I’ve written for a long time about my desire to re-build personal finance infrastructure in ways that benefit people with the least money. We see new personal financial products all the time targeting high value customers, but it still feels like they are ignoring a huge, and important part of the market: people scraping by living paycheck-to-paycheck. This is a huge slice of America and the world, and I believe that tools that serve this population well will not only make a huge positive social impact, they can build huge businesses.
One such product that I’ve started using recently is the very aptly titled You Need a Budget. I have tried nearly every app out there that tries to help people get a handle on their moment-to-moment finances, but this is the most thoughtfully designed (and I suspect, the most effective) one I’ve seen so far.
YNAB is full of product nuances that show that they’ve thought deeply about how people use money, and how to help people craft effective budgets. The main idea, of course, is that you need to start with a budget. The nuanced parts are the way YNAB helps track budget categories, map expenses against them, make tradeoffs when categories are overbudget, and start to understand new concepts like aging your money.
Having used apps like Mint in the past, which work on the same ideas, I’ve found that YNAB has figured something new out, which is how to make tracking your money, and tending to your budget, a daily activity. The YNAB mobile app makes it easy to categorize expenses as they come in, on a daily basis. It’s this daily check in that both makes the process less overwhelming (since you’re only dealing with a handful of transactions at once) and potentially change-making, since you are reflecting on your budget and expenses in real time.
Getting a grip on finances is hard. It’s emotional, complicated and often overwhelming. I like the way YNAB demystifies the process and provides a real helping hand. I hope we see more things like this come to market.