YNAB tree logoAustralian flag
It looks like you're located in Australia.
We have an Australian version of our website.

Please confirm your location and we’ll send you to the appropriate site!

Four rules for less money stress

The magic is in the method. Follow these four simple rules and change your relationship with money.

Change your money mindset

The YNAB app doesn’t work because it’s pretty (it is, though) or because it has amazing tech (it does, though). It works because it’s built around four rules designed to change your financial future.

How Rule One works

Every time you get paid, ask yourself, “What do I need this money to do before my next paycheck?” and assign every dollar you have available to an expense category until there are zero “unemployed” dollars left.

Step 1

Get some dollars.

Step 2

Decide what those dollars should do.

A clipboard with a pencil filling in checkboxes

Step 3

Follow your plan.

Hands holding a fan of cash with arrows pointing from the cash to icons of a lamp, grocery cart, and ambulance illustrating YNAB's Rule One: Give Every Dollar a Job

Why it works

You’ve already mapped out a plan, so instead of stressing over every little (guilt-inducing) spending decision, you’re just following your own instructions. No raise, windfall, or inheritance required. (Though all of those would still be nice.)

How Rule Two works

Future-proof your finances by anticipating large, non-monthly expenses (they’re going to happen!) and breaking them down into smaller, manageable chunks of monthly saving instead.

Step 1

Find a big, infrequent expense.

A monthly calendar

Step 2

Create a target to fund it monthly.

Icon of a document with two dollar bills

Step 3

When that expense arrives, just pay it!

An app screen showing a target set to save $90 by November for a car registration, illustrating YNAB's Rule Two: Embrace Your True Expenses

Why it works

Holiday shopping, home repairs, and annual insurance premiums are a fact of life. Turning those big, scary expenses into smaller monthly bills helps you make fully-informed spending decisions...and allows you to sleep a little easier.

How Rule Three works

If you run out of money in one category but still need (or want!) to make a purchase, just move money from another category to cover it. No shame or guilt needed—it’s your money and you can spend it how you want.

Step 1

Choose a category with overspending.

Step 2

Move funds from another category to cover it.

A green cloud with a smiley face

Step 3

Move on with your life—no guilt!

An app screen showing YNAB's move money feature being used to move $30 from the dining out category to gas, illustrating YNAB's Rule Three, Roll with the Punches

Why it works

Plans change. Managing your money shouldn’t feel punitive or restrictive. You’re the one who decides what your dollars should do and you’re free to change your mind at any time!

How Rule Four works

As your awareness about money grows, you’ll naturally start spending less. Eventually, you’ll be paying bills with money you earned more than thirty days ago. The end result is more breathing room in your financial plan.

A piggy bank

Step 1

Be purposeful in your spending.

Step 2

Consistently spend less than you earn.

A small plant in a pot

Step 3

Watch that Age of Money grow!

Hands holding a phone with the YNAB app on the screen, assigning money from May's paycheck to June's bills, illustrating YNAB's Rule Four: Age Your Money

Why it works

When you are spending money you earned last month, you create a built-in buffer. One day you’ll replace that pile of bills waiting on money with a pile of money waiting on bills (or something more fun, like annual theme park passes!)

Flip the cards to reveal your financial fortune with the four rules

Rule one

Give Every Dollar a Job

With Rule One you will…

Make more intentional spending decisions based on what’s important to you instead of mindlessly spending money based on your account balance—and regretting it later.

Rule Two

Embrace Your True Expenses

With Rule Two you will…

Stop feeling a tidal wave of dread every time an unexpected repair or a forgotten annual expense appears. You’ll just pay it (without drama) with the money you’ve saved.

Rule three

Roll with the Punches

With Rule Three you will…

Realize that being mindful about money isn’t restrictive, it actually allows you the freedom to make choices about how you spend. And to change your mind, without guilt!

Rule four

Age Your Money

With Rule Four you will…

Breathe a little more easily because you’ve created a built-in buffer by increasing the time between when you earn money and when you spend it.

Master the method

We’ve got the rules and the resources! Learn more about taking total control of your finances by reading our book or watching a free video course.

A YNAB mug on a table sits in the foreground with a woman reading the YNAB book in the background