Budgeting Must Be Convenient

Budgeting Must Be Convenient

By Patrick Kansa | Finances & Careers

You Need A (Convenient) Budget!Conventional wisdom holds that money is a contentious subject for couples that can lead to disagreements, especially if the spouses are not on the same page when it comes to goals and budgeting.

We’re fortunate in this day and age that there are all manner of tools that help you to keep your budget on track.  Gone are the complicated spreadsheets and manually balancing all of your various accounts against paper statements.

In the past (prior to, and for the first years of our marriage) I relied on Quicken, but that was really not built to be a budgeting tool.  Sure, it was handy for reconciling accounts against statements (thankfully, these were easy to download and import), but it wasn’t a vehicle conducive to actually allocating expenses against income.

ynab3_icon

A few years back I ran across a piece of software called You Need a Budget (aka YNAB) that hit all the right criteria, especially when it came to allocating your income to specific segments of the budget.

You can think of it as a sort of envelope system, just done electronically (and you can read EM’s analysis of YNAB right here).

Envelope Budgeting

So, we made the shift to this new tool.  The nice thing about the licensing is once you’ve bought the application, you can install it on multiple computers, so copies went right on to both of our computers.  It took some setup to synchronize the files across the home network, but we got it up and running.

The thing was, it just wasn’t convenient to use.  Yes, I could set aside some time (generally an hour chunk or so every week) to work on it, but my wife had a much more hectic schedule, especially once our second child arrived.  Booting up a computer, getting things synced, and then loading in all the receipts just took too much time.

That is, until YNAB 4 (and a companion app for our iPods) came along.  Along with all of the performance and visual improvements you’d expect from a major version upgrade came a change that was just one bullet-point, but made a world of difference – automatic syncing via DropBox.

easy button

Setup for this within YNAB was rather simple – just tell it that you want to store the budget files in your DropBox folder (rather than an “offline” location), and it syncs just like any other file.  With this, I did setup a share on it to my wife, so she could access it easily from her DropBox account, but that was the only change outside of YNAB itself.

At first, I was nervous about having this single repository of our finances sitting out in the cloud.  Ultimately, though, the data within DropBox is encrypted, and YNAB itself isn’t storing any account logins or passwords.  To me, the risks seemed low, especially when weighed against the benefit.

dropbox

What is that benefit?  To sum it up, it’s the automatic syncing of any updates.  What this means is that, as soon as I update something (say, entering a lunch expense against a credit card) and save it, it’s synced automatically, and within a minute or so, shows up on the other devices (be it a computer or iPod).

The other great thing about the app version is that it gracefully handles being offline.  This means you can enter your expenses, and once you’re back near a wifi signal, it can sync the changes up to the cloud.

In other words, you can enter the spend as soon as you’re incurring it, rather than having to pile them up to enter at the end of the week.  This also means you get a very handy view into where you are on the budget, to help stay within the limits that you’ve set.

While we’re still tightening up our discipline with the budget, this latest version of YNAB is helping us out quite a bit.  It’s just plain simple to use, and gives the both of us almost instant transparency into what our budgeting goals are, in terms of allocation and spend.

If you need a free DropBox account, you can sign up here (using that link gets you an extra 500 MB of storage).

If you’re looking to pick up YNAB, using this link will get you the best price plus get EM a small commission for referring you.

About the Author

I'm just a guy, married to a great woman, learning as I go how to best lead our little family of four. I'm also a bit of a watch guy, as you can see by my articles over on WristWatchReview and aBlogtoWatch.

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(7) comments

Yes, yes, yes. If it is not convenient, you won’t keep it up. It needs to be relatively simple as well. We switched a couple of years ago from Quicken for the same reasons you did. I just adore YNAB and have recommended it to the folks in my FPU classes. I have not upgraded to #4, but I didn’t realize it synced via Dropbox. Oooooh, I may just have to upgrade now. Thanks for the information!

Reply

    Hi Kim,

    I’m not surprised we share some love for YNAB. 🙂

    We upgraded to version 4, which syncs everything seamlessly through Dropbox and smart phone apps. It’s awesome!

    Best,
    Dustin

    Reply
      Kim Hall

      Yes, indeed! Although in the interest of disclosure, I had a tough time setting it up. I came close to tossing it, but then, the lights came on. Now you’d have trouble prying it out of my hands. 🙂
      Thanks for the additional thumbs up for YNAB 4!

      Reply

We still do the good old envelope system manually =p hehe.. This one sounds good =D

Reply

    Hi Viviene,

    We did envelopes/manual receipt tracking for years. When we switched over to YNAB several years back, it was a real Godsend. I encourage you to give it a try!

    Best,
    Dustin

    Reply
David

Yes. Yes. Yes. The benefit of entering spending right away is huge. It offers the opportunity to do a quick mental review of your decisions. Did you spend too much? Or did you stay within your limits?

If several days or even weeks go by, it’s a lot harder to effectively make adjustments. I try to enter my grocery purchases in the car before I leave the parking lot. Helps me keep my head in the game.

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Warning: Debt freedom can make you complacent! | Engaged Marriage

[…] you will avoid it, so you have to find a system that works for you. Dustin shares about YNAB here, a terrific piece of budgeting software. It’s what my hubbie and I use and enthusiastically […]

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