The Best Family Finance Software Changes Lives

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The police officer, school teacher, engineer, firefighter, attorney, doctor, professor, designer, manager and rocket scientist all have one thing in common: they’re killing it financially with YNAB.

Sonja, Bremerton, WA

I'm a former nuclear engineer, currently taking a break from my career to stay home with my children. My husband has been in the Navy for 18 years (yes, over half his life!). We have four children...and a small army of cats.

We live wherever the Navy sends us. This meant going from DINKS (dual income, no kids) in Charleston, SC where real estate was very inexpensive, to a one income family with four kids just west of Seattle, WA with a much higher mortgage. Needless to say, the cost of living is much higher than it was in the south. Unfortunately our manner of living was slow to get the memo.

At the beginning of our marriage our financial situation was fine, if carelessly managed. We were both employed and had plenty of discretionary income. Then we went down to one income and had kids but our lifestyle didn't change too much. Our finances got much tighter and credit card balances went up. We'd plan on paying off the debt with any upcoming bonus or tax return, but something else "more important" would always come up and we'd spend the money on that instead. We had an ideal budget planned out in Quicken, but it never worked out. On paper we were saving small amounts each month for little expenses like car registration, home maintenance and repairs, but in reality we were spending that money each month. The bills got tighter, and we hit overdraft protection every paycheck. Then we'd start off the next paycheck $100-200 in the hole, and it would just snowball (in the negative direction) from there. It seemed impossible to dig ourselves out of that situation, even though on paper it looked like we had enough money. To paraphrase a popular financial advisor, we would get to the end of the month and wonder where our money went despite us trying to tell it where to go. I would get a knot in the pit of my stomach whenever I logged onto our bank account--dreading seeing the balance.

It wasn't anything exciting that made us change, just embarrassing--i.e.our credit card debt. Realizing that we wouldn't have it paid off before my husband got out of the military ( which we had always counted on) was a shock. Add to that a car payment for a new (to us) minivan that we needed when baby #4 came along, and there was a lot we needed to get paid off.

Give every dollar a job? We didn't have a problem with dollar unemployment; we always had our dollars working two or three jobs. In the past, we would save money from our mid-month pay, and reserve it for the mortgage payment that would be drafted at the beginning of the next month. My husband would see the account balance and stop at Best Buy for a new game on the way home. I would see the account balance and buy new clothes for the kids. Then the mortgage would come out and we realized we spent the same dollars three times, ending up in overdraft. The YNAB Budget screen, as simple as it sounds, is what made the difference for us. We don't look at the account balance when deciding if we are going to buy something, we look at the balance in that category. It both limits our spending (No, our entertainment budget is already spent for the month; we'll wait until next month to buy a new movie.) and frees us up to spend money on needed things (There is still money available in the homeschooling budget. We didn't blow it on a movie!). We also bought the iPhone App so my husband can have an up-to-date version of the budget with him on his iPad and that has been key to keeping us on track. Why did I stick with Quicken for so long? Why? Doh!

We are now in our 4th month of using YNAB. We're telling our money where to go and it does! That little amount of money we're saving up each month for car registration is sitting in the account, ready for the renewal in the spring. Our home repair budget is building up so if the water heater breaks we won't be pulling out the credit card. We USED our car maintenance budget! The money in that budget category in the account for a minor repair, not "uh oh, put it on MasterCard". These are all little things we had said we would save for before, but never actually got around to doing. Last week I logged onto our account to download our statement and had to answer security questions due to "suspicious account activity". There weren't any unusual transactions, but we haven't hit overdraft protection since we started using YNAB. I told my husband that after 10 years with this account, that must have flagged as suspicious activity!

YNAB is helping keep our house a little less cluttered, as well. Whenever we stop to look at something in the store we really don't need, I say "what YNAB category does THAT go in?" and we usually leave it there. Not to mention much less heartburn and stress when I log on and look at our account balances.





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We haven't hit overdraft protection since we started using YNAB

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