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From Financial Chaos to Budgeting Bliss: My review of YNAB

As someone who has struggled to manage my finances in the past, I know firsthand the importance of finding a budgeting process that works. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. After trying several different methods and apps, I’ve found that YNAB (You Need a Budget) stands out as one of the most comprehensive and user-friendly tools out there. In this review, I’ll share my experience using YNAB and explore its key features, benefits, and potential drawbacks.

Getting Started with YNAB


When I first started using YNAB, I have to admit that it took me a little while to get the hang of it. At first, the zero-based budgeting concept and the various budget categories were a bit overwhelming. However, the youtube video tutorials and online resources on their site were extremely helpful in getting me up to speed.

The video tutorials provided step-by-step instructions on how to use different features of the app. They were easy to follow, funny, and allowed me to learn at my own pace. I also appreciated that the tutorials covered basic and advanced topics, so I could continue learning and improving how I used the app.

In addition to the video tutorials, YNAB has a ton of online resources available to users. For example, you can access workshops, blogs, podcasts, or videos from the app and website. 

After syncing my accounts to the app, I deleted the first budget I built. Syncing my accounts pulled in too much old data that skewed my numbers. One of the hardest parts of using the app is finding a starting point for when your zero-based budget starts. I would have loved to see a video about just that topic.

Ultimately, I had to build a new budget and decided not to link my accounts to the app. I wanted more control over what was being tracked and budgeted. This was especially helpful since my spouse, and I share accounts, and not all expenses are shared expenses that need to be tracked. 

I found that manually entering transactions was worth the effort to have more control. It allowed me to understand our spending habits better and be more intentional with allocating our money.

Overall, while it took some time to get used to YNAB’s unique approach to budgeting, the video tutorials and online resources made the process much smoother.

Money laid out

Key Features of YNAB


One of the key features of YNAB is its ability to help move money from the different spending categories. I like how easy it is to see how much money you have spent (or overspent) in any category. Since it is a zero-based budgeting method, it helps you see exactly what you spend your money on since all expenses must be categorized and accounted for.  

I found this especially useful since it is easy for our family to miss and not plan for irregular expenses. This method helps us better prepare for expenses that pop up only once or twice a year, like kid’s summer camp or car maintenance. 

Another important feature of YNAB is its ability to integrate with your bank and credit card accounts. This means that your transactions will be automatically imported into the app, and you’ll be able to see where your money is going. While I do not use this feature, I see how it can speed up the budgeting process.

The last feature that needs to be mandatory for any budgeting tool is the ability to create custom categories and tags to track specific expenses or goals. Since all budgets are personal, this is a must-have feature in any budgeting app.

Benefits of Using YNAB


There are several benefits to using YNAB for budgeting. First, the app helps you stay on track with your finances by giving you a clear picture of your expenses. This can help you identify areas where you may be overspending and adjust your budget accordingly.

Another benefit of YNAB is that it encourages you to prioritize your goals and focus on what’s most important. For example, the app enables you to create and track financial goals, such as paying off debt or saving for a down payment on a house. Seeing a visual indicator as you progress toward your long-term goals can help you stay motivated.

Finally, YNAB’s zero-based budgeting system is designed to help you live within your means and avoid overspending. By allocating every dollar to a specific category, you’ll better understand where your money is going and be less likely to overspend on non-essential items.

A woman smiling as she uses her phone

Potential Drawbacks of YNAB

While YNAB has many benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks. One potential issue is the app’s cost. YNAB requires a monthly or annual subscription, which may only be feasible for some, especially those just starting with budgeting. If you would like a free month, click here.

Another potential drawback of YNAB is that it may take some time to get used to. The app’s zero-based budgeting system can be confusing for those unfamiliar with the concept, and it may take some trial and error to figure out how to allocate your money effectively.

Similarly, I found some reoccurring weekly or bi-weekly payments hard to manage using the app. I found workarounds for these expenses, but I would have liked the app to have more flexibility for payments that are not monthly.

Lastly, YNAB is not a set it an forget it type of budget. So you will need to keep returning to the app to reconcile accounts to ensure you have tracked all your expenses and are accurately assigning each dollar you receive. You may want to reconcile multiple times a week, depending on how many transactions you make. I try only to reconcile once per week, but it can be a long process if it has been a busy week.



Overall, YNAB is an excellent budgeting app that offers a wide range of features and benefits. It’s designed to help you take control of your finances, prioritize your spending, and achieve your long-term financial goals. While there are some drawbacks, such as the cost and the learning curve, these are relatively minor compared to the app’s overall usefulness.

I’ve dedicated myself to using the app for a year and will update this post once the year is up, but in the meantime, if you would like to join me in using YNAB, here is a link to receive one free month of YNAB. If you subscribe, I also get a free month (no pressure).

If you’re looking for a user-friendly budgeting app, YNAB is definitely worth considering. Its straightforward interface, powerful features, and helpful guidance make it an excellent tool for anyone looking to take control of their finances and achieve financial wellness.