YNAB (You Need a Budget) Personal Finance Software Review

Instead of the usual food post, thought I'd post this for you for “food for thought” lol.  Sorry Sandy @ Yes I am Cheap I know you love my food posts!  I haven't been out to eat very much so I don't have anything new to share this month.  Sorry guys- no food porn today.

As many of you know, I had a huge Quicken Home and Business software usage FAIL in January (despite my attempts, I was unable to master it or intuitively understand it).  Don't get me wrong, Quicken is great and there are so many people who swear by it.  I know Quicken is a powerful machine/beast but for a simple gal like me, I was looking for something that wasn't so difficult to look at and worked on my Mac without me having to go to a windows interface.

(What can I say, I'm a total convert to the Mac)

One of my readers suggested I get YNAB.  What does it stand for?

You Need a Budget.

I was looking for something safer than Mint.com and et voila, the idea of YNAB was planted in my mind by a Y&T.ca reader.

To find out whether you should stick with Mint or maybe try another popular budgeting app such as YNAB (You Need a Budget) click here to take our quiz and determine which one is right for you.

It has apparently taken the personal finance world by storm unbeknownst to me… and I can see why.  It's intuitive and it feels like “Quicken” but it is more aesthetically pleasing and user friendly.

For one, there are video instructions on how to get started.

Secondly, there are instructions that you can click on when you toggle it with your cursor.

I am a big fan of easy to read, to-the-point instructions.

Thirdly, they seem to truly care your budget because of their YNAB methodology

They have a YNAB philosophy composed of 4 principles or rules:

  1. Give every dollar a job
  2. Save for a rainy day (or other infrequent expenses like car insurance, property taxes, vacations etc.)
  3. Roll with the punches (the software is smart enough to take off the money you go OVER your budget in January from February- so that you WILL feel guilty and won't be tempted to think you're starting fresh… thus making you more accountable)
  4. Stop living paycheck to paycheck (they want you to spend THIS month what you earned LAST month)

Without further delay here is my PROs and CONs list for YNAB 3:

PROS:

  • Runs on a MAC (need I say more, Mac fans?) (and of course runs on the PC as well)
  • Easy on the eyes, very visually friendly
  • User friendly (not as user friendly as Mint.com but easier than Quicken, that's for sure!)
  • You can manually import/download your data from your banking account just like you can do for Quicken.
  • There's an Android and iPhone application for YNAB (yes, there's an app for that) the downside is that it's $4.99 (for the iPhone)
  • You can track your budget on the go with the app, and then SYNC your data (safely through wifi connection, IP addresses, and a password) with YNAB on your computer
  • It has really nifty charts and graphs that appeals further to the visual person in you
  • It's FREE for you to try for 34 days…and then.. see the CONS…
  • If you are paranoid about hackers accessing your information on Mint.com (really, who isn't?  We all should be paranoid, unfortunately) but you don't like the sterility of Quicken, then YNAB may be for you.
  • Call me crazy, but the YNAB people actually sound like they CARE (unlike the big conglomerate companies I suppose).  They care that you save.  They want you to save and they want you to stop living pay cheque to pay cheque.  They even created a YNAB philosophy to show that they care about you.  Apparently YNAB users save on average
  • Seriously, they even have LIVE ONLINE CLASSES to help you with your budget.  Of course you can always watch the prerecorded courses as well.
  • I love the tabbed look of “January” “February” “March” 2012 and you can see the month forward or behind to keep track.

CONS:

  • This is personal finance software.  It's NOT the software you want to use if you have a home based business or anything complicated for that matter
  • Unlike Mint.com it doesn't automatically “sync” your data directly from the banks/credit card accounts- However, according to YNAB, this is done purposefully so that as a person with a budget, it will FORCE you to look at your information and input your data and expenditure.  It will force you to keep your budget tight instead of slacking off.
  • After the 30 blissful days are up, you won't be able to use it unless you pay for it (makes sense for me, I suppose LOL).  The cost of it is $60.  The good thing is that they don't charge you for upgrades (unlike Quicken where you may need to go out and buy new software every few years)

 My Verdict?

As you can see from the disproportionate Pros and Cons list…I'm a fan.  Although it's $60 for the software + $4.99 for the iPhone app, I think it's worth its money especially for the amount of support you get (classes, videos, explanations etc.).If you're an excel whiz (which I am not) you probably don't need YNAB, but if you're not and you're struggling with budgeting, YNAB is probably the way to go.I do love how Mint.com has automatic details about your bank accounts etc. but I worry about security and I do understand that I'm not actually “budgeting” when I just update my mint.com.

 

Here are some pictures of what YNAB looks like.  They are screen shots (yeah get to practice that function on my Macbook Pro again).

The numbers I inputted in are just made up, so don't get too excited okay? 😉

This is what the budgeting portion of YNAB looks like.  Note the awesome blue tabs.

This is what one of the graphs looks like:

This is what the iphone app looks like:

Pretty easy to use and simple to look at.. and there's a security Passcode option as well.

To summarize, YNAB is like a more visually, easier to use, less powerful version of Quicken.  If you don't like complicated detail oriented spreadsheets (like Quicken), YNAB is the way to go.

I'm just going to end with a cheesy mock-MC commercial not that I'm selling/affiliate linking this software, just giving my honest opinion on it.

  • $60 for budgeting software? Check
  • $4.99 for the YNAB app? Check
  • Peace of mind with your budget and confidence in your personal finance?
  • Priceless

Readers, have you ever used YNAB?  It seems Canadian friendly btw (hurrah!). 

For those who have tried Quicken and YNAB and Mint.com which one won your heart and why?

31 Comments

  1. Jenn on March 16, 2012 at 9:19 am

    I love, love, love YNAB. I’ve been using it for about three years now, and can’t say enough good things about it.

    I love their support, their philosophy, and even their rules. The podcast is helpful, and they’ve really got a ‘small business’ mindset, where they realize that their customers are their bottom line, and #1 in their business.

    I hear a lot of people complain about the cost, but I gotta say – there’s a lot of excel spreadsheets and a lot of free tools out there, but this is $60 I do not regret paying. It’s part of my daily life, part of my routine, and it’s given me one thing that every other tool out there (and there’s a lot of them, let’s face it) hasn’t been able to give me:

    The feeling that I control my money, not the other way around.



  2. Earth and Money on March 16, 2012 at 11:42 am

    You may have convinced me to look into this. I’ve made my own PF program in Excel that is custom designed to suit my own needs, and the screenshots look like a fancier of version of that. But I’d be curious to see what it can do, if only to see how I could improve my own Excel spreadsheet. Thanks for the review young!



  3. young on March 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    @E&M- Yeah some people think it’s like a glorified Excel spreadsheet- and it probably is! But for people who are Excel dunces (like me) it is a helpful option. I like how you can hook the YNAB app to your YNAB on the computer… so you don’t have to go and upload your budget regularly.

    HOWEVER I MUST admit, that even with this YNAB app and YNAB on my computer, I’m still a stickler for Mint.com 🙁 I’m just too lazy that’s my problem. 🙁



  4. young on March 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    @Jenn- Awe wow, that’s great to hear that YNAB has treated you so well! It does seem very “small business” like too- their customer service has been stellar so far in my experience. I’m just a fan of the colours and the “visual appeal” of it all.



  5. femmefrugality on March 16, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    I’m with Earth and Money! I have my own Excel doc that I’ve ramped up to do my budgeting…this sounds much better!



  6. young on March 18, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    @femmefrugality- The thing I liked about it is that you can try it free for 30 days without any risk. However, the caveat is that as I was inputting my data, I was thinking #)*%)# I’m doing all this work for nothing? So I guess they get you somehow haha.



  7. Ryan on March 19, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    I just signed up with YNAB last week. It is a great program and the community is awesome.

    You mentioned that you can’t use YNAB for small businesses — but I think you’re incorrect on that one.

    They have a whole forum category on “small business”.

    www.youneedabudget.com/forum…iness-f81/

    Thanks for your review!



  8. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:22 am

    @Ryan- Oh cool! I had no idea Thanks for letting me know and sharing your experiences. I’ll have a look at that forum- thanks!



  9. Martin on June 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I don’t think it IS Canada friendly… if it was, I’d have used it by now. Rather, the mobile app, which is absolutely essential to me, doesn’t appear to be Canada friendly. It’s not on the app store, and I can find nothing about it.

    If I’m wrong, please tell me and let me know how it is that you found it for iPhone.



  10. Martin on June 29, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Note: I reached out to the YNAB developers for an answer, and yes, apparently, everything DOES work in Canada… yay! Good support, too… they got back to me in just a few hours. I’m impressed.



  11. kyza on October 17, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Do you know if there is an app for the Blackberry phone?



  12. Martin on October 17, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Nope. Only iOS and Android. Alas.



  13. Punrun on July 8, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    I’ve been hearing about MINT for a while now then YNAB comes along. But I settled for Money Plus since it’s free. My finance is quite basic that’s why I started with a freeware.

    I’ll try Money Plus first and see its difference from what MINT and YNAB can offer.

    Is there any other freeware for newbies? Spreadsheet helps a lot but if there’s something that is more convenient then I’m willing to give it a try.



  14. Jeff on January 30, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Are you still using YNAB? I saw this post and notice a lot has changed with YNAB and thought this post could use an update. YNAB 4 has been available for a while now. Cloud sync though Dropbox is available for wireless syncing your YNAB budget between your desktops and mobile devices. All YNAB mobile apps are now free and Android YNAB app can be side-loaded onto a Blackberry 10 OS device. There is even a third party developer who has a beta running for a free Windows Phone app currently called “YNABBER”.

    If you aren’t using it currently it’s worth a second look as there were a lot of enhancements added to YNAB 4. Yes you still need to manually “import” your transactions but if you enter them on the fly to your mobile device then this really isn’t a “CON”. Also, often YNAB has 50% off sales so finding it for a price of $30 isn’t difficult and with free mobile apps it’s a steal with no security risks when compared to Mint.



  15. Kyle on January 30, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for the update Jeff!



  16. Mike on January 11, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    BlackBerry 10 phone do run Android VM’s and thus you can download either Mint or YNAB from SNAP or Google Play Store on your BlackBerry. BB10 does run almost all Android apps, for the last few yrs.
    In some cases like NetFlix, on my BB (android App) it still much faster than my SmartTV.. 🙂



  17. Martin on January 12, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    I can no longer recommend YNAB. The new version, launched January 1, 2016 takes away much that made the software great, and adds very little. It has gone full-on web, so all of your information is in the cloud, thereby negating the privacy edge it had over Mint, and it has moved to a subscription model, so 50 buck USD/year to use it. Also, while they say they will add features going forward, there is currently no import for OFX files, no reporting, no search, and not even the ability to import your existing data so you can keep your historical records going forward.

    It’s heartbreaking that they’ve so completely killed this software. YNAB4 was instrumental in turning my finances around, and I recommended it wholeheartedly to everyone. This new one though? Forget it. It’s a buggy, expensive security risk.



  18. Kyle on January 13, 2016 at 11:37 am

    That is very unfortunate Martin. Thank you for taking the time to come on here and give us an update. Sad to see a product that had so much grassroots support change like that. Money talks right?



  19. Martin on January 13, 2016 at 11:52 am

    Indeed. I can’t tell you how sorry I was to learn all this. YNAB seriously was a singular bit of software that did so much good for my finances. I will keep using the old version until an OS update eventually breaks it. Sigh.



  20. Kyle on January 15, 2016 at 9:34 am

    I talked with some American friends about this last night Martin, and they reported everything you’ve already highlighted. It’s too bad. They recommended Money Dance and/or Personal Capital as good replacements.



  21. Martin on January 15, 2016 at 9:46 am

    I’ve done some casual looking around for a possible replacement, but I haven’t found anything close yet. I did look up Moneydance, but the budgeting seems more convoluted and not tied to your actual income. But it’s possible I haven’t found the trick yet… I really haven’t looked into anything too deeply as yet. I intend to use YNAB until it breaks and then I’ll look. Honestly, right now though it seems like a simple spreadsheet might be the best replacement. Thank you for the replies. If you happen upon a replacement that works the same, please post here about it. I’d be very interested!



  22. Kyle on January 16, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Will do Martin. With any luck YNAB will realize they’ve made a bit of an error and fix things going forward.



  23. Beverly on February 1, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    Thx to Martin and Kyle for your very informative reviews of YNAB. I was just about to sign up, but now won’t. Perhaps “Personal Capital” will work…? When you use the spreadsheet, is that an Excel program? If so, is it easy to learn how to create a home finance system for someone who is new to it all?

    Beverly



  24. Kyle on February 2, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    Hello Beverly,

    The terms “spreadsheet” if kind of a general word for excel-type programs. Excel would be the most popular spreadsheet maker, but is not the only one. It is tough to say if it is difficult. It depends on your comfort level with spreadsheets and the nature of your finances. I’d look at some software programs to see if there was a good fit first myself. Let us know how you make out!



  25. Martin on February 3, 2016 at 6:51 am

    Beverly, you can still download and use the classic YNAB4 (which is indeed the pinnacle of finance software) and use it supported until the end of the year. If nothing else, it’d give you a very sound framework for how to budget using their philosophy. After that, creating a spreadsheet might be easier for you. classic.youneedabudget.com



  26. Beverly on February 11, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    Thx Kyle and Martin, again. I’ve just downloaded YNAB 4 to try. I’ll think of it as a fun game… Optimistically, speaking.



  27. Valentin Born on February 24, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    Repeat after me 😉
    “A Mac is a PC, too. PCs run on various operating systems, e.g. Windows, Linux, Mac OS



  28. Michelle on November 8, 2016 at 10:09 am

    Ynab absolutely is Canadian friendly. I have been using their classic version for almost 2 years as it was free then but didn’t have the function to sync with my bank which I didn’t want. Call me paranoid. This version is going the way of the dinosaur in Dec 2016. I am looking for an alternative. Thought about Mint as it is free but am really comfortable inputting my own expenditures and feel I can stay on top of my budget better this way. Forces me to look at it regularly. I will probably buy the new ynab.



  29. Martin on November 10, 2016 at 8:44 am

    @Michelle Before you do, I’d take a hard look at Financier. financier.io/ It’s developed by a single independent developer who wanted to capture the functions of YNAB4 without all the dumb things the YNAB team did to the new version. The software is still in active development, so it isn’t as robust, but the bones are definitely there, and the developer is very active. He started this at the beginning of the year, and has taken less time to build a full-on budgeting solution by himself than the entire YNAB team took to implement reporting. Price is right too–12 bucks a year. I haven’t jumped ship while YNAB4 still works, but I think the minute the mobile apps stop working, I am absolutely going this direction.



  30. Yasmin K Decuire on January 22, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    I just looked at the Financier.io program and it looks good. However, I am wondering if there is a tutorial–I know it looks really simple but I am trying to figure out how it could best work for me and I am just not good at it–and could not find anything on the free version.



  31. Martin on January 26, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    @Yasmin : Financier is extremely new and under active development. I don’t believe that there is documentation. But basically, it’s YNAB 4. If you can find some documentation on how to use YNAB, you’ll know how to use Financier. I’d take a look at the existing docs that are still online here: classic.youneedabudget.com/suppo…tart-guide



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