YNAB or “How in the holy hell did I manage my finances before this?!”

Let’s just get this out of the way first – YNAB, or “You Need A Budget,” is one of the single greatest things to ever happen to me.  Not only that, but I know many people who say the exact same thing, so I know it’s not only me!

I originally found YNAB during a Steam sale of all things, nestled in the often looked over Applications category.  I believe it was during the holidays years ago, and it was marked down from around $50-$60 to around $15.  It promised to help organize finances and start a new chapter in my life.  “Probably bullshit,” I thought, “but what the hay I’ll give it a whirl.”

That was about 4 years ago and I have used this program religiously since then.  It’s the type of thing like electricity, where you wonder what people did before they had it.  I can tell you in 100% honesty – I have absolutely no fucking idea what I did or how I managed to do anything in my financial life before YNAB.

YNAB is essentially budgeting software, money comes in and you assign it to different categories.  This helps you know when you do or don’t have money for something and encourages you to set goals and save up for anything you want to which obviously helps you from going into debt.  In my opinion however, the single greatest thing about it is that it Makes You Face The Truth About How You Are Spending Your Money.

The human mind has this amazing ability to trick itself when it wants to.  “Oh I can eat this piece of cake I have been really good in my diet lately” (You had one healthy meal previously).  “Oh I can skip the gym I’ve been working really hard lately” (You went twice).  And so on and so on.  This especially applies to money, it’s amazing how many people (past me included!) buy things willy nilly and just assume they will have enough in the bank to pay for the essentials of life.  Like anything else in life a little planning goes a long way.

Two perfect examples.

One – Since I started using YNAB, every month I put $200 in the “Christmas” category.  Not too difficult, but when the holidays come and I have to start buying presents what would have happened in the past?  I would have spent a paycheck or two, have no money for anything else (maybe including rent!) and have some minor freak outs.  Now the holidays come and I don’t sweat it because I have an entire “fund” to pull from and I know exactly how much I can spend without going over it!

Two – I decided to take a trip to Japan with some friends.  This trip was fairly pricey for obvious reasons and was planned out a year and a half in advance.  I simply calculated what I thought I would need, divided it by the amount of months until the trip and just put that amount into a “Japan” fund.  The time came, I had all of the money and no sweats were given.

So how does this all tie to minimalism?   Minimalism isn’t just about getting rid of stuff and all that, it’s about de-cluttering your life in every way.  It’s about getting rid of the junk so you can focus on what is important and spend your energy in worthwhile ways.  YNAB is an excellent tool for de-cluttering your financial life, simplifying it, and getting you on a path to help prioritize whatever life goals you want to accomplish.

Since I started using it, YNAB has gone from a single piece of software to a web based subscription app.  It is only around $5 a month, and what it helps you do is absolutely invaluable.  You can find them here and get a free trial.