur. So if you’re budgeting for the month of July and have an incoming transcation on the 1st of August, you won’t be able to see it yet.

Budgeting for the future

After creating your first set of budget for the current month, you can now use Quick Budget for future budgets. For example, you can go to the next month (top header arrow icon to the right) and select a category. To the right, you’ll see several options under Quick Budget. Use Budgeted Last Month or Spent Last Month to enter the same amount spent for that category from the previous month.

ynab_quick budget

Average Spent and Average Budgeted is an average amount that will become available to you once you’ve had more than two months of budgeting. You can select multiple categories within a group to apply a Quick Budget option. This means you don’t have to manually enter the same amount for each category every time the month rolls over.

If you’ve set funding goals for some categories, but failed to meet them in the previous month, it will appear under Undefunded in the Quick Budget section of the next month’s overall summary (to the right). Clicking on Underfunded will fund the deficit into whatever category needs it and gets the budget back on track.

Going mobile

You can download a mobile version of You Need A Budget for iOS and Android. The interface is a bit different, but your saved budgets and accounts will still be easily accessible when you’re on the go. You can add transactions, view your running balance and check categories to make sure you don’t overspend. You can also sync information across devices as long as you have internet connectivity.


Budgeting doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and with YNAB, it’s as quick and easy as it can possibly be. This feature-rich software has everything you need to focus on spending priorities, paying off debt and saving for the future. It has a clean interface that’s easy to learn even to a beginner. If you want a money management software that provides you with the necessary information to make wise financial moves, then You Need A Budget is worth a closer look.




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