I’ve used everything from excel spreadsheets to budget planners designed by personal finance bloggers to planners designed by myself to (embarrassingly) nothing at all.
What is the best tool?
I’m sure you would agree, nothing at all is NOT the option to choose.
Budgeting Tools I’ve Used
I’ve always leaned toward a paper planner. There’s just something about stickers and colored markers and calligraphy writing that gets me excited. But every year, I spend a few weeks and lots of dollars setting my new planner up, only to find it overwhelming to maintain. And my handwriting never led to an Instagram worthy photo.
Ultimately, I’d end up reverting to excel spreadsheets.
I use excel daily in my business creating financial models, writing formulas, and designing templates. It’s only natural for me to do my budget in Excel. On occasion, I’ve ventured out to Google Sheets to be able to access my files across my HP and my Mac computers.
But I always returned to Excel.
What Budgeting Software Am I Using Now?
You’ve no doubt heard of You Need A Budget, known affectionately as YNAB amongst their thriving community. Admittedly, I tried YNAB a few years back, but didn’t see what the fuss was.
However, I stumbled on a bookkeeping podcast, and the guest mentioned they used YNAB as their accounting software. YNAB is not a traditional bookkeeping software. I’ve never heard it talked about at the same level as Quickbooks and Xero.
My interest was peaked. And I wondered if I could use it in my own bookkeeping practice. As a trial, I thought I’d use it for my household budget.
So, I signed up for a free 34-day trial.
Why I Like This Budgeting Software
What do I think of it? Short story, I’m a fan.
Admittedly, I’ve had to watch multiple videos to understand how even to get started. It has a system of goals and scheduled transactions, along with categorization that is atypical of finance software. But once you grasp it, it makes sense.
In my opinion, it’s impressive.
What I appreciate about YNAB is the encouragement and ability to save for and monitor long term goals. The software calls it “True Expenses.” For example, you can set a goal to save $1,000 each month into an emergency fund, or as another example, to save $1,000 by a target date. If you set a target date, YNAB will calculate the monthly amount, and you’ll get a signal on how you are progressing against your monthly target by using a traffic light system (red for bad, yellow for okay, green for good).
The software is not intuitive. As I mentioned, I had to watch video after video, and do a lot of googling. There’s even a Reddit group dedicated to the financial software.
Will I Keep Using It?
After a few months of using YNAB, I’m not yet ready to consider myself a convert. Largely, because I don’t like to pay for subscription services. Especially when I could design a spreadsheet to do the same thing. But I like the user interface, the automation of the bank feed, and mostly, I’m drawn to the the training and community.
I plan to use it for my family budget another six months or so, then possibly start discussing using it in my bookkeeping practice with a couple of select clients.
What budget software do you use? Are you a YNAB fan, or a loyal excel fan. Let us know in the comments. Talk soon.