8 Ways Your Budget Just Got Better

And the YNAB Learning Curve? It’s Been Squashed.


Today is an epic day in the YNAB universe. The You-Nee-verse. Because, as you may have noticed this morning when you went to add a “last night was rough” commuting coffee to your budget, BLAM. Everything looked different. Like what the…

We did a little tidying last night. And by “last night,” we mean we’ve been working for the better part of three years on these updates and holey cannoli are we stoked about the refresh! But for you and your dearly beloved budget, we also realize this might be a bit of a shock. A change. And we also recognize that change is hard. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the change.

The wind blows. Birds chirp. Perhaps if you are on the east coast of North America, the cicadas hum obnoxiously.

OK, difficulty of change acknowledged. Now let’s scootch back a moment and talk about why your budget looks different.

Prefer to watch instead of read? Hannah unpacks the updates below.

Don’t see any changes yet? Go to your app store and update for the magic!

Why Does My Budget Look Different?

Let’s transport back to when you first downloaded what’s now your favorite app, YNAB. You installed it on your phone and bang, right away you set up your budget effortlessly, and you were like “Oh, this makes complete and total sense,” right?

Mmmm. Wait. Actually… that wasn’t the case, was it? No, it was more like one of these reactions.

  • Uhh, okay so…umm, I think I… well… nooo…
  • “Hey Alexa, what are True Expenses?”
  • So is this the money I have or the money I want to have?
  • Uh, I don’t think this app is for me. Delete…

YNAB had what we like to call a learning curve. And a big one. Just a double rainbow of a learning curve, allllll the way across the sky. 

This learning curve made it hard to share with your friends and family, right? Like “Hey, you’ve GOT to try this new app, it’s changed my life. We’ll just need a 4-hour sit down teaching session, and you’ll want to sign up for these three live workshops, watch this 2-hour video course, read this book, absorb the entire blog in your sleep, and text me whenever you are confused, okay?”

Yeah. We’re sorry about that. We have had all hands on deck to solve this learning curve conundrum. 

And that’s where this new redesign comes in! It’s the same budget you know and love, it’s just a lot easier to use. And while we rejiggered that YNAB-newbie stuff, we also sent your budget to a spa wellness retreat and it’s back and it’s glowing, relaxed, and more productive than ever. 

Here are eight ways your budget just got better:

  1. A fresh new look
  2. More intuitive terminology
  3. Efficiently prioritize your dollars with Auto-Assign
  4. Change your budget quickly in Edit Mode
  5. See category status at a glance with progress bars on mobile and web
  6. Reference your recent money moves on mobile and web
  7. YNAB is simpler for your friends and family to learn
  8. A new foundation is built for future updates

Let’s dive in:

1. A Fresh New Look

First up, your budget just freshened up!

On the mobile app, there are now two different views to choose from based on what information you want to be able to see at a moment’s notice. 

Default view on Mobile
Default view on Mobile

Default View on Mobile

For current YNABers, it won’t look all that different from normal. You’ll see both the “assigned” column and “available to spend” column at all times, along with the category group totals.

Tap the category to see your full spending by tapping “Details” or “Activity” for that month to get a full record of all transactions that happened in and out of this category.

Progress Bars View on Mobile

When progress bars are turned on, the only column of information you’ll see is how much money is available to spend in each category, because 95% of the time that’s the only information we need to be able to see anyway.

Progress bars view on mobile (Android)

Don’t worry, though—if you want to see how much money you’ve assigned to a category, just tap on any category and bam…the “Assigned” column and the category group totals both apparate out of nowhere (“You’re a wizard, YNAB!“).

If you don’t like the progress bars and you would like to turn them off, we won’t be offended (twitch). Just click the “more” button in the upper left corner and tap “Hide Progress Bars.” 

A Sleeker, Streamlined View on Web

As far as simpler design in the web app goes, you might be wondering “WHERE DID ALL THE INFORMATION GO AT THE TOP OF MY BUDGET?!” It’s still there! 

The top and side bars now have collapsible information for a more streamlined view.

If you’re a web user, you’ll also notice the top and side of your budget screen looks different. Before, maybe it was a little bit “we’ve kept every National Geographic magazine since 1976 and they’re stacked in piles in the garage.” Now, however, it’s “Have you heard of Marie Kondo? Does this spark joy?” 

The collapsed sidebar (left) and expanded sidebar (right)

Everything is easier to see and less cluttered. I am less overwhelmed when I open my budget.

-YNAB Alpha tester

Want the quick and dirty guide to the changes? Check out our visual guide here.

2. More Intuitive Terminology

Notice any new words around here? We found our old way of saying things wasn’t the most intuitive for new users. And what’s more, the word “Budget” or “Budgeted” was used in three different places and meant three different things! “Open your budget app to budget money in your budget.” Oy vey. Something had to change.

Easier-to-understand terminology now in your budget.

So…

  • To Be Budgeted is now Ready to Assign (as in, your dollars are now ready to assign to categories)
  • Goals are now Targets (This frees up the word “Goals” for your actual goals—like saving for a house, paying off student loans, or running a marathon).  

So now, you’ll assign money to your financial goals, and set targets to help you get there. Yeah, it just kinda makes sense, huh?

People resist change, but I love the new interface

-YNAB Alpha Tester

3. Efficient Prioritization and Allocation

The new Auto-Assign feature may be the most sci-fi-iest update. Auto-Assign will consider any dollars you have ready to assign and develop a preview to show how it will assign your dollars based on upcoming bills and targets. 

See Auto-Assign in action.
See Auto-Assign in action.

If you’ve ever used the Underfunded button (that we all know and love), Auto-Assign uses the same logic. You can adjust any of these automatic assignments in the preview before implementing. You can also skip Auto-Assign altogether and still do your own thing, though we recommend you give it a go before dismissing this truly nifty and game-changing feature.

Auto-Assign preview mode on mobile.
Auto-Assign’s editable preview mode on mobile.

A boatload of research went into teaching your budget how to identify which categories most need your dollars, and this update also makes it a lot easier for new budgeters to start budgeting in the middle of the month.

Learn more about how to use Auto-Assign in your budget.

At first I was meh about Auto-Assign, but it’s because I hadn’t tried it yet. Now I have, and I love it!

-YNAB Alpha Tester

4. Change Your Budget Faster in Edit Mode

With the flurry of updates released today, the frequent budget changers and fresh starters of the group will be pleased to see the incredibly easy-to-use new budget editor in the top right corner of the app.

Change your budget faster in edit mode.
Change your budget faster in edit mode.

Change your category names, structures, targets, and amounts all at once from your budget’s new Edit Mode. Change your mind, then change it again. After all, your budget is an ever-changing thing. Now we help it go from caterpillar mode to butterfly with the click of a button.

5. See Your Progress at a Glance on Mobile and Web

You may recognize this shiny new feature from the web app, and we’re pleased to announce it’s made its way to your budget on mobile in all of its colorful glory.

Progress bars now on mobile (iOS and Android)
Progress bars now on mobile (iOS and Android)

Progress bars show the funding status of each of your categories visually. You know what they say, a picture’s worth a thousand words—or at least the 25 extra characters you’ve previously shoved in the category name. Free up that real estate people, you’ve got progress bars now! 

I love the progress bars. It is such an easy visual to track my progress.

-YNAB Alpha Tester

Progress bars will be off by default, but you can turn them on anytime by clicking the “more” button in the upper left corner of the app and toggling on or off. 

6. See Your Recent Money Moves on Mobile and Web

Another feature that started on the web app but is now on mobile with the latest update: Recent Moves. This feature shows your recent history and solves that frequent budgeting question of “how did I get here” by giving you a trail of proverbial breadcrumbs to follow. 

See your recent money moves now on mobile!
See your recent money moves, now on mobile!

This is especially helpful for partners who budget together but also forces a few of us to face reality for all those times we moved $20 from the Grocery category to the Coffee category. Our budgeting laundering is now unearthed for our partners to see.

I love how much cleaner this looks. Even though it’s a lot of the same functionally, it just feels cleaner.

-YNAB Alpha Tester

7. YNAB is Now Simpler for Your Friends & Family to Learn

Consider this: the budgeting newbie. The friend that you told about YNAB, but has deleted the app three times. The coworker that said it was too complicated to figure out. The person you wanted to tell about YNAB but hesitated because…well, it was too complicated to figure out. These changes, honestly, started for them.

The app now meets people right where they are in this new learning-driven design. New users build their first budget by starting with what comes naturally—creating a list of expenses. From there, they distribute their money, can see how much they need, and learn Rule One—all in an intuitive, step-by-step path. 

No longer is setting up a budget in YNAB an Everest-sized incline. Building a budget in YNAB is now just a gently rolling slope, where you can sling a picnic basket over one arm and camp at the top to watch the sun go down. Or at least, where you realize exactly how much you spent on the contents of said picnic basket. Who knew cheese was so expensive!

It's now easier to learn YNAB with a new way to build your first budget.
It’s now easier to learn YNAB with a new way to build your first budget.

With this new update, we’ve squashed that learning curve for your friend, your cousin, and your coworker. 

If you’d like to see part of the new user experience, create a new budget in your account (don’t make a Fresh Start!) and play around with it!

Read more about why and how we redesigned the new user experience.

8. We Built a Foundation for Even Better Budget Features

With this release, we’ve essentially built a brand new framework underneath your whole budget—one that’s more robust, cleaner, and can handle some pretty incredible upcoming new features

For the true tech nerds out there, our developers have built a new framework inside an invisible cog of YNAB called the shared library. In short, our apps on Android and Apple devices are written in completely different programming languages, so when we make a new feature for YNAB or fix a bug, we’ve had to build that feature or fix separately in both places, and sometimes we couldn’t do it in exactly the same way. 

The new Shared Library is written in one programming language but runs on all devices, which means that as YNAB continues to grow and flourish, both Apple and Android devices will experience updates and fixes with a lot more parity (and a cheer erupts from the Android crowd!). Dope.

So, we hope after seeing these eight features broken down you can go back to drinking your morning coffee in peace. Welcome to the new and improved YNAB, and we hope you love your budget even more. 

Know a friend that could benefit from the new-and-improved YNAB that’s way easier to learn? Refer a friend and you both get a free month!

Refer a Friend