You Need A Budget: Money Management for a Happy Marriage

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

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You Need A Budget (YNAB) is the best budgeting software I have ever used.  In fact, YNAB is so awesome that my wife even likes it!  But more on that later…

If you are a regular reader here at Engaged Marriage, you may recall several recent posts about our search for budgeting software that met our needs as a busy family.

After many years of faithful budgeting that allowed us to pay off $54,500 in debt, we recently started to slip up in our spending and planning.

In a quest to find the right software to get us back on track, I reviewed 5 of the top budgeting tools on the market and wrote my opinions of them.  Each had their strengths, and many offered a way to track spending and plan for the future with far less time and energy than I had been spending with my homemade spreadsheets and manual receipt tracking.

The Best of the Best

After I did that initial review, I basically narrowed things down to just two choices that seemed like the best fit: Mint and You Need a Budget.  Well, after trying them both out and putting them to the test, I’m confident that we’ve found the right budgeting tool for our marriage.

While I enjoyed Mint’s online access and the overall picture it provided (including retirement accounts and other investments), I felt that it came up short in the primary area that we’re concerned with, which is budgeting.  Mint doesn’t “look ahead” and it makes the process of planning for the future quite cumbersome.  It’s not bad for a free service, but it simply didn’t stack up to YNAB.

You Need A Budget does all of the things you’d expect a premium budgeting software to do:

  • It allows you to import your banking transactions as you wish (with no need to give up account passwords like you do with Mint), so you never have to worry about saving receipts for every nickel you spend day-to-day.  Plus, with slick iPhone and Android apps (plus Kindle Fire), keeping track of your budget on the go is super easy.
  • It makes it easy to categorize your purchases for simple budgeting on the “envelope system” (without the need to carry around envelopes…unless you want to).
  • It lets you know when you are overspending on a certain category and lets you balance your budget on the go.
  • It allows you to plan ahead to save for large purchases and  irregular expenses.
  • And it gives you the insight you need to make wise decisions about your family finances.

Sounds great, right?  Well, what makes You Need A Budget superior is all that is goes well beyond the basics of normal spreadsheet budgeting!

The Four Rules for Financial Success…

OK, this is where the nerd in me really gets excited. 🙂

If you don’t already know that having a budget is the first step to financial success, well now you do.  Seriously, you really do need a budget.

So whether you use a great software like YNAB or you just write everything down on a piece of paper and track your spending manually, please know that you must have a budget if you want to achieve any level of financial freedom.

The budget is a great tool for identifying how you are spending your money.  However, the real power in budgeting is the ability to plan ahead and change your behavior to achieve financial goals.

I want you to read the following four principles for sound money management and think about how important they are for success in personal finance…and marriage.

1. Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

2. Give Every Dollar a Job

3. Save for a Rainy Day

4. Roll with the Punches

Pretty killer financial principles, right?  Well, the best part is that they…

….Are Built Right In!

Do you want to know why I’m so excited about You Need A Budget?  It’s because these Four Rules are built right into the software!

I encourage you to head over and read more on the You Need A Budget website (save $6 when you use that link!), but here’s a quick overview of  why these “rules” matter and how powerful they really are:

1. As you start using YNAB, the software will literally guide you to help you get ahead by a month (so you use May’s paychecks to pay Junes expenses, for example).

This will give you breathing room and allow you to stop wasting time by timing paychecks with bills.  Plus, if you’re on a variable income, your budgeting “problem” will be eliminated.

2. It helps you put every dollar to work with a specific purpose and plan.  Your financial awareness will increase tremendously, and you’ll find contentment as your spending aligns itself with your core values.

Communication between spouses about money can be restored in the process.

3. The software lets you anticipate and save for larger, irregular expenses so you’ll be ready.  This helps you eliminate the crazy ups and downs in your spending, and it lets you see a true picture of your discretionary income.

You can enjoy opening the mail again when the money is there waiting to pay the bills as they arrive.

4. We all mess up, and we all overspend from time-to-time.  The key is to stick with your plan over the long-term and maintain consistency.

YNAB helps keep you moving when you fail so you don’t quit, and it lets you start each month with a clean slate, which is a huge psychological boost.

Again, when you visit the YNAB site, you’ll find great videos that go over each of these points in detail.  I think you get the idea though, and I hope you can see why this makes me so excited.  OK, so no one probably understands that, but trust me when I say that I think this built-in methodology is sweet! 🙂

Purchase, Installation and Use

The You Need A Budget website is the place to go to read, listen to or watch tutorials that will show you everything you want to know about the software.  However, I want to hit the high points here for your convenience.

  • Purchase – YNAB is sold for a one-time fee.  Many of the other premium software packages require monthly fees, but if you are sticking with it for the long-term (as you should), then a one-time fee is certainly the way to go.  Plus, I’m convinced that one month of living “on a plan” will more than pay for the price of the software.

Also, you can try YNAB free for 34 days with no obligation (they don’t even take any payment information up-front), which is a great way to see if it fits your needs.  Plus, they offer incredible (free) support.

BONUS – I’m an official partner of YNAB, so when you use this link, you’ll save $6 on the cost of the software!

  • Installation – I found the installation to be a snap.  And the software did some cool things like automatically set up defaults so when I go to my bank’s website to download transactions, they pop right into YNAB in the right format.
  • Use – You Need A Budget is primarily desktop-based software, which originally concerned me because I didn’t know how I’d access it from both my home and work computers.  However, they’ve thought of that, too!

When you buy a YNAB license, it allows you to install the software on as many computers as you’d like, and with their CloudSync technology, you can hook it up to a free Dropbox account and keep your budget synced in real time on all of your devices!

So, I have YNAB on both of my computers, and I just keep our budget file on a flash drive so I can open, change and save it wherever I’m at.  I also picked up their iPhone app (also available for Android and Kindle Fire) so I can budget on the go.

So Awesome Even My Wife Likes It!

By now, you surely know that I’m a bit of a geek.

After all, I created our original budget spreadsheets and went through years of pain to track our spending manually while trying to plan ahead for our family finances.  And I didn’t mind it until I got so darn busy that I couldn’t keep up using those methods.

Well, you may not know that my wife is what Dave Ramsey would call a “free spirit” at heart.  She wants our family to be comfortable and she’s not an irresponsible person.  However, to say that she enjoys budgeting or has any desire at all to track spending on a spreadsheet would be a major stretch!

After I got YNAB installed and had a chance to play around with it for a while, I decided I just had to share it with Bethany even though I figured she’d think I was asking her to watch paint dry.

Well, I have to say that she actually complimented the look, feel and functionality of the software.  And she said it was something that even she could stand to use! (yes, that is a ringing endorsement of a financial product coming from her 🙂 )

If you aren’t the “budgeting type,” I would encourage you to give YNAB a try.  I really think anyone can intuitively “get” the budgeting process and, more importantly, achieve success in their financial planning using this awesome software.

The YNAB website and the software itself are packed with excellent resources to teach you about not only the software but financial planning as a whole.  They even have free forums, a blog, live online classes and a free “YNAB University” where you can gain a wealth of great information all at your own pace.

The Bottom Line

I could seriously write about this software and the topic of achieving financial freedom all day.  However, the YNAB website has all of the details you’d ever want to know about their product, and I have plenty of time to write posts about money.  Here’s the bottom line in my opinion:

  • You (really do) Need A Budget.
  • You also need a solid financial plan and goals for the future.
  • If you want to use software to aid you in the process, YNAB is the best product I have found to get the job done effectively.
  • Whether you use YNAB or not, please start addressing your finances today.  Your marriage will benefit more than you can imagine.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments to this post.  Please post a financial goal that you are currently working on with your spouse or fiance.

Here’s wishing you success with your money and your marriage!


About the Author

Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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