Monday, January 5, 2015

The Best Money I've Ever Spent

Money is so freaking difficult to talk about in a real, meaningful way. It feels impolite and boastful and shameful and wrong somehow. Maybe it's just me? God knows J's been known to share arcane details of our financial lives with perfect strangers {side note-certain buttons on my laptop like the exclamation point aren't working. Ugh. I neeeeeed my exclamation points.}

Heading into last year our financial situation was looking up. We had good health insurance, which with J's condition was an absolute godsend. I had an awesome, full-time job. This blog was still bringing in a smidge of money, and I still freelanced from time to time.

We do have debt. Luckily, not consumer {i.e. credit card} debt. My student loans. We started making inroads there, and I will take openly in painful detail about that later. We just weren't getting as ahead as I wanted us to be.

I'd been using Mint for awhile, so I knew where we went wrong with our spending, but it felt like shutting the barn door after your favorite horse has bolted. I needed to get out in front of the issues instead of tracking them.

So one day I was browsing a fashion blog {maybe Corporette?}  and a commenter mentioned You Need A Budget. I went to the website, downloaded it, looked at it, and shut my computer in horror.

With Mint you hook up your bank accounts and it tells you how much money you have, where you are spending it, what you are spending it on. It requires no effort on your part. You just receive the data.

YNAB could NOT be more different. When I opened it, instead of a web app that would do the work for me I see what looks like an excel spreadsheet on steroids. I was expected to set up endless categories, manually input transactions...everything. Why, in the twenty-first century, would I want to do this?

I read some YNAB success stories and decided I should at least try it. I spent a rainy summer Saturday taking their online classes-which are awesome, by the way-and it started to make sense. I needed to manually run YNAB because I needed to take back control of our money.

This is how YNAB works. You budget the money you currently have. For example, I was paid on the thirtieth. I'll be paid again on the fifteenth. What do I need the money I currently have to do? Well, rent, our utilities, and my phone are all due before I'm paid again. We'd also like to eat and put gas in the car {although my next check really covers our discretionary spending}. So I open YNAB and assign my paycheck dollars to those categories until I have no more money. That's it.

There are apps for your android, iPhone, iPad, and Kindle. The apps let you record transactions. Did you fill up at the gas station? You enter the amount spent and the category {gas}, and what account you used {checking debit? Visa?}.

The gamechanger about YNAB is that you spend by category instead of bank balance. Out of money in your dining out category? Better start the water for pasta, because you are eating in tonight, sister. That is what's revolutionized our monetary situation. It lets us easily draw the line between "yes, we have the money but no, we don't have the money for that." It also helps plan for irregular expenses, map out your saving strategy, and point out spending black holes {again, for us, eating out}.

I've been spoiled by "free" apps and websites, so I really searched for a free or cheaper alternative. I tried making a spreadsheet. I tried some cheaper alternatives. In the end, I decided sometimes you have to spend money. It really was money well spent.

I'll stop now, but I really encourage anyone who'd like stronger control over their finances to check it out. It seems like it goes on sale pretty regularly; check out the YNAB forums {they are also full of awesome money talk}, someone always posts the sales. A Steam sale {that I posted on Facebook} offered YNAB at seventy-five percent off. I bought it during an AppSumo sale for around half off. However, if you want to buy it and there's not a current sale you can use my affiliate link which saves you six dollars and makes me six dollars.

other than the off-chance someone might use my affiliate code, I haven't been paid, perked, or anything else for this post



  1. This sounds really really interesting to me. I'll have to share this with Aaron and maybe take a stab at it. I feel like we could be doing SO much better. We tend to waste a lot of money on unnecessary things... eating out more than we should, etc. I feel like something like this could help us save even more and get further ahead. Lovely post, my friend!

  2. Oh I've never heard of YNAB! I'll have to take a look and see if it's something I could use in the financial literacy workshops I run. :)

    1. For people starting out it would really reinforce the important of planning and being proactive instead of reactive.

  3. First of all, ARE YOU BACK?!?!? You have no idea how much you have been missed. Once in a while I would see you pin something, but I didn’t want to stalk you and ask you if everything was all right. I’m still an internet stranger mostly. But I was so touched by the posts you did on me back in the day and how we connected on certain things. I hope you are back for good.

    Second of all, this is so weird because….at night when I am having trouble sleeping, I flip on my tablet and read the YNAB forums! I kid you not. Yet one more weird connection thing between us. I don’t have the software but I enjoy the forums because people offer real, practical advice in a non-judgmental way. I started at the beginning of the forums (back in 2009 or whenever) and I’m slowly working my way up to the present day. YNAB seems really revolutionary!


Thanks for commenting (it makes me feel less like I am just over here, talking to myself!). Comments are approved as quickly as possible. Seriously, I am trying to teach Emily to approve comments.


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