Get control over your finances
As the program’s name suggests, You Need a Budget (or YNAB) is designed to bring order to disorganised personal finances. You Need a Budget is also the name of the accompanying philosophy with four rules: ‘give every dollar a job’, ‘save for a rainy day’, ‘roll with the punches’ and ‘stop living paycheck-to-paycheck’.
The wording of the rules belies YNAB’s American origins. While it can be set to work in pounds and with British-formatted dates, there are still Americanisms such as ‘checking account’ for ‘current account’.
The makers say the goal is to be “living on money that you earned last month thus removing yourself from the guesswork involved with living paycheck-to-paycheck. We refer to this as living on a full buffer.”
Installation was easy, and though it’s not particularly cheap at $60 (£38) it can be installed on all the computers in your home, for several users if required. It is set out clearly with well-labelled, colourful icons and labels and we found it simple to get to grips with. We reviewed the Windows edition, but it’s available for Macs as well.
The main idea is to enter income and regular transactions, but not future estimated spend. Instead, the program gives the user a working budget from which money can be spent. Each time you spend something it should be added to the budget in the appropriate category, and you can see how much is available at a glance.
Separate apps (£3 or $5 each) for Android and iPhone allow you to track your budget on the go. We tried the iPhone version which synchronised flawlessly with the budget on our desktop PC and worked just as well. Changing our mindset to work with YNAB certainly took some time to get used to.
Once we did though, we found it actually worked and helped us to budget more effectively. Of course, if you don’t find yourself short at the end of the month, YNAB will be less useful, but for those who are having budget trouble, it’s worth looking into: a free 34-day trial is available from the website.
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Conventional, but still easy-to-follow home bookkeeping software that works well
Easy to install and use; simple budgeting tools; mobile apps worked well
Takes some time to get used to
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