YNAB vs. Mint: How to Pick the Best Budgeting App

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It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to budget, you had to buy desktop software, use an Excel spreadsheet, or do it with pen and paper.

But budgeting apps changed the landscape and have made budgeting more accessible to millions of people. Now you can pull up your budget whether you’re at the grocery store or on vacation.

The influx of budgeting apps like YNAB vs. Mint has revolutionized the industry, but it’s also made choosing the right budgeting app a difficult decision. Both of these are popular for different reasons.

Learn what makes these apps stand out and how you can decide between the two.

Mint Overview

Mint

Mint takes the cash envelope system digital. At the beginning of each month, you can log in to your account, allocate where you want your money to go, and then track your spending throughout the month.

Mint has some extra features too, like a net worth tracker and free credit score. You can also track your investments, get recommendations on products, and more.

If you have debt, Mint makes it easy to set payoff goals where you can track your progress.

Users love the Mint app, which is available both on Android and iPhone devices. It has a 4.5 rating on the Google Play Store and a 4.7 rating on the Apple App Store. You can set up notifications, and have Mint act as your accountability buddy. If you go over on a category, Mint will let you know.

Mint also alerts you when you make a large purchase or when you accrue late fees. With these features, Mint can help you to save money every month.

YNAB Overview

YNAB

You Need a Budget also bases its strategies on the envelope system, but has a much larger philosophy: everyone should get one month ahead on their finances.

YNAB allows you to plan several months in advance and has a new feature called “Age of Money” which measures how quickly you’re spending your money as you receive it. The goal of YNAB is to get you to a place where you have all the money you need for the month at the beginning of the month.

YNAB syncs your financial accounts, but doesn’t show your net worth and doesn’t track your investments. It’s a software primarily focused on budgeting.

Related: How to Make a Budget in 7 Easy Steps

YNAB vs. Mint: My Experience

My biggest accomplishment when using YNAB is shaving $500 a month off of my grocery bill. Now, I have my eye set on my eating out category and have all but given up buying Starbucks (something I couldn’t even conceive of a year ago since I spent every day writing in one).

These goals are also possible because I’m not distracted by ads, credit card offers, and insurance reminders like I was when using Mint.

I don’t mind paying $7 a month for YNAB because the ad-free experience allows me to focus on my budget for a few minutes a day. I have high hopes for my financial future, and I have fun tracking it with YNAB.

If I had to choose between the two in the ultimate YNAB vs. Mint showdown, YNAB is the clear winner.

The differences between YNAB vs. Mint

The main differences between You Need a Budget vs. Mint are price, investment checkup, and budgeting capabilities.

Mint is completely free to use. The company makes money by showing ads and recommending different financial products within the app. YNAB costs around $7 per month (if you pay in full for the year; otherwise, it’s $11.99 per month), but does not display ads or recommend products.

Another key difference between the two apps is that YNAB strictly offers budgeting solutions, whereas Mint provides your whole financial picture, including your net worth and investments. YNAB also lets you budget several months in advance whereas Mint only lets you do one month at a time.

Related: Tiller Money Review: Simple Budgeting with Automated Spreadsheets

Where they are similar

Despite their differences, YNAB and Mint are also very similar. YNAB is based on the zero-based budget system, so it teaches you to account for every dollar that you make and spend.

Mint is a little more fluid. Because you create the categories and the amounts, you can decide to use it as a zero-based budgeting system or you can do the 50/30/20 method.

This system teaches you to account for every dollar you spend because those $5 or $15 transactions that can add up quickly and cause you to overspend.

Mint and YNAB each encourage you to set financial goals and pay off debt fast.

YNAB vs. Mint: The Budgeting App Showdown

To compare YNAB vs. Mint effectively, you have to break them down by category.

Budgeting methods

YNAB and Mint are both known for their ability to help users with budgeting, but they have two different ways of doing that.

YNAB is built on getting one month ahead with your finances. With YNAB, you can plan your budget months in advance. In fact, all the months are intricately linked. Your spending one month affects spending during the others. If you have money left over in a category, it rolls over to the next month. YNAB also allows you to plan for irregular expenses and your biggest goals. You can set goals that stretch many months, whether they’re big or small.

With Mint, you can’t set up budgets for future months. In fact, you can’t even set up a budget the night before the 1st of the month. You have to wait until the actual first day of the month. On that day, you’ll enter in all of your budget categories, make sure your accounts are synced, and keep tabs on your budget throughout the month.

Ultimately, Mint is a very straightforward way to budget, and it works for a lot of people, but YNAB has more strategy behind how you do a zero-based budget.

Determining which one is better depends on your personal preferences and how you approach budgeting.

Goals and planning

Both YNAB and Mint encourage you to set goals, but YNAB has a target goal category. That’s when you can budget for irregular expenses like Christmas, car insurance, and water bills. My city sends water bills every quarter, but I often forget and then scramble to find the money in the budget.

YNAB lets me change a budget category to a target goal category, where it encourages me to set aside money every month, so I have the full amount for $250 for my water bill every quarter.

Mint also has a goals category where you can set a goal, decide which account you’re going to save it in and how much you need to save each month. Each month, you’ll get a notification saying how your goal progressed. You can also view your goal separately under the Goal tab. You can create multiple goals, but only one per checking or savings account.

Syncing with your bank

Both YNAB and Mint sync with your bank accounts, and both companies have relationships with thousands of financial institutions. But syncing isn’t a perfect science just yet.

Bank synching lags on both platforms. Accounts get disconnected and then reconnected. Sometimes, you can’t do anything to access your information and have to wait a day or two for everything to work together again.

Cost

Mint is free and for what it does, it’s hard to beat. YNAB costs $84 for an annual subscription or $11.99 if you go month-to-month. If you’re someone who is really struggling with your finances and cutting any and all expenses, you might prefer free over a paid subscription.

YNAB does offer a free trial and allows you to cancel at any time, so you’re not stuck with it if you don’t like it.

Ease of use

When it comes to ease of use, Mint is intuitive, everything is easy to find, and it makes sense. YNAB, however, has a steep learning curve.

YNAB does a good job of helping its customers learn how to use the software through free educational videos, tutorials, Q&As, and more. However, when trying YNAB myself, I actually quit because I couldn’t get the hang of it.

I spent a few months away, and I only went back when YNAB offered another free trial and more tutorials. At that point, I got the hang of it, and now understand how to use it well.

However, if the goal of the app is to encourage new users to get control of their finances, software that’s difficult to learn can be incredibly discouraging.

Customer service

Although YNAB is confusing to use at first, you can contact their customer service with any question and get a quick response. Mint responds to customers as well, but they don’t seem to update their platform as often to fix some of their most common customer complaints.

YNAB recently went through a complete overhaul of their software to create YNAB 4.0 and they addressed many of their customer issues and complaints. Plus, they have lightning fast replies, and their customer service agents seem to have a strong grasp of how YNAB works.

Security

Both Mint and YNAB are very committed to keeping your bank information safe. Your passwords are encrypted, and your data is only visible to you with both companies. However, Mint requires two-factor authentication and Touch ID whereas YNAB does not.

YNAB vs. Mint: Which Should You Choose?

Although these apps are similar, there are clear differences.

YNAB has a mission that is woven into everything they do. They want their customers to get one month ahead when it comes to their budgets. They want their customers to set goals, stay organized, and as they say, roll with the punches when things go wrong. YNAB focuses on education, encouragement, and has lots of features that can help you reach your biggest financial goals as long as you stay committed to figuring out the platform.

Mint is simply a budget tracker. It lets you see your expenses, view your net worth, and plan your goals, but that’s where it ends. You are limited to planning your budget month to month, making it hard to plan ahead. And while it’s free, intuitive, and easy to use, it doesn’t have the same comprehensive features that allow you to see the whole picture of your finances.

Both of these budgeting apps can help you reach your financial goals, but which one you choose depends on your needs and your preferences.

Author
Cat Alford

Cat is the go-to personal finance expert for educated, aspirational moms who want to recapture their life passions, earn more, reach their goals, and take on a more active financial role in their families.Cat was named the Best Contributor/Freelancer for Personal Finance in 2014, and over the past few years her writing and financial expertise have been featured in dozens of notable publications like The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! Finance, U.S. News and World Report, and many more.

2 comments
Caroline @ Costa Rica FIRE
Caroline @ Costa Rica FIRE

We put almost all our spending on credit cards (I think that trend will only increase with the pandemic) so it’s easy to download transactions and track them on Excel. We prefer tracking to budgeting because tracking is where you see the truth of what you spend, while budgeting is more of a projection (or wishful thinking) since many people are bad at estimating.

I recently got my wife to agree to tracking all our spending on consolidated, shared cards and it’s been a total game-changer for being able to visualize our actual spending (vs. the hopeful spending you’re alluding to). No harm in doing both, obviously, but at the end of the day, budgets are only good if you accurately track expenses and adjust them accordingly!

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