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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.

Notes on the Apple Watch

I thought I would do a running commentary on what I think of my new Apple Watch.

This would only be very casually formatted/edited, and I’ll just be adding to this entry as I go, so check back for more updates as I get used to my latest gadget.

Okay, so for some very quick background:

I ordered a white 42mm Apple Watch Sport with the white elastopolymer band and received it on launch day (24th April).

I’ve also swapped phones with my boyfriend (he has the iPhone 6 Plus) to see whether I can handle the bigger sized phone now that I have the watch.

Sun 26th April

  • The watch comes in very handy for me with the bigger phone. I find the phone very unwieldy and I no longer have it in a pocket but have it in my bag. As such, notifications on my watch are great, I no longer have to dig out the phone to read messages.

  • It’ll be better once there’s Native Line and Whatsapp applications. But for now I can send stickers using the Line watch interface.

  • Sending iMessages is really easy using Siri – but then I haven’t tried it in a crowd, just in the car.

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  • I’ve also used the map function on the watch whilst driving which is really cool.
    When I used the maps/directions features on my phone in the car in the past, I’d turn off voice navigation because it had a tendency of talking right over the podcast or audiobook I’m usually listening to. This usually means I would sometimes miss a turn if I wasn’t concentrating.
    Now the watch taps my wrist when I’m coming up to a turn which is very convenient.

  • When at home (with wifi network) the connection between the phone and watch is extended past the Bluetooth range.
    This means if I leave my watch upstairs, I can still receive messages and phone calls if I’m downstairs or something.

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  • If you can’t find your phone, there’s a button on the watch to make the phone ping (much easier and quicker than logging into iCloud on the computer). This is extremely useful as I’m constantly misplacing my phone.

Sun 3rd May

IMG_9787.PNG

  • Every morning I wake up and look at my calendar and the weather.
    It’s so much easier to do that on the watch (especially if you choose one of the more information intensive watch faces, or use the glances), than doing it on the phone.

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  • The watch is not meant to be life-changing, I don’t expect it to be; it just makes a few everyday things more convenient.
    (And if only people I know gets it, the communications gimmicks would be pretty cool too)
  • I’m a person who would wear a smart watch, and being a Apple fangirl, it just makes more sense to stay in the eco-system.
  • For some, perhaps the Watch would only be useful when native apps gets added later on in the year.

First Typecast

IMG_9376.JPG

This is my first typecast, so I’ll keep everything left-aligned to make it easier for me.

So already there is a typo, and the anal part of me is itching to retype the whole thing to fix it up, but that’s not the point of this exercise, is it?
I find, when typing on a typewriter – san first draft – that I have trouble thinking of something to write. More accurately, I am wary of typing anything until I have it semi-formulated in my head.
This, of course, makes sense, as you cannot delete off a typewritten page.
But at the same time I find that my mind is not used to fully forming sentences before committing them to paper; my mind is used to being allowed to see the formless ideas spewed onto the screen before going back to edit them before clicking “send” or “submit”.

I think this exercise might help my writing in some ways. Although in some ways it would force me to write slower, it may force me to think and formulate my ideas more quickly.

Reading the above entry, I could already see some sentence structure that needs improving.
And some spelling.

From my only typewriter,[1]It seems a lot of typecasts sign off with the model of the typewriter they used to type with, but I only have one the Imperial Good Companion 1943

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. It seems a lot of typecasts sign off with the model of the typewriter they used to type with, but I only have one

The Imperial Good Companion Typewriter

For a very long time, I’ve thought about getting a typewriter. Not the electric one, nor the plastic ones from the 60’s or 70’s, but the honest-to-god-all-made-of-metal-could-kill-someone-if-you-threw-it typewriters.

A recent correspondence between my latest IGGPPC-assigned pen-friend and I got me scouring eBay and Googling for any possible candidates in my area.

My criteria were as follows (in no particular order):

  1. Portable [1]it’s all relative, of course not desktop version
  2. Either has local pick-up or real cheap shipping
  3. Is not plastic
  4. Looks pretty (not too banged up)
  5. Not going to burn a hole in my pocket
  6. IN WORKING ORDER (I don’t know enough about typewriters to be able to fix one up)

Of course some of my criteria conflicted with each other:

  1. Pretty ones were not cheap
  2. Cheap ones that look pretty may not work – and getting them fixed was probably going to cost a pretty penny
  3. Pretty and cheap ones were all overseas – and the shipping would make them UN-cheap
  4. My definition of pretty is pretty subjective, and expensive. Apparently I really like the look of the Underwoods – especially their Noiseless 77, but again, not cheap

After a week of eBay deep-diving – which included a lot of frustration-born hair-pulling – as all the pretty machines were selling at ridiculous prices overseas, whereas all the Australia-based sellers were posting falling apart machines for 10x the price – I managed to snap this little beauty for $80AUD.

Imperial Good CompanionIt’s an Imperial The Good Companion typewriter and accordingly to the internet, it’s a 1943 model. I’ve still to find where the serial number is on this thing, so if any of you out there know where I should look, please leave a comment.
Imperial Good Companion - Close upI am hoping to type my future correspondences with my pen-friend on this typewriter. And may, I would even try a hand at typecasting!

 

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. it’s all relative, of course

How to integrate iCloud Photo Stream with Adobe Lightroom by using Hazel

I think it was in the latest MPU Live that Katie Floyd and David Sparks mentioned the issue with managing photos across devices.

This is how I do it with Hazel.

Note: This is based off Adam Portilla’s Automator method.

1. Create an “incoming” folder in Photos

In /Library/Photos/ create a folder called incoming.

2. Turn on iCloud Photo Stream on both your iPhone and your Mac

If you don’t know how to do this, I suggest reading this article.

This would make sure that any photos you take on your iPhone (and/or iPad) is being collected by your Mac.

3. Create a Hazel rule to scan the Photo Stream folder

Open Hazel and in the “folders” window add the following folder:
{USERNAME}/Library/Application Support/iLifeAssetManagement/assets/sub

The Library folder is usually hidden, so you may need to unhide it in Finder’s view options.

Now create the following two Hazel rules:
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With these two rules, Hazel would take all the images found in the iCloud Photo Stream and copy them into the incoming folder.[1]In my Hazel rule I actually move the picture files into the incoming folder as opposed to copying, but copying would keep your iPhotos library intact…

But don’t turn on Hazel just yet…

4. Point Lightroom at the incoming folder

Lightroom has an auto-import feature where it would monitor a specified folder for new picture files, and then import them into the Lightroom catalog for further processing.

In the Lightroom menu go to: File –> Auto Import –> Auto Import Settings…

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 12.37.11 am

Set the Watched Folder to incoming folder.[2]The incoming folder must be empty when you first point Lightroom at it; that is why I said you shouldn’t turn on the Hazel rules just yet [3]Auto Import does not monitor subfolders, which is why you can’t just point Lightroom at the iCloud Photo Stream folder; all the photos are saved in layers of folders

Specify the Destination folder to where you actually want the pictures to reside. I put my pictures into another temporary folder so I can sort through them later in Lightroom.[4]I might do another article on my full photo management workflow, if people are interested

You can also change the name of all your photos as they’re being imported into your Lightroom catalog in the File Naming section, or apply metadata or keywords in Information.

Tick Enable Auto Import.

Click Ok.

Now you can turn on the Hazel rules.

That took a little setting up, but now you don’t have to think about it any more. Hazel will run in the background, extracting pictures from iCloud and putting them into a temporary folder (ie. incoming folder) and every time you open Lightroom, it would suck out all the photos from the temporary folder into the catalog.

One thing to note though, this method only works for images, iCloud does not sync video into Photo Stream. I have a work-around, but I’ll leave that for another article as that involves my whole photo management workflow…

 

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. In my Hazel rule I actually move the picture files into the incoming folder as opposed to copying, but copying would keep your iPhotos library intact…
2. The incoming folder must be empty when you first point Lightroom at it; that is why I said you shouldn’t turn on the Hazel rules just yet
3. Auto Import does not monitor subfolders, which is why you can’t just point Lightroom at the iCloud Photo Stream folder; all the photos are saved in layers of folders
4. I might do another article on my full photo management workflow, if people are interested

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.