Having a basic budget is essential to cutting down on unnecessary expenses and making sure that you are using your income wisely. Some people may list their budget on a pad of paper or keep it on an Excel sheet that they track monthly. Others, however, may be looking to streamline their budgeting process using one of the many budgeting apps currently available.
For those who fall into the latter category, the good news is that there are plenty of excellent applications that you can use to track your income, expenses, and bills. In this review, we are going to take a closer look at two notable apps of this kind: You Need A Budget (YNAB) and Mint.
If you have found yourself stuck between choosing one of these two options, here is a comprehensive overview of each app, what type of experience it will provide, and which one may be best for your financial needs. Let’s dive in!
What Is YNAB?
Founded in 2004, You Need a Budget (YNAB) is a budgeting application that differentiates itself from the competition by not only providing individuals with the tools needed to better manage their money but focusing on making sure that they are improving their financial health and avoiding common money mistakes. They have a strong following of dedicated users, which generally bodes well for those who are considering using a certain platform. But how does it work and what do they offer that may vary from similar products?
How Does It Work?
YNAB operates on four simple rules of successful budgeting. These four statements include:
- Give Every Dollar a Job: Every dollar should be allocated to a specific category within your budget (and items with the highest priority). This is the first rule that makes up their zero-based budgeting method.
- Embrace Your True Expenses: Plan not only for your monthly expenses but for the foreseeable expenses down the road that you are aware of and are generally stressed about, which will help you save up for them ahead of time.
- Remember to Roll With the Punches: Remember that life happens and that your budget should be reflective of your current circumstances and flexible enough to change in the event that it needs to.
- Age Your Money: The longer you have a dollar and have not spent it, the more secure you are. The key to becoming financially healthy is to gradually grow your money’s age and to continue contributing to this pool of unspent money.
With these goals in mind, users then connect their checking, savings, and credit card accounts, develop a budget and goals for their money, and track their finances as they go.
Because YNAB is solely focused on budgeting, they don’t have as many features as you can expect from similar solutions. However, there are some bonuses that you get from signing up with this app. These features include:
- Roll Over Budgeting: Any money not spent or overspent is added or subtracted from your next month’s earnings, making it easier to stick to your budget without having to look at the spending habits of previous months.
- Free Online Workshops: Free resources designed to help you improve your financial knowledge and get more out of your budgeting efforts.
- Budget Sharing: If you and your partner are looking to improve your financial health, YNAB makes it easy to stay in sync so that the both of you know how much money you have to spend on your priorities.
- Goal Tracking: Whether you are in debt or saving up for a special occasion, YNAB’s goal tracking capabilities will help you keep track of how much you are allocating toward those goals and what progress has been made.
- Visual Reports: If you are a fan of visual data, YNAB helps you see your finances at a glance with graphs and charts.
- Security: YNAB places a major emphasis on security, making sure that your private information remains just that, private.
If you are looking to get the most out of your money, YNAB provides you with all of the systems and features you need to ensure that you are growing your wealth and financial health as you continue using the platform.
- YNAB Focuses on Budgeting: There are many services out there that label themselves as “budgeting” applications but will deviate from their main focus to provide a host of other financial services along the way. While this is not a bad thing, it can make it harder for some users to focus on what matters most: their budget. Fortunately, YNAB simplifies the process by helping users focus only on the money they spend and how they can make smarter decisions for the future.
- 34-Day Free Trial: Let’s be clear, YNAB is not a free service. However, they do offer a substantial free trial period for 34 days, which is much longer than other apps may offer. Additionally, they have a referral program where both you and users who sign up via your referral link can earn a free month of the service!
- Invested in Growing Your Wealth: Budgeting apps are great because they help you see your finances at a glance. However, not everyone is armed with the right knowledge or experience to make the most out of these tools. YNAB is heavily invested in its users’ financial health, offering them an app and additional resources designed to make spending and saving easier on them.
- Simple User Interface: Finance can be complex, but the app that you use to track your finances shouldn’t be. YNAB’s app is easy to use, visually attractive, and helps you see your money without having to navigate difficult dashboards and pages to get to your budget.
- Syncing Between Users: There are a lot of personal finance apps that target individuals, but not many that consider the needs of couples. YNAB’s syncing feature helps you and your partner keep track of your spending no matter where you may be.
- Not a Free Service: Not being free doesn’t make YNAB a bad application. However, some people may not have the money to spend on an $11.99/month subscription ($84/year), which is something that you should take into consideration before you sign up.
- No Phone Number Provided for Customer Service: YNAB does offer an extensive self-help section as well as live-chat, but it does not offer a phone number where you can get directly into contact with a customer service representative, which can make getting the help you need a bit more complicated than it should be.
While there are a few minor things that may put a few users off, YNAB is an excellent budgeting platform for those looking to learn how to spend and save their money more successfully.
What Is Mint?
Founded in 2007, Mint is a budgeting tool that was acquired by Intuit, the same company behind similar financial solutions like TurboTax and QuickBooks. Whereas YNAB focuses solely on budgeting, Mint is a more comprehensive financial tool, offering you with support for budgeting but helping you to see your entire financial standing at a glance as well. As we dive deeper into Mint’s structure and use, you’ll soon learn why over 15 million users rely on it for their financial future.
How Does It Work?
Mint is a financial application that gives you a comprehensive overview of your financial health. This is accomplished by syncing your bank accounts, credit cards, loans, investment accounts, and other items as well as setting goals and budgets to ensure that your money is being spent wisely each month. Easy to set up and maintain, Mint is perfect for both new users or users switching over from another platform. The features section below will give you a more in-depth overview of how the platform functions to deliver such benefits.
Since Mint is heavily focused on helping you see every area of your financial health and habits, this tool is jam-packed with features. These include:
- Free Credit Score Tool: Mint provides you with a free credit score evaluation and regular updates that show you where your credit stands. Alongside bill updates and credit card offers, this goes a long way in helping you stay on top of your credit score and improving it over time.
- Easy Synchronization With a Host of Account Types: Whether you want to stay on top of your checking accounts, your savings accounts, or even loans you have taken out, Mint offers a vast collection of account types that you can sync with and keep track of from the moment of connection forward. If you have trouble keeping up with every account you have, this will be an especially helpful feature for you.
- Manual Budget Creation and Automatic Tracking: At the heart of Mint is the budgeting feature. Budgeting is done by identifying certain categories that pertain to your spending habits, setting monthly categories to those limits, and letting Mint work its magic. Every time money is spent or earned, these transactions are categorized and synced up with your budget, showing you how much you have spent so far. Additionally, Mint will send you email notifications if there are any large transactions or you go over your monthly budget.
- Automatic Bill Tracking: For those who have a lot of bills to pay throughout the month, keeping track of them can be difficult. Fortunately, Mint gives you the ability to add these bills to your dashboard, set a regularly occurring payment date (or one-time payment reminder), and reminds you each time your upcoming bill is due. This takes much of the worry off of accidentally missing a bill you should have been able to pay on time.
- Financial Goals: Looking to build a rainy day fund? Trying to pay off an important loan? Want to save money to take a trip? Mint offers a host of customizable goal options that will help you work towards saving toward or paying down the things that matter most.
- Transactions at a Glance: Rather than logging into your bank account to see your monthly statements, you can go into Mint to see all of your account activity stretching to the moment you first connected your accounts. This makes it easy to see how much you have spent and which categories you have been spending in (or changing them in case the category is wrong).
- Financial Insights: Mint automatically goes through your financial information to identify spending trends, income trends, and budgetary trends on a monthly to yearly basis, giving you a visual overview of where your money is going and how well you are performing.
If you want a platform that can show you everything you need to know about your finances, Mint has you covered.
- Everything at a Glance: Budgeting apps with too complex structures makes it hard to get the most out of each feature. Mint, however, truly offers everything at a glance, housing all of your financial information and features right on the main dashboard. This makes it easier to see your progress while being able to access any tools you may be interested in using.
- Additional Ways to Save: Beyond the many features listed above, Mint also partners with a wide variety of financial companies to bring you offers on checking accounts, credit cards, and loans, giving you the ability to see which options you would be best be suited for if you are in the market for any of their listed items.
- Full Analysis of Your Finances Regularly: Because Mint automatically syncs your transactions and imports this information to the various tools it uses, you receive consistent insight into your financial health on a regular basis, which makes it easier to properly budget and adjust course when life demands.
- Easy to Use Interface: Although the Mint platform may be a bit plain to some, it is extremely easy to navigate and use. If you’re a new user, you will have no problem getting the most out of mint, no matter how intense this feature-packed platform may sound.
- Free Service: A lot of people are looking for a free platform to help them take care of their finances. The good news? Mint is 100 percent free, offering you all of the features above without having to worry about paying to move ahead financially.
- Good Security: Although there have been some reports on the security of Mint, Mint is quite invested in the security of its users, offering additional features like two-factor authentification and code logins for its mobile devices.
- Slow Synchronization: One of the major problems that individuals have reported when using Mint is that it is not the fastest to synchronize. If you are heavily relying on this app to see your spending habits and make financial decisions based on the data presented in the app, this may not be the best solution for you.
- Sale of Aggregate Data (and More Ads): Because this app is free, there are some potential drawbacks. The first is the advertisements that are displayed throughout the dashboard and user pages (which is not necessarily that big of a problem). The second is that Mint makes money by selling aggregate data (not individual data), which can throw some users off. Keep these things in mind when you are considering Mint.
- No Phone Number for Customer Service: Like YNAB, Mint only features self-help support and live chat support, no in-person customer service call centers.
YNAB Vs. Mint: What Is Best for You?
The answer depends upon what you are looking to gain from using a budgeting platform!
For example, if you are someone who is in need of help when it comes to making wiser financial decisions and prefers a platform that is hyperfocused and specifically tailored to your saving and spending woes, you are going to find that YNAB will be the best fit for you.
If, on the other hand, you are relatively knowledgeable about how to optimize your financial health and need a platform that will give you all the tools needed to make the progress you are looking for, Mint will most likely be the best decision for you.
Until you have made a final decision, however, carefully research and understand each platform, consider your personal needs, and weigh the pros and cons of joining YNAB or Mint. No matter what your final decision may be, you are sure to be in good hands!