You Need A Budget (YNAB) By Jessie Meacham- A Book That Will Change Your Mind About Budgeting and Make it Fun!

We are big fans of YNAB here at Cents of Time. We have used many other budgeting apps/software, but this is the one where everything just “clicked”. Jessie Meachem, the founder of YNAB, wrote a book in 2017 on just how important budgeting is. After switching to YNAB in June of 2019, we read the book as well to understand the software and principles behind it. While the book does not explain how to use YNAB (There are many free videos provided by YNAB though), it does put budgeting in a way that we have not yet come across. We recently reread the book taking more notes and wanted to share our key takeaways from it. This book is a short read and we would highly recommend reading it!

Intro- If you only read one chapter in the book, honestly the intro is jam packed with many great quotes and insights. Below are some of our favorite concepts, quotes, and rules of YNAB.


Only two questions when it comes to spending money- Can I afford this? Should I buy this?


3 Reasons people don’t like to budget-
1. Don’t trust ourselves
2. Don’t have a system
3. Are scared of the truth

It’s not about the money, it’s about what the money can do for you and does it align with your values/priorities?


Question to ask yourself- What do I want my money to do for me?

Budgeting is like a life plan- Change mindset to instead of can’t do but of want to. No matter where you are in your financial journey you still need a budget and matching your budget to your life goals will get you to where you want to go.

4 YNAB Rules-
1. Budget every dollar
2. Roll with the punches
3. Know your true expenses
4. Age your money

Your priorities should rule your choices, not your impulse purchases, debt or what others tell you you should do with your money


Chapter 1- A New Way to Look at Your Money

There is no perfect budget, don’t even try to make one.

Don’t use future dollars because that is not actually budgeting, but forecasting. It’s okay to make a plan with those dollars, but it is the back up plan or the dream plan, not the actual one.

Having a scarcity mindset is so important because money is a finite resource. It will make you value your money more.

Don’t just dream or say you’d like to do something, actually put it in your budget and make it happen.

Chapter 2- Rule One- Give Every Dollar a Job

Essentials need to get budgeted and taken care of first before you move on to other more exciting things.


Set aside money for medical bills. This is one of the leading causes of debt.
Debt steals your ability to cover current expenses and save for the future.


Guilt normally comes from other people telling you how to live and spend your money or you knowing that you’re doing something that is taking you away from your priorities

“Forget future money, use today’s money to write your future.”

Chapter 3- Rule Two- Embrace Your True Expenses
Knowing your true expenses reduces so much of the stress with money. It may seem daunting at first, but once you start accumulating money and are prepared for larger expenses, the power and peace of mind you will feel is something you always will want to have.


No more emergency funds! Instead of it was just being a pile of money, now every dollar has a job and it is realistic. True expenses help erase emergencies.


A variable income needs a budget more than a set income.


Side note- Out of all of the chapters and concepts in YNAB this was the one that had the most impact on us. Before YNAB, we tried to keep a list of big expenses and tried to save for them, but they always seemed to still hit and stress us out. We also would take from our big pile of “emergency” funds when we went over budget or had those larger expenses come in. When we figured out our true expenses and gave every dollar a job, we got a full picture of how much money we realistically had. It was extremely eye opening.


Chapter 4- Rule Three- Roll with the Punches
Time like a budget (which is the heart of this blog!)


There are many good examples in this chapter, but the key concept is you need to have a have a plan! Change is okay and actually necessary.


There should be little to no stress over having to change a plan.


When you know your true expenses, you can just react to situations in the moment and address them in the best way instead of worrying about money and possibly taking shortcuts.


Chapter 5- Rule Four- Age Your Money
Aging your money gives you peace of mind and clarity.


Credit cards require extra complexity in a budget and need to be handled and maintained appropriately.


Chapter 6- Budgeting as a Couple
The budget is like a neutral third party that keeps everything based in reality. A budget is a way to set your goals and dreams together, but can also easily be seen as controlling if not talked and addressed the right way.


The key is communicating. Use joint checking because it is simpler, try not to use credit cards. Yours, mine and ours, but when you are married it all becomes one. Make sure there is a guilt free section for fun money for each person in a relationship.

Chapter 7- Slaying Debt, Whatever Your Situation
Debt is not your friend.


Side Note- There are a lot of good examples about debt here that we could go into, but we also have many articles on debt and our opinion of it. If we could direct you to one of those articles, it is a series of podcasts Jessie Meacham made about his opinions on credit cards and debt in general. For the book he isn’t against credit cards but he is against debt. In the podcasts which he made 3 years later, he shifts his perspective saying that banks are winning and people are losing financially because they are not able to be responsible with their spending. It is too much of a temptation. Even if you do handle it responsibly, are you hurting yourself using them and hurting others by saying it is a good idea? We wrote another article on this very topic which you can read here.

Chapter 8- Teaching Your Kids to Budget
What you teach your kids with money will having a lasting impact on them. It is too important of a topic to not address. Unfortunately a lot of parents do not talk about money with their kids. Only 18% of college students thought they were taught proper finances by their families.

Chapter 9- When you Feel Like Quitting
This is why focusing on true expenses is so important. If you have little breathing room, a missed upcoming expense will set you back, but saving a little money a month keeps that stress away and provides a realistic picture. That’s why it’s better if possible to over fund a category and be honest, then take out and go over budget. Both are stressful, but one is proactive and the other is reactive. Everyone has a different situation, but everyone can pull some extra money out of their budget and some a lot more than others. They key is to be aware where your spending is going.

We hope these notes show some key points we got from reading this book. We still would highly recommend reading the actual book, as there are examples and the topics are more fully explained. Happy budgeting!

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One comment

  1. We use YNAB. I listened to most of the book, and like you found it very helpful as a refresher. I got ideas from the book and the free support videos that have helped us budget better.
    I used to use a spreadsheet to do our budget. YNAB is much better.
    We can always find a way to budget better by using the software more effectively or changing apps.

    Ten cents used to be a lot of money. How dimes have changed! #pun

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