YNAB: As A Philosophy 


That name is everything it should and shouldn’t be isn’t it? It’s direct, brazen, in your face, clear as day. But then again that’s exactly what you need with a budget right? You need to know exactly what you have, where it’s going and why. You also need to know what your goals are and how your actions are moving you in that direction. The beauty of You Need A Budget is it’s everything it has to be and nothing it shouldn’t.

The Rules

The four rules of YNAB ask you to plan for the immediate future, embrace things that you already know are going to happen, adjust to things that surprise you or pop up on their own, and grow your money so that it can continue to work for you. From the YNAB site itself:

Rule 1: Give Every Dollar A Job

Confidently spend your money. You’re the boss. The drill Sergeant. The maestro. When you earn money, you prioritize how you’ll use it, and then simply follow your plan.

Rule 2: Embrace Your True Expenses

Make your money boring. Did the car break down? No big deal. Are the holidays coming? You’ve got a Santa-sized pile of money stashed away. No credit card required. Imagine never (ever) dreading the arrival of a big bill.

Rule 3: Roll With The Punches

In boxing, you move your body in the same direction as your opponent’s punch to lessen the blow. Same rules apply to budgeting. Be flexible and address overspending as it happens.

Rule 4: Age Your Money

When you are spending money you earned last month, you will have nothing to stress about money-wise. The goal is to be spending money that is at least 30 days old. It might not happen overnight, but stick with it—it’s a game-changer!

Ultimately and at its core YNAB is about being who you really are embracing it and using that information as a tool to have a better life. YNAB takes the pain out of spending and adds a bit of the joy back.


This is actually my second go-round with YNAB. I was using the previous version of the software, YNAB 4, and I kind of stopped when they switch to the subscription model. The original subscription model was $5 per month every month forever. They have since updated it to $50 per year after a 34 day free trial and I can stomach that a lot better. Especially, since in my first month of using it my net worth increased by $500. I can’t ignore that that’s 10 years of YNAB payments with one month of use.

When I wasn’t using YNAB it was evident in my spending. It was constant, unguided, and out of control. I tried to keep some mental note of what I was spending when and where but it didn’t work. I splurged on my birthday ($3,000) and while I have ZERO regrets I know I could have done it better. Then the bill came due. I looked at all of my bills in one sitting and was able to clearly see where a lack of attentiveness and some spending sprees really put me in a whole. So, back to YNAB.

Data, data, data

Actively using YNAB is where the magic is. From Day One there is only the future. YNAB doesn’t ask what you did last week. YNAB doesn’t require anything except where are you today and what do you need to do to get to tomorrow. There’s no shame in how you got here– only a plan to get where you’re going next. How much money do you have today? Where does that money need to go before you get paid again? Is there anything left over? Where do you want that to go? Do you have any bills coming up? Put a couple dollars aside for that. It’s all about making decisions in a state of sobriety. When you get excited you can look at your whole budget and make wise decisions even in the heat of the moment.

For example, I paid cash for a car repair ($520!) and was extremely proud of myself. So, I looked at my budget and decided on taking myself to dinner. I got an appetizer and a dessert. Half way through my appetizer I realized I wanted a side, too. I checked my budget and saw that my Restaurant budget did not have enough in it to cover. No need to panic. The question is what do I want less than I want these fries right now? Eh, groceries. I moved money from groceries to cover it and had a wonderful meal. Sobriety guided excitement. I paid cash for dinner, too. No new debt. Making moves in the right direction and having a delicious time doing it.


As a philosophy, YNAB wants you to be the best version of yourself. Not the best version of an idealized version of yourself but of who you really are. Maybe you spend most of your time in restaurants or on fast food. There’s no shame there. You simply plan accordingly. Perhaps you make the conscious choice to spend less time at restaurants and more on groceries. Perhaps a concrete review of your spending reveals a candy habit you didn’t know you had. Or that you are spending a lot more on entertainment that you realized and maybe you don’t need that other subscription you forgot about. The beauty of YNAB is there is no judgement. Only decisions that you make for yourself and your family. Roll with the punches. Plan ahead. Get ahead of the curve and begin living on last month’s income. Create breathing room for yourself and your loved ones.

Have you tried YNAB? What about some other budgeting software? How did it go for you?