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How I Feel About the New YNAB

This was originally posted on the YNAB forum

A while back, I wrote about my move to a finance app called YNAB and how much I loved it. I’ve been using it for nearly two years now and there’s an update.

Unfortunately it’s not good.

I recently updated my iPhone YNAB app and discover the app icon now have an unattractive banner with the word “classic” over it.
This was how I found out about the new YNAB.

I can summarise, in one word, the feeling I felt after finding out about the new subscription model: disappointed. And here’s why.

Firstly, let me say that I’ve created an account for the new YNAB to have a look at the new features and I am impressed by some of them. Just not all of them, and definitely not the new pricing model.
Let me explain.

Dividing the Features

For me (emphasis on the “me”, I know not everyone will agree), the new features in the new YNAB can be divided into two groups:

Group 1:
– new credit card handling
– ability to set goals
– new Age of Money
– ability to fund future months
– move money in the mobile app
– updated design
– full screen
– font size
– emojis (really?)

Some are less useful than others but still belong to group one.

Group 2:
– syncing through YNAB’s own server
– browser access/web-app
– direct/automatic transaction import from your bank account

The two groups reflect two things, and they’re related; whether I want the feature, and whether they are worth paying subscription for.

Are They Worth It?

Group 1 are features that I find very appealing; after using YNAB for a couple of years now I don’t mind having some new functionality to play with and an updated design to look at. (Perhaps I shouldn’t say “play with”, some of the features, like setting goals, are very useful).

However, this is also the group of features that I feel are only worth a “one off” payment. I don’t mind paying $60 for a new piece of software, as long as I get the keep the software.

Group 2 are features that I find less than useful. I do not want to give YNAB my bank’s login details, I do not want a web-app experience (where at any time features and functionality can change on me without me having any say – more on that later) and syncing through YNAB’s server means that if YNAB server crashes for any reason, or if I have no internet, I can’t access my budget.

And these, coincidentally, are also the type of features I can see a company asking subscription for; maintaining a server, providing a service. But again, not something I actually want.

Let me stress that I am not completely against subscription models; I pay for Apple Music, I pay for Adobe Creative Suite, but subscribing to a budgeting app seems oxymoronic. Especially when I don’t want the “service”, I want the software.

You can argue that Adobe Creative Suite is a piece of software, and that may be true, but they also offer constant updates. I don’t remember YNAB being updated often, nor the updates that useful in the past.
You may say that YNAB would be updated more constantly with the funds from the subscription, but I would say this, “how many updates or feature upgrades can there be for a budgeting app?” Enough to be worth $45 a year? Currently YNAB4 – a $60 app – has lasted me two years (more if I keep using it). Is YNAB going to be releasing a new update to the level of the YNAB4-to-YNAB5 jump every year?

The Problem with Web-Apps

This actually leads me to one of the fundamental problem I have with web-apps, constant uncontrollable upgrades. It seems a direct contradiction to my previous point, but one of the problems I see with web-apps over a free-standing piece of software is that a user has no power over their experience of the software.

If YNAB decides it no longer loves the blue and green theme but decides to change to a neon pink and yellow, we’d find the garish colour scheme forced down our throats when we login.

If YNAB wanted to change the fundamental way of tracking transactions, or adding transactions, it would be there when we login.

An individual, free-standing piece of software asks us if we want to upgrade, with a full list of all the changes that are to be made. If we don’t like what we see, we can reject the update, send in some feedback, and hope that there would be a fix in the following update.

With a web-app, we can send feedback, but we’d also have to deal with the vomit-enducing colour theme while we’re waiting for the fix.

Keep Using YNAB4

I have seen some people saying that I can stick with YNAB4, that it would still be supported for years to come, and that’s true. But I’m also an iPhone user and I rely on the iOS app to keep my transactions up to date.
If official support for the iOS app goes away after this year, it’s essentially useless to me after iOS 10. And truthfully, how many people want to use an out-dated piece of software with no new features on the horizon?

So What’s the Solution?

One possible solution is for the new YNAB to be separated into a one-off payment package for a free-standing app (Group 1 features) with a subscription add-on pack (Group 2 features), then people who would like to pay for the privilege of on-going support can do so, and those who are happy with just the software can do without.

Is That Likely?

I would hope so. Which is the point of this post; I feel that feedback is always useful and I think people really need to let YNAB know how they feel about the new direction the company is moving in. Some people love it, and they have said as much and I don’t judge that. But I don’t love it, and so I’m explaining why and what I hope would happen instead.

Update to Feed

Just letting you know, I have moved my site to WordPress. You still access the site through www.serendipitythis.com, however if you are using a rss feed reader, please update your feed, as it has now changed to www.serendipitythis.com/feed

leaving iReconcile and moving to YNAB

ireconcile to ynab

Latest thing I’m into: a software called YNAB (You Need A Budget).

Previously I keep track of my budget with an iPhone app called iReconcile. I loved the app enough to pay a yearly subscription to get their online syncing service. That was two years ago.

But over the two years I’ve been using the app I’ve been experiencing annoyances large and small. Sometimes the sync would corrupt my data and I would have to contact customer service to roll back my data. Which is okay, if they would only respond to my emails. I’m supposedly paying for this service after all. Lately the app is starting to get bogged down with the sheer number of transactions and I had to clear out data before it starts moving again.

They had also advertised a web app to allow tracking and entering of data from your desktop. When I first got iReconcile this web service was next to useless and there hasn’t been any update since.

A few weeks ago I decided to email them directly to see if any updates to either the iOS or the webservice were in the pipeline. No response.

That was also when my iOS app decided to cough on me again – most likely as a way of prompting me to delete old transactions (one at a time, mind you) again.

That was the end of it for me; I didn’t see the need to keep paying for non-existent customer service for an aging app.

Google helped me discover YNAB.

It is everything iReconcile is supposed to be but wasn’t.

Image Source: http://www.mdmproofing.com/iym/reviews/ynab4/
Image Source: http://www.mdmproofing.com/iym/reviews/ynab4/

YNAB (You Need A Budget) is a desktop budgeting system with an iOS/Android app to facilitate tracking.

I love doing the actual budgeting on the desktop instead of fiddling with the mobile apps. Some people might want more functionality on the iOS app (the Boy certainly does, but then he’s resistant to any changes – it took months for me to get him used to iReconcile), but I highly recommend giving the system a go anyway. Being able to use the number pad on my physical keyboard just make the whole budgeting process so much quicker.

A word of note, YNAB is not like Mint.com, it doesn’t pull your transaction from your bank automatically, you have to enter your expenditure manually. I’ve been doing that with iReconcile, so this is not an issue for me, but it might be for others.

The desktop version does have an importing feature though which allows you to manually import your transaction history (OFX file) from your bank.

This is great for finding those transactions that might have slipped the gaps and is great when you’re reconciling your accounts.

Image Source: http://jamieflarity.com/finance/how-ynab-changed-my-life/
Image Source: http://jamieflarity.com/finance/how-ynab-changed-my-life/

Now what about the mobile apps?

Let me say this up front, in the YNAB system, the mobile app is used only for tracking your daily income and expenses (and your bank transfers, eg. ATM withdrawals). You can’t change your budget, and you can’t look at your reports.

But realistically, why would you want to?

The YNAB system is built around budgeting by categories instead of by accounts, which is how I’ve always budgeted but never had a system which supported it. iReconcile kind of did it, but when the budget page takes ages to load, you’re just not going to use it.

Both the desktop and mobile apps are really slick to use and pretty to look at. It uses Dropbox to sync the data between devices, and I haven’t any any issues with conflicting versions of information being synced.

It’s a one off payment of $60 for the desktop app (the mobile apps are free, but you must have the desktop app for them to work), and this one license allows you to share the software between everyone in your immediate family.

One thing I must mention is that YNAB also has a very substantial database of support files, and a comprehensive series of live classes teaching people how to budget and use the YNAB program properly. Even if you don’t buy the YNAB software, you should still go through those videos and articles; they are just chock full of tips on how to budget better.

Before I sign off, I want to point out a couple of review articles I would highly recommend reading if you want to know more about the YNAB software. I really love the apps, but have only skimmed the surface of the features available. These blogs have done a fantastic job walking through each part of the program:

It’s Your Money!

Jamie Flarity

Do you budget? Are you using a budgeting program? Are you an iReconcile or YNAB user? Comment below on your budgeting experiences, I would love to know.

time mapping and the 30/30 app – part 1 – introduction

 

Recently I watched Joshua LaPorte’s video on his time mapping for 2014.

I was so inspired, I decided to do something similar but using the 30/30 app instead of an Excel file.

This is the first of a 2-part series on my system, hope you like it.

The background

As I mentioned, I recently watched LaPorte’s video:

Being the nerd that I am, I immediately opened up Excel and began mapping my own day.

I was surprised to find that, like Joshua, I only had around 2 hours a day of free time.

Obviously I’ve over-allocated some of the tasks eg. I don’t need 15 minutes to feed the cat. But over-estimating is always better than running over time.

This time map is also overly optimistic. I’ve never had any regular exercise regime and I don’t think I have been able get to bed before midnight for years.

But this really showed me why I go to bed so late; I’ve always assumed that I have more free time than I did and before I know it, it’s 3am.

For this new year, I hope to increase my sleep and exercise time by following this time map.

But I knew I wouldn’t be working with Excel. It’s too rigid; tasks are all allocated in time-specific slots and it doesn’t easily adapt to changes, eg. dinner might get rescheduled to an earlier or later time.

Introducing the 30/30 app.

 

The 30/30 app is a colourful little app designed by Biary Hammer.

I originally got this app to help implement the (10+2)*5 procrastination hack.

The idea is you trick your mind into completely focusing on one task for 10 minutes, after which you reward yourself with a 2-minute break to do whatever you want.

You repeat this four more times and an hour of your work day would have passed, and four tasks would have been moved forward towards completion.

If you are a person who needs some help with getting past their procrastination, whether at work or at home, I highly recommend reading Merlin Mann’s article on this hack.

30/30 app + Time Mapping

 

So when looking for an alternative way of keeping track of my time map, I figured that the 30/30 app would be just what I needed.

To start, I enter in all the tasks that needs to happen between when I get home from work till when I begin winding down for bed.[1]I’ve discovered that having a pre-sleep routine (like reading for 15 minutes in bed) helps slow my mind down, so it’s not buzzing around when I’m trying to sleep. I don’t plan on using a time map during work; that goes into my asana task manager.

Now on the top left of the app’s display (marked by a blue frame in the screenshot), you can see how long all your task would take.
FullSizeRender

 

When you actually start the timer, this number on the top left turns into real time; the time it will be when all your tasks are done.

FullSizeRender 2

This is perfect for my time mapping, because I can see – as I complete tasks early, or delay the onset of the next task – what time my day finishes.

Since I aim to sleep at midnight, the screenshot on the left shows me I pretty much on target, as long as I follow the schedule I have left on the screen.

App Options

The app has a few options that really works to customise the way I track my time map. The screenshot on the right shows how I set up my 30/30 app.

Sounds: As the name suggests, this lets you select the type of sound for your notifications[2]In the old version of 30/30 (version 2.0.1) there was an issue with the app’s notification sound being quite soft when you have the app running in the background. This issue has been fixed since version 2.1, you just need to make sure that sounds is turned on in your Settings -> Notification Centre..

Show Duration: This ensures the total duration of all your tasks shows up in the top left corner of the app

Show Time: This toggles the display of the start and stop time of each task still remaining on your list of to-do’s.

Auto-Pause: If this was turned off, once one task is completed, the timer for the next task would start. I usually leave this on; I rather manually start the timer for the next task, confirming that I’ve actually moved on to the next task. This keeps me accountable for whether I stay on track or not.

Auto-Loop: This is similar to auto-pause, just that if you have it off, your list would automatically restart after it’s completed all the tasks in the list. I usually keep this off.

 

So that’s the introduction to the system, in the following posts I would explain how I set up the time map and how I use it on a day to day basis.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. I’ve discovered that having a pre-sleep routine (like reading for 15 minutes in bed) helps slow my mind down, so it’s not buzzing around when I’m trying to sleep.
2. In the old version of 30/30 (version 2.0.1) there was an issue with the app’s notification sound being quite soft when you have the app running in the background. This issue has been fixed since version 2.1, you just need to make sure that sounds is turned on in your Settings -> Notification Centre.

forgot to mention the RSS feed address

Thanks Steve for pointing this out to me, but I forgot to mention what my RSS feed address is.

For those using Feedly or Bloglovin, I believe you only need to enter in the URL and the reader would automatically extract the RSS feed address.

For those more tech-savy, my RSS feed address is: http://www.serendipitythis.com/feed http://www.serendipitythis.com/feed

welcome to the new site

Happy New Year Everyone!

Most, if not all, of you would have come here from my old blogger blog http://serendipity-art-journaling.blogspot.com.

As I have mentioned in my old blog, with the new year, I am revamping the site and moving it here.

I hope the new domain name http://www.SerendipityArtJournaling.com http://www.serendipitythis.com would be easier to remember (and type).

A little housekeeping

The old blog would remain, but new blog posts would not show up there. So if you are using any type of RSS feeder, please add the new URL to get the latest update. (If you don’t know what a RSS feeder is or what it does, you might want to read this article. I personally like Feedly.)

Also I’ve extracted all the old blog posts to the new site, but I think some of the links may have been broken in the process. I am currently going through each post and checking the links, but if you find something that is not working, please let me know by commenting, and I would get on it asap.

Moving Forward

I’m still fiddling with the layout and design of the new blog, so if you have any feedback or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

christmas decoration at the workplace

I’d originally wrote up this ranting entry on how I wish people would put up Christmas decoration properly in the office, about how nothing is sadder than tinsel randomly draped over dying office plants or sticky-taped to cubicle walls and falling down constantly through the month.

But then I thought it wasn’t very Christmas-y of me to do that. So instead I just wanted to mention one little tip that would hopefully make decorating the office quicker, neater, and overall, more aesthetically pleasing.

(Now I know a lot of veteran decorators out there already know this, so please bear with me)

Instead of using sticky tape, that just looks messy, use these instead:

These things would save you heaps of headache.

Just stick these on your cubicle, on your walls or ceiling, and hang your decorations from them with thread or fishing wire. These hooks would stay fairly hidden (especially behind bunched up tinsel), strong enough so they won’t fall in the middle of December, and is easy to remove in January without damaging the wall.

I don’t even plan on removing mine. Instead I’ll probably hang my Valentines decorations on those hooks in February!

the baroque… is here… (wait, what?)

Yes, within three months of my first Filofax (well two, considering I received my Filofax FR package nearly a month ago), I have gotten myself a second one.

Awhile back, I read this entry and thought to myself, “I want a Baroque Personal Filofax!”

I was going to write a series of entries about pros and cons of buying another Filofax, whether I would find a use for it, whether I would neglect my A5 Finsbury… But somehow along the way… before I even got one word written, I managed to get my SO to buy it for me for my birthday (and yes, my birthday is not for another two months).

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Looks pretty plain from the outside

Now what was my original justification for purchasing another Filofax?

Well, I wasn’t planning on using it as my personal Filofax, I had my Finsbury for that – and I wanted to keep my work and my personal life in one Filofax.

No, I wanted to use the Baroque to help plan my trip to Europe later this year. A month-long vacation can go very badly if it’s not organised properly, and who would want to carry an A5 Filofax across Europe?

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But the detail on the inside…

Also, I saw these really interesting Travel Journal inserts from Filofax UK (available in either Personal or Pocket size only), and I just had to try them! (Yes, you can see which is the prominent reason for getting the Filofax…)

So… an order was placed on Filofax UK and Filofax FR and the waiting game commenced. I received the Baroque in 7 days, the Travel Journal Pack in 2 weeks.

Btw, did you know that Filofax FR provides tracking IDs and Filofax UK don’t? Considering how most inserts in the FR site are multi-lingual and Euro is cheaper than GBP, I may just source my future Filo products from France…

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I’m not going to do a play by play of the individual parts of the Baroque, not because I don’t love my Filo to bits, but because I don’t think I could do a better job than Lime Tree. Her entry has a lot of pretty pictures, and I highly recommend going to her blog to drool over the Baroque.

The moment I laid my hands on the Baroque and felt just how soft the leather was, I fell in love. Out flew all my plans of using this Filo just for the Europe trip, I want the Baroque with me all the time.

Before I knew it, I had copied all my personal appointments from my A5 Finsbury into the Baroque and had created a miniturised GTD system for my personal life to go in it as well.

The smaller page sizes doesn’t inspire me to write pages and pages of journal entries as the A5 does, but it’s not too bad. I’m even considering leaving the A5 at the office, since I don’t have to worry about leaving personal details at work, but then I feel guilty for kind of abandoning the Finsbury so quickly.

For those of you with more than one Filofaxes (I’m beginning to feel that there’s no Filofax owners out there who only has one Filofax), how do you assuage your guilt for turning to a new love?

in search of the perfect diary insert – Philofaxy DIY diary inserts

So the vertical W2P Filofax diary insert didn’t work, the Outlook print-out had no personality, what else could I do?

What else could any Filofax-loving-obsessive-compulsive person do? Visit Philofaxy to look for answers of course!

Is it neccessary for me to explain to people what Philofaxy is? Is it possible that there any Filofax fans out there, who’ve stumbled upon my humble blog, and don’t know about Philofaxy?

You have no idea what you’re missing…

Anyway…

A quick search on Philofaxy resulted in my downloading and slightly tweaking their Time Management Week Per View diary insert (version 2).

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I swapped the left and right pages around – which took more work that you’d think!

It’s messy, but I like it.

On the right page I have plenty of room to write my appointments and the left page allows me to write tasks that must be done on a given day. These are mainly shopping lists or home-related tasks. All my work-related stuff are filed behind GTD action tabs.

I especially like the “Coming Up” section on the bottom of the left page; I have a tendency of looking only at what’s on this week’s page and this “coming up” section allows me to remind myself of any upcoming events in the following week that I need to keep track of.

It seems that for now I can relax in my search for the perfect diary insert. After fiddling with the printer setting and mail merge settings for what seem like an age, I managed to print out a year’s worth of pages. Time will tell how these inserts will fare.

To what extent have you gone to find your perfect insert, and what are you currently using?

in search of the perfect diary insert – outlook printed diary inserts

So, outlook printed diary inserts…

I was having issues with my vertical W2P and decided to try having Outlook print out my diary inserts for me.

Not liking how the appointment layout results in many empty gaps and lack of non-working hour space, I choose the “Weekly Agenda Style” in Outlook 2010.

I used them in conjunction with my vertical W2P just to see how they compared side by side.

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Good points

  1. There’s no “empty gap” issue that you get with appointment based layout
  2. Since I’m printing directly from my work outlook account, I don’t need to copy my work appointments again
  3. Outlook would organise and list the appointment by time for me.

But I didn’t like them.

I don’t know why.

It could be because I got used to the appointment-based layout.

With the outlook pages I can’t see, visually, the length of meetings I need to attend or the amount of time I have in between meetings.

I also don’t like how lifeless the page looks; there’s no emphasis placed on particular appointments by a slightly larger font or the last minute meeting denoted by cramped handwriting squished between two neatly written meetings. It’s so sterile.

The Outlook pages didn’t even last two weeks (and that’s only because I printed out two weeks to try out)

So back to the drawing board it is…

(Next entry will be on one of the free diary insert templates available from Philofaxy)