While stumbling around the other day, I decided to plug in a favorite under "Personal Finance" and see what developed. In short order I was brought to a pretty active site - YNAB. Acronym for You Need A Budget. There isn't anything so incredibly revolutionary about the premise behind YNAB - it's based on Zero balance budgeting which means that you enter your income(s) and from that you zero the balance down giving every dollar that comes in a "job" to do. The program can be started anytime, beginning of the month, mid month, end of month - because simply put YNAB is oblivious to specific time lines. It doesn't care whether you start today, yesterday or tomorrow - the important thing is that you start. It works either as a standalone program running under Windows or as a Spreadsheet application (Excel/OpenOffice).
I decided to try out the Standalone application known as YNAB Pro, which is $49.99 to purchase. At first I combined this particular program with another program I really liked to visually show me that I was staying on target for things. A recent YNAB update did include the features that I found extremely helpful in the other program though, which is a bar graph that tracks and displays your budget status and the percentage of every dollar that has been used/remains. So effectively, I can now do away with the other program and use YNAB alone.
Every so often we'll ignore the budget totally, just to see if we've learned any lessons from it and of course it feels odd- akin to a trapeze artist on their first night out without a safety net might be a safe way to describe the feeling - but with YNAB in place, I can actually do the budget and forget about it for the month.
The premise behind YNAB is to allow you to eventually, by creating a 'buffer' fund, learn to live off of not what you are actually bringing in during the current month, but what you have been able to set aside - which should be equal to one month's household income - and living off the 'last month's' income rather than that good old paycheck to paycheck method which we all know just doesn't work. People who never thought they could ever implement this type of budget, are, at the YNAB site, proving that yes indeed, it is possible and they show you many ways to do it. It's this factor that begins to allow you to take control over your money, not the other way around and the majority of people who currently use YNAB as it is meant to be used, find that the ability to have this type of budgeting scenario in place is truly liberating and provides for stress free management of your funds.
YNAB can work for you in one of two ways - as a spreadsheet application or as a stand alone Windows program. with a 4 Rule principle - 1. Stop living paycheck to paycheck, 2. Give every dollar a job, 3.Prepare for Rain, and 4. Roll with the punches - you quickly begin to get your financial house in order.
The YNAB community forum is an active, helpful and friendly forum that offers you an incredible wealth of information to follow, learn from and develop your own budgeting style and success.
If you are looking for an easy to us, incredibly sensible and supportive budgeting program, I highly recommend that you try the 60 day fully functional trial version available at CNet.com I think you may find it works so well (provided you actually stick to your commitment), that you'll want to purchase it very soon after downloading it. Well worth the money! In just a few weeks of following this principle I was actually able to successfully "discover" an additional $600 that before using it, was just being frittered away. Of course, my recommendation to you is that when you do find extra money? Don't mention it to your children - instead stick it in your "buffer" fund!
As a budgeting tool - I find YNAB exceptional!
Update On Aug 18, 2010: I just purchased the latest edition of You Need A Budget (YNAB) Pro 3 today. It is now Adobe Air installed which offers a smooth, effortless process. Updates are done automatically and the program itself is clean, intuitive and easy to work with and to understand. The support that the developer and his wife (Jesse & Julie Mecham) offer is top notch (and free). They offer an e-course, small business and personal support and a well stocked group of video/audio and written tutorials to aid you in getting up to speed quickly and with little effort.
The latest Pro version sells for $59.95 and for an extra $9.95 you can also have them ship you a backup CD which carries the physical program and not just being dependent upon the digital version. I chose just the digital version though as I already had the trial version of the latest program and was simply buying the Key. This process was easy to do and my program was up and running quickly.
As I work further with this version I'll update here to show some of the improvements over and above the version I originally reviewed above. For those who prefer to work with YNAB via their Apple iPhone an app is also available and an Android version should be available soon. So far, I am enjoying working with this version of YNAB (also can't believe I just used "enjoying" and the B for budget in the same sentence!) YNAB continues to be a top rated winner for those who hate to budget and who don't want to continue to worry about their finances. No wonder they call it "The Best Money Management Software On The Planet" and I must agree!