Setting Up A Personal Budget With YNAB

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four_rulesA few times over the last few years I've tried to setup and track my personal budget. I know I should do it, but it's one of those things I've always been really bad at doing.

So a couple of days ago I decided to fix this situation once and for all.

I'd already tried a few desktop applications for tracking expenses etc., but the problem with them all was that they weren't capable of syncing data across multiple devices. (The one exception to this is the rather excellent Expensify that we use for expense reports) I know what I'm like, so if I want to keep track of expenditure etc., I need to be able to do it quickly and easily. That means that I need something that will give me access to all my data all the time across all my devices.

The "logical" choice might be some kind of cloud based solution, but I'm not too comfortable about sharing my financial data with a 3rd party especially since quite a few of the services I came across don't seem to provide any clear indication of who is behind them.

So what I really wanted was something that could run locally but still sync the important data.

YNAB (You Need A Budget) seems to fit the bill.

Available for the Mac both via their site and via the Apple App Store, the software is available for both Mac and Windows.  The "killer" feature for me is that it can sync the data via my Dropbox account, so no matter which of my Macs I'm using I have full access to everything.

There's also a very functional mobile app for both iOS and Android.




What I also like about the application is that it properly supports Euro and can even handle the Irish language if you want it to!

A lot of the other applications I'd looked at only support US dollars, which is annoying.

So how does it work?

When you open the application for the first time it'll guide you through the setup and configuration. Once you've chosen your currency, locale and a few other things you can dive straight into it. You can add all your bank accounts, credit cards etc., and any balances (both positive and negative) are handled as your starting balance.

For online accounts that offer proper transaction exports you can export the transactions and import them into the application directly:


Unfortunately my personal bank account is with AIB and they don't offer this kind of feature. It *might* be possible to bludgeon in their PDF reports, but I don't think it'll be easy. Another option *might* be to copy and paste transaction data into a spreadsheet or something, but again that's a horrible hack.

At least my American Express account offers proper exports in multiple formats, so I can easily import all the transactions from there (which might encourage me to use my Amex more?)

I'm interested in tracking more closely where I'm spending money with a view to making adjustments. Being able to add expenditure while "on the go" via the mobile app will hopefully help 🙂

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  1. Working Around AIB's Online Banking Limitations - December 6, 2013

    […] As of last week, however, I'm making a concerted effort to manage my personal finances more closely using YNAB. (I posted about my first experiences with it last week) […]

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