YNAB Podcast Episode 83: Control


Hello YNABers. My name is Jesse Mecham and this is podcast number 83 for You Need A Budget, where we teach you four rules to help you stop living pay check to pay check, get out of debt and save more money.

YNAB has, on our homepage – I’ll pull it up to make sure I get the headline exactly right, although I probably have it memorized… I do. The headline on our homepage says, “Gain Total Control of your Money,” sub-headline, “Stop Living Pay Check to Pay Check, Get Out of Debt and Save Money Faster with YNAB.” That headline – Gain Total Control of your Money – has been our headline for, I think, four years, maybe five.

I ran other headlines in the past – “Four Rules to Help You Manage Your Money More Effectively” – a lot of it had to do with managing money – “Guaranteed Four Rules to Help You Break the Pay Check to Pay Check Cycle”. Anyway, I did a survey years ago and asked people what was the one benefit they got from the budget described in one word, and the winning word was “Control”. And that was what tipped me off on the headline. So when we were split testing the headlines… Split testing is where visitor A sees one version, one headline, visitor B sees another headline and you compare their behavior based on those two headlines – like we would want them to try our free trial. And then you see which headline performs better. Headlines matter. I have not been able to write a headline that beats this headline in four years. “Gain Total Control of Your Money”.

So, we know it resonates with YNAB visitors, and we see that from their behavior. They are more engaged in the site, they download the trial – it works really, really well. “Gain Total Control of Your Money”. But when you ask someone, “What do you think of when you think of budgeting?” they think of control, but they think of it in a negative way. They think of being controlled by their money. On our workbook/DVD combo I talk about people saying that the budget’s like a prison. The ultimate in you losing control of your life, I suppose, would be to be locked up and not enjoy any normal freedoms that we enjoy. So when they think prison they’re thinking of being controlled still. A few people probably are thinking of controlling someone else with a budget, but for the most part it’s seen as negative. And then when you ask people that have been budgeting what they love about it, they love control. The difference is in how you look at it, I suppose.

If you think that the budget will control YOU, then you’re mistaken. If you think that with a budget you can control yourself a little better or control your money better, I believe you are correct. And I was drumming up an analogy yesterday on the way up the stairs to the office – they’re taller so you have more time than on normal stairs – and I thought about a car. You stick someone in a car, you lock the doors, but they can unlock the doors and get out if you need to. But you lock the doors, you close them, lock them, they even have a seatbelt on. But you can unlock this, take off the seatbelt if you want. And you tell them that they can drive wherever they would like to go – the destination is their choice. But as they’re driving, you would want to warn them and say, “Hey, if at any moment you feel like getting out of the car, you can’t because the car is moving at 60 miles an hour.” So the person would say, “Well now, hold on a second. I don’t want to be controlled by this car. I don’t want the car to be able to tell me when I can get in and get out of the car. If I want to get out of the car, I should be able to get out of the car whenever I want. I don’t want to be controlled.” Then you say, “Well, okay, I guess.”

It’s kind of like people saying they don’t want the budget to control them. Because in the end, the person in the car supposedly controlled by the car, in the end the person is choosing the car’s destination and the destination is what we truly care about. So, think about that a little bit – some food for thought. Your destination is your plan – it’s your budget. You get to control where the car is going. You don’t get to bail out of the car on the way unless you change your plan. But in the end, you’re in control of that car and you get to decide where you want to end up.

Until next time, follow YNAB’s four rules and you will win financially. You have not budgeted like this.

Editor’s note: We’re working our way back through the podcast archives, posting transcripts each Saturday and Sunday.