Jesse Mecham is married with four kids, a former CPA, and a firm believer in the power of “awareness,” especially when it comes to money. The more aware a person can be, concerning what they spend and how they spend, the greater control they’ll have over their finances. He created You Need a Budget several years ago, after learning this valuable lesson. His goal is to help people be pro-active with budgeting, rather than reactive.
Mike: Can you give a little background on your business? How long you’ve been in business, number of employees, how long you’ve had your site online, etc.
Jesse: I launched You Need a Budget in 2004, when I was still in grad-school. The very first version of YNAB was just a colorful spreadsheet I created to track the meager income my wife and I were earning. I continued to improve the program until it occurred to me one day that I could sell it. I had to sell it. We needed extra income in order to make ends meet until I graduated. You Need a Budget has been online from the very beginning. The profit I made on the software saw us through ’til I graduated and became a Certified Public Accountant. But my heart wasn’t in that job. After 10 months of being a CPA, I quit and devoted myself to YNAB full-time. I haven’t looked back since.
The YNAB team is small; A full-time assistant, two full-time programmers, two part-time, a full-time support guru, and two part-time YNAB teachers (they teach the live classes we offer several times weekly). Almost all of them started out as regular YNAB users who then contacted me and expressed interest in working for YNAB. They’re good at what they do because they have first-hand knowledge of the software, and really love helping others find the same financial stability they found. I’m lucky to have such a devoted team.
Mike: youneedabudget.com is a pretty clear message as a domain. What were you looking to capture? Why not ineedabudget.com?
Jesse: I chose “You Need a Budget” because no one can refute it, and it’s about as straight forward as you can get. Budgets are wise, practical, and applicable to everyone. So often with money troubles, people just want someone to give them the solution or tell them what to do. “You need a budget” is the answer. A lot of people don’t like the idea of a budget and it leaves a bad taste in their mouth. I want to cut to the chase and be as direct as possible. YNAB is a new kind of budgeting. Once people can get over their stigma and really pay attention, they see that. They see that, with YNAB, budgeting becomes fun! I’m not even joking.
And I suppose I liked YouNeedABudget.com more than INeedABudget.com because I tend to be more preachy 😉
Mike: I noticed you also have YNAB.com pointing to youneedabudget.com. Did you purchase either name on the aftermarket? Can you share the process you went through and what you paid for the name?
Jesse: I purchased YNAB.com in the aftermarket. They were really starting to capitalize on the rising popularity of the term YNAB, and I bought it as soon as I could afford it. The process was straightforward and simple. A bit of back and forth on a price and we settled and made the transaction.
Mike: The software is built around some specific financial concepts. Tell me about this and how it’s different than most of us are used to thinking about our money.
Jesse: I mentioned it a little bit in the intro, but the whole point of You Need a Budget is to show people how to be pro-active with their money. This begins with gaining total awareness of your money and what it’s doing–where it’s going. The software helps you track the money. The methodology helps you maximize it. By being super specific with your dollars and the “job” each one performs (mortgage, car insurance, groceries, fun money) you cut way back on impulse buys and put a cap on leaky spending, so to speak. It also gives you a true picture of the exact amount of available money you have. Rather than just looking at the balance in your bank account, the budget makes you aware of how much money is assigned to each upcoming expense, erasing the illusion that because there’s money in the account, it’s free to spend.
The most unique aspect of You Need a Budget is definitely the idea of the “buffer” and the new perspective it creates. A traditional budgeting method involves a lot of calculating and projected numbers. Guess-work. You Need a Budget is all about what you actually have in your possession–real money that’s already been earned. You begin by creating, at minimum, a one-month’s sum of savings, eliminating the paycheck to paycheck, hand-to-mouth way of living. This is achieved by slowly shifting all spending to come from the previous month’s income. For example, all my bills in February, will be payed with the money I earn in January. I won’t touch the money I earn in February, until March rolls around. All the money needed is already there, ready and waiting to go. It’s a helpful solution for anyone–especially those living on a variable income. The guess-work is eliminated and you stay away from the brink of financial crisis.
Mike: Can you share the volume of traffic that your site receives? Do you know how much of your traffic comes from YNAB.com?
Jesse: The site gets about 100,000+ unique visitors a month. We don’t track referrals from the YNAB.com name specifically–thought the term “YNAB” is our number-one traffic-bringing phrase.
Mike: Do you have any other online marketing strategies that you follow (google ads, seo, banners on other sites, etc.?)
Jesse: When I first started I was solely SEO and PPC (back when PPC was way more affordable). Now I don’t do any active SEO, but do maintain a PPC campaign. We’ve found the best strategy is word of mouth. It’s just so darn cheap 🙂
Mike: Any advice for start ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?
Jesse: There’s the obvious answer of making it unique and memorable, but also try and make it the answer, the solution people are looking for. When people search online for something, they’re looking for help, information, guidance. Make sure your domain name instantly answers people’s query and let’s them know they don’t need to search any longer.
I’ve sometimes questioned my choice of “You Need A Budget” as the name of the product/company. I don’t regret it any longer. It speaks immediately to the person–telling them in as few words as possible exactly what we’re about. It makes for really solid messaging.
Mike: Do you think you would be willing to sell your domain at any point? Have you ever received any unsolicited offers?
Jesse: I’ve never received any offers, and don’t suppose I’d ever sell it unless they were buying the entire business.
If you are interested in YNAB, Jeese is offering a 15% discount to Sully’s Blog readers through the end of the month. Go to http://ynab.me/sullysblog for the savings.