Mint vs YNAB - What budgeting app is worth your time?
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A look at the two most popular budgeting apps: Mint and You Need a Budget
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If you’re a real adult who uses money, but you aren't some obscenely wealthy business tycoon, chances are you have some experience with budgeting or attempting to budget your financial resources. Whether you have an intricate budgeting spreadsheet, dutifully keep a check registry whenever you use your debit card, or just check your bank account every few days to make sure you’re in the clear, you probably have some system to make sure you aren’t going broke.
Though there are many good techniques and resources for keeping track of your finances, using a budgeting app on your desktop and/or mobile device is becoming a steadily more popular option. Why expel all your brain power to completing tedious calculations and filling out spreadsheets when an app will do it all for you?
Mint is the standard when it comes to budgeting apps and most likely the first one that comes to mind for many people. With 20 million users worldwide, it is a very popular choice. You are able to connect the app to your bank, credit union or other financial institution, investment accounts, and credit cards, which gives you an overview of your entire financial situation.
The Mint application is available on most operating systems and devices, so you can access your account from your computer, mobile device, and so on. Most of its features are fairly basic, but perfect for someone new to using budgeting apps. Best of all, it’s free to use, so you can try it out with no commitment.
Mint is designed to be quick, easy, and thorough. Its interface gives you an overview of your bank accounts and credit cards, and helps you with budgeting, tracking your spending, and checking your credit score.
Financial Overview with Mint
Mint lets you connect not just your bank and credit card accounts, but virtually anything related to your financial affairs, including your mortgage, car loans, or assets like a car, house, or even arbitrary (or other real estate) plots of land. This allows you to get a true overview of your finances and how much of your money is going where.
Using Mint, you are able to track your bills and get in-app or text message alerts before payments are due, making it unlikely that you will ever accidentally miss a payment. You will also be notified of any unusual changes to your accounts.
You can also compare credit card interest rates in order to decide which ones to pay off first. Mint even offers free credit score checks, and gives you advice on areas to improve your credit score, if you aren't already using this alternate credit reporting option:
Budgeting with Mint
While setting up Mint, you will be asked to decide on monthly budget categories, such as entertainment, groceries, eating out, and transportation. One you’ve set aside a certain amount in each category, transactions that are tagged as groceries, for example, will automatically come out of your grocery budget. Mint will send you notifications when you approach or exceed the budget in each category to help you stay on track.
The app can also be used to try out hypothetical large purchases or other investments and get a preview of how these decisions would affect your overall budget, which can help with tricky financial decisions.
Setting Goals with Mint
Mint offers several tools for achieving long-term financial goals, such as paying off a house or car, saving for retirement, and so on. One tool helps you create a monthly plan for paying off debt, while another helps you calculate the savings you would need to cover a month of expenses.
Overall, Mint is great for those new to budgeting apps due to both the simplicity and versatility of its features, and because it’s completely free to use. It is the best tool for automating your monthly budgeting and reaching long-term monetary goals.
About You Need a Budget
Though Mint is the gold standard when it comes to budgeting apps, You Need a Budget (YNAB) is a strong contender and easily the second most popular of its kind. As with Mint, YNAB allows you to connect to your financial institutions and the app itself is available on all major devices and operating systems.
Unlike Mint, YNAB is not completely free to use. Though the first 34 days of use are free, it is $6.99 a month after that. However, the YNAB website claims that new clients save an average of $600 by the second month and $6,000 over the first year. If true, this is a very solid return on investing in YNAB; this may be the Insider's Guide to the Stocks that you need.
YNAB is aimed toward clients that want a great deal of control over their budget (while still reminding users to "keep it (sort of) simple") and where there money is going. Whereas Mint allows you to automate your budget, YNAB is great for those who have the time and desire to micromanage their finances. It also offers a lot of benefits for merging and sharing finances with a partner.
Financial Overview with You Need a Budget
Whereas Mint’s focus is on automating your finances and helping you keep track of your money without constant worry or attention, YNAB’s philosophy is that every individual dollar has a job to do. YNAB prides itself on finding the wasted dollars in your budget so that you can put them to better use. Using YNAB, you can see in real time every penny going into and leaving your account so that nothing is missed. This offers and easy-to-view and transparent view of your budget that you can check as often as you like.
YNAB is also aimed at couples with shared finances who both want to be involved in budgeting. The app’s real-time updates keep both you and your partner in the loop on what’s going on financially and can be a really convenient way managing money when resources are tight.
Budgeting with You Need a Budget
Instead of asking you to set monthly budgeting categories as Mint does, YNAB has you start with however much money you have when initially setting up the account. From that point forward, YNAB only deals with the money you currently have, without trying to forecast what you will make in the future.
You can import transactions and manually categorize them in order to get an idea of where you’re spending the most money. Manually importing and categorizing purchases is much more time consuming than having them automatically added (as with Mint) but this helps you stay involved and disciplined when it comes to spending your money. It is impossible to not see just how your money is being spent with this method.
Because YNAB only accounts for the money that is immediately available, it forces you to account carefully for every dollar you spend and not make frivolous transactions, no matter how small. This helps you make adjustments to your spending habits over time.
Setting Goals with You Need a Budget
Compared to Mint, YNAB’s goal setting tools are fairly basic. There are three main categories of goal you can create: Target Category Balance, Target Category Balance by Date, and Monthly Funding Goal.
Target Category Balance lets you set a specific amount of money that you need to save for a particular goal or item. As you set aside money for this goal, the tool will keep track and deduct whatever you put aside from the total. Target Category Balance by Date is exactly the same, except you also set a deadline for the money to be saved. The tool calculates how much you need to save per month to meet that deadline. Lastly, Monthly Funding Goal lets you choose how much of your monthly income to put into savings without setting a specific savings goal.
Overall, the ability to set and achieve goals in YNAB is much more restricted than with Mint. If you’re goal is to pay off a credit card, for example,
YNAB will not help you calculate the interest, and it is completely missing other tools that Mint provides.
Edit: As of 20 January, 2019, this article has been posted on YNAB on how to handle and calculate credit card interest and fees:
Which App is Better?
Neither app is outright better than the other, but Mint is the obvious choice if this is your first time using a budgeting app. It is user-friendly and packed full of useful features and tools that YNAB does not have. It automates your budget and help you reach financial goals, but does not require a ton of your time or involvement to obtain results. And it’s completely free, which makes it the perfect option if you’re just looking to get your feet wet with budgeting apps.
You Need a Budget can be an equally good or perhaps even better option once you’ve had some experience with Mint. Though YNAB costs money, by many accounts the investment is well worth it. YNAB is much less automated and requires that you invest time into your budgeting and making decisions on where to cut spending, which may be intimidating for those who already have a busy schedule. However, this aspect also gives users very precise control over their budget that may potentially lead to greater savings. The app is also geared toward couples, which might make it the perfect choice if you are budgeting with a partner.
Both are great options, with different philosophies on how to best budget your money. If you are having a difficult time managing your finances, a budgeting app may be just what you need to get back on track.
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