Real-life money lessons

Yes, your 11 year old can learn to budget

For over a year, our family has been using FamZoo. Now that my kiddo is starting middle school, I felt it was a good time to introduce budgeting. (Okay, actually I was really excited!)

I started with a paper budget that had five categories. That lasted for all of a hot second before we ran out of space — even kids need more than five categories.

Enter YNAB. I’ve used it for years (you’ve heard me love on it before) — why not have J give it a shot? It also seemed like a good time because he could use the YNAB app on his new cell phone.


We signed up for the one month free trial (pro tip: check around to see if you can find their two month free trial). He added his FamZoo spending account and then we talked about how he’d like to divide his money up and what categories made sense for him.

YNAB comes with a lot of default categories that obviously don’t work for kids, but he removed those and added his own.

YNAB Budget
YNAB Budget

He also started an emergency fund. Yes, kids can have emergency funds, too!

After he entered the categories, he funded each of them until he had $0.00 left to be budgeted.

Savings Goals

I’m still using the desktop version of YNAB but was SUPER excited to see savings goals in the new version.

J is a fan of saving up for Legos and he wanted to do it again. He has his eye on a $100 set. I told him I’d contribute $20 towards his goal if he saved up the other $80.

He chose the “Target Category Balance by Date” option. He entered the amount he wanted to save ($80) and when he wanted to save it by (April of next year, around 8 months).

YNAB shows how much he has to save per month and if he’s on track to meet his goal.


This year we used FamZoo to budget for Christmas and he’s already saved the entire amount. Next year, we’ll use YNAB to save for Christmas as well as his portion of other activities like karate and summer camp.


He entered his first transactions in YNAB — for school shoes and a few shirts he bought at Old Navy.

First expenses in YNAB for school clothes
First expenses in YNAB for school clothes

Recurring Expenses

We even scheduled some transactions for recurring expenses — $5/month for his cell phone plan and $2/month for Duolingo Plus. (We first scheduled an automatic recurring charge in FamZoo and then in YNAB.)

In all, he caught on REALLY quickly. He moved money from one category to another before I had a chance to even look to figure it out.

One thing he didn’t quite understand was that YNAB didn’t hold the money — it was only a representation of it. The money actually lives elsewhere. But other than that, it all clicked.

I’m looking forward to him using the app and getting into good saving and spending habits.

September 2019 Update

I contacted YNAB at the end of the free trial to inquire about their free year for students.

Robert at customer support mentioned that the app isn’t designed for kids and that students have to be in high school or college to take advantage of this offer.

However, they were able to help:

We recommend creating an additional budget under your same account. That does mean it’s possible to access other budgets, but it seems to work well for most families. As soon as they enter high school, we’d be happy to set them up with a free year on their own account!

Robert from YNAB

I created a new account (it was time for me to upgrade anyway) and everything is running smoothly.

He also mentioned the parenting forum on their site and all the great talk about allowances and kids.

I love YNAB, not only for their software but for their awesome customer service.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *