Should you use You Need a Budget (YNAB) in your business?

Do you have a business? A side hustle? A freelance gig? 

How are you handling your money in your business? And yes, if you have a side hustle or a freelance gig, you have a business.

Ugh, you know what that means. Taxes! Bookkeeping! Headaches!

Small business finance advice || Should you use You Need A Budget (YNAB) in your business? by The Wiser Miser. Here's how to know if you need to use the You Need A Budget app in your business.

What if I told you that there was a simple tool that never gets talked about in business-finance-tool roundups, but which does a lot of the most important things those other tools do, is less expensive, easier to use, and which also helps you with really important things you’re not even thinking about (but really should be)? 

Enter You Need a Budget (YNAB). If you’ve read basically anything I’ve written before, you’ll know that I’m a YNAB lover. Check out my nerdy YNAB love here.

[If you haven’t read my post about the budgeting tool You Need a Budget (YNAB), here’s the quick and dirty version:

  • YNAB is amazing, and the only tool I (almost) universally recommend

  • YNAB is particularly great for folks with variable income or who ask themselves things like “where’s it all going?” or “why don’t I have more savings?” or “how do I know how much I can save/pay off debt this month?”

  • YNAB is essentially digital envelope budgeting, meaning it’s very cash-flow focused, and you only budget the money you have today. As a result, you “budget” more frequently, but with much greater accuracy and success.

  • I do not work for YNAB, I just really love this tool because it saved me and so many of my clients.]

That post was focused on personal finances since that’s what YNAB is designed for and what’s it’s best at. But I’ve got a follow-up question for you: Is YNAB right for your business too? 

YNAB can act as the Swiss Army Knife of your business’s financial toolbox. I use YNAB to track all of my business income and expenses (making my accountant happy), visualize trends using the easy reporting features built in, keep my awareness high of what’s going on in my business, and make business decisions (like: can I afford to run some ads this month? Can I hire some help?). I also use it as a cash flow management tool. 

[Interested in having me do this for your business, too? Handling this stuff for other business owners is my jam. Let’s chat!]

That bit at the end about cash flow important. I’ve looked at other business financial tools out there, and there’s one critical piece missing from all of them. Cash flow management. 

If you’ve got a service based or creative business (I’m looking at you, coaches, consultants, course creators, bloggers, writers, designers, and photographers), you probably already know how important cash flow is to the overall health of your business. Cash flow is the lifeblood of businesses, particularly when they’re of the not-giant-corporation and no-angel-investors variety. 

Healthy cash flow is what allows you to do things like pay yourself, pay your assistant and other important people, have a functioning website, and keep the IRS out of your hair. In other words, cash flow is what allows your business to keep running at all. If you don’t get cash flow right, it will kill your business. 

Let me repeat that for those in the back:

If you don’t get cash flow right, it will kill your business.

The Budget screen in YNAB - this is where you plan your cash flow.

The Budget screen in YNAB - this is where you plan your cash flow.

How does YNAB help with cash flow? 

It has a cash flow planning screen (the “budget” tab) that shows you where all your $ is going this month so you can see at a glance whether you’ve got enough to cover your expenses - and if not, how much, exactly, you’ll need to cover. You can use this to find out the size of the hole you need to fill this month (or next). You can even use it to track multiple revenue streams, simple accounts receivable (i.e. who has an outstanding invoice and when it is or was due), and to easily put money aside to pay towards quarterly estimated taxes - without having to have a separate bank account, and without having to keep track of all the stuff in your head.

A sample report from YNAB that I made with about one click.

A sample report from YNAB that I made with about one click.

It’s also got great, simple reporting feature built in, so you don’t need to export to Excel to see trends or where things are out of balance. 

Using the information about cash flow and trends allows you to answer questions that traditional bookkeeping software can’t even approach - like, “How much can I afford to pay myself?” and “Can I hire someone to help me with this?” or “What’s my ad budget for this campaign?” 

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to answer questions like those with confidence? Based on facts, not feelings? 

With YNAB, you can. Finally. 

On top of all of that, if you’re already using YNAB for your personal budget, the system will be easy and familiar to you. Just create a second budget and change the category setup to work better for your business expenses. 

Even if you don’t already use YNAB for your personal budget (though, what are you waiting for?), the setup is simpler and faster than other systems on the market that are designed with small business in mind. Some of those systems are great, but largely they are expensive and designed with many more features than you need them to have. As I said earlier, they also don’t address cash flow, at all. YNAB is clean and nimble in comparison and keeps your attention where it needs to be - on running your business.

[Download my FREE guide to setting up your business’s books + budget today. Includes master categories, subcategories with examples, as well as the how and why for each line] 

Have I converted you to use YNAB in your life and/or business? Tell me in the comments! 

P.S. Are you interested in a self-paced course on how, exactly, to use YNAB for your business finances? Click the button below to raise your hand and say “me, me!” and you’ll be the first to know when it’s ready. 


P.P.S. There are a few situations where YNAB absolutely is not the right software for your business. 

Specifically, if you frequently use multiple currencies (i.e. you’re in Canada but bill in USD), if you need a tool that tracks your inventory, does payroll, or includes time tracking or invoicing from the same tool - YNAB isn’t that. There are tools out there that will probably suit you better, though they are likely more expensive and/or clunky to set up or maintain, and probably don’t focus on cash flow. Can you tweak YNAB to make it work for you in these scenarios? Sure, and if cash flow is critical to you, that might be the best way to do it. If you want help with, let’s chat.