YNAB: Not For Lower Class

I already talked twice about my short experiences with the software You Need A Budget. I was able to get a free year for being a student, so I decided I’ll keep it. The company, on the other hand, can bite my dust.

Apparently, I have an improper definition of the word “budget”. I always thought budgeting was to manage your money. At least, that’s what I and everyone I know does with it.

But apparently, YNAB is to manage your behavior.

Let me put it this way: if your annual salary has six figures, you don’t have a money problem.

More so, I notice a lot of users who worship the ground YNAB walks on couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag. It’s a nice tool – I believe that – but I question how some of these people get dressed without help.

One comment I recently read was from a user who claimed she used Mint for ten years and would cry when she looked at it because she could never figure out where her money was going.

I have Mint, and it tells you that. Really, it does. That’s kind of its point. But unless you use only use physical cash, your bank account’s history will tell you where your money is going. Again, I would know because I’ve had a bank account for nearly a decade. I don’t know how long the history extends for each bank, but mine goes back seven years.

There’s no way that user didn’t know where her money was going. More likely scenario is she knew and didn’t want to acknowledge it.

Another recent comment was, at least, truthful.

I no longer have weekly panic attacks over money. I used to ignore my bank account and just wait for overdraft emails because I was too afraid to check the account to confront my wasteful spending.


I’m not knocking anyone finding what works for them, but both of these people needed  counseling, and I’d wager many other users do as well. How can you recognize you’re acting like a twit and continue to act like a twit?!

Nobody answer that.

I came to find, in my opinion, the company as a whole is tone deaf. Maybe that’s not a surprise. It’s for profit, not charity. I have the physical book and while it has some good advice, I did not read it in its entirety for two reasons.

  • The author tells far too many anecdotes. I skipped over a lot of content because I tired of stories about his neighbors.
  • A lot of it is only applicable if you’re at least middle class.

As an example, something that really got on my nerves is his motto of “debt is never an option”. He’s entitled to his opinion, but I’m equally entitled to mine, and I think that motto is garbage.

If he was referring only to debt like credit cards, I’d still disagree, but I would find it reasonable. But he means no debt whatsoever… despite he has a mortgage.

Find me a doctor, a lawyer, a veterinarian, a dentist, or a person in any profession that takes more than the standard four years who didn’t take out loans, and get back to me. Ask them if they regret that career while they’re at it.

My local community college charges $10,560 for one year, and that’s solely the tuition. Minimum wage in my state is $10/hr and after taxes, a full-time worker is likely bringing home only around $15,000. And scholarships are luck-based (talk to my straight A best friend about that one). In other words, I wish the 18-year-old trying to pay for college without financial aid a ton of luck.

Yes, I think student loans can be better handled, but unless someone does the stereotypical “$100K for a degree in underwater basket weaving” (and that is a real degree!), student loans aren’t that horrid of a debt. Life is easier without them – big duh – but they’re not terrible for financing an education if you don’t take more than you need.

Also, sometimes, stuff happens. I want to know the person who can pay for $10,000 worth of dental work upfront in cash before the dentist simply has to say “screw it” and remove their teeth. Or the $25,000 medical bill because you broke your arm and your insurance doesn’t want to cover it (can you guess I live in the US?). Health problems aren’t exactly patient. Sometimes, it’s debt or (very slowly) die. Take your pick.

I reiterate: YNAB is a nice tool. It’s useful, and I find it to be a similar case to the game, The Sims. It’s not the only budget tool to exist, but it’s one of a kind in the same vein The Sims isn’t the only simulation game, but has no viable competition. Still, I advise the actually financially struggling group to avoid it.

There is one thing I can’t find to ever be addressed and that is sometimes, you simply don’t have enough. Sometimes, the problem really is you need more money. No matter how perfect you are at budgeting, if you don’t have enough, you don’t have enough.

Someone in the subreddit proposed the idea YNAB being associated with low-income folk wouldn’t be a good look, and sadly, they’re likely right when you consider how people on that side of the scale are regarded.

If you have a behavior problem, not a money problem, go for it. If you have a money issue, look elsewhere or pirate YNAB 4.

My Attempt At YNAB

Since April, I kept a budget, and since I have a strange enjoyment of organizing, it turned out to be easier than I thought. I became interested in YNAB because I wanted to know 1) why anyone would pay for a budgeting app when, even if you suck at spreadsheets, free apps exist (like the one I keep my budget in) and 2) if it’s as life-changing as the claims… claim.

I signed up, but changed my mind, so left the account. However, I forgot to delete it, so the free trial was close to running out when I remembered I had it. I started using it at the end of August. So far, it’s… meh.

Apparently, it’s based on a budget strategy called the envelope system, and I think real envelopes might be more useful (not that I keep envelopes anywhere). I essentially do the same thing I do with the free app I use. The one annoyance I have is I cannot budget my paychecks until I am paid. Considering I have my budget planned to the end of November, this is extremely irritating to me, so my budget in YNAB is not planned to the extent it is in the other app.

The reason I say real envelopes might be more useful is I move money around a lot. Apparently, this is encouraged, but since I can easily attain extra money if I want it, I alternate between categories like I’m playing with a pinball machine.

Supposedly, the idea is not to budget future money because anything could happen and you may not get that paycheck. Frankly, I want to know what crap jobs people are working for that to be a concern. Even when I worked in retail – a job that made me borderline suicidal – I never had to worry about not being paid. If the concern is losing your job, that’s different, but that would throw most people for a loop anyway.

All this said, I don’t think YNAB is bad. I enjoy playing around with it more than I probably should and, similar to why I use Mint (solely for my credit cards and student loans), it’s nice to see my accounts in one place. Speaking of which, the reason I was initially turned off by YNAB is they take a shot at Mint in their advertising. I’m not a fan of childish advertising, but I guess competition is nothing new.

The one thing I can praise YNAB for is customer service. I submitted a question to ask why I couldn’t connect one of my credit card. I got much more thorough answer than expected and an additional two weeks for my free trial, which I didn’t request or expect. Can’t argue with good service. I considered subscribing, so they ultimately cemented the decision.

I wonder if I’m doing it wrong. Even if moving between categories is encouraged, I can’t imagine you’re supposed to treat the software like a pinball game.

Only a week and a half passed since I began using YNAB, so I will give it more time. Some users are veterans of this software, so I suppose it’ll take a lot of time.

Too Much Credit

Me in 2018: How do people get in over their heads with credit card debt?

Once again, I need to stop talking! Then again, this blog is quiet as of late, so I suppose I have.

Constant advice I received about credit cards is “use it like a debit card”. Four years later, I’m paying off $10,000 worth of credit card debt. Why I took advice from the internet is beyond me.

When I wrote that article in 2018, my total limit between cards amounted to $2,700. One card had its limit decreased, but my total credit limit is now $9,810. My score currently sits at 620. One of my relatives with dozens of late payments has a higher score than me!

This year, I paid off two of my four student loans, and two of my credit accounts, although I’m paying one off again because I used it when my car broke down. Thankfully, I learned to budget like a maniac, and so long as nothing urgent happens again, I can get that balance paid off in two weeks.

My real debit card gets much more use these days, so much so that the chip is wearing down and it’ll likely need to be replaced before its expiration date in four years. I plan to keep my credit cards for emergencies only. A response I’ve gotten is I’m missing out on “tons of rewards”. Ignoring only two of my cards offer anything, and cashback turned out to be dreadfully disappointing, pursuing “rewards” is how I got myself into so much debt. Now, my reward is getting rid of it.

The Point of No Return – Part 2

Previous related post.

I took the final for my second-to-last class yesterday. I struggled a lot with this class and didn’t do well, but in the end, I did pass. Shockingly, I could’ve failed the final and still passed, though I’m glad I didn’t. Today is the start of the last of my school’s program. What then?

According to the program, internship follows the end of classes. To say I’m anxious would be an understatement.

Yes, I’m happy school is almost over, especially considering all of the trouble I had to go through to reach the end. I’m still disappointed I couldn’t stay with the first class and graduate on December 4th of last year, but I suppose it doesn’t matter now. At the same time, the only work experience I have is in retail and I truly fear I can’t do anything else.

Retail is difficult in that it’s tedious, repetitive, and draining, the latter especially if you’re an introvert. However, the jobs themselves – at least, my positions – are relatively easy. As a cashier, I stand in one spot, push buttons on a computer, scan barcodes, take money, and put the stuff in bags. The end. As a floor associate, the job description is less “fancy” than that: clean the floor and racks, and put merchandise back. You could teach a child how to do these jobs. Yet, even retail can prove to have its challenge because when I had full-time position for a few months, I ultimately failed because the workload crushed me like a 1,000-pound weight. And I wouldn’t try to get into the hell above that. I’ve yet to meet a manager who likes their job (“Don’t do it! It’s a trap!”), including my own. Two of my managers felt the need to lecture me about all the insanity and stress managers puts up with, and I get the point! Of course, that brings into question why they chose it. One of those two implied he doesn’t think lower employees/associates have the right to feel stressed because of what managers deal with. That’s another reason to stay away from management. I prefer not to look down on people. But I digress.

What I’m trying to say is if I can’t keep with a retail job unless it’s part-time, how on Earth could I do anything else? I’ve heard of people getting very close to graduation, only to quit weeks or days before, and I think I’m beginning to understand why. Taking classes on the subject is not the same as doing the real job. Even interviews are different. As far as I can tell, I ultimately got hired at the stores I worked at because I faked being cute, cheerful, and my awkwardness didn’t scare anyone off. That doesn’t work in interviews for what I’m studying, and having trouble talking will likely mean I bomb over a dozen interviews, if I get any at all. And yes, I do practice. Again, practice and the real thing aren’t the same.

Of course, all of this anxiety is irrelevant if I fail this final class, so maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. I should pass before I talk anymore.

The Point of No Return

I paid off the remainder of my school balance. I wasn’t planning to pay it off all at once, but another round of loans was added and it brought the balance down so low, I figured I may as well just get it over with. However, I’m now almost $10,000 in debt for student loans.

If I had any thoughts of quitting, that would’ve shattered them. At the same time, it reignites my anxiety about school as a whole.

The point of putting myself through all of this is having a job in this field, so I’ll no longer be dependent on retail and can finally move toward being financially independent. But what if that does not happen? My school is having a career fair in a few days and, despite being told some employers will wait on a student to finish their schooling, that sounds too good to be true. What if no one is interested in my resume? Or I fail an interview? In fact, interviewing is my worst fear in regards to getting a job because I am terrible at speaking. I struggle to verbally say what I mentally want to, even when I know what I’m talking about, and the result is I trip over my words. I am already at a disadvantage because I do not have a business suit and while my school does let students borrow one, it depends on what’s available from donations. They do not have business suits collecting dust in a closet, waiting to hand them out. I’m genuinely worried that alone will kill first impressions of me.

There is no point in quitting school at this point, but if my worst fear is realized – zero change in how employable I am, and being qualified for nothing beyond retail – making all this stress and debt to have been for absolutely nothing, I think I will finally give up on life. I won’t say I’ll kill myself (maybe not right then…), but I won’t have the will to try anymore and I don’t see what good I can contribute to society as a burden who can’t do more than ring a cash register.

The anxiety over so much time, effort, and money being sunk into school being worthless and being crushed by a mountain of debt I would’ve foolishly acquired genuinely made me feel physically sick some time ago. And no, yelling “it will be worth it” is not of any help because nobody knows that, including myself. I don’t know if it will be worth it any more than anyone else does. Only time can tell me if it will be worth it and, were I religious, I’m almost certain I’d be praying every night time was on my side. Even as I type this post, I genuinely feel myself wanting to break because I want that badly for everything to have been worth it. If only wanting something guaranteed you get it (I want to be 14 years old again for the youthful appearance, but that’s not happening).

Yep. This is a perfect representation of my face 95% of the time.