Wouldn’t it be awesome if all apps were as direct as You Need a Budget a.k.a. YNAB? YNAB makes some pretty bold claims as well. With it, you can save $600 in your first two months and $6,000 in your first year.
But there’s a catch. You Need a Budget, unlike other budgeting apps, isn’t free. Their services cost $11.99/month or $84/yearly. That’s pretty pricey for something that is supposed to help you take control of your finances.
If you are sick or living paycheck-to-paycheck, want to pay off your credit card debt or student loans, or just get more control of your finances, then YNAB just might be the answer.
So, how does YNAB truly measure up? Dive into everything you need to know about You Need a Budget here with this review.
What Is YNAB?
YNAB is budgeting software that is available both as a web and mobile app. It’s pretty strictly a budgeting tool; you won’t be able to track investments or much else. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not comprehensive.
What YNAB does is train you how to plan ahead. The app is packaged with tons of educational materials, including free daily workshops and video courses.
There’s definitely a small learning curve. While you can sync your accounts automatically, you will have learned the ropes of how to use the app and how to budget with. Fortunately, YNAB holds your hand through a tutorial and plenty of other resources.
Ultimately, you get out what you put into it. But even with some of the initial challenges using it and the monthly fee, there’s a reason why so many people use the app—because it’s effective!
How Does YNAB Work?
You Need a Budget is based on a few key principles. The idea is to help you create a budget, stick to it, and see results.
YNAB is based around four key rules that you should follow even if you decide to take your financial planning business elsewhere:
- Give every dollar a job: when you get paid, assign each dollar to your expenses and other goals before spending anything.
- Embrace your true expenses: you need to set aside money each month for those costly random expenses like taxes, insurance premiums, gifts, and healthcare that can and pop up. This way, you have funds set aside when bills roll in.
- Be flexible: Don’t expect to always perfectly match your budget. Be ready to move around money from other areas to cover when you overspend.
- Age your money: This is the most important principle, especially for those who live paycheck to paycheck. Aim to consistently spend less than you earn with the goal of using last month’s income to cover this month’s expenses.
How Much Does YNAB Cost?
You can’t let this be a dealbreaker for you. While there are free services, few personal finance apps compete with the efficacy of YNAB.
YNAB costs $11.99/month. That can seem pretty steep when finances are tight. While their annual plan is a nice discount at $84/year, that can be a big investment.
However, take this price with a grain of salt. As mentioned, there is a 34-day free trial. That’s a long enough time to see if YNAB is working for you or not. Further, they do offer a no-risk 100% money-back guarantee. They’ll even refund the annual subscription at a prorated rate. Finally, they do offer student discounts if you send proof of enrollment.
Even if you’re a budgeting whiz, it’s definitely worth checking out.
What You Need To Know About YNAB (And Other Budgeting Apps)
YNAB is not just a monthly investment in cash, but time. You get out what you put into it. But there is this common fallacy out there that millennials and Gen Z would be able to reach debt freedom if they skip the Starbucks and brew coffee at home.
While, of course, common-sense tips like these and smart budgeting are essential, YNAB alone can only truly help you if you have consistent income and ways to work down your debt or pursue your financial goals.
With that said, however, YNAB and other money management apps do a good job at helping you make the most out of however much money you have coming in, finding ways to put some aside, and even start getting a rainy day fund together.
The Best Things About YNAB
Below are some of the main things we loved about YNAB.
1. YNAB Helps You Build A Path For The Future
Living paycheck to paycheck is beyond stressful. YNAB won’t transform your finances overnight. But it will help you gradually build up “old money,” pay down debt and plan ahead. If you stick with it, you will get results.
2. Access Your Finances From Anywhere
We take for granted that we can nowadays check bank balances from anywhere. But YNAB’s mobile app helps you see your budget from everywhere and sync automatically. This helps you input transactions as they happen and keep track of expenses everywhere you go.
3. You Can Set Goals
Many people have the wrong idea that if you have a budget and get serious about finances, you can’t have fun anymore. This is quite the opposite. The whole point of budgeting is making sure you not only have money to enjoy the finer things in life but also prevent you from only being able to afford instant ramen until your next paycheck if you do.
With YNAB, you can set for any type of goal, including setting your own custom preferences to help you further grow that “old money.’
4. Everything Is Visual
Most of us aren’t numbers people. When we see spreadsheets, our heads start swimming. With YNAB, you get visual charts, categories that turn red when you overspend, and other warnings to help you prevent overspending. With YNAB, you’ll hopefully never overdraft your checking account again.
5. Education Opportunities Are Everywhere
We’ve all seen so many news stories with headlines like “This dude paid off 45,000 in debt and is on track to retire by 45.” YNAB gives you all the resources to become one of the headlines. There are tons of blogs, podcasts, and videos to help you become an expert.
The forum is also a goldmine where you can find both great tips but also hear about others who have been in your situation and how they got out of it. If you want a little inspiration, then this is a good place to begin!
Can I Trust YNAB?
Absolutely. YNAB uses some of the best security technology to keep your data safe. And they advantage of paying for a service is that YNAB doesn’t have to monetize your data to keep the lights on. This is one of the reasons it can be worth it to pay for whatever budgeting app you go with.
Should I Use YNAB Or Mint?
That’s a good question. There’s a lot to love about YNAB, but who wants to pay a monthly or yearly fee when you don’t have to.
YNAB is missing a few key features that Mint has like credit score monitoring and investment tracking. And don’t forget that Mint is free!
However, most people agree that YNAB does do a better job with the budgeting aspect of things. It really does encourage you to be more proactive and make better decisions about how you spend your money.
Mint is a great report card for after the fact, while YNAB helps you beforehand. And though you don’t have to pay anything to use Mint, you do have to put up with ads for credit cards that may actually take you down the wrong financial road!
Since Mint is free, it’s not mutually exclusive with You Need a Budget. Try both of these personal finance apps out and see what works best for your needs. Additionally, check out our complete Mint review here to learn more about this app.
Is YNAB Worth The Money?
That’s the big question. $83.99/year or $11.99/month is pretty steep compared to free options. Even Quicken, which is often regarded as one of the best options out there, is only $49.99/year.
But if YNAB can help you get out of debt and push in the right direction, then the answer is maybe yes.
Don’t forget that you can always use it for a year to get yourself on the right track and then transition to a free or more affordable option.
- Budgeting app built around solid financial philosophy
- Tons of educational resources
- Solid UI
- Mobile app
- Reports, trends, and other visual tools
- Can set goals
- Very focused in one area
- Continually evolving
- Pricier than a lot of options
- Doesn’t include everything like investments or credit score
- A bit of a learning curve
YNAB Review: The Bottom Line
If you need a push in the right direction, effective budgeting is one of the most important steps. Whether you want to squash credit debt, save up for a house, or do anything else, YNAB is a powerful budgeting tool to have by your side. YNAB helps you proactively address your finances so take advantage of the free trial to see if it’s right for you.