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Last chance to buy YNAB before it moves to a subscription model

(114 Posts)
tribpot Tue 29-Dec-15 09:53:52

Many of us are big fans of You Need a Budget and around New Year we tend to get an influx of new starters as people decide to take control of their finances - very sensible.

YNAB have just announced that YNAB 5 will be released tomorrow and via replies on Twitter have confirmed it will be a subscription-based program, so you will pay a certain annual fee like you do with Microsoft Office etc nowadays.

If you have just bought YNAB 4 and want to upgrade, they will give you a proportion of a year's subscription for free, but today is the last day you can buy a subscriptionless version of YNAB. If you were thinking about buying in January and don't fancy paying a yearly or monthly subscription, act now.

The subscription will be 5 USD per month, 50 USD per year or if you sign up before 31 Jan, a lifetime discount of 10%, i.e. 45 USD per year. At 30 quid a year, i.e. £2.50 a month, I'm happy that this represents good value for money for me, but I suspect this will be quite controversial and I wanted to give MNers a chance to avoid the charge.

I don't think the very short notice has been deliberate to prevent news of the subscription fee leaking out - when YNAB 4 was released they had a hell of a time as they released it before the iPhone app had been approved, and then had an agonising 10 days of Apple basically going tra-la-la what's that you say about a global launch until they finally released it. I suspect they have been waiting until the app was approved but then need to launch as soon as poss.

tribpot Tue 29-Dec-15 10:41:29

A few details in the last podcast

tribpot Wed 30-Dec-15 19:35:41

Well, release day has arrived and it's not what I expected, I haven't been reading the forums so I had no idea that YNAB has moved to being a web application only. No more desktop application with the data stored in your own Dropbox (i.e. replicated between your machine and the Cloud). It's all stored on YNAB's server.

I won't be upgrading at least until:
- it supports offline working, I'm not prepared to lose access to my budget for 3 days whilst Jeffrey and his mates have fun in YNABland
- it supports two factor authentication, i.e. uses something like Google authenticator so that no-one can log in unless they're also in possession of my other factor, e.g. a code generated by my phone.

From what I can tell, it also doesn't support exporting the transaction log any more - I won't risk losing that as I do my business accounting in YNAB too. I also can't see how you share the budget between different users, something that worked very simply with Dropbox.

On the plus side, the new app looks great, has some interesting new features. But for those of us who routinely recommend it to MNers who want to budget better, I think we may have to look around for something else.

furrymuff Wed 30-Dec-15 22:39:57

Thanks for the video tribpot - was really informative. I'm not sure what to think actually, I don't mind the idea of it being a web application - I often want to update on my work pc etc and that will make it easier. I'm also happy with the subscription costs.

I'm not sure about some of the new features though - the credit card bit looks confusing, as does the budgeting for the future, but guessing that I just need to get some practice in. I'm also still unsure about directly importing bank details (although I see that UK banks do not support this as yet).

Tried to migrate YNAB4 over to 5 on my mac, but getting an error message when I try to update 4 to the recent version so have had to send a support request!

tribpot Wed 30-Dec-15 23:23:29

Yes, I think you need a key from support as there is no Mac version that has the necessary migration tool in it, at least not one available for general download!

I'm annoyed about the lack of 'turn to the right' arrow - very useful for work expenses which will be reimbursed the next month, thus shouldn't really interfere with my budgeting.

Direct import of bank details is not for outside the US and Canada - I wouldn't consider using it even if it were available, to be honest. I am annoyed that for years they said they didn't support direct import because they wanted you to have to really consider each transaction, preferably at the point of spending the money. Now they should be honest and say they've put it in because they're losing market share to apps which do have it.

I was happy with the idea of a web application when I thought it was going to continue to reside in my Dropbox - in which case it could have had a web front end and also a desktop application as now. Useful for work, as you say.

Do let me know how you get on, very glad someone has volunteered to be the MN guinea pig smile

tribpot Thu 31-Dec-15 00:08:34

Just found a link to where YNAB 4 (and even 3) can still be downloaded, although presumably you can't buy a licence key.

SundayGirl86 Thu 31-Dec-15 01:09:03

Watching this with interest. I hadn't really got to grips with the old YNAB and I'm really not sure about this. It all seems very confusing. Will be interested to see what more seasoned users think and if you think it's worth paying a subscription for.

Callmecordelia Thu 31-Dec-15 07:17:49

I can see why they have moved to a subscription model - they've always been quite good at support for older versions, but there comes a time where that's just not practical.

Tribpot you're absolutely right about work expenses. I'm self employed and always put my costs in a special section, and then of course I could cover them when an invoice was paid. Not having the roll over to next month's category balance isn't great for uneven incomes.

The direct import looks like it will work slightly differently in some of the pages to being a straight direct import - you're still supposed to enter transactions yourself, but it makes reconciliation easier. I can understand that. On other pages it looks like it will be an import you don't have to think about, so some mixed messages there.

I'm not upgrading until I'm sure that all bugs have been sorted, there's an offline app, and some thought has been shown to how to handle work expenses.

I suspect there'll be a load of offers for upgrading towards the end of December 2016 when support for YNAB 4 ends anyway, so I'm not tempted by the lifetime discount if you sign up by 31st January.

tribpot Thu 31-Dec-15 08:08:18

My concern is that, if Dropbox change their API at some point in 2016, YNAB will take the view that it's not worth making a major change to their legacy product and it goes out of support without warning.

I've now seen the 'advice' on how to handle sharing a budget with a spouse or indeed business colleagues, given YNAB has touted itself as being small business accounting software, and I use it on the basis myself. Answer: all share a username and password. <headdesk> This makes me think that two factor auth is a long way down the list because clearly it can't work with a shared username/password.

I think YNAB are trying to justify direct import on the grounds that you can already go to your bank and download a QIF file (or other file type) and import that, which should match with all your manually-entered transactions so this is just speeding up the workflow. Of course, if you're rigorously entering all your transactions manually, you don't need to do any import, you just log in to check the balances match when doing reconciliation. Needless to say, European YNABers are starting to ask why we have to pay full price when a major new feature is permanently unavailable to us.

At the same time, other features more useful to non-US consumers (multi-currency, other languages) are nowhere to be seen. Fair enough, the vast majority of YNAB's customers must be in the US, but it's annoying.

So calls have started for YNAB 4 to be open sourced when it goes out of support, in order that the community can maintain it/improve it. This would certainly be better than having to write a new application from scratch. What I've suggested on the YNAB forums is that YNAB license their actual method, which in any case is only a refinement of envelope budgeting, so that we could legitimately build other applications and kick some money back to them - rather than building a looky likey and everyone ending up in an intellectual property dispute.

Callmecordelia Thu 31-Dec-15 08:40:11

I also found some advice on work expenses. The preferred solution was to just budget it, and treat the reimbursement as income - honestly, have they any idea what a four day hotel bill plus mileage for DH is? Especially as a proportion of our modest income?

The second solution was to add it to the credit card debt category. But the whole point of having expenses categories was so I could check we were getting everything back. We had £99 missed off an expenses payment this month. confused

I am worried about the long term reliability of the Dropbox/YNAB relationship too. I can use it as a desktop app, but I'd rather not.

tribpot Thu 31-Dec-15 09:06:44

I assume credit card debt is a category whose balance doesn't get taken off the top of your Available to Budget the following month, i.e. works like the red arrow used to? (I'm watching more of the video that I posted above - it looks like when you spend on a credit card it automatically deducts money from your current account??)

So in YNAB 4 at least you could handle job expenses as a transfer to an off-budget account and then when the reimbursement is made, you record it as a transfer from the off-budget account back to your current account. This would at least mean you could keep track of all expenses owed? I wonder if that would work in nYNAB?

I do something similar for money owed to my business. When I create an invoice, I record the amount in an off-budget account called Accounts Receivable. When the invoice is paid, I record it as a transfer of the same amount into my (on budget) current account, leaving Accounts Receivable at zero again.

Callmecordelia Thu 31-Dec-15 09:45:54

Sort of. As soon as you spend money on a credit card it automatically transfers to a credit card payment category, which should (if you pay it off each month) reflect your credit card balance. If you have a negative in that field, it doesn't allow turn to the right any more, so it will be taken off next month's "available".

Yes, maybe you could fudge it by having an off budget account - that could work.

tribpot Thu 31-Dec-15 10:03:42

Wow, so if you decide to buy something for a grand on a credit card, because you have a 10 month interest free period, intending to pay it off in monthly instalments of 100 quid, it will take the full grand off your Available to Budget until it's cleared? (I'm assuming it doesn't do that with pre-YNAB debt as new starters could have two years of nothing Available to Budget to look forward to whilst they pay off their accrued debt?)

On the one hand, I understand this principle, because you have spent beyond your means, you don't have that £1000 but you've taken it out of your budget anyway, so you are in the red. But psychologically if you can never budget positive amounts to any category, you are much more likely just to stop trying to budget at all.

I guess again to achieve something similar here, you would create an off-budget account with a balance of -1000 and then transfer money to it at the rate of 100 a month until its balance was zero again.

Callmecordelia Thu 31-Dec-15 10:08:35

That can't be right - I must have misunderstood. That's what I thought they were saying, and it's the logical consequence of not being able to roll over, but your example shows why it can't work in the real world....

tribpot Thu 31-Dec-15 10:20:13

No, I think you're right - based on the bit of the video I've watched, as soon as you spend on a credit card it's goodnight Charlie for an equivalent sum of money. Not particularly realistic when managing a small business, so I think YNAB must be bowing out of that market completely.

I will see if I can find out if 'pre-YNAB debt' is handled differently, but I suspect this change is to do with the introduction of savings goals, i.e. you can't be saving towards goals if you're actually carrying debt. But in YNAB 4 the budget knew you had debt, it was just allowing you to defer paying it off. So it would make some sense for your savings goals to be reduced by the overall debt (even in the case of business expenses owed, since you don't physically have the money at that point in time) but not your Available to Budget.

tribpot Thu 31-Dec-15 10:45:20

Oh, someone's just asked on Twitter, so how do you manage your mortgage in this new regime? In fairness I suspect if you wanted to track your mortgage debt in order to know your true net worth, most people would already have it as off-budget account that you paid a fraction off every month, rather than using the red arrow to keep deferring the full repayment. Interesting question, though.

Callmecordelia Thu 31-Dec-15 10:56:13

I run my mortgage debt and house value as off budget accounts, so that the net worth report is about right.

Of course, this version of YNAB doesn't have reports in it yet!

I can't believe that they have shipped this with so many missing features or basic communications. From what I can tell:

- Reports will be added at some point
- The migration of data from YNAB 4 wasn't working to start with
- Lots of people found out the way I did, when my YNAB app icon updated with the word "classic" on my phone - not even an email to registered users.

I'm not even sure they will be integrating with banks outside the US/Canada. I'm don't know whether I would want to do this particularly, as at the moment if DropBox gets hacked, what have they got? A spreadsheet with some numbers in it, no passwords and no identifying data. It's just a fairly boring family budgeting spreadsheet. If they are somehow storing my bank credentials that's something else entirely.

I'd like some clarity about whether they're running their servers to EU or US data protection standards too. Someone said they're using Amazon Web Services which would make sense, for scalability and reliability, but I'd like to have confirmation of that.

tribpot Thu 31-Dec-15 11:45:04

Yes, I have to say I see more cynicism in the choice of delivery dates than I did initially - they wanted to capture the New Years Resolutioner market so they basically shipped whatever was done on 30 Dec to make sure they did. Otherwise I guess they wouldn't really start to see a return on investment on nYNAB until this time next year, which could be desperate for a business the size of YNAB.

The migration of YNAB4 data appears to have been hit by massive performance problems, i.e. the sort of thing they presumably hoped to avoid by moving to a platform like Amazon. They will have beta tested this with a chosen few, I'm wondering if they failed to appreciate how large some budget files actually would be.

The lack of notification is just mad, isn't it? No email? WTF? Were they wanting to soft launch it in order to minimise this initial peak of new users, in which case why not do a properly phased introduction (particularly excluding their overseas markets given there is less functionality for us)?

Very odd and to be honest quite typically haphazard for YNAB, I mentioned in my original post the botched launch of YNAB 4. And that's fine for a relatively small company of nice people, which is what they appear to be. No way in hell do I trust bucketloads of financial data to a small company of nice people.

I'm not particularly wild about my YNAB 4 files in Dropbox being subject to the PATRIOT Act (as well as hacking) but I can reconcile that in a number of ways, not least the fact I have two factor authentication on my Dropbox account. (People have found ways of encrypting their Dropbox data as well). The other factor is that Dropbox contains gazillions of files that would be more interesting to a hacker, whereas all that there will be in the YNAB database is everyone's financial transactions. If I wanted to hack a Congressman's financial records to see if there's anything dodgy, yes I could do that via Dropbox but all I'd end up with a tiny text file that said something like this:

"budgetDataGUID": null,
"dataVersion": "4.2",
"formatVersion": null,
"startVersion": "A-25455,B-1731,C-332,D-1336,E-5115,F-59,G-326,H-2,I-3",
"endVersion": "A-25456,B-1731,C-332,D-1336,E-5115,F-59,G-326,H-2,I-3",
"shortDeviceId": "A",
"publishTime": "Tue Dec 29 15:08:12 GMT+0000 2015",
"items": [
"date": "2015-12-18",
"subTransactions": null,
"matchedTransactions": null,
"amount": -24.99,
"isTombstone": false,
"entityVersion": "A-25456",
"madeWithKnowledge": null,
"isResolvedConflict": false,
"source": null,
"memo": "1 X Skylanders Superchargers: Starter Pack (PS3)",
"cleared": "Uncleared",
"dateEnteredFromSchedule": null,
"checkNumber": null,
"flag": null,
"importedPayee": null,
"targetAccountId": null,
"transferTransactionId": null,
"categoryId": "A31",
"YNABID": null,
"FITID": null,
"entityType": "transaction",
"parentTransactionIdIfMatched": null,
"accepted": true

(I've XXed out all the GUIDs, even though they don't mean anything outside my budget file!)

Now YNAB will make a much better target, with the ability to scoop up an awful lot of data very quickly. Not to mention without local replication, hold it all to ransom - for example by launching a DDOS attack and threatening not to end it til YNAB forks over a load of cash. (In fact someone on Twitter has just made the same point about Dropbox vs YNAB).

I don't even know if UK banks offer this kind of import facility, do they? I know that Xero can do it for some business bank accounts but for personal accounts I can't imagine it without two factor authentication on the other end. In any case, I can't see YNAB wanting to deal with multiple interfacing methods, unless OFX is a global standard?

Their security statement is here which leads also to the Heroku statement - it's hard to believe they've been naive enough to say 'just share the username and password with anyone who shares the budget' on top of this very robust commitment to security. And of course this is the problem - I think Heroku and Amazon know what they're doing (possibly except when it comes to the payment of UK taxes) but YNAB are batting out of their league with this stuff. One might note a similar feeling about MN during Jeffreygate.

Callmecordelia Thu 31-Dec-15 12:25:19

I've been thinking about your authentication point. Years and years ago, there was some sort of link possible between packages like Quicken, Microsoft Money etc. I remember using MS Money in the early 2000s and there was a link to Nat West then. I've not seen that functionality in online banking since. I think Nationwide used to have the ability to download quicken import files, but I can't find anything like that currently at all.

Having a look at the Finicity site is quite interesting. Obviously, YNAB have outsourced to an aggregator to gain access to the API for the US/Canadian banks, which is actually quite a smart move - if all the traffic and data flows through Finicity, and then into the Amazon cloud, at no point is it actually touching a server owned by YNAB. This is the only way I would think that a company the size of YNAB could even attempt to do the direct import, and they have effectively passed on at least some of the security risk.

It does have a small company feel to it - the whole launch, the communication plan... It's just really strange. There are a couple of twitter messages which seem like translations aren't coming any time soon, but is there confirmation that different currencies, even those like the Aus $ and GBP aren't in there as standard? That's a massive mistake if so - just feels like a complete lack of respect for their international users. I wonder what percentage of their customer base is outside the US?

Callmecordelia Thu 31-Dec-15 12:34:27

Also interesting - Finicity seem to be a YNAB competitor too.

tribpot Thu 31-Dec-15 12:39:48

Yes, I remember back in the dim and distant you could even connect one online bank portal to another, so in First Direct you could be pulling in your Nat West data - a bit like you can now integrate other email addresses with Gmail. That all rapidly died a death, and quite rightly so.

I don't think the problem is different currencies - that's just the display of a currency symbol (I can believe they've shipped without that too although no-one would die in a ditch as the currency symbol isn't displayed in many places anyway in YNAB 4 - other localisation features like date format would bother me far more). But multi-currency has been promised for years. This affects chunks of their domestic market who live near Mexico and Canada, so it's not just a European problem (not actually much of a European problem given the size of the Eurozone).

There are clearly a lot of German YNAB users based on the amount of Twitter traffic today, who might be a bit narked that German-language YNAB isn't coming any time soon. I would expect them to do Spanish first, although they don't seem to plan to do anything in this regard.

It really is a small company - [[ 11-50 employees according to LinkedIn, although I suspect this info is somewhat out-of-date. (Jesse did an interview in July 2014 where he said they had 26 employees, however).

So yes, outsourcing to Finicity is essential but this is a small-time operation. Smaller than most primary schools, for example!

Callmecordelia Thu 31-Dec-15 12:51:05

I hadn't even thought of the date thing! If I have to use American date formatting I will be cross.

tribpot Thu 31-Dec-15 12:54:46

No mention of currency, settings or format in the user handbook. Or regional. And I can see from the video embedded in that page, the currency symbol is displayed a lot more in nYNAB than in YNAB 4.

tribpot Thu 31-Dec-15 14:31:28

Oh dear - I see the YNAB4 migration problems aren't just limited to performance - it's essentially buggering the data up as well. YNAB are advising import purely to get your accounts, categories and payees set up, then Fresh Start. Yet don't provide an option that allows you to export just these items confused

tribpot Thu 31-Dec-15 15:07:09

Btw just been having a look at Mvelopes. That looks quite interesting, especially as it has a limited free plan, something YNAB may have shot themselves in the foot by not having. Again, a company like Finicity (not that I had ever heard of them before yesterday) sounds a lot more trustworthy than good old YNAB at doing cloud based financial apps, even if again the risk of hacking / the US government remains the same. This review rates Mvelopes below YNAB (although of course that was against YNAB 4). Mint is the top scorer, and also who YNAB appear to want to compete with, but I get the impression that this is another one of those personal finance apps that lets you see where you've been but not plan the journey ahead properly, i.e. the opposite of the YNAB method.

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