Q1 2021 ends much like last year's Q1 ended in the middle of a pandemic. One full year of the corona pandemic; crazy to think a year ago, it all started. Now with the first quarter of 2021 finished, it's time to take another look at my portfolio and see how it faired during these challenging times. Did my portfolio continue to rocket to the moon, or did it orbit a bit and crash back down?
Last Updated on April 4, 2021 by Mr. FightToFIRE
The aptly named budgeting tool YNAB, short for You Need A Budget, stopped supporting their legacy tool YNAB4 on 31 October 2019. I’ve been an avid user of the tool for over 7 years, so seeing their support completely disappear made me question if a change was needed.
So using the end of support, I decided to do a review of my YNAB-usage and see what I should do:
- Do the effort of moving to the new YNAB (aka nYNAB), and pay a subscription fee -the horror!-
- Or move to a good old Excel spreadsheet
As a retail customer, the lack of support shouldn’t really hinder the use of YNAB4 till Windows, for some reason, changes in such a way that it breaks YNAB4 (highly unlikely!).
No, the real issue for me was the lack of new features. It might seem strange given a budgeting tool shouldn’t be that complicated but bear with me.
YNAB4 vs new YNAB (nYNAB) features
new YNAB is what we call the YouNeedABudget tool that was released after YNAB4 in 2019. It’s the same personal budgeting tool but now as a subscription that is accessible from everywhere. It’s still based on the envelope method.
When nYNAB came out, they actually made a transition guide in which they explain the differences between the old YNAB4 and the new tool. While some of these features are less interesting, there are some things that I was interested in.
The following features or changes are what I would consider as nice to have but not what did it for me.
Other notable changes
To Excel or not to Excel
After checking the new features I still had a mixed feeling about it. Sure, there were improvements, but were they worth the subscription model? Let us be honest, they do this get a more stable income stream instead of having to continuously find new users. So, next was to look at my main alternatives. I checked the likes of:
However, none were really what I was looking for:
- A clean, no-nonsense interface
- Small to no learning curve
- No ads
- Not purely US-focused
Given all of the above -and a bit of bias- I didn’t go with any of the other tools. With none of them catching my attention, I decided to try good old Excel as an alternative.
(Excel) spreadsheet galore
I downloaded and used numerous pre-made (basic) sheets. There are a ton out there so I figured one should work for me, right? Well…
They “worked”, but the main thing that hindered me was that it was cumbersome. Having to write and tweak your own sheet might seem fun for others, but, at least at the moment, it is something I’m struggling with. It gives me a feeling of dread instead of enjoyment. While this feeling isn’t helping me looking at the Excel as a viable option, it’s clear there are benefits.
The benefits are known of course. You can change the spreadsheet however you want, add or remove specific formulas, etc. You are not bound by the schedule of a third party. If you feel the need to change something you can. You can take this in the broader sense as well. YNAB might not have the features you want or the features don’t work as you expect. Just go to YNAB’s support forum to look at recent examples of this. In Excel you can easily add your assets such as investments and property but also your liabilities. Additionally, you don’t spend Over 70 EUR per year on a tool to help you save money.
Basically, with excel you have complete freedom. This can be a problem of course. It’s one of the main reasons I’m still leaning towards YNAB. There are quite some limitations of Excel.
When talking about limitations it can be good to compare to YNAB. It takes most of the work of your hands allowing you to purely focus on budgeting. It saves time and energy. It’s a system that doesn’t need maintenance and it’s constantly improving. It provides a better, more efficient interface than Excel.
Think about the following: your partner might want to pitch in from time to time, or sooner or later the person managing the budget will change. If that happens it’s much easier to help them be engaged from the beginning thanks to a dedicated budgeting tool. You might actually keep a true budget instead of a ledger.
Reviewing Your (shared) transactions and resolving any discrepancies, aka budget reconciliation, is also very simple. YNAB walks you through the process of reconciling your account. When you roll your own spreadsheet, it’s surprisingly complex to allow for cleared and uncleared transactions.
Having reviewed everything I came to a number of observations:
- I don’t need budgeting functionality that much, I keep strict control over my finances.
- While the nYNAB features are cool, they don’t tip the scale a whole lot in favor of nYNAB, but it is tipped towards it.
- I prefer having a clean record of my income and expenses, as well as my assets and liabilities.
- The interface of YNAB provides clean tracking. Even as I’m fighting towards FIRE I can use this app to track my different portfolios.
- I like to watch my budget from both desktop and mobile.
For these reasons, I got a subscription to YNAB.
Before subscribing I checked out their cancellation policy to see what was possible if I decided to focus on my own excel spreadsheet after all. I’m happy that they have a “Don’t Pay for Stuff You Won’t Use policy” (“Cancellation,” 2019). This will allow me to switch once I have set my mind to put some time and effort into a spreadsheet.
nYNAB Pros and Cons
Is YNAB worth the subscription?
Finally, would I recommend others to go for nYNAB? Is YNAB worth your 80 dollars a year?
After evaluating everything, I would recommend nYNAB (over Excel) in the following cases:
- If there is too much month left at the end of your paycheck.
- You don’t know where your money is going.
- When you spend all your money on things and don’t have enough to buy food.
If any of the above apply to you, then I highly recommend you give the new YNAB a try using their 34-day free trial.
However, do you already have your things in order budget-wise? A simple Excel could be all you need and there are a plethora of excellent templates available.
- Transition guide. (2016, March 30). You Need A Budget. Retrieved May 9, 2020, from https://www.youneedabudget.com/guide/transition-guide/#thats-new-features
- Cancellation. (2019, January 9). You Need A Budget. Retrieved May 10, 2020, from https://www.youneedabudget.com/cancellation/
14. YNAB Vs nYNAB Vs Excel: A Helpful Budgeting Tool reviewed