So you’ve decided it’s time to get serious about managing your money. Now comes the age old question:
Which budget software should I use?
Gone are the days of tracking spending with a pen and paper. Yes, my friends; like with almost everything, there’s an app for that.
What’s the difference between these two products?
Whether you’re a new budgeter or an existing user looking to make a change, I’ve got you covered. Today we’ll break down the differences between Mint and YNAB, understand the pros and cons of each, and break down the final recommendations for each.
Mint is a super user-friendly app that works really well for new budgeters looking for a way to automatically track expenses. This popular option is great if you’re new to budgeting and/or looking for something simple and free to get started.
100% free to use
Comprehensive view of all accounts
Transactions automatically import
Budgeting is way less effective
Lots of ads
Account syncing can be slow
Mint is a personal finance website owned by Intuit (yeah, the same peeps that own TurboTax, Quickbooks, and Credit Karma). Founded in 2006, Mint helps you track your bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts, and loans in a single place. They also let you create a budget and financial goals.
Easy to start. I started with Mint back in 2008, and it was the only budgeting app I needed for a long time. As a college student, it taught me how to calculate my net worth and set goals. The automated import and categorization can make getting started really easy and you can set rules to make the automation smarter over time.
It’s free. This is by far the biggest advantage of using Mint over YNAB. We love a free resource, and Mint offers incredible value for free.
Comprehensive View. The best part about Mint to me is the fact that you can see all your financial accounts in one place. Add your checking account, savings account, your three credit cards, your student loans, and on and on. Voila, you can see everything in one place, it’s updated automatically, and you can start tracking your net worth.
Mint’s “budgeting” feature isn’t great. The automation features that track your spending for you makes it so that you’re not really budgeting (which is more planning where your dollars are going to go), you’re expense tracking (which is watching where your dollars went after they’re already gone.) You can’t delete the default categories, and sometimes the rollover feature just doesn’t work for no reason at all.
Confusing interface full of ads. Man, Intuit realllllly wants me to do my taxes with them or open up a credit card. The con of any free software is that you have to deal with ads, and Mint puts ads everywhere. You can’t avoid them. The interface in general is also confusing and takes some practice to get used to.
Bottom line about Mint:
Mint is a good place to start getting an idea of where your money is going. The best parts of Mint (mainly the ease of use and automation features) is also the greatest weakness when it comes to budgeting. It’s not the best budgeting app out there, but it’s still delivers incredible value for a free software. We love Mint for anyone who is just getting started with budgeting and is looking for a simple solution.
You Need A Budget (YNAB)
YNAB is a cult favorite among budget nerds and the financial independence community — and for good reason. It’s probably the most effective budgeting tool out there for changing your behavior. Since YNAB comes with a price tag and infamous learning curve, I recommend it for hardcore budgeters and people who are ready to make serious changes to their finances.
Teaches user how to budget effectively
Tons of support resources
Offers a free trial
Subscription price of $15/mo or $99/year
The learning curve is steep
Active budgeting requires more effort
You Need a Budget (YNAB) Overview
You Need A Budget (more commonly known as YNAB, pronounced “why-nab”) is a personal budgeting software founded in 2004. YNAB is a digital version of the envelope budgeting system, and generally promotes the idea that you make a plan for the money you have. It’s very popular in financial independence communities and is based on YNAB’s Four Rules (giving every dollar a job, preparing for non-monthly expenses, keeping your budget flexible, and getting a month ahead).
YNAB teaches you how to budget. I budgeted for 10 years before I found YNAB and it still blew my mind. Most budgeting systems don’t allow for flexibility or teach you how to prepare for the unexpected, and YNAB does both of those things. It’s essentially a digital version of envelope budgeting that allows you to handle extra things like paying off debt, staying on top of credit cards, or planning for the future. Creating a detailed plan for your money gives you the clarity you need to stop feeling stressed about the unknown.
They have a stellar support resources. YNAB as a company provides tons of free resources like blog posts, YouTube videos, live workshops, help articles, and more. Beyond that, there are YNAB Certified Coaches that you can hire for one-on-one help, and a huge community of die-hard fan communities on social media that will help you for free.
You can link your information or enter manually. Like Mint, YNAB will directly import your information, or you can enter transactions manually. They also let you import a file from you bank, and there are third-party apps that help with banks that are abroad. Given the many options, you’re able to find the way of importing transactions that works best for you.
It ain’t free. A YNAB subscription costs around $15/mo or $99/year. Le sigh.
The learning curve is steep. The rumors are true. YNAB’s infamous learning curve is there for a reason – most traditional budgeting methods don’t work this way. That makes it really hard for new people to simultaneously learn a brand new way of budgeting their money plus a new software. Even with extensive support options, it can be really tough for newbies to get started. Once you get going, the upkeep isn’t too bad, but the beginning can be brutal.
It requires more hands-on work to maintain. YNAB is not a “set-it-and-forget-it” activity. Until your money is in a good place, you’ll probably be in your budget every day, tweaking your plan.
It can be tricky for those living beyond their means. You can’t budget your way out of poverty, and if you truly just aren’t making enough money to cover your monthly expenses, YNAB can be pretty demoralizing to use. Add on the price of the software, and it’s not a great option for anyone who is really struggling with their money.
Bottom line about YNAB:
Listen, I love YNAB but I know it’s not for everyone. I think YNAB works best for budgeters who can actually afford to take it up a notch, or for anyone who is ready to make serious changes to their money. There’s more time and money required to invest up front, but it’s worth it.
Personally, I think YNAB is the best budgeting app hands down, assuming you have the money and the bandwidth to learn a new way of managing your money. For me it’s been a game-changing experience and helped me prioritize the life I want to live today. I no longer have any stress about money because I have a plan and all I have to do is follow it.
If you are just getting started, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or if you genuinely feel like you can’t afford another subscription right now: Mint is the best choice for you. You will get a sense of your net worth and where your money is going, and it’s so easy to get started considering that the auto-import works pretty well and the price is free.
What do you think? Have you tried using YNAB or Mint? Which works for you?
Kerrie is a YNAB Certified Budgeting Coach and owner of Mindful Budgets. She is passionate about helping people find peace with their money. Learn more about her financial coaching services @ mindfulbudgets.com.