A Decade Into YNAB: Here's Why My Wife and I Are Still Thankful

We've come to use YNAB as a life-planning tool… but it didn’t start out that way.

When my wife and I first started using YNAB in 2013, our finances were a) a mess, and b) something we didn’t know how to talk about. I was barely employed, dealing with a serious health crisis, and we were spending more than we were earning (pretty easy to do in Brooklyn). We had very different views on money, and eventually realized that we needed a new way to think about money beyond “saving = good; spending = bad.” 

Thankfully, we’ve come a long way. Now that I’m a billionaire industrialist (jk, a steadily employed writer at YNAB), our financial situation feels way less stressful. Ordering Pad Thai no longer feels like an act of self-destruction. 

YNAB writer Dan and his family cruising their way around with fun money

Still, I can’t imagine my life without YNAB. How would I know what I can afford without worrying? What would my marriage be like?

Ten years into using the method and app, I’ve come to consider YNAB a life-planning tool. Here’s why:

  • YNAB helps my wife and I be kinder to each other. About a third of partners say that money is a major source of conflict in their relationship. In our pre-YNAB days, Nomi or I would realize at the last minute that we didn’t have enough money in our checking account to pay the credit card. Or we’d forget to set aside money for taxes or life insurance. When things fell through the gap, we’d be deeply frustrated and get snappy with each other. YNAB has been a game-changer for harmony in our relationship, helping us maintain a steady flow of communication around money with the app as our unbiased source of truth.
  • YNAB takes the stress out of financial decisions, big and small. Choosing a summer camp used to be an agonizing, existential decision. We’d ask ourselves prickly questions like, “What kind of parents are we if we don’t send them to the camp where they can ride horses, learn coding, and sail wooden boats on a glacier-fed lake?” Without YNAB, we often doubted our decisions (and came to the conclusion that we must be horrible parents if we passed on camp). Now, we have a clear picture of our spending and saving priorities—including where our kids’ activities fit in. The second-guessing and finger-pointing dissolved over time.

When you don’t have a plan for your money, you’re always wildly oscillating between rock-bottom practicality (cheapest is always best) to pie-in-the-sky idealism (we’ll just make the fantastically expensive camp work somehow!). Now that we give every dollar a job in YNAB, it helps us ground our conversations in priorities. We ask, what can we do vs. what should we do?

Curious to see how YNABers have planned and managed their home renovations using YNAB?

  • YNAB simplifies our daily lives. YNAB gets the swirling mix of bills, upcoming obligations, and financial goals out of my head. My wife and I no longer have to make time in our busy schedules to ask things like, “Do we have enough money to pay the daycare bill this month?” In the past, one of us would’ve had to look at the pile of money in our checking account and make some guesses as to how much we would have left by the time the childcare payment was due. Often, there’d be shuffling of cash between our checking, savings accounts, and the credit card.

Not anymore. I can scan all my categories in YNAB in 20 seconds and know exactly the status of all my goals and obligations.

  • YNAB ends the cycle of guilt and shame around money. Nomi and I don’t feel like we’re ‘bad’ with money anymore. Before I learned YNAB’s method, every time I spent more than expected on vacation, dinner, or even just bought new clothes, I felt guilty, like I had done something wrong. Now we have a more flexible view—we choose where to spend our money and leave room for our individual passions. If our priorities change, we just change our plan. 

YNAB’s app and overall approach makes it really easy to manage money together without either partner being “the bad guy.” Read the guide.

When fun happens, adjust your plan and keep going! No judgment required. 

  • YNAB lets us have more fun with our money! The scared little savers in us would always find a reason to not spend money on date nights, weekend trips, or a recent adult tennis camp in the Catskills. But these were some of our best days of the year and we were able to fully enjoy them without feeling guilty. A little green progress bar told me it was all good!
Spending is guilt-free when both partners make room for "fun money" in YNAB.

I use YNAB for different reasons now than I once did, but it’s become one of my go-to tools. I would say it’s just one of those things that makes sense when you’re an adult—like investing, having a will, or eating fiber—but I’m already excited to invite my daughter to my YNAB Together group when she becomes a teenager. Maybe she could start being intentional with money before it becomes a conflict or an emergency. 

Many people wish they could travel back in time and start fresh with money, but here at YNAB, we help people feel confident about their future. Make today your fresh start with a free 34-day trial!

YNAB IRL: We turned it around, fast!

This inspiring couple used the YNAB method to pay off $90K of debt, buy their first home, and prepare financially for two kids. Within just 4 years, they “stopped the bleeding and started the healing.”

In March 2018, my wife and I married. I had over $50K in student loans, making just over $40K a year. My wife had 2 years left, with an expected $35K in student loans, plus a car loan of $16K. I spent all my savings on our honeymoon (yikes), then we spent all of her savings on apartment stuff (yikes again). Then my wife got pregnant a couple months into our marriage (yay!). 

So there we were, making very little, no savings, and I started spending us into more debt. I felt terrible, stressed, and very worried with a baby on the way. I looked for tools and education to change my relationship with money. Enter YNAB in July 2018! 

I dove in deep, reframed my thinking. We stopped the bleeding and started the healing. Now a little over a year later, we are a month ahead, have nearly 6 months of savings, and have been able to cover unexpected medical and vehicle expenses without money stress. Every month I feel like I get better at YNAB. Some months we roll with the punches too much and it affects our progress towards goals. But we get better about being content and making decisions together on what's important right now. We don't "need" as much anymore and choose the right trade-offs. We're better off because of it.

The most amazing feeling is to not stress about money. My extended family thinks I'm weird, and that's just fine with me. I'm building lifelong habits and writing a new legacy for my family.
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A Decade Into YNAB: Here's Why My Wife and I Are Still Thankful