YNAB Pays for Itself: Four Personal Experiences


Thanks to my new YNAB-fueled financial focus, I finished the month with $54 that Stressed-Out Non-YNAB Me would have wasted.

And it got me thinking.

YNAB costs $60, which is just slightly more than the amount I preserved ($54).

I’ve heard people say YNAB is pricey. Sure – $60 is more than $0. But YNAB pays for itself, and fast.

A few examples from my own life:

40% Less Spent at Restaurants

In January my wife and I spent $312.19 at restaurants – around $10.40 per day. The last week of March our average was $6.32. YNAB-powered awareness saved us around $28 over the 7-day stretch.

Cell Phone Bill Down $20 per Month

We’ve had an extra line on our account for a while (too embarrassed to admit exactly how long). Cost: $20 per month. With my new budget in place, I decided I’d rather put that $20 toward the purchase of bikes, a bike trailer, and a trampoline. I called Sprint and canceled the line. Immediate savings: $20. Longer-term savings: $240 per year.

DirecTV Canceled

I want a bigger monthly Betterment deposit, and $95 is a good bump. DirecTV canceled. Immediate savings: $95 per month. Annual savings: Over $1,100.

Savings Preserved: (at least) $1800 per Year

I pay my life insurance premium annually, a bill that unexpectedly drains the checking account (making for a stressful September) or the savings account (making for bummed out savers). Thanks to YNAB’s Rule 2, I’ll have the full premium payment ready on September 1. Savings preserved: $1,800.

You might say these are just simple cost-cutting exercises – easily accomplished without YNAB.

Maybe, but I give YNAB the credit for two reasons:

  • It created the awareness and the motivation to spend more efficiently and plan ahead.
  • It locks in the gains by officially reallocating money to categories of higher value.

Share Your YNAB-Paid-for-Itself Story

YNAB community: Share your story of how YNABing quickly paid for YNAB.  No need to write out long stories (unless you want to). Just tell us how increased awareness/planning/enthusiasm/focus put $60 (or more) your pocket.


26 Responses to “YNAB Pays for Itself: Four Personal Experiences”

  1. David

    Hey Mark, this post pretty much sum’s up my families experience with ynab as well. We too have life insurance money in the bank and ready to go for an April annual premium due date, we too cut Direct TV, and we too have a lot of opportunity in the eating out category all because of YNAB. I feel the efficiency of the dollars we have available has increased dramatically and so has our spending awareness, a dollar double whammy. Deep down I was curious if this giving every dollar a job, planning for items like life insurance, and writing all transactions down would dampin my spirit, not so. My wife and I are energized. We are total ynaber’s for life.

  2. Michele I.

    The first month I used YNAB, I saved $800 on unnecessary spending. I didn’t realize I was blowing so much money on “stuff.” Now we have a category for everything, including “fun money” so we stay on track.

  3. John M. Dow

    Oh God, this one is easy. I was constantly (and I’m talking 20 years here) flat broke at the end of the month. Then I found ynab and I wasn’t. I think, over the last three years, I’m probably responsible for half a dozen people using YNAB. I’ve had an email from you to that effect. When I speak to people about YNAB, I tell them it’s life changing – because it is. I’m not talking hyperbole based ‘you must try this next greatest thing here’ – I’m talking about something which is SO DAMN FUNDAMENTAL on a basic level that it constantly goes under the radar. You just don’t think about it – particularly when all the world’s advertising is trying to tell you what you ‘need’. I found YNAB at the end of a rather messy divorce. It has enabled (empowered!) me to pay (actual figures here) £16,545 debt and NEVER be broke at the end of the month. Ever.

    The amusing thing is, I don’t believe you guys actually know what you’re doing for people. I can only say I’m glad you’re doing it regardless. Your system not only WORKS, but it changes lives.


    • Harald

      I would like to respond to each and every comment here, because it’s all true for me as well. Gone is the debt, gone the difficult end of the month. Saving like mad and feeling utter blessed and relieved to finally be able to be on top of my finances.

      But the end of your comment really got my attention John: I don’t believe the YNAB people truly know what difference YNAB can make in a persons live either.

      I’m using YNAB for two years now and not a week goes by that my wife and I talk about how happy we are with the program. We have a daughter coming up, our first child, and you bet we have saved for her :)

  4. Mandy

    Watching my budget has helped me catch billing errors. One month, we had an automatic draft for $175 come out twice in a row – the amount was correct on each, so if I’d just been watching my bank transactions, I might not have noticed. But because it threw my YNAB budget over for that bill category, I noticed right away and was able to have them reverse it! We’ve also saved by noticing the small “fee increases” from some service providers – if you notice the increases quickly enough, you can usually negotiate them.

  5. Tiana

    YNAB saved me $75 and my credit rating recently, by making it very easy to reconcile my account statements quickly and easily. In the past, balancing the checkbook was a monthly (maybe?) affair, filled with hours of frustration and hard to track errors. (Yes, I was still doing it with pen on paper because nothing else I had ever tried made enough sense). Between YNAB’s reconcile feature and access to my account statements online, I am now able to keep daily tabs on what has cleared and what hasn’t–and to catch errors right away, as opposed to weeks or months later.

    Last month, I noticed that the check I sent to cover my credit card payment hadn’t cleared on the day it was due, in spite of the fact that I had sent it out in plenty of time (thanks to rule #1). I logged into my online credit card account statement and, sure enough, there was a late payment fee of $25. I called to ask what was going on, and they said they had never received my payment. To make a long story short, knowing that there was a problem *right away* saved me a total of $75 in fees from my credit card company and my bank, plus the peace of mind that I won’t have a black mark on my credit report or an increase in my interest rate due to a late payment penalty. In the past, I wouldn’t have noticed the error until the end of the month–and by that time it probably would have been too late to fix it.

    • Minda

      That accounts reconciliation feature is the reason I upgraded to YNAB 4. It was so worth those $40.

  6. Laurence

    I saved $500 that otherwise went towards restaurants and other misc things that didn’t need to be bought right then I was overdrawn the last few months now I’m saving more than ever! Thanks YNAB!

  7. Joris Bogers

    First month of using YNAB, I realised just how much I was paying for obsolete insurances and services I never use. I was still paying to insure a laptop and cell phone that I didn’t even own any more.

    Seeing the actual number was just the thing to send out a whole list of cancellation letters and that is saving me close to 100 Euro’s per month.

    I do not doubt that without YNAB and being ‘forced’ to have an honest look at my expenses, I would have let it all continue for months and months, continually wondering where all my money disappeared off to…

    So, cost of YNAB? 50-ish euro’s. Saved as by today: 300 euro’s and counting. Should be well over 1000 by the end of the year.

    • myrecipehampers

      This is where we picked up our savings too. We saved almost R300 just by realising we were paying for services that we no longer used, or forgot that we signed up for. The honest look was what turned us around.

      We also realised we couldn’t afford to stay where we were, so we made the decision to move to an area with lower rents. We also cancelled our gym memberships, as well as extra lines on our phones.

  8. Stacy Spahr

    I get paid monthly and my wife gets paid every 2 weeks. Because of her pay schedule there are 2 months in a year that she gets 3 checks.

    Before YNAB we would be counting down and pre-spending the “extra” money that she received. This led to a lot of stress and actually left us with no extra money. We would always wonder what happened to that extra money?

    With YNAB that money truly is extra now. The first year we took a family trip to Cabo. The second year my son went on a trip to South Korea. This is our third year and our daughter is (and it is already paid for) going to Madrid, Spain.

    Never before would any of this been possible… At least with out a ton of stress.

  9. daunjacobsen

    I’m only 1.5 weeks into starting YNAB (have done Dave Ramsey before). YNAB is just more intuitive and inline with reality. I will definitely have the $60 I need to purchase it by the end of the month – even with living on half our usual income (due to a move).

    When your money and inflow/outflow is staring you in the face the honest is painfully refreshing and motivating – good thing for my marriage too, two people going in the same direction with clearly defined goals is AWESOME!

    • Dave Knapp

      We also started with Dave Ramsey and the Gazelle budget. It was ok, but not great. I searched and found YNAB with the highest user reviews of any budgeting tool. The concept of taking today’s paycheck and putting it in next months budget, so you’re not ‘pre-spending’ is absolutely genius.

      Just one of many examples…we have probably shaved $500 off of our monthly grocery bill.

  10. Enemy Propagandist (@smallerdemon)

    I just looked at my email for when I purchased YNAB (v3, btw): 03/01/12. One year and one month ago. At the time, I had been reviewing various financial management applications for the Mac. The main things I liked about YNAB: (1)It’s genesis and (2)that it was more than software. When I started with YNAB we had about $4K in credit card debt, and I also was determined to save up enough to go to a special movie vacation even that I had not been able to afford the year before. On top of that, we needed to pay for my daughter’s pre-school, her occupational therapy (out of pocket that my insurance won’t cover), and I needed to save up for clothes for job interviews for a job switch job hunt. My wife works weekends and I work full time during the week, and we live in San Francisco (in a small 2BR apartment in a great part of the city) and I am the primary income. Anywhere else in the country except NYC my salary would be great, but here it’s a challenge to live of what amounts to one full income and a weekend job income.

    But tracking it is the key. YNAB for Mac and iPhone was instrumental in the following things happening over the last year since purchasing it:
    (1)Paid off the credit card debt this month.
    (2)Went on a three week vacation to see family and interview for a job (which was offered but turned down – not enough money)
    (3)Paid for my daughter to go to pre-school all year for 2 days a week to begin with and now 3 days a week.
    (4)Paid for my daughter’s occupational therapy.
    (5)Was able to go on the weekend movie vacation we couldn’t afford the year before.
    (6)Was able to buy nice job interview clothes.
    (7)Had necessary car repairs.

    It was a long, tough year financially, but I’m quite proud of the successes when I look back at it. We even have a big chunk in savings right now, we have no debt, I have nice interview clothes for when the job hunt resumes for me this fall. My daughter is doing great in school and in her OT. We’ve even been able to spend money on great things for her like movie outings and special toys.

    YNAB was really the important cog in machine, though. My own momentum to do it certainly was important, but YNAB was the thing that kept it all on track. And it continuing to keep it on track even now. I could have used anything else, but YNAB gives you fantastic, easy tools to work with and budget with, and the other big thing it gives you is a support community and a goal to work toward (the living on your salary from three months ago – no there yet, but that’s still the goal).

    The other thing I genuinely liked about YNAB was that it wouldn’t connect to major services automatically. I’m sure that will change in the future, but the manual process of logging into sites was critical in keeping me connected to my financial institutions.

    $60 for YNAB – I wish I could say exactly how fast it paid for itself, but I don’t know, but I suspect it was within the first three months easily.

  11. Kevin Hornaday

    Ten years ago I literally had nothing. Four years ago I found YNAB and have used it religiously since. Today I have a two month cushion in the bank, I know exactly where my money is going and I’m actually saving money toward my next car since I paid my current one off two years early.

    I have talked to several of my friends about YNAB but no one has taken the leap yet. If they truly believed how much YNAB has changed my life, there wouldn’t be any hesitation. I would do it again in a minute!

  12. Henry

    I was actually using the Dave Ramsey approach for some time, and while getting debt-free was looking for financial software. You can actually follow a number of different get-out-of-debt approaches using the YNAB sowftare, but I find it fits especially nice with Dave Ramsey’s approach. And the YNAB philosophy itself has some similarities with it.

    I tried several different paid and free apps and web sites, but using the cloud-enabled YNAB to sync our Mac, PC, and both our iPhones for my wife and I to access our one budget and enter expenses on the fly any where any time and have us both be always updated – I never could find anything else to do what YNAB does. And we would stay with an app for a good long while to give those apps a fair shake, but I wish I’d found YNAB earlier.

    YNAB did help us get out debt in a way and stay that way, primarily by making our already chosen get-out-of-debt process visual, obvious and ubiquitous. It has made the process so much easier. We now use phrases like this, “Did you YNAB it?” when posting an expense to our budget for when we’ve just purchased gasoline or have just gone by a drive-through restaurant (or most anything really). We post so many expenses to YNAB by iPhone at the time and place of purchase now, it’s habit. It’s just a few clicks, and everything’s updated. We can always find out, at a glance, in an instant, how much budget for eating out or movies or anything that we still have. A quick check. A confident purchase. Then a quick post (or YNAB) of the expense.

  13. Kate

    My husband and I started YNAB the month we got married, so it was a crash course in joint budgeting. We just passed our first anniversary and were amazed how much money we put into savings (and kept there) because of YNAB rules. Now in year 2, we’re hoping to save even more aggressively, but YNAB has been the perfect tool for us.

    I’ve heard tons of couples who cite money as a huge stressor in their marriage. But with YNAB, we’ve been on the same page with where our money is going and we can reduce spending and save for what we really care about!

  14. Anthony

    When we first discovered YNAB we were in a very deep financial hole. We had gotten to the point where we had to borrow heavily from the kids college fund just to cover the monthly expenses. We had blown through all of our savings, maxed out our credit cards and even spent the prepay buffer on our mortgage, all with no idea where the money was actually going.

    I was in the process of developing a budgeting application for myself and was trawling the internet looking for inspiration when I stumbled across YNAB. It didn’t take long to realise that all of the features that I had intended to implement in my solution were already available in YNAB.

    Within a month of installing YNAB and setting up a budget we had our spending under control and income was exceeding expenditure for the first time in years. Six months into YNAB budgeting we had fully repaid the college fund (with interest) and a year in we had accumulated a relatively substantial savings buffer and fully paid off all of the credit cards.

    We are now over two years into the YNAB experience and our finances have never been healthier. We have a savings buffer that is the equivalent to two months worth of expenses and have just recently been able to replace a large portion of our falling-apart, hand-me-down furniture. By just making a small allowance for furniture each month in our budget and watching the funds accumulate, we had the money saved before we even knew it. It’s become habit for both of us to check the desktop app or our phones before spending a cent, and if it’s not in the budget the wallet stays in the pocket/purse.

    In two and a half years we’ve gone from thousands of dollars in debt to nearly $20,000 in savings and budget allocations for expenses. While we may have eventually got our finances under control on our own, the $60 investment in YNAB made the process infinitely easier. Our successes have even prompted a number of our friends to take up YNAB and they are all as impressed with it as we are.

  15. Manda

    I purchase YNAB September 2012, but am only now really utilising the program in it’s entirety. I am becoming so comfortable with and in awe of the philosophies behind the notion of ‘giving every dollar a job’, that I’m now considering using this concept with my two teenage boys and their “screen time”.

    I find modern day children spend far too much time with their faces buried in “screens”, my own two included and have often been saddened with the fact that when in frustration they are banned from using screens (any screens, as I found they used to just swap from one to another when ordered to stop), my two teenagers are at a complete loss, wander aimlessly, or just start to annoy crap out of each other and ME!.

    I am formalising a plan for the boys to ‘bank screen hours’ and using the YNAB system they must ‘give each hour a specific job’ (half hour = TV, hour = playstation, hour = ipod, etc) and then stick to it. Sounds good in theory, and if it works anything like the system does for money, I reckon we’re all on another winner here!

    Thanks YNAB ~ for giving me the tools to save our finances, but most of all ~ for giving me the depth of knowledge and understanding to be able to transfer the core philosophies into other areas of our lives.

  16. Scott

    I bought YNAB during a Steam sale for $20 just a couple of weeks ago … it’s already paid for itself!

  17. alepinions

    Somehow I was able to save $1000 in cash in the first 3 months, so that’s $300/month right there…

    But more importantly, http://www.youneedynab.com referral link has paid for YNAB by itself! And soon it will allow me to buy YNAB for a friend!

  18. Tara K.

    We bought YNAB while my husband was unemployed, and a slow time for my business. We were able to LIVE on $300 a week and keep a balance in our bank account (with 2 kids & debt to repay). That was 4 months ago. My husband found work last month and my business has picked up as well. We’ve paid off over $5k in debt in 4 months. I can’t believe how well I’m doing with my business now that I’m telling my money where to go.

  19. Jillian

    My husband is very hands-off with the finances, so YNAB has helped him see that his past method of “budgeting” to just make more than you spend is a little more difficult with a wife and two kids than it was before us. I show him the budget and give him choices: you can’t do every bike race that you want to, but maybe you can pick one a month. I know you found a great deal on that 60″ tv, but maybe we should wait to buy it until we have time to watch tv (which we don’t at this point in our lives). YNAB has helped us align our values with our money in a quantifiable way. We have probably saved thousands just by making better choices.

  20. Tim B

    I got the trial a month ago, and it’s already saved me money…on YNAB itself. Normally, when I’m impressed with a product, and I have spare cash, I’ll just go out and buy it. The 34 day trial of YNAB was just long enough for me to do last months budget. Doing so made me realise that I couldn’t justify a $60 spend immediately, so I allocated it to the next month instead. In that time, the Steam sale came up, so I saved $40 within a few weeks of using the trial!

    I also tried out the mobile app. Unfortunately, it didn’t load immediately and I had to refund it because you only get 15 minutes to try it with the Play store, which wasn’t enough time to troubleshoot the problem. I decided that given the saving I’d made on YNAB itself, it was worth taking the hit even if I couldn’t get the mobile version working. When I got back to the Play store, I discovered that the mobile app is now free.

    That’s $45 saved just by looking at my budget and deciding to wait.

  21. B

    How’d you get it for $20? Do you mind sharing? $60 is a lot for a student.

  22. steph

    Thanks for reminder on cell phone. My mother-in-law was complaining about getting texts on our shared line. She has no idea how to check them. It reminded me that she has no text plan so I was paying for each of these texts she was getting and not reading! Not a lot mind you but easy to turn off texting on her phone and money saved!

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