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For those not familiar, YNAB is an online budgeting app similar in some ways to Mint. However, there's one big difference: YNAB uses the envelope system, otherwise known as zero-based budgeting.
Since YNAB is online, you can easily sync with your mobile device. The service now includes the ability to download your transactions from your financial institutions, saving you hours of hassle.
YNAB is built on three basic rules to help you live within your means, get out of debt, save money, and stop living paycheck to paycheck.
Rule #1 — Give Every Dollar a Job
This rule holds that each dollar in your budget should be allocated to a certain purpose. The idea is to remove unrestricted spending and to impose discipline, order, and purpose in your spending.
Rule #2 — Embrace Your True Expenses
The overriding philosophy is to smooth out your budget by taking large, less frequent expenses and allocating funds to pay them on a monthly basis. This can include budgeting money for insurance premiums, vacations, major holidays and birthday expenses. The idea is that if you continually budget for these expenses, you’ll have greater control of your cash flow and not find yourself broke in certain high-expense months. Predictability, which is another of the basic YNAB philosophies, is a real stress buster.
Rule #3 — Roll With the Punches
This rule makes it clear events will crop up in life that will take you off your financial game. You will overspend in certain categories in certain months. But it also shows you how to just roll with it when that happens. You make changes and adjustments as necessary, moving money from one category to another, then keep going forward. You anticipate disruptions but never let them get you off track on a long-term basis.