The new YNAB

I have been using You Need A Budget (YNAB, to sort out personal budgeting.  It is amazing and I would highly recommend it.  I've even written a post about it before: 

What makes YNAB different is that it is much more than software.  It provides a full budgeting framework that helps you make decisions.  Every time you're thinking about whether to buy something you check your budget and decide if that's how you want to spend your money.  This is incredibly empowering - the budget swaps from nagging you about what you did wrong to a tool that helps you say yes.

YNAB just released a new version of their software.  A major update to software you use everyday is always a bit scary.  In this case YNAB has made a fundamental change from a desktop app to web-based SAAS.  This also means the ongoing cost goes from nothing to $5/month.

A lot of people have criticised this change.  Fundamentally it didn't bother me - I know I get a significant day to day benefit from YNAB so the idea of paying each month didn't particularly bother me.  Also I get regular advice in forums and software updates from YNAB so I'm pretty comfortable with the idea that I have an ongoing relationship and need to pay for it.

Unfortunately I think the new version is a) not quite ready and b) overpriced outside the US.  I'll address both points seperately.

Not ready

YNAB tracks how much money you have in each virtual envelope.  Overspend in a category (e.g. treats) and you have to put a virtual IOU in that category.  You can then either cover that IOU using next month's spending or leave it there to remind you that you've overspent.  

Generally you want to cover the IOU for categories where spending is compulsory (e.g. rates, food) and leave it there if spending is discretionary (to discourage you from going over again).  Unfortunately the ability to keep track where you've overspent didn't make the cut of the first release.  

YNAB Classic was a desktop application which relied on Dropbox for syncing.  This worked well.  Dropbox+YNAB is extremely reliable and the combination means your budget is always available, even without an internet connection.  The new YNAB is planning to add offline mode but for now only works with an internet connection.  


Five bucks a month doesn't sound like a lot.  But two points here: Firstly it was competing with the cost of a software upgrade every three years (approx $20/year)  and so it's a 200% increase in price.  Secondly the big feature which justified this increase is the ability to automatically download your bank transactions.

This is a pretty good new feature.  With it you know that all your transactions are up to date and so any budgeting decisions you make are accurate.  Unfortunately a) the UI assumes that YNAB is up to date and so is harder to use with people that cannot integrate their bank and b) YNAB partnered with a company that only integrates with US banks.  That means YNAB is now considerably worse than the old version and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.

That's a big shame - the biggest feature of the new release is unavailable to me.  But these things happen - YNAB's priorities are not set by me and some of the other features (aging your money and budgeting beyond the current month) are very attractive.  Unfortunately YNAB has deiced that they're going to charge me the same amount as people this feature works for since not everyone uses every feature.

WTF? I can either stick to YNAB 4 and have it work well, or spent $5/month for a half-baked internet version.  That's not a hard choice.  I don't think the YNAB team have quite thought this through... YNAB helps me make better decisions with discretionary spending.  What is the average household income outside the US, and what percentage of this is US$5/month?  How about making it free (or half price) for people that haven't linked their bank account.

Anyway, I still think YNAB is awesome, and if I didn't have YNAB 4 then I would personally think $60/year for the new version is worth it for me.  However I'm pretty disappointed that the YNAB team have not seriously thought about how well their offering stacks up for existing customers outside the US.