Software as a Service / Starting to seem like a scam
The entire point of software as a service / at least the sell-case to the customer - is continual releases, continual service improvement without long waits for big bang upgrades.
I'm not seeing this with Ynab, nearly a year in. The 'improvements' in release notes are marginal UI tweaks and bug fixes (which should be part of ongoing maintenance, not represented as an improvement. If my car doesn't drive correctly, I don't consider a wheel alignment a 'service upgrade').
Alternatively, basic asks that clearly resonate with many members of the user community go unanswered. Printing reports is *still* broken - columns amputated from what is screen displayed - 3 years after requests show up in these forums. Instead, we're given helpful alternatives on how exporting into Excel (another software purchase) can cure Ynab's persistent deficiencies.
I'm not sure if this is an issue where developers are driving the train instead of product management (as someone working in the industry, this is always a poor idea). Speaking for myself, I'm nearing the year mark on returning to YNAB, after the poor initial rollout. I don't know if I'll continue, if this product stagnation does.
I mean this not to nullify your concern at all, but yes. This is what YNAB is. You pay for it and they make almost no significant changes to the software over time. Expect approximately 24-36 months between releases of anything that actually affect your ability to budget/streamline budgeting processes. They are absolutely unrepentant about this release timeline despite having touted the move to SaaS as being about not having to hold back the big flashy changes for a new version.
So that is the product you are paying for, and only you can decide if it’s worth it. For me, at the price I’m grandfathered into, it’s worth it. But I don’t expect things I know I won’t get.
As someone that used to be in IT, I can tell you one benefit of the SAAS model vs update purchases. Keeping up with the world around you. I am an accountant and the world of accounting is pretty stable. Payroll tables get updated 2 x per year and tax slips need to be prepared. Other than that, accounting doesn't change. Until something does. Something big! My example is when Canada introduced the GST (and then HST). The company I worked for did not update the accounting software as it worked just fine. But when the GST hit, we had to upgrade through 5 versions as there was not direct to new version conversion. Most software is like that. The latest version is the supported and nimble version.
This happened to me on a personal note with Quicken. I used Quicken for YEARS. But didn't want to go with a new version when my current one did the trick. Then the banking interface stopped working with my version and I had to decide whether or not to convert to the new version. I didn't (and now I am here).
Finally, support is better when everyone is using one version.
I have to agree with the sentiment here and honestly if I could find something else to replace YNAB I probably would leave in a heartbeat. Especially recently. As said so many requested features, such as sensible multi-currency handling, never seem to get added. "Updates" that seem to have constantly don't actually make any noticeable change to the application.
And lately, Importing, which I 1000% rely on in my hectic world, has gotten so poor that I may be forced away no matter what. Right now more of my accounts are failing to import than are working. First it was just my Apple Card which I couldn't link. Then it was my Capital One accounts which need to be "re-authorized" every day, which is effectively the same as not working. Then for the last week or so my primary bank (RBC) hasn't been working, neither in Canada or the USA, and NOW I'm told that Chase will require re-auth every month. I keep hearing "We're working on it" yet it never gets better.
While I like the underlying product, I am increasingly dissatisfied by the company and the running of the product. It really feels like the shift from a one time purchased product like it was when I started, to "service" was for no reason other than to make more money.
I have some mixed feelings about the product, the cost and what I get from it. Yes, there are several pitfalls in terms of how the software works that can drive me batty (The first one that comes to mind is SFTF-Stealing From the Future, for those not aware) but I also see how much my financial picture has improved over the past 18 months that I've been using it. Not only that, but my level of financial comfort has risen tremendously. That alone is worth the subscription price to me. Now that I have a better handle on the quirks and pitfalls, I know to look out for them and get them corrected ASAP. I looked at a lot of other budgeting software before starting YNAB and I picked it mostly because of the YNAB philosophy of not budgeting what you don't yet have. I don't want budgeting software telling me how much I "should" be spending on housing, food, transportation, etc. I'm a grown up now (or so they tell me) and quite capable of deciding what my priorities are. So yes, there are issues, and updates that most of us wish they would come out with, but in the end, it's a personal decision based on what works for you, and it may not be applicable to the next guy. Regardless of the issues I've encountered, I'm pretty sure I'm here to stay, as the positives outweigh the negatives for me....by quite a bit.
You're missing the other side of the cost, and that is the cost of the infrastructure. You need to run the software somewhere, and that takes bucks every month. You can rent it via services like AWS/ Azure / GCP. or you can buy it and lifecycle it. They could pay for it like Mint does by selling my data to serve me ads, or charge a modest amount of money. Just for a single reserved instance and a DNS services in AWS, my personal bill is 5~6 a month.
The SaaS solutions solutions that irk me is when they are trying to shift you to running in the could so they can lock you into recurring revenue. I'm looking at you VMware.
I'm one of those people that hates to pay for services. Like, if I have to pay for shipping, I probably won't buy it. If a video game is 2-3 hours long and $10, heck no. I didn't want to pay for YNAB in the beginning, but the 4-month trial convinced me and then some. I find that I got a lot for my $, including all the free workshops (I did most of them), the support staff (shout out to Faness ) is phenomenal whenever there is an issue and of course the software that has allowed me to change my net worth by 400%. There's no way I could have done this with any other program, and certainly not with a free program that doesn't give me all this support.
I'm actually okay with paying each year for a software program I keep using. The main reason why almost all companies have shifted to software-as-a-service is that it costs them money to keep the product working as is, without any enhancements.
From all the issues I read here about syncing (I live in Australia and enter everything manually), I imagine the dev team at YNAB spend large amounts of time maintaining the connectivity with the banks, who keep changing their security and their connections. Then keeping all the apps working and syncing and testing everything with all the changes in Android and I0S.
I don't imagine YNAB is making mega profits, especially with all the free supoort they offer...although I know that mostly benefits new users and is a customer retention tool for them.
As for if you bought YNAB as a standalone product (which I also did), nothing lasts forever. Yes, its frustrating that lots of new features haven't been brought in, but it's not a big deal for me. I still like YNAB and think I'm getting good value for money.
Yes I can said:
I don't imagine YNAB is making mega profits, especially with all the free supoort they offer...although I know that mostly benefits new users and is a customer retention tool for them.
I wouldn’t exactly call it free. It’s built into the price of the software. Newer users use it a lot while more established users don’t use it at all (other than DI issues) and probably give back more than they get in the form of bug reports.
Yes I can said:
The main reason why almost all companies have shifted to software-as-a-service is that it costs them money to keep the product working as is
I think you have this backwards. These companies wanted regular income and have therefore shifted to SAAS to achieve that. Of course, SAAS has ongoing costs, but they knew that going in and charge accordingly.
Regardless of the issues I've encountered, I'm pretty sure I'm here to stay, as the positives outweigh the negatives for me....by quite a bit.
I think this is where a lot of people are. It's hard to deny how life changing YNAB has been for the average person who goes from not budgeting to sticking with a budget in YNAB. If they increased the cost a lot I might use a Google spreadsheet combined with buckets at Ally for my TEs, but for now I'm a pretty happy YNABer. In fact, I'm trying to get my sister to start using it, and my parents.
This is an interesting discussion. I'm still in the trial period and every day I wonder will I subscribe. I've eliminated all paid subscriptions and hesitate to get back into one. I do manual entry. The system is so much like the traditional check register method, and I am not averse to pens and calculators. The educational content is fun and digestible and really is key to introducing people to personal finance. There are a lot of issues with online banking, necessary and increasing regular maintenance which restricting your access to actually doing your banking, inevitable hacking incidents, impacts from hurricanes/flooding immobilizing services, the increasingly time-consuming authentication steps ( which are regularly being improved so you need to learn a different way into your accounts ), mobile apps not compatible with your device (after upgrades), waiting for trial credits to be deposited and then recorded in order to link accounts and just the exposure of being online. Not to mention waiting for the recording describing the several options to choose from to finish so you can speak to a human if you do call into customer service. I like YNAB and I am happy for everyone who has climbed out of debt using it - what a terrific accomplishment. Yet I wonder if the financial gains (in every sense) are is due more to the personal finance principles being taught vs the actual software system. Just simply commenting here.
What I almost can't believe is that such an unmatched software like YNAB doesn't even develop faster in those areas where they could really make money: In providing the most important world languages...
I don't know of any similar software which is "only" available in English.
Here I expect more from a current SAAS software...
I can understand that only North American banks can be linked, but even here there is still room for improvement....
Additionally the reduced capabilities for export, reports, tags etc.
This is exactly what I wrote to the support, and there came the rather laconic answer that they would not concentrate on such things at the moment...Strange.
We would love to have the whole world using YNAB, but right now our small team doesn't have the ability to translate our software and resources into any other languages.
BTW: don't you have many Spanish speaking US citizens?
Ok, but you see, I'm like many of the previous speeches: The principle is so unique that I will pay my annual fee again...
Tomcad from Switzerland
Professionally I work as a PLM consultant. There we use the (American software ... and yes ... SAAS) Windchill from PTC.
It is completely web-based and available in 9 languages including all manuals and even user-defined input (if translated by the customer). Simply because of the fact which browser language was set on the client.
Ok, I'm not asking YNAB to do this on this scale, because at PTC the development department is worlds bigger, but I think GOOGLE, Apple, and Microsoft wouldn't be where they are today if they hadn't focused on localization from the very beginning.
I've been with YNAB for almost a year now and while I love the interface and how useful it's been, I do agree that there seems to be a lack of new features. I know people have been asking for more insightful reports for years and I definitely agree. If I'm gonna spend time compulsively adding my transactions (I even include payroll deductions in my income transactions), YNAB could at least use those thousands of transactions to give me insight under another angle! Looking at the source code of the Reports, it seems like they're using a chart library too (https://c3js.org/examples.html) so it's not like they have to spend a ton of time redoing entire new components.
Looking at LinkedIn, it seems like YNAB has 12 developers + 3 mobile developers (on a total of around 100-150 employees it seems like). Being a developer myself, 15 developers for one product is a BIG team. The amount of work they output must be insane. I work in a company of around 220 employees. We have 4 main products and our biggest developing team for the main product has 11 developers + 2 interns.
I'm really not sure what they're working on but it must be something big like the desktop app version they talked about years ago or something. I checked their release notes page and I'm scratching my head as to how 15 developers only output that amount of work in a year. I'm not bashing them, it just makes little sense so for sure they're working on long-term projects that have not been revealed yet. Their release notes contain quite a lot of bug fixes, but they don't seem to be big bugs. nYNAB is pretty new so I don't think it's legacy code holding them back.. What is it?? It really makes no sense. Is there another product they're working on maybe? I'm actually super curious 😄
With that being said, I'm really looking forward to see what YNAB has in store for us! I'm still happy with the product so far and enjoy using it.
I was in the same boat as the OP. And at the end of my first year I canceled by ynab subscription. Eventually I came back, because the only other viable way to budget ive found was spreadsheets. And manually recording each purchase was a pain and a half. Ultimately I am using ynab again but to be the only real value to me lies in the auto import. $7 a month is a bit high for that I feel but not outrageously so. So I deal with it. With the exception of Capital One which I don't use anymore anyway (for unrelated reasons) I've only ever had minor tomorrow issues with auto importing.
Many of the budgeting shortfalls I have addressed by using known workarounds (like using a category for income for next month), not using a specific feature (ie not budgeting beyond this month to avoid SFTF but using my income for next month category instead), using their API (not possible for everyone but with even basic dev skills is doable), and manually doing things that are simpler than manual transaction entry (ie I use my own script to track complex goals and it emails me what I need to budget each month rather than relying on built in goals).
The best advice I can give if you don't feel like you are getting your moneys worth. Find what is most valuable about ynab to you and ask of that alone is worth $7 a month. If not even close then I'd say its worth leaving. If it is or at least is close to it its probably worth sticking it out and finding ways to deal with the problems with it instead of hiding an update will fix it. That thinking just leads to utter disappointment.
The problem isn't ynab started as a MVP the problem is years later they are still there. Instead of small incremental improvements every 4 - 6 weeks, they seem to do insignificant changes like recoloring a button every 2 weeks and small incidental improvements every 18 - 24 months. Their problem is at the top. And if enough people can't find one thing about ynab that's worth $7 a month to them and workarounds for the deficiencies more users will leave and the company will eventually become insolvent.
Green Orca said:
To be fair, their "Up Next" page (https://www.youneedabudget.com/up-next/) has 2 things that do seem bigger in terms of workload (Mobile First & Debt Management) so I guess we'll see?
All features to attract newer budgeters. But I get it. That’s what’s going to attract more subscriptions and keep the newer budgeters engaged that are still working their way out of debt. I’m just glad there is a Toolkit to handle things like SFTF. Such an easy notification to implement. Still puzzled why YNAB didn’t just adopt that solution in the native software.
As a person who had no clue of the relationship between money and stuff pre-YNAB; and as someone who tried to read and understood about 1% of the technical language in this thread, I'll chime in to say that YNAB has been the one thing that has made me confident that I'll be able to retire one day. It's made the difference between continually mounting debt and continually mounting savings. I don't look for new features, I don't have any banks linked to my YNAB account, and I specifically want fewer bells and whistles (aka new features). So - YNAB is somehow trying to appeal to me and to y'all at the same time. I want YNAB to be simpler and make fewer changes less often than it does; y'all want YNAB to do more changes and more things more often. I'm not sure they can make anyone totally happy in this scenario. I mean, I'm happy with it, but I wish it were simpler and didn't change so often, and I wish it would stop trying to get me to connect my bank. So, I mean, what're they gonna do?
New to YNAB in Jan 2020. Life changer!! Have paid off 16,000 in debt, and will be fully free (19,360) by year end. No longer living paycheck to paycheck. For the first time ever my wife (technophobe) and I are on the same page financially. (after 40+ years of marriage and 8 kids. ) If only we had this at the start! Really like the format of YNAB. It is a budgeting software, has excellent teaching tools, and has great principles that work if followed. It is not for financial planning. That is ok. It is the best budgeting software around.
At the same time it cannot connect to my banks so it is all manual entry now. They did work well at the start of the year. I don't think that will change, maybe not ever. I think that is less YNAB's issue than the financial institutions. I do think YNAB should limit advertising the connectivity - it really is only partial, if at all. Be honest. (My wife thinks the banks don't like YNAB because customers borrow less from them! So they cut the connectivity😂)
Other tweaks- check numbers, etc could help, but they are not game changers. Printability is the biggest issue for me. I will not waste my time in submitting request for product changes. It appears from all I have read on these threads that no one is truly listening at the top- their mind is already made up. But that is the prerogative of those in charge.
YNAB is well worth the $9.58 CDN per month for me. ROI is over the top. Some of our adult kids have tried it and use it and love it, some have dropped off from it. They are all bugged at the connectivity to financial institutions that does not
happen for any of them anymore. Will we continue with it? That remains to be seen. This coming year, we will happily renew our subscription once more. And then we will see...
Lemon Pie You can certainly see the value and find it worth it to pay 10 or even 20 bucks a month for YNAB, but scratch your head as to how they handle their roadmap.
Going off of LinkedIn again, they have: 1 Chief Product Officer, 1 Product Designer Manager, 4 Product Managers and 4 Product Designers. 10 paid employees whose job is to improve the user experience.
So while I definitely find value and the monthly fee worth it so far, I'm still wondering how those 10 employees are setting priorities and if they're not out of touch with their client base. Both are not mutually exclusive and questioning it is not saying YNAB is a bad product!
To be fair, looking at the start dates of the 4 product managers: September 2019, February 2020, July 2020, August 2020. All are fairly recent so they might have only recently shifted their priorities to listen more to their client base. I'm definitely looking forward to the upcoming year or so to see what they have in store.
I think that YNAB is sort of a product unlike any others and because of that they don't necessarily need to make significant upgrades if it's working for the majority of users. YNAB is more about the method than the software and in the end either resonates with the user or it doesn't. I preferred the original standalone software versions (and the old method), but I have no doubt that I get my money's worth on a yearly basis even though we are not using it to the fullest.