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If You Are Drowning, Your Budgeting Spreadsheet Can't Help You

Richard Howell, 30, is a smart guy.

An IT Developer for the National Health Service in the UK, he is technical, precise, logical, and good with numbers. For years, he “managed” his money in a spreadsheet, that frankly, he was pretty proud of.

It wasn’t just any spreadsheet, it was souped up, and rich with years of history. He had a rather complicated—and therefore, very important—system. It was he and his spreadsheet against the world.

Sure, he would overdraft on occasion, and that was a little stressful. But it was just because he was relying on his bank balance. It had nothing to do with the spreadsheet system. No way.

But then he got divorced. Money was much tighter and he needed to find a way to save for some long-term goals. And his spreadsheet wasn’t cutting it.

The occasional overdraft-stress became a more permanent feeling: “I felt like I was treading water. The ocean was my primary income and my debt was all the dangers that you encounter in the ocean. I could see the shoreline but I was surrounded by all these dangers and I really had no idea how I was going to get to shore.”

When Richard found YNAB, he felt things shift, “When I put my trust in YNAB, I could put my feet down. While I am not quite to the shore, YNAB has given me the tools to get there.”

Initially, Richard was just looking for a way to get a “handle” on his money, as he was making a reasonable amount and had nothing to show for it. His bar was pretty low.

What he got was total control of his money, visibility into his spending and habits that allows him to adjust and plan, and a system he knows can help him navigate toward his goals. He is the captain of the ship, sailing straight toward a future of his own making.

So, What Was Different About YNAB?

“The community is one of the most supportive around. Everyone just wants to help one another, the support team is amazing and I think that is what makes YNAB different. It is more than just a budget application, it is a family of like-minded people who are using a tool to better their financial situation. YNAB just supplies the platform.”

Why Did YNAB Work Better Than Your Spreadsheet?

“YNAB gives me the tools that I need to check my balance practically anywhere I want. I can get access to my budget at work, at my parents and even on my phone and I think that is why it has stuck where other solutions haven't. When you are out and about it is easy to check in and see how much money you have in a category and add transactions on the go, and it is always up to date. That isn't so easy with a spreadsheet.”

How Did YNAB Change Your Feelings About Money?

“YNAB changed my entire perception of money. I was a nervous wreck when it came to money but now I am comfortable in the knowledge that what I have in my category's is what I have on hand to spend if the category says no it isn't going to happen.”

How Does It Feel Like To Be In Control Of Your Money?

“Recently Iron Maiden announced a UK tour. I really wanted to go as I missed seeing them at Download Festival this year, so I created a category in YNAB and started allocating money to it. When the tickets went on sale, my category was fully funded and I could get the tickets with cash. I actually had no cash that I was worried might be needed next week for groceries, but cash I had saved for totally guilt-free spending. To me that is a freeing feeling and one that I would never have got using the spreadsheet system.”

What Would You Tell Someone Struggling With Their Spreadsheet?

“I have been in a situation where stressing about money was something I did on a daily basis. I would dread looking at my bank balance because I had no idea what it was going to say. Sure my spreadsheet had my bills covered, but what about that weekend of shopping I just went on. I spent money that the balance of the bank said was there, but did I forget something?It may look like there is no way that your money situation is going to get better, but the system YNAB has created works. It is the best thing you can do right now.”

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If You Are Drowning, Your Budgeting Spreadsheet Can't Help You