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.