This You Need a Budget review is sponsored by You Need A Budget.

Remember how I just talked about how proud I am for setting up my life with my financial advisor? Well I have a confession to make. While I work with him for my savings and retirement planning and overall “big decisions,” my day-to-day budgeting is non-existent.

Thinking about money stresses me out and so I do what anybody would do… I ignore it. (This is terrible financial advice, by the way.) For years, I have meant to set a budget and just never figured out a system that worked for me. One that was robust enough to actually feel worth it and one that felt like it was serving me more than the effort I was putting into it. I’d grow frustrated (or anxious) and put my head back into the sand.

I’m a fairly organized person in most areas of my life, and this is one place where I am sorely in need of help. I have a somewhat unique financial set up as I pay myself a small salary every month, but receive a lump sum payment at the beginning of the year from my business’s previous year profit. Technically speaking, this works for me, but I know I’m missing a huge opportunity to be in more control of what I spend and understand exactly where my daily spending is going. Instead of just rolling with it, I want to set a budget and stay on track of additional savings goals.



Honestly when I agreed to do this sponsored post with You Need A Budget, I did it mostly because it was something I was so desperate to do but have been procrastinating for years. I knew if I had a deadline to talk about my experience that I would actually…. DO IT. My friends Ashley and Ryan absolutely swear by YNAB and I knew from their experience that I would like it too. (Ryan and I are like two peas in a pod, ha!) The hundreds of other You Need a Budget reviews didn’t hurt either. Spoiler alert: I’m sold.

What better time than January to kick off a brand new budget for the year! I dove head first into everything You Need A Budget offers in terms of getting set up and understanding the YNAB principles. I learned quickly that this is more than a boring “budget”– it’s a way of life. As I watched every video, I became more and more hooked on this idea. It is absolutely brilliant. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by setting and creating a budget, I was excited to get mine up and running. Now I’ve got my budget ready to go (!!!) and for the first time feel totally confident. I’m excited to see how this changes my spending habits throughout the year.

The YNAB software is award-winning with a cult-like following, for a reason. It takes the guesswork out of budgeting and puts you in the driver seat so you can fully take control of your finances.


YNAB has four main rules of thumb:


This is kind of like the envelope method if you’ve ever done that– where you put cash into designated envelops. You know what you have to work with, and put each dollar to work based on what needs to be taken care of.


So genius. A true expense is an expense that will pop up, but isn’t considered a monthly expense. For example, a monthly expense would be “mortgage” and a true expense would be “auto repairs” that you expect to need this year. Basically you are incrementally setting aside the money, before you need it. So when you do need it, you have it!


This is my favorite YNAB principle. One of my biggest issues with other budgeting software and services I’ve tried before (even my handmade ones in Excel) was that I had a hard time guessing exactly how much money I’d spend in the future. Some expenses are easier to know and more consistent and other ones less so. By “rolling with the punches,” it’s okay to be flexible with your budget and change it as needed. When you overspend in one category, like “groceries,” the software will prompt you to reconcile this by taking the money from another category where you still have the budget available, like “dining out” in this case. This allows you to be flexible with where your money goes, while still living within your means.


This rule is what will help you get out of the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck if that’s something you’re currently in. If you feel like you’re never able to get ahead and your paycheck is completely accounted for the minute it hits your bank account, YNAB will help you get out of this. Using Rules 1-3 of the YNAB system will help you determine how to spend less money, which then allows you to budget gradually further and further into the future. The goal would then be to get enough money to let this month’s pay cover next month’s expenses and so on and so on. I love how they break it down: instead of having the bills in hand waiting for the money to arrive, you’ll have on the money on hand waiting for the bills to arrive. (Talk about a powerful shift.)

The software itself is key, because it allows you to see your “true” bank account balance. Every dollar that will be spent (monthly expenses, and “true expenses”) have been accounted for. If you saw, for example, your balance on your bank’s website, you’d see a larger number, and maybe think you had more to spend, without realizing that those dollars had to go other places first. This lets you GET AHEAD of your budget and takes the guess work out of how much money you’ll have to work with between paychecks.

YNAB offers free, daily workshops that you can sign up for to get onboarded as seamlessly as possible.

(I want to emphasize in this You Need a Budget Review that this to me is such a huge selling point. You can ask questions live and get immediate help from their expert instructors. Perfect for people like me who start to shut down when I get lost!) Beyond just getting set up, they also offer workshops to tackle money problems you may be facing like how to pay off debt, how to reach your savings goals, how to budget with a partner, and how to get into a routine of budgeting.

SIGN UP TODAY FOR A FREE 34-DAY TRIAL– no credit card needed!

Thank you to You Need A Budget for sponsoring this You Need a Budget reivew!

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HUGE YNAB fan here since 2015. It’s changed my life in every way and is the reason I have been able to save, quit jobs when I needed to move on without a next step plan, and have financial peace of mind. YNAB seems intimidating at first but I promise you’ll get the hang of it, and you’ll be so much better off using it as opposed to an automated service like Mint (plus Mint is owned by Intuit which does some not so savory things in the tax preparation space…look up the John Oliver segment). ANYWHO, just a passionate YNABer over here glad to see some of my favorite brands working together 😉


Yasssss YNAB!!! I’ve also used YNAB for years now, it really helps me focus on paying off student loans, and helped me be less stressed when paying and keeping track of bills every month after I first moved out. I just started a new budget for this year because I like to reevaluate my new goals and update my budget in the beginning of the year. Also the Facebook group is awesome and very encouraging, I posted on there in January about not going on a ski trip with friends because it wasn’t a financially smart choice for me and everyone was so nice and made me feel better!


I’ve been using YNAB for 7 (!!!!) years now, and I am beyond obsessed. A church I was attending while living in Dallas offered a Moneywise class. I was drowning in debt, so I begged for them to comp the cost (because I couldn’t afford the $45 at that point). The program they promoted was YNAB, and I was SOLD. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, and my finances are in such a better place now than they would be if I hadn’t gotten a handle on my everyday spending. LOVE THIS.


I absolutely love YNAB. My fiancé thinks I’ve lost my mind because I may be slightly obsessed with it. I found it in March of last year, and went a bit crazy binging Youtube videos during the lockdowns, but since then I’ve paid off all my debt except for the mortgage, and increased my net worth by over 50%. It’s not an understatement to say that finding YNAB changed my life and is one of the few good things to come out of 2020.


This just convinced me to giver YNAB another try after a failed attempt in college.
Also where is that card holder from?


Thanks for the post! Do you know if it is easy to categorize expenses you were reimbursed for? I’m thinking, say I buy X for someone and they Venmo me the money back, resulting in a wash?


I think this is a common occurrence! Some people put a line item as “income” for reimbursements to reconcile and this is the “official” YNAB advice:
1. Budget for the initial expense, then treat the reimbursement as income.

2. Temporarily overspend, then use the reimbursement to cover it.

Zoe Jackson

I read your blog daily but rarely comment…but had to come on here to say how HAPPY I am that you are promoting this software! I am happy to admit that I’m a cult YNAB user. My husband and I have been using it for 5 years and in that time we’ve been able to pay off all of my $40,000 in student loans, save to go on a 6-week trip to Europe, and completely fund both of our master’s degrees so that we wouldn’t have to take out debt. We would not have had the organization to do it without YNAB. It is the best budgeting tool ever, period!! Keep singing the praises!


I LOVE YNAB!!! Been using it for two years now and it literally makes life so much easier, and totally aligns with my tendency to want to plan ahead anyway! Love seeing you do some more off-the-beaten-track sponsored posts


First, I LOVE these posts! We could all benefit from talking about money more. Not how much money we make/have/spend, but how we divide/save/put it to work. I’m actually the opposite of you, Carly! I feel so on top of my daily and monthly expenses and saving but anything beyond that and I have no clue and get overwhelmed. I would love to see a guest post or series about financial planning and investing. I bet there are some awesome followers would would be great guest posters! It seems that I already have a lot of the YNAB methods in place for myself (this post made me feel so smart haha) and one thing I wanted to suggest was putting away a set amount of money every paycheck or every month for those true expenses. I have a separate checking account that’s for things like doctor copays, ordering contacts, haircuts, etc. This way those irregular items don’t throw a wrench in any given month but the money is there when I need it 🙂


I’m also an avid reader of your blog but haven’t commented – and totally agree, i’ve been a cult-like YNAB user and it has helped me IMMENSELY. So happy to see you partnering with them and talking about finances!


Longtime reader, probably first time commenter. When you mentioned working with a financial advisor last year, I was tempted to ask what you did to prepare you for that step, because I feel like I’m starting from scratch with personal finance. This makes me feel much better about my own lack of budgeting prowess and empowered to go do something about it – so THANK YOU!


Welcome to club YNAB! I love seeing one of my favorite organized bloggers getting into my favorite type-a budgeting program! My brother and I are YNAB converts and always laugh over the website slogan “gain TOTAL control of your money” because YNAB clearly knows its target audience!


Haven’t used YNAB but I’ve used Mint for years to see my spending and income very clearly, and it’s been fantastic. I think at least one of the best things to do if you’re wanting to get a handle on spending is to see it all in black and white.


I used for YNAB for years and loved it!! When got married, I switched over to Quicken since my husband was using it. I’m still learning Quicken but really enjoy it (if anyone is looking for a program other than YNAB).


Love this post! I used YNAB for a long time and LOVED it – it was so amazing for me when I lived on my own and really had to figure out my finances for the first time. It completely changed how I think about money.

Jessica Alvarez

Okay, this is wild because my boyfriend just recently showed me this site (he LOVES it). I definitely feel like there’s a learning curve to it, but I already love being able to see where every dollar goes. Awesome sponsorship!!


I actually have a question about this that you are well-qualified to answer! I checked out YNAB a few years ago, but I’m a freelancer/contractor, and my income really varies from year to year and from month to month. Like you, I pay myself a tiny salary and take the rest of my money in larger draws — some months I get no money, other months I get a big payment. I’m good at socking my money away but I would like to actually budget-budget, and the last time I checked, NYAB seemed like it was really set up for a person with a steady paycheck that was predictable. Is there a way around that? Thanks!!


Yes I was wondering how it would work but I set it up and “fake” a set monthly income to base my monthly budget on. (I pay myself once a year, so I know my full income for the entire following year, but that was part of my problem with not actually needing to be on top of my expenses and why I knew I needed a program ha!)


I’ve been using (and loving) YNAB for years and this question comes up a lot. They offer classes, and I highly recommend those. I found it most helpful to take all of the classes that pertained to me and then sign up for my free month, so I wasn’t wasting time figuring stuff out.

Taylor M

This was the perfect “kick in the butt” that I needed to make my focus on my finances a priority! Seeing everyone in the comments talk about how this changed your lives, as well as your stamp of approval, made it a no brainer to sign up immediately. I am already pretty aware of my expenses generally, but I have been wanting to cut overspending in specific categories.

Thank you so much for sharing – spending the rest of my day watching their videos & reading tips!


Thank you for sharing your experience with budgeting so openly and honestly. I always assumed you were a master budgeter, so it is refreshing to hear that you’re still figuring it out, like me. I am a senior in college and always end up broke at the end of each semester. I need to break the cycle before I enter the real world. I am going to give YNAB a shot!
Xo, Isabelle


Love, love, love that you are using YNAB! I’ve been using it for about 3 years and honestly cannot imagine where I would be without it. It has truly changed the way I save and spend money. I really struggled with understanding it for the first 6 weeks or so and then everything just clicked (it’s almost so simple that it makes it seem hard, ha!). I have a few “hacks” I’ve implemented that I swear by (even if they aren’t exactly YNAB approved…) in case you’re interested. So happy to hear you’re on the YNAB train!


Ah! I’ve been a reader of your blog for about as long as I’ve used YNAB (since 2012 or so!) and LOVE you both, so I really really geeked out when I read this post. YNAB is the absolute best!!! I’m fully obsessed, we reference “the almighty YNAB” often in our house 😂 so glad you are loving it, too!!


Loved this post, Carly! I’ve done the budget thing for years and love YNAB, but this year my goal is to get set up with a financial advisor. Having worked in finance and been a licensed broker, I always did the investing myself…But there’s something to be said about hiring a professional who has the time to manage things for you and keep up with financial continuing education. You’ve motivated me to contact one today!

Nichelle Giraldes

I love YNAB! I started using it a year ago and it’s been so helpful in changing my relationship with my day to day finances! It’s taken a lot of anxiety out of my budgeting and money!


I love that you partnered with YNAB! A friend from high school and college is their CMO. Also, as a advisor who is passionate about helping women (regardless of their economic status) achieve financial independence, it makes my heart happy to see you talking more about financial concepts as of late.


Another huge YNAB fan going on 5 years now. Not an exaggeration to say it changed my life! Particularly when my husband and I got engaged and merged finances.

Had always used Mint and thought I was ‘good’ with money but moving to only budgeting money you have now (vs forecasting the whole month and spending before it comes in), setting aside money for true expenses and upcoming events (been saving for a friends wedding since they announced the date last July) without needing separate accounts, getting off the credit card float (wasn’t even aware that was a thing!) and the encouragement to roll with the punches and make your budget reflect your priorities has been so huge. Have cash flowed a wedding and buying a house, paid off student loans and car loans so we have debt other than our mortgage. The peace of mind is invaluable.

There is a learning curve to the software and an adjustment period for most people to the YNAB way of thinking . YNAB blogs and support are amazing – would also recommend checking out the r:/YNAB sub on Reddit. Amazing community with so many helpful tips and answers to common questions. People also recommend Nick True’s YNAB content on YouTube to get up and running. Just stick with it – it will be worth it.