If you run a small business and don’t have to deal with physical inventory, YNAB could simplify your cashflow and provide you with more peace of mind for the future.
You Need a Budget was designed as a solution for personal budgeting, and that’s how most people use it. But you can also use YNAB for your business. In fact, the YNAB forum has an entire community of small business owners who share tips about using YNAB for business.
We spoke with Monica, the owner of an acupuncture business and an avid YNAB user. She filled us in on why YNAB was the right solution for her business finances and how she uses it.
Monica Fauble is an acupuncturist in Philadelphia and uses YNAB for both her business and personal finances. But, she was no newbie to budgeting when she discovered the tool—she even used some of the YNAB concepts before she even knew YNAB existed.
“I was taught how to budget by my Dad (who endearingly holds an email address containing the moniker ‘coupondad’ and who once used a spreadsheet to calculate his annual postage savings when he finally switched over to online bill pay). During grad school round one, I used Quicken to enter future expenses such as “shoes” (there was a Saucony outlet near my school) with a future date, putting away $5 or $10 at a time until I knew that I had the $35 for a new pair of sneakers,” Monica said.
(This sounds familiar…)
When a friend recommended YNAB, Monica immediately recognized that the ability to save for future expenses was a key part of the tool, and she’d been doing this for years. In fact, Monica lived off a stipend of just $9,010/year ($750/month) during grad school for her first Masters Degree (in English Literature) by using this strategy of planning ahead.
Monica’s Business Before YNAB
During Monica’s first year of business ownership, she used an Excel spreadsheet. She tracked everything from her income and expenses to the number of patients she had. It was effective but time-consuming.
She considered a business accounting tool like QuickBooks, but she felt the program would be too bulky and hard to use. And she knew it wouldn’t have the critical ability to save for future expenses. Instead, she stuck with her spreadsheet, knowing she could more easily plan for both monthly and annual expenses.
“While I was in acupuncture school, I volunteered at a community acupuncture clinic that used QuickBooks,” Monica shared. “I once entered a transaction wrong and it caused some big kerfuffle in their accounting. I knew that having such finicky software might not be the right choice for me while I was just starting out and figuring out what I needed. So I started with Excel, which I knew that I could easily ditch/transition out of later.”
Why Monica Chose YNAB
About a year after Monica started her acupuncture business, a friend introduced her to YNAB. Right away, she recognized that YNAB meshed well with the financial habits she already had, such as planning for larger, but less frequent expenses. Not only did using YNAB help streamline Monica’s business finances, but it gave her confidence and helped her to relax.
“When I started using YNAB, I found that it helped me empower my cash flow,” Monica told us. “By the end of year one in business, I had a decent understanding of what I needed expense-wise on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.”
“YNAB helped me overcome the constant recalculating I was doing with Excel, which required lots of manual calculations and double-checking to ensure that I was really on track with my goals. Excel required too much mental energy and was eventually a drain on my attention and brain power.”
Understanding the financial component is especially important in acupuncture, a field where small business ownership is the natural course.
“One of the challenges of acupuncture as a profession is that the majority of people who end up in acupuncture school want to be a healer, but many have zero interest in owning a business,” Monica shared. “Although W-2 jobs for acupuncturists do exist, they are few and far between. It may not be until year 2, or even 3, of a 3-4 year program that someone in acupuncture school realizes that they will likely end up as a small business owner.”
Monica has seen many of her colleagues struggle with the financial side of their business. For example, she sees other acupuncturists pay higher prices for their medical malpractice insurance. They don’t have a system in place to plan for the discounted annual premium, so they pay more in the long-run so that they can pay quarterly instead. With a tool like YNAB, they’d be able to plan ahead and save both money and stress in the long run.
And as Monica told us, “No one wants to work with a stressed-out acupuncturist! Clients are coming to us looking for steadiness and support. So money management is super essential to being able to continue being an acupuncturist.”
How to Use YNAB For Your Business
Many small business owners use YNAB to help them manage their business finances—it works for more than just acupuncturists! The first step Monica recommends taking is setting up categories in your budget to reflect each of your IRS expense categories. That way, you can easily hand off your transactions to an accountant when tax time rolls around.
There’s even a recorded workshop that explains how to set up your business on YNAB.
Another tip Monica recommends to business owners is to read the book Profit First and implement its teachings into your budget.
“Though the book addresses multi-million dollar businesses, and I’m nowhere near that benchmark, one thing I love from Profit First is percent-based budgeting,” Monica shared.
The Profit First method has you decide ahead of time what percent of revenue you’ll allocate to profit, payroll, taxes, and expenses. Once you’ve set these percentages in your business, it’s easy to decide how to budget once you start bringing in revenue.
Finally, Monica likes to remind small business owners to only budget with the money they already have.
“It’s tempting to forecast money not yet received when you’re self-employed,” Monica said. “But don’t do it! Work with what you have and let scarcity be on your side to help you prioritize.”
Check out more YNAB resources for small business owners!
Are you considering using YNAB for both your business and personal finances? Here’s a tip for you: You can have more than one budget in your YNAB account. Use one budget for your personal finances and another for your business. Then use the “Open Budget” feature to bounce back and forth as needed.