Lindsey Stringer and her husband are no strangers to budgeting. They paid off their mortgage in 19 months, and four years later bought a rental property with cash. They recently switched from Mint to YNAB and can’t help but wonder how much further along they would be financially if they had only found YNAB sooner. Here’s Lindsey’s story in her own words:
It’s no secret to my financial coaching clients and blog readers that I am a long-time Mint enthusiast. Mint saved me from the budgeting woes of Quicken almost a decade ago. It was my trusty friend as my husband and I paid off our mortgage in less than 2 years. It helped me adjust quickly to the financial realities of moving to a very expensive city.
I always gave every dollar a job in Mint (YNAB’s Rule One—before I even knew YNAB’s Four Rules existed!), but something happened along the way from paying off our mortgage to today. Mint allowed me to check out a little bit. It would only require a few expense re-categorizations here and there. It was taking over all of the budgeting work for me so that I wouldn’t have to. Amazing right? Maybe not.
These days, we have much bigger, more long-term goals, like early financial independence, and as a result, we’ve become a little more lax in keeping a strict budget. It’s become very easy to let the money we’d normally set aside for the long-term get eaten up, literally, in restaurants. We weren’t making progress as fast as I’d like.
Three months ago, several different friends asked my opinion of YNAB (You Need a Budget) within the span of a week and I realized I didn’t have one. A little bit of research revealed there is a highly devoted and growing following so I decided to give it a try. The first month, I tried out the app on my own while keeping up with the Mint account that my husband also accesses. After just one month, I could see how much more aware I was of my spending with YNAB than I had been with Mint and I pitched the idea of making a switch to my husband.
It’s been three months total now, and we both love YNAB! Here’s what the switch made us realize about the importance of awareness:
Being Hands-On Changes the Game
For us, Mint was financial AI gone overboard. It was taking the financial pain out of our transactions, especially since we are mostly cashless. All of the automated processes were making us LESS aware of our budget, even though I was looking at it at least a couple of times a week. I can only imagine how this affects people who look at Mint once a week or once a month.
With YNAB, manually assigning our expenses to our budget means we see the impact of our spending in near real time. That has been huge for us and we have kept our spending to within our budgeted amount every month. I had also forgotten how nice it is to categorize our income each month!
Savings Goals Mean Savings Progress
We also weren’t being diligent about our savings goals. Mint has a savings goals feature that I’ve used successfully in the past, but it doesn’t force you to actually move money each month. Right now, my savings goals are tied to investment accounts. So while we technically could have been meeting our savings goals because our investments were performing well, that doesn’t mean we were diligent about putting all of our own money in each month and Mint didn’t keep track of whether we were moving money into our investment accounts.
Problem solved with YNAB. All of our income and expenses pass through a single checking account which means that any money we save needs to come out of that account. With the savings goals I’ve set up in our budget, I have to move money out each month in order to keep those balances at zero. The design of YNAB reminds me to do that, and I’m very happy when I make those transactions.
Partners Who Budget Together, Save More—Together
Maintaining the budget was too easy to make my responsibility and my husband wasn’t aware enough. I’m the financial nerd in my marriage. I like budgeting and was happy to be the one to keep up with Mint.
However, my husband didn’t really need to check out our budget until the end of the month when we had our budget meeting or when he wanted to spend out of his “fun money” category. Now he is much more in tune with our budget as he records any transactions he makes. I don’t have to be the one to always say “it’s not in the budget” because he is more aware of our spending now. YNAB improves marriages! Who else can say that about their budgeting app?
Awareness is Everything
YNAB showed us how important awareness still is for our budget, even though we are well beyond paycheck-to-paycheck living. It was humbling to know we’ve kind of been doing it wrong for the last few years, or that we could at least have been doing it better. I’m looking forward to making more progress this year and getting much closer to our dream of financial independence.
Lindsey Stringer is a millennial on the path to early financial independence. She and her husband paid off their mortgage in just 19 months which forever altered the trajectory of their financial lives. She provides financial coaching and free resources at Change the Race.