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29 Dec 2015

Less Tedium, More Focus, Older Money with the New YNAB

Below Read More
by Jesse Mecham

You will love the new YNAB.

We started with the basic premise of, “With what we know now, what would we build?” And then we built that.

There is a lot to talk about over the next several weeks, but today I want to focus on three major new features in the new YNAB.

The tedium around transaction import has been eliminated

The most effective, awareness-producing workflow in YNAB is to check your budget before you spend money, and enter your transaction as soon as it happens. However, all of us have payments that hit our accounts automatically, or we just forget a few here and there. Or have a spouse that forgets sometimes. Hypothetically.

This necessitates checking with the bank to make sure you haven’t missed any transactions. In the old YNAB, you’d log in to your bank account, download your transaction file, go back to YNAB, initiate the import, locate your downloaded transaction file, preview the import, make sure it was going to land in the right account, and then click the import button.

And then you’d repeat that process for all of your accounts (hopefully you don’t have too many). It got the job done, but I’ll admit that I didn’t look forward to the process, so I’d usually only do it once each month. If I were using an emoji here, it would be the one where the face is grimacing.

Now, with the new YNAB, when you want to make sure you’ve captured all of your transactions in YNAB, you click the “Import” button at the top of your account. YNAB safely, securely, and directly connects to your bank through our third-party provider and pulls in the transactions. (I timed it. It’s instant.)

The workflow from that point forward is the same. You’ll want to look over your transactions, categorize them appropriately, and “Accept” them. An audible and decisive, “I Accept!” (said with gusto) is perfectly appropriate. Especially at work.

We want you focused on making great decisions with your money, not on tedium.

Reach your goals faster

The headline above isn’t hyperbole. We know if you’re given accurate information, in context, you’re your best financial advisor.

Goals across YNABers are as varied as their movie preferences (though  there seems to be a very consistent Star Wars contingent across the base). In the new YNAB, you can now attach goals to categories. Perhaps you’ve struggled with reaching those goals in the past. And perhaps this feature is your only hope.

For instance,

“I want to budget the same amount every month.”

Julie and I budget the same amount for groceries every single month. Ten Benjamins. Is it a fate to which I’m resigned? I do believe so. And, last night, as I watched my nine-year-old pile his second helping of enchiladas onto his plate, felt my eyes bug out of my head, called him on it, and then watched him polish it off with the observable ease and serenity of someone sitting in a rocker sipping lemonade… Well, perhaps our goal needs some adjusting.

At any rate, we can set the ‘Groceries for the Small Army’ category goal to fund $1,000 each month. YNAB will then let us know if we haven’t yet funded it by highlighting the category balance yellow. It’s not a Fix This Now! type of warning, but it lets us know, “Hey Jesse. Psst. Julie. Come on guys. You know the real deal. This category needs to be fed.”

“I want this balance to reach a certain amount.”

You’ll likely find plenty of uses for this type of goal. I’ve liked using it for our emergency fund. We want to have six months’ expenses on hand, so we set a goal to have the Emergency Fund category hit that balance.

When that category is selected, the goal tells us our percentage of completion. If we don’t budget anything to it, it stays pretty quiet, because there’s no deadline attached to this goal. Nothing’s due. One nicety that I noticed the other day: When you do budget something toward a goal like this, YNAB tells you when you can expect to complete the goal, based on how much you budgeted. So… if you’re kind of wishy-washy on something, maybe YNAB will tell you it’s going to take 100 years. Because it just might.

And then maybe you squeeze some money from another category and up your game a bit. That’s where the magic happens. You truly are your best financial advisor.

You may find this goal structure works well for car repairs (“I know they’ll happen, and having $2,000 on hand should be sufficient for whatever comes up.”) Or saving for a 65″ TV. There’s no deadline for it, but you want to keep it top of mind. So you can watch educational programs on it. For the children.

“I want to pay off this blasted debt.”

Yes. You can choose to pay it off by a certain date (like your birthday), which is for people that are a little more calculated and exacting. They use napkins at the dinner table and make sure the forks (yes, both forks) are on the left.

Or you can choose to budget a specific amount each month, which is for people that like to burn the boats, so to speak. “Come what may, this amount I shall pay.”

Either works.

“I want to have a specific balance saved by a specific date.”

Vacation! Christmas! Property taxes. Anniversary! Life insurance premium. Weekend getaway! Tuition. Birthday!

Many of the YNAB team have chosen to set up goals for almost all of their categories. Why? Because we’re so focused and goal-oriented? Yes. And one other reason.

When you lay a goal framework on top of your budget, you get a nice starting point for each month. You can use the new Quick Budget “Underfunded” button and, in one fell swoop, budget the necessary amounts to stay on track with your goals.

Then, in your budget meeting (where all involved parties are present) you look it over, tweak, and ask important questions.

Do Julie and I need to discuss each month how much we should save for Christmas? No. She tells me the amount in January and that’s what we do (there’s an automatic adjustment for inflation?). From that point forward, we’re on a Tesla-like Autopilot. We’re aware of what’s going on, but the car’s doing the heavy lifting.

You will love the goals feature. It’ll keep you more aware of your priorities, and that will make all the difference.

How old is your money?

Rule Four used to be called, “Learn to Live on Last Month’s Income.” Cool. But we’ve renamed it to, “Age Your Money.”

How much? It’s up to you. The next time you spend a dollar or two, we want you to be able to say, “I earned that dollar two weeks ago. Here I am spending it.”

And then, maybe a few months later, after living the YNAB Way,  you’ll say, “That dollar I just spent? I earned it 32 days ago!”

Shoot for spending dollars that are at least 30 days “old” because that’s when the magic simplifies your workflow, decreases your stress, and improves your decision making. (How does this decision now affect my longer-term goals?)

You’ll naturally age your money by implementing YNAB’s first three rules. Yes, your Rule Two funds provide some security and stability, but the rule wants you to take that a bit further.

You’ll see your “Age of Money” in the top-right corner of the new YNAB. If you’re curious, it uses the average age of the last ten cash categorized outflows from budget accounts.

Now, the next time someone asks you if you’re following Rule Four, you’ll know:

(Two days. You’ve got this. Stick to it. It could be three days tomorrow!)

(45 days. Cool.)

(97 days. Surely you jest.)

(355 days. Kyle, ace YNAB Dev.)

“How old is that dollar I just spent?” Watch and see how your awareness increases and your priorities become more fine-tuned as you ask and answer that question.

Whew.

The new YNAB is the best software we have ever built. I have so much left to tell you over the next several weeks. You will love it. It launches officially tomorrow.

Your Next Step

Remember, budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. You can do this! Today. Right now. What do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress. (Ok, so kind of a lot.)

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