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.

Well, That Was A Bust

11/1/2021 Update: As of Dec 1st, YNAB is increasing their pricing. Their year subscription will go from $84 to $99. I barely considered $85 worth it. $99 absolutely isn’t. I cancelled my subscription, though I will use YNAB until the day it expires for the assign feature. YNAB was a big bust for me. Oh, well.

Rarely do I prove myself wrong within a week’s time. That happens a lot, but rarely within a short time period.

Okay, not totally wrong. The YNAB software is still okay, though I find myself not really caring for their rule of “give every dollar a job”. Lately, I leave money to be assigned because I’ll move it sooner or later.

I’m referring to the YNAB community. That proved to be a bust. Of course, maybe my mistake was trusting Reddit. Yes, them.

The story here is YNAB, for a reason I’ll never understand, auto-imported the interest on one of my credit cards… two days late. I asked a question on the YNAB subreddit about why YNAB thinks the interest was unpaid for when that’s exactly what the credit card payment (that YNAB never auto-imported; I find that interesting) would cover.

Apparently, I should’ve spoken in kindergarten terms.

Every. Freaking. Answer to my question was made with the assumption 1) I couldn’t have possibly made the payment after the interest charge and 2) I was mad about it. “What the actual fuck” is an understatement. I was already on edge with this community because someone condescendingly asked if I’ll really not spend any money in two days (just because that’s beyond your capabilities doesn’t mean it’s beyond mine), and this event murdered any and all desire to be a part of this community. And of course, I was the bad person for finally snapping and getting frustrated over needing to repeat myself no less than ten times. Sheesh.

The real answer turned out to be YNAB can’t recognize charges like that. All charges are treated like I bought something. Why someone couldn’t say that and call it a day is beyond me.

Mint does this same thing, but worse. Mint takes away any charges after the payment from the payment. So, even if I put $200 on my credit card, if I charged $10 to it a week later, Mint will think that $10 came from the $200 payment and say I paid only $190.

That’s… that’s not how credit cards work. And people pay for these intellectually stupid apps?

Yes, they do, including me. Well, I said their customer service was great. You see what three years in retail did to me?

In the end, I fixed the problem myself, but it took me well over an hour to get it sorted. I ended up leaving a 1-star review on the Android app for the frustration. Maybe I should’ve asked customer service to start with.

I’ve gotten somewhat hooked on their videos and guides, and I’m interested in their book. I wish, however, their “inspirational” stories didn’t consist of people making over twice my salary and six figures. I’ve been homeless. My family lived on waffles and water one summer when I was a teenager. We lived in crap apartments all our lives. I am not inspired by people whose biggest problems in life amount to having too much money, and they needed YNAB to know how to plan their sixth vacation of the year.

Where are the stories about how YNAB helped someone living on less than $20,000 a year? Helped someone budget the tiny bit of spending money they have left after bills? Heck, I’m not a fan of teenage parent stories*, yet I’d prefer those to “we make $200K and don’t know what to do with ourselves”. Tell me how YNAB helped a college student from a poor background not live on ramen noodles.

(*I feel they’re “glossy”, to say the least; I recently read one from a woman who had her first child at age 13, and let’s just say I’m not a fan of the idea that 13-year-olds, or teens of any age, who don’t become parents are, ahem, immature. It does make me wonder if I missed out on something, though. I’ve never had the desire to be a parent, but I briefly had baby fever as a teenager. What? I’m human. I like praise and presents as much as everyone else.)

I’ll continue to use the software, but my very brief time with the community is done. At least, on Reddit. YouTube is rather good. I can’t believe I said that.

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.

Disconnected

I want to emphasize I am not perfect, I never claimed to be, and I know I never will be.

However, I find the older I get and the more I learn about my family, the more disconnected I feel from them. This is especially true of my father. It amazes me how I had the best relationship with him as a kid, but as an adult, it’s the polar opposite. I suppose that’s the curse of losing one’s innocence.

The biggest barrier is my attempts to learn financial responsibility. It really astounds me no one – absolutely no one – in my (immediate) family has any clue about finances, and at this point, it’s now a case of being unable to teach an old dog new tricks. My biggest mistakes – attending college when I wasn’t ready and financing my first car with a co-signer – came out of pressure, but the upside is those mistakes made it abundantly clear my family, no matter how much I love them, are not the people to go to for life advice. Regarding cars particularly, knowing about them does not correlate with having any financial sense.

For the record, I am aware financing a car can be a good decision. However, my father makes barely more money than me (I bring in roughly $2K a month), but his car payment plus insurance nearly equals my household’s rent. And in all the years he had to save money with his late girlfriend paying most of their household expenses (including rent), he never did. Simultaneously, my dad complains constantly he hates living with his dad. Find the problem.

I taught myself planning, budgeting, and saving, and as of late, I’m learning about investing, which a good friend got me started on. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. But I reached the point I’m able to plan out a month’s worth of expenses, and move them around as needed. Though I have a bad habit of frivolous spending I’m trying to kick, I stick to my budget, including savings, and I don’t sacrifice bills for pleasure. The bit of money I spend frivolously is the remainder after all my week’s expenses are paid.

It’s indeed strange to be berated for trying to be responsible, and I feel the more I try to pull myself together and recover from my mistakes, the more distant I grow from my family. It’s truly not something I like, but have no clue how to fix. How do you re-connect with people you can’t talk to, you can’t look up to, you can’t trust with advice? I don’t mean my personal goals. I can’t talk to them about the future, about finance, about feelings, about anything. How do I re-connect without feeling like I’m making myself small?

If you know, please teach me.

Shame, Audacity, Entitlement

I swear I am not trying to make this a series. I simply couldn’t resist these.

An anti-MLM account I follow posted these. There are two things MLM sellers are good at: shaming, and having zero shame. Right now, many are using the response to the coronavirus pandemic to try to recruit people into their schemes. They’re notorious for using 9/11 and close family members’ deaths, so I can’t say I’m shocked.

These particular posts caught my eye not only for their attempt at shaming and their audacity, but the sheer entitlement! I am no angel, but if I ever speak like this, I give all my loved ones explicit permission to smack me in the head until I regain common sense. Or until I lose consciousness. Whichever occurs first.

At the same time, it’s hilarious. Remember, these are people who claim to run their own business. Even if what they do was legitimate, who would want to work with a business owner who behaves like this?

Clearly, this person has never heard of payment plans. Also, the only company with a phone that expensive is Apple, and even that applies only to their latest phone, the iPhone 11 Pro. The phone’s price is dependent upon how much space you choose. Speaking for myself, my smartphone was $200, but smartphones nowadays can cost as little $30. Technology marches on.

Mentioning Starbucks is common and I’m really eager to know who buys Starbucks every day. No, that’s not sarcasm. I hate coffee, so I guess the equivalent for me would be chocolate, but even I can’t eat chocolate every day. I’d quickly grow sick of the taste. But if someone really is buying a $7 cup of Starbucks every day, I’d imagine that $210 a month isn’t putting a dent in their wallet. In other words, they probably don’t need extra income and aren’t seeking it.

This one could be a good message if it weren’t to promote MLM! There is a lot to unpack in this one.

Healthy groceries ($100) “too expensive”

Dinner date ($100) “reasonable”

Maybe to someone who makes $50K a year after taxes. My boyfriend and I went out many times prior to lockdown. The bill never hit $100. Also, I’m sure most people wish their families ate only $100 a month worth of groceries! I’d love if mine did! I buy $100 worth of groceries and they’re gone in a week. I’d save a lot of money if eating weren’t a necessity.

Therapist ($130) “absurd”

Trip to Target ($130) “great deals!”

Yes, it is absurd some people can’t get mental healthcare because they can’t afford it. To my knowledge, some insurance will cover it, but it can be a fight. That is a shame. As for Target, or any big box store, if you need things like appliances and furniture, getting those things for $130 total really might be a great deal! I found a sturdy dresser with seven drawers for under $100 on Amazon.

Average college class ($1,000) “expensive”

iPhone ($1,000) “a necessity”

Most people use financial aid to afford college if their income is that low. And what those subjects have in common is, as I said above, payment plans. Though I wouldn’t advise it, you can lease an iPhone. If financial aid doesn’t cover the full cost of college, most people can work something out with the school. Note that schools are also a business.

Kid’s summer camp ($180) “too much”

New pair of shoes ($180) “they were on sale”

Hahahahaha!! This is one I’m almost certain would be the other way around. And let me say summer camp isn’t a necessity and there’s nothing wrong with a parent treating themselves to a new pair of shoes. Also, new shoes do not have to cost $180 to be of good quality. I wonder if there is some projection in these examples.

60 minutes of exercise “I wish I had time!”

60 minutes on Instagram “OMG time flies!”

I’ll give a small pass for this one, if only for it being the least ridiculous comparison. However, you can do one hour of exercise and one hour of surfing on Instagram in the same day. Thus, I think this is moot.

60 minutes working your business – “I’m too busy”

60 minutes on Netflix – “Another episode!”

I prefer Hulu and Prime Video (for Pokemon), but Netflix and Disney+ rock too. And again, you can use two hours in a day separately. Well, if work took only an hour.

30 minutes of self-development – “I don’t feel like it.”

30 minutes of a murder mystery podcast – “let’s listen to another

I’m beginning to feel like this person has a weird sense of time. And what does self-development mean in this context? Reading a book about self-love?

Health products ($100) “too expensive”

Starbucks every other day ($100) “I need it”

Exactly what kind of health products are we talking about here? Health products can be a “treat” too. If they were a necessity, they’d probably be prescribed by a doctor.

Like I said, the context of this is what makes it terrible more than the message itself. I don’t totally hate this one, but it ultimately is still shaming people for how they spend their time and money. I could see this one being okay only if someone were constantly complaining, and still not for the sake of promoting MLM.

If someone is prioritizing eating, I think they have their priorities correct.

This one is funny and enraging because the entitlement is so blatant! She really thinks people shouldn’t buy themselves clothing, should customize their social media how she wants, and shouldn’t use products they are familiar with (if someone is subscribed, they likely know what comes in the box) and works well for their skin.

No, in a year, I’m going to still be pointing and laughing.

Last, but sadly, not least:

I can’t stop laughing. She is angry. She calls other people’s lives bad and assumes they’re unhappy because they refused to buy from her. She is really angry people spent their money on what they want instead of buying from her because she begged. And now, they won’t get a free oil set! What a pity!

If she’s in bad debt, that sucks, but that’s ultimately her problem. She can’t rely on other people to pay off her debt for her.