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YNAB from Moneywiz!

It’s been almost a year since I switched from using Moneywiz! to YNAB. YNAB (or You Need A Budget), is a money tracking software suite that works on Windows, Mac and has Android and iOS apps.

Moneywiz was a decent piece of software. During uni, I was using GNUCash to keep track of my spending and it performed reasonably well. However, it was dog slow when I moved to the Mac and it was ugly as sin. Moneywiz! came along and changed that – not only was it built for the Mac but it would sync with my phone. This trick alone was worth moving my financial tracking to this app. Being able to track my spending on the go and have it update on the Mac meant that it was easier to keep track of everything and that meant better tracking of my money.

Moneywiz Era

Moneywiz performed really well for the year I used it. As I said, tracking spending on the go was very handy. I was able to pay down my debts and it was extremely helpful in keeping track of the spending. However, it’s budgeting section was fairly poor (as was mine). I finished my PhD and got a full time job – I realised I was spending almost everything I earned (well, I was snowballing debts, but I still wasn’t saving perhaps as much as I should). So I tried to use the budgeting section of Moneywiz. It didn’t last long. I found it to be to inflexible and wasn’t helping me achieve the effect I was after (which was to budget my money!)

After a year and a bit, I started looking at alternatives and came across YNAB. I believe I’d tried YNAB earlier but dismissed it as being not what I was after, before moving to Moneywiz, however, since then, my needs (and YNAB) had changed and therefore I decided to give it another go when I figured out things weren’t as they should be.


YNAB focuses on budgeting. It’s the core idea of the program. It does this, and it does it well. Like Moneywiz, it has an iOS and Android app that allows you to update your budget and enter transactions on the go, but unlike Moneywiz, it still needs a desktop machine to get the most out of it. Moneywiz is completely standalone and can sync between the Mac and iOS but you can do everything you can on the Mac on the iOS app etc – YNAB needs the desktop app, meaning that the apps are a standalone section (or data entry method I guess) to the desktop app.

What separates YNAB from Moneywiz is that Moneywiz charges for the apps and the desktop software, though if you consider that each app can be used standalone, that makes sense. YNAB however seems far more costly to start with – all I can say is that you get a generous 34 day trial to start and very often, it is reduced in the sale (as it’s one of the non gaming software you can buy through Steam). I got mine for £7.50 which seemed a small price to pay, considering how much I saved in the first month of using it (and don’t worry, you get a serial code for the Steam version, and can download and use it on Windows and Mac with this serial without having to launch Steam again – see here).

The reason I moved my data was that YNAB is based about budgeting. I realised that this was my problem – I wasn’t budgeting enough for yearly purchases (such as house insurance, dental work and similar) so I was finding that I would constantly either be going over budget within Moneywiz or that I had far to much money within one budget and not enough in another. YNAB realises that a budget is not set in stone and allows you to easily move money from one budget to another – for example, my bicycle might require some work one month that’s more expensive than I’ve budgeted for, so I’m able to move money from my clothing budget to pay for it. Likewise, there may be nothing being released at the cinema that I want to watch, so I can move from my movie budget to my music budget as there might be a few more music releases that I want to listen to instead. YNAB is a lot more flexible and lets me keep an eye on my money a lot better. I’m able to budget my entire pay slip when I get the money for the month which lets me see at a glance what I can and can’t buy. It also lets me put my money aside straight away for savings – I’m currently in the process of buying a house and now I’ve got the deposit together, the other fees need to be checked and paid for and I need to build up my emergency fund.

Whilst Moneywiz allowed me to track my money, I felt it was reactive rather than proactive. I was reacting to the amount of money I had coming in each month and living off that how I saw fit and I was reacting to bills as they came in. YNAB feels like I’m being proactive – I’m putting money aside each month for each budget category. Admittedly at times I’m over spending money in a category and I’m reacting to that, however, overall, I’m putting money aside properly for the future. However, I think I need to work more on adjusting spending and reduce spending on various items. I need to spend what’s left after saving, not the other way around. I’m hoping that this month, I’ll be changing that. Also, a second income would be nice, so I need to work on my magazine articles for Micro Mart again. These pay reasonably well and would allow me to build up my emergency fund quicker, pay down my mortgage quicker or invest (the emergency fund is probably the biggest one). Pro-actively budgeting feels a lot better than reacting to changes. After all, I know that I’ll have to have dental work in the future and I know that my glasses will need to change the prescription so it makes sense to save for the inevitable payment.

YNAB allows me to pro-actively set my budgets and easily react to changes in it, it allows me to change my budget to suit the month, something that Moneywiz didn’t and therefore allows me to utilise YNAB better than Moneywiz. To me, this has made dealing with my money a far easier prospect and means that I seem to be spending less where I don’t want to be and more where I should be. I keep my eye out for different software for everything I use, however, it’ll take a lot for me to move from YNAB, solely because it does it’s job well. It doesn’t perhaps focus on everything I might like to keep track of (such as my mortgage when I get it) but at least it keeps me informed on my day to day budget (and there are workarounds for things such as shares, mortgages and other similar items).

In conclusion, YNAB offers an easy way to track transactions, as well as budget. It’s handy app lets me sync my data over Dropbox and keep everything up to date so I can consistently keep my budgets up to date and let me know what I’m spending and where. I am however, not quite following the YNAB four rules – I’ve not yet been saving to budget a month in advance. That to me sounds like budgeting for an emergency fund and I’m doing that anyhow. It requires some getting your head around the principles to start with (unlike other software, you’re only supposed to budget when you get paid – meaning that you only budget money you already have) but once you do, it’s a great tool to help look after your finances.

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