new YNAB – concerns about the Cloud

The new YNAB lives in the cloud instead of Dropbox, like YNAB4.

The Dropbox method required more setup by the end user.  They had to download and install Dropbox on their workstation, if they didn’t already have it.  They had to link their iPhone/Android copies of YNAB with their  Dropbox account.  I imagine there were lots of support issues with less technically savvy users related to getting this set up.  The cloud method is easier.  Go to a website, create a username and password, login to the phone app with the same credentials.  Easy.  From the support perspective, I see why YNAB went that route.  That, and the subscription stream.

I have a few concerns about YNAB living in the cloud.

  1. What if your Internet connection is unstable?  Without the Internet, your cloud based YNAB is useless.
  2. What if there is an outage of YNAB?  Suddenly, I can’t get to my budget.  Hopefully, these will be few and far between.
  3. What if there is a database corruption issue at YNAB?  Since I can’t export my data, if there was an issue with the central database, my budget would be gone.  At least until a backup is restored.  Hopefully, there would be no data loss.  Again, hopefully this never happens.
  4. Bank account details.  Yes, it’s an unaccountable third party that has your bank account credentials, not the YNAB team itself.  Imagine if the third party with this info were hacked.  Your bank account logins could be compromised.  This would be disastrous.
  5. Privacy.  YNAB, a treasure trove of financial data, will almost certainly be a target of hackers.  What could someone do with your budget and financial account information?  First, they would know the balance of your accounts, and probably the name of the banks you use (depending on how you named them).  They could impersonate a bank employee over the phone…  If you use the GPS features of YNAB (and why wouldn’t you), they would know the location of all your mobile payees.  They could determine patterns of when you shopped at certain vendors, so they might know when no one would be at home.  They would know the church you attend.  Again, this could be used to find out when your house would be empty.  Your budget may tell an attacker the hospitals and doctors you’ve used.  What about other services?  What could they do with this info?  Call or email you, impersonating a representative of a company you already do business with.  They’d know the date of each time you’ve paid your bill, and how much each payment was, so they could use that to help convince you they were legit, if needed.  They might try to offer you a great deal on something.  They could just ask for your bank routing and account numbers.  And conveniently, they would know how much money was in that account, so they would know exactly how much they could take out.

I’m not a devious crook, so I’m certain my suggestions of what could be done with #5 may be basic compared to what a career criminal could come up with.

Suffice it to say, I’m not very keen to have my data in that cloud.

January 9, 2016 at 8:22 pm Leave a comment

new YNAB – Scheduled Transactions

You can create scheduled transactions in both YNAB4 and the new YNAB, but they are very different.  In the new YNAB, there exists the real possibility of overspending due to the way it handles scheduled transactions.

In YNAB4, there is a separate section at the bottom of the account register specifically for transactions that repeat on some cycle.  It tracks the next date that a given transaction should happen.  When that date hits, the transaction is automatically added to your account register and YNAB wants you to approve it.  But, any time you were ready, you could enter these scheduled transactions in your register immediately by right clicking on the transaction and selecting an option from the drop-down menu.  I’m pretty sure scheduled transactions count against your category balance as soon as they are added to your account register, whether approved or not.  In practice, I generally right click my scheduled transactions to force them into my account register near the beginning of the month, if they are outflows.

In the new YNAB, any transaction can be turned into a scheduled transaction very easily.  Just click on the date and the date picker drops down.   At the bottom of the date picker is where you can select a repeat cycle.  That makes setting up new scheduled transactions easy, since you can just set an existing one to repeat.  Nice.

The problem I have here is that every transaction you enter with a future date is considered a scheduled transaction.

Why is this a problem, you might ask?  Two reasons:

  1. When the date for the scheduled transaction rolls around, you must approve the transaction.  I can see this for repeating transactions, but if I’ve added a transactions a few days or so ahead of time, and it’s not repeating, why do I need to approve it?  I perform a lot of scheduled transactions, so this adds unneeded clicks to my workflow.  While extra clicks that serve no purpose are annoying, the real issue is #2.
  2. Until the date of a scheduled transaction, the amount of that transaction doesn’t get subtracted from the category balance. When I do e-bill pay through my bank, the payment date always at least a day out, if not several.  You could add the transaction into YNAB with today’s date, but that goes against another YNAB teaching – That your budget should reflect reality.  So, if the transaction isn’t going to happen for 3 days, the date in your account register should reflect that reality.  That means the money will be “spoken for”, but your budget won’t reflect that, and it won’t show up on the mobile app with any indication that your category balance may be affected by a scheduled transaction.  This makes it pretty likely that you’ll overspend, especially if you share the budget with a partner.

Let’s run through an example to make the overspending issue clear:

Let’s say I have $150 in my Medical category.  I need to pay a doctor bill, so I schedule an e-payment on a Friday evening, and the earliest date it can be paid by through my bank is next Thursday.  So, I set up an e-bill pay to send $100, and schedule that transaction against the Medical category in the new YNAB, dated for next Thursday.  Fast forward to Monday.  My wife goes to her doctor and she has an amount due from her last visit.  They tell her the bill is $100, but she could pay a smaller amount this visit.  She checks the Medical category balance on her phone and sees that there’s still $150 showing up as available in the Medical category.  Figuring we have the money now, she pays the full $100, entering her transaction into YNAB on her phone.  Fast forward again to Thursday.  I see that my transaction is now showing up for approval in the new YNAB.  I approve it, but now see that I’m over budget by $50 in Medical.  Since YNAB’s mobile app didn’t show that there was a scheduled transaction that was going to take $100 from the Medical category, we overspent.

The YNAB team should change the way scheduled transactions work.  Here are a few potential suggestions:

  1. Change the behavior to be more like YNAB4, where a scheduled transactions section is just for repeating transactions and treat all transactions entered into the account register against category balances.
  2. Make all transactions that don’t repeat count against the category balances immediately.  This would allow for scheduling payments ahead of time, while tracking the spending properly. Also, allow us to “pre-approve” repeating transactions, so they count right away.
  3. Make all scheduled transactions during the current month count against the category balances.  Since the month is sort of a “natural barrier”, make the current months scheduled transactions “real” by affecting category balances, even if they aren’t scheduled until the end of the month.

Another quick example could be the Giving category.  My church sends dated envelopes each month.  Around the beginning of the month, I sit down, figure out how much I’m going to donate, and write out checks, placing them in the dated envelopes.  Since those checks are for future dates, I enter them into YNAB that way.  The new YNAB sees these as scheduled transactions, so the giving category would show lots of money in it, even though the majority is spoken for.  In this scenario, if my wife were to look in YNAB to see if we could afford to donate to another cause, she would see a significant amount in the category and may overspend.

You might just say “Oh, just enter transactions with today’s date if you want them to count immediately”, but that breaks their “reality” rule.  I sometimes schedule transactions to happen weeks out, but I expect the record in YNAB to reflect when the payment actually happened, not the date that I scheduled it.

 

January 8, 2016 at 9:56 pm Leave a comment

Tried new YNAB. Annoyances and one thing that is just so WRONG

I’ve spent an hour or two this evening trying the new YNAB and I think I’ve discovered why so many people dislike it: They had already used YNAB4.

First, let me address a problem I ran across that, after years of using YNAB4, I just know is WRONG:

When you add transactions with a future date, the amount isn’t taken out of the available category balance. So, if you budget $100 for your auto insurance, then add a scheduled transaction to pay $100 from that category, you still have a green $100 balance available for that category.

The YNAB team tells you to make buying decisions based on category balance.  If you see that green $100 and decide to spend it, you’ll be out of luck when that scheduled transaction hits.

Please, for the sanity of all YNAB4 users, PLEASE subtract the amount from the category as soon as the transaction is scheduled.

EDIT 1/10/2016:  YNAB support responded to my question about this.  They say this is working as expected.

At any rate, the new YNAB looks like you’d expect a web-based version of YNAB to look. But just because it looks like YNAB, doesn’t mean it acts like YNAB.

Here are a few UI annoyances:

      You can’t re-order your accounts in the list.
      You can’t resize the left column (accounts list).
      If you click a value in the Activity column, it will show you the transactions causing that activity in a little pop-up window, but you can’t jump there.
      New transactions are added at the top of the screen, meaning all the “pop-downs” obscure your other transaction data. Put this back at the bottom of the list of transactions, so the pop-downs can cover blank space, not your transactions above.
      You can’t click in the Budgeted field for a category, hit “+20”, and have it add $20 to that category. (You can now click into the Budgeted field, get your cursor behind the number already there, then hit +20, and it will work.)
      No place to edit Payees.

 

January 6, 2016 at 11:16 pm Leave a comment

New YNAB… The next New Coke?

Back in the spring of 1985, the Coca-cola company launched a new formula of their most popular soft drink, replacing the formula that had lasted 99 years with a drink popularly known as New Coke.  It was met with a firestorm of consumer revolt.  In less than three months, they re-released their previous formula (or something very much like it) and dubbed it Coca-Cola Classic.

I hope the New YNAB isn’t the next New Coke.  Perhaps it’s unfortunate that they have renamed the IOS app to support the dropbox sync’ing version “YNAB Classic”.

I’ve attended a YNAB class, watched much of the new YNAB videos and read a good bit about the new YNAB.  The bottom line is that it was released far too early.  It’s simply not done yet.  And it’s much more expensive than it was before.

Here’s a short list of missing features from the New YNAB, some of them pretty major:

Import from YNAB4 – Migration has been off and on since launch
Reports – Completely missing
View multiple months at once – They state this isn’t coming back
Native app – Web app isn’t as responsive as YNAB4
Red Arrow to the Right – There are legit uses for this
No Check # field – Seriously?  People still have checking accounts
Can’t resize fields (or even the left bar where the accounts are listed)
No running balance column in the register
No manual import of transactions
No Exporting data

There are some nice new features it does have (and at least one that seems to be a bizarre addition):

Goals – A great addition to help you keep focus on the future
Budget money against future months – Not just the next month
Age of Money – Great concept to help you see your progress
Direct Import from your accounts – If you have no qualms about security
EMOJI – Seriously?  This is a feature?  What were you thinking Jesse?

Updated:  Budget money against future months was stricken from the above list.  It appeared from the class I saw that you could future against any future month.  In the class, the “current” month was something like September, but the class was given in January, so it looked like you go ahead many months.  While using the demo version, I found that this isn’t the case.  You can only budget in past months, the current month, and the next month.

Give me Goals, the ability to budget against future months as in the new YNAB, and the age of money, but in YNAB5 and I’d upgrade right now.

The ability to directly import from a bank is an unwanted feature for many, me included.  I work in the I.T. field, so I know a little about security.  Let’s just say, I really don’t want some unaccountable 3rd party holding my bank credentials.

The cloud is another unwanted feature.  I don’t want my data stored only in some cloud server somewhere.  I’d much rather have a local copy on my machine.  Without an export feature, it seems like it’s being held hostage.

Let me get back to the expense of it.  It costs $5 per month, or $50 per year.  If you sign up now, you get a lifetime 10% discount on the annual price.

I’ve owned YNAB4 since March of 2013, almost three years now.   At the normal price of $60, that works out be about $20 per year. The new pricing works out to about 2 1/2 times more than YNAB4.

For a company that says they are focused on helping people get into a better place financially, this seems to be against their mission.

I’ve been a big YNAB proponent since very soon after finding it.  Using the method has really changed my life for the better.  I’ve referred 12 sales for them, and purchased two other copies as gifts.  With that said, this dramatic move to the cloud and the subscription model change feels a little like a betrayal.

I bought Coke, and I’m being told that I have to switch to New Coke if I want to get the new features, which means I lose things I have.

Can’t YNAB sell both Coke and Coke Classic, letting the customer choose?

January 4, 2016 at 10:11 pm 5 comments

new YNAB – Multi-month view

Though I’m not using nYNAB yet (still using YNAB4), I’ve attended a class on it and see a major feature that I love is missing: the multi-month view

For most of the last three years, my 27″ monitor has two applications on my primary screen. Safari on the left, covering about 60% of the screen, and YNAB4 on the right, covering the remaining 40%. On my budget screen, this gives me just enough room to have two months displayed, and enough room on an account screen to see all the columns easily.

On the budget screen, I usually have the current month and the next month visible. This lets me compare the two months, and helps me to plan my next months budget. Being able to see both months, side-by-side really seems to help. Perhaps it’s just that I can make sure that I’m budgeting the right amounts for all the categories? I’m not sure, but that feature missing seems to be a jarring exclusion.

I’m thinking that perhaps the goals feature, specifically the monthly goal for each category, may serve the same purpose for me in nYNAB. At least, I hope so…

January 2, 2016 at 9:56 pm Leave a comment

new YNAB – Red Arrow to the Right

According to everything I’ve seen (and the class I attended), the new YNAB no longer supports the “Red Arrow” that shifts a negative category balance to the next month.

I have read that some people have used this to track expenses that they would be reimbursed for. I can imagine that you could create a Reimbursement category, and spend money from it any time you have an expense that will be reimbursed by your employer. Sometimes it can take a few weeks for the paperwork to go through to get reimbursed. Once you were reimbursed, just budget that money in the Reimbursement category. It should balance out to zero. Simple, right?

In this scenario, if you spend $150 that would be reimbursed by your job in a few weeks, and that stretched into the next month, you’d want that negative category balance to be preserved, so you knew that your job still owed you $150. This is where you’d want the Red Arrow to the Right, so you don’t lose track of what is owed.

This sounds like a legitimate use of this feature. I have another use case:

My wife and I each have a Fun Money category that we fund with $35 each month. These are categories that we can spend money out of without checking with each other, on whatever we want. Occasionally, we go over budget in these categories by a few dollars or so. We use the Red Arrow to the Right on these categories, so that any overage is automatically pushed forward to the next month. Without this feature, we’d have to manually take the overage from the previous month and subtract that from the $35 I would normally fund the category with. That’s doable, but seems a step backward compared to the YNAB4 method.

While I understand what the YNAB team is trying to do, make sure that the budget reflects reality, I expect most YNAB veterans understand the risk of using this feature, but feel that the convenience is worth it. And as long as you are talking about pretty small numbers, the risk of getting to a negative balance in an account is negligible.

January 2, 2016 at 9:20 pm Leave a comment

The new YNAB

A new version of YNAB is here, rewritten from the ground up.

I’ve read a little about it, seen a few screen shots and think it looks like an interesting upgrade.

One facet of it does have me sort of scratching my head though, and that’s the price.

YNAB has gone the way of SaaS, which stands for Software as a Service.  Basically, a subscription model.  It will be either $5 per month, or $50 per year, unless you sign up for it yearly by the end of January, in which case you can have it for $45 per year.

One of the major new features relies on a third party to access your various bank accounts to make importing transactions simple.  With this feature enabled, once you’ve set it up, YNAB will be able to connect to your bank accounts, suck in anything new, and let you approve the new transactions.  Since a third party handles the account access, there’s probably some sort of per-user fee they are paying each month for this.

Another major feature is that it isn’t installed on your PC anymore.  Yes, it’s in the cloud, fully web-based.  This means no more Dropbox for cloud syncing, and you can access it on any major web browser on any platform, be it Windows, Mac, Linux, or even a Chromebook.  Unfortunately, this also means they have the added cost of Amazon AWS.

So, they have added costs for each customer using the service on an on-going basis.  With that in mind, I can understand the reason for the SaaS pricing.  This also allows them to continuously upgrade the product, not save up new features for a big “x.0” upgrade release.

I do hope that YNAB hasn’t lost sight of their core customer.  For YNAB 4, it was a one-time purchase price of $60, but they frequently had sales.  In early 2013, I managed to get it for around $20 on a special Steam sale.  Had it been priced at $50 per year, I’m not sure I would have jumped at it.  On the other hand, it has helped me save so much money that it’s still a bargain, just not nearly as good of a bargain as YNAB 4. Of course, I haven’t actually used the new version yet. If it can save significant time, then perhaps it really is worth the price.

 

December 30, 2015 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment

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