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I have huge news. Jesse Mecham, creator of my favorite budgeting application, You Need a Budget (YNAB), wrote a book. I’ve discussed many times on Mama Fish how YNAB is the budgeting software I have been using personally since college. But my love for Jesse’s software has far more to do with his budgeting philosophy than anything else. So, naturally, when I heard he wrote a book I just had to read it.
Here is my quick review and some of my favorite quotes from the book. If you have a goal of gaining control of your money this year or believe that budgeting just can’t work for your family, you need to order this book. Jesse could change your life.
Book Review: You Need A Budget by Jesse Mecham
Who Is It For:
This book is for anyone who has ever tried to budget and failed. If you think budgeting is rigid and suffocating, this book will change your perspective. If your family wants to get out of debt, break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, or be able to pay for a family vacation without credit cards, You Need A Budget can get you there!
What I Liked:
The You Need A Budget application has an astounding following. And while YNAB’s platform is incredibly well done, users’ love for it doesn’t stem from how easy it is to set up budget categories. YNAB users love their budgets and reach their goals because the application is built around a unique philosophy about budgeting. YNAB is about actually breaking the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, even when you feel broke, funding the things that really matter to you, and accepting that there is no such thing as a normal month.
This book gives Jesse a platform not to pitch his software, but to explain his philosophy in more depth. Using real-world stories from employees of YNAB, users, and his own life, he shifts people’s perspective about budgeting as he explains YNAB’s four rules that underpin his system. Even as a user of this system for years, I greatly enjoyed hearing about Jesse and his wife’s own history with money and how he developed this system. This personal aspect makes the book accessible in a way that hard and fast traditional budgeting rules just aren’t.
My favorite sections of the book, however, came in the second half when it moved beyond YNAB’s four rules. The second half tackles the issues families face with maintaining budgets over time. Things like working together with your spouse, getting out of debt, and powering through when you just want to quit. (The book even references Ron Lieber’s The Opposite of Spoiled in its chapter on teaching kids about budgets!) While quick reads, each chapter gives people another tool in their arsenal to real their money goals.
What I Didn’t Like:
Rating this book 4 stars instead of 5 wasn’t about the quality of the writing or the information contained therein. Rather, one of the great things about YNAB’s software is fully developed how-to videos to get started with the Four Rules and their free, daily live workshops on common issues. If you prefer learning through video, referencing that material may be a better fit for you.
However, if you are looking for a book to teach you everything you need to know about budgeting – this is it. Instead of wading through the YNAB website, Jesse puts it all in one, easy to read place with his new book! At less than 200 pages, you’ll be moving towards your money goals in no time!
Where to Buy: Purchase You Need A Budget on Amazon!
Top Quotes from You Need A Budget
I highly recommend buying the book or visiting the You Need A Budget website to fully understand Jesse’s unique budgeting methodology. But as usual, I wanted to share some key takeaways that I particularly enjoyed!
A budget makes goals manageable
Ten thousand dollars in credit card debt can feel paralyzing. But break it up into a few hundred dollars a month and suddenly the difference between you and your dream of being debt-free is just fewer dinners out, one less pair of shoes, or a revised strategy at the grocery store each month. – Ch. 3, p. 63
Many people don’t want to start budgeting because their goals seem insurmountable. But a budget isn’t about paying off all your debt tomorrow, or feeling like you’ve failed if you could only pay off a small piece in any given month. A solid budget gives you the motivation to take a small step forward and celebrate the little victories!
Money goals can’t be one-sided
Nobody will be micromanaged or put on a leash. The point is to actually feel free and empowered. Budgeting together will mean you’re working together to achieve your shared goals – not your goals for your partner. – Ch. 6, p. 114
One of the most important money conversations to have with your spouse is determining what your family goals are. If your partner balks when you mention a budget, they may worry that a budget will force dollars away from the things that matter to them.
YNAB allows families space to not only chase their big goals, like getting out of debt, but each family member’s personal goals. It will also show in clear black-and-white the tradeoffs we make for our smaller pleasures. Telling your husband you can’t afford his two-day hunting trip will likely put his guard up. But if you are budgeting together to achieve a family trip to Disney, without going pulling out the credit cards, he may reconsider on his own. The hunting trip will no longer feel like a minor expense if it means pushing your family vacation back over two months.
Don’t let your debt balance become a yo-yo
As much as I despise debt, I’m actually not telling you to jump right into crushing it. It would be great if you could, but start by figuring out what you can truly afford to pay after budgeting for your obligations and other top priorities. Remember: many of your Rule Two true expenses are top priorities, even if they don’t happen every month. Don’t ignore them. – Ch. 7, p. 140
How many of us have experienced the “one step forward, two steps back” feeling with money? You throw everything you have at debt, only to have the roof start leaking or your car blow a tire. Jesse understands that this is just life. You can’t dive into debt repayment without first putting some cash aside for the inevitable curve balls life throws at us.
By allocating cash we already have to our needs first, then tackling debt, we create a system where our debt balance doesn’t yo-yo up and down. When your daughter needs new sneakers, the cash is already sitting there and you can carry on paying off debt at whatever pace you were. Even if this means breaking the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle (getting at least a month of cash in the bank) first, you’re more likely to reach your debt reduction goals if you aren’t worried about how you are going to pay the grocery bill.
Complete deprivation isn’t the answer
Remember, your budget is there to help you create the life you want, now and in the future. Budgeting isn’t about delaying your happiness. If it were, nobody would stick to it for long. – Ch. 9, p. 184
The last chapter of You Need A Budget talks about the desire to quit. It may seem like a strange place to end, but it makes a lot of sense. Anyone who is new to budgeting is going to have days they want to quit. Days where they lose sight of the goal, set spending restrictions that are way too tight, or trying to make changes at breakneck speed. In any good budget, you have to build in some room for joy. Happy people are motivated people, and motivated people reach their goals!
In You Need a Budget, Jesse Mecham succeeds in making budgeting for your goals practical and accessible. Pick up the book today and take control of your money!
Have you read You Need A Budget or used their software? How did it impact you? If you haven’t, could you use a tool to help you get better with money? Share in the comments so we can all learn more about what budgeting methods work best!