If you’re new to managing money, you know how difficult it is to find the right tools. Budgeting can be overwhelming, but there are apps that streamline the process to help you reach your goals quicker.
Many people new to personal finance look at YNAB vs. Mint to help them achieve their financial goals. Both services can improve your finances by helping you make a detailed spending plan with savings goals.
However, the best service for you depends on which features you want and how much hands-on help you need.
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YNAB vs. Mint: How Do the Budgeting Apps Compare?
You Need a Budget (YNAB) is one of the most popular paid budgeting apps on the market. It’s easy to use and has extensive budgeting features that help you stop living paycheck to paycheck.
This service can track your real-time account balances, build a category-based budget, and provide detailed spending reports. It also offers financial calculators.
However, YNAB requires an annual membership fee to provide these in-depth tools. There is a 34-day free trial to test its budgeting process, and you can enjoy an ad-free experience.
Mint is a free budgeting app that doesn’t have as many bells and whistles, but it’s an impressive platform for taking control of your finances.
The service connects to your bank accounts for budgeting. It can track your investment balances, recurring subscriptions, and bill due dates.
If you’re determining how to save money on a tight budget or are a novice, this free alternative can help.
As a tradeoff for no monthly fees, you will see advertisements for various financial products. Fortunately, there is no obligation to sign up for any sponsored services.
Here’s a quick look at YNAB vs. Mint.
|Monitor Credit Score||❌||🟢|
Both are popular budgeting apps, but which one is best for you depends on your needs.
What is YNAB?
YNAB is built for households that are serious about budgeting and need hands-on help. You might consider this service if you are struggling to pay your bills and are unsure where to start saving money or how to create a budget.
The ultimate goal is to help you pay off debt, save money every month, and pay this month’s bills with last month’s income as you develop cash reserves.
This user-friendly platform uses the zero-based budgeting method, which assigns each dollar of income a specific expense or savings purpose.
It walks you through the setup process and presents plenty of common household expenses to expect. The budgeting app also specializes in helping you identify costs that are infrequent or easy to overlook.
You can sign up online or download the mobile app to automatically receive a 34-day free trial. If you continue using YNAB, you pay $99 upfront for an annual subscription or $14.99 monthly ($179.88 for a 12-month membership).
College students enjoy the first year for free. Then, the regular pricing applies after the initial 12 months.
*Related: Starting a budget can be difficult if you’re just out of school and a novice. Consult our budget worksheet for new college graduates to learn where to begin.
The primary features below help accomplish the four YNAB budgeting rules:
- Give every dollar a job
- Embrace your true expenses
- Roll with the punches
- Age your money
Give Every Dollar a Job
A hands-on monthly budget is the core feature of YNAB and helps you achieve the platform’s first rule. After linking your bank account and credit cards, the online budgeting tool has an extensive yet user-friendly process to make a personalized spending plan.
For example, few alternatives to YNAB offer a budgeting tool that’s as in-depth. Budgeting is a learning process, and you can make changes later on. This budgeting app offers tutorials and short online courses to help improve your skills.
Monitoring Your Expenses
YNAB downloads and categorizes new transactions from your linked checking and savings accounts. It’s easy to track your monthly progress and make adjustments to avoid budgeting mistakes.
Initially, you will see how much you actually spend on specific categories compared to your estimated spending. Then, you can receive personalized suggestions to save more money.
You can also make multiple savings goals to plan for upcoming expenses. Color-coded progress bars help you identify the funding status and if your savings target is met.
The goal-tracking capabilities also work with investment accounts. As a result, you can see how much more you need to save this month to achieve your various saving and investing goals.
Age Your Money
Most people won’t be able to perfect their spending habits overnight, but YNAB’s guided budgeting process can help it happen sooner. In time, it’s possible to pay new bills with money that’s been in your bank account for at least 30 days.
This helps you escape the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle and save money for the future. Your budget dashboard has an age of money meter to estimate how old your money is when it’s needed to cover expenses.
Consider continuing to use the budget software over time to track your long-term progress as you optimize your saving and spending routine.
What are the Pros and Cons of YNAB?
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of You Need a Budget.
- Extensive budgeting tools
- Easy to sync your transactions
- 34-day free trial
- No ads
- Subscription fee
- Not for infrequent or casual budgeters
- Requires a bit of a learning curve
- Not a 100 percent free platform
If you need a more exhaustive budget app, YNAB is worth trying.
What is Mint?
Mint is free budgeting software that offers a detailed monthly budget with real-time account syncing. It can be a better option if you want a casual way to quickly track your spending by category and ensure you live within your means.
However, individuals who want a highly-detailed budget may find this program lacking.
The budgeting and saving app also offers several personal finance tools that make it easier to monitor your entire financial picture, such as your credit score and net worth.
These tools can make it easier to manage your money:
- Bill negotiation
- Bill reminders
- Customizable budget categories
- Investment tracking
You can join for free online or through the mobile app, but you will see ads. Certain optional services may cost extra, like bill negotiation to lower your spending.
A Mint Premium subscription for iOS smartphone users costs $5.99 monthly. Premium perks include:
- An ad-free experience
- Advanced spending graphs and projections
- Two exclusive games that offer saving and spending tips
Mint is one of the best free budget software tools because of its many features. It’s also easy to set up, navigate, and automate.
The free budgeting tool lets you make a monthly budget with unlimited customizable categories. You can link financial accounts and add manual transactions, but the features are not as detailed or interactive as the paid alternatives to Mint.
This service doesn’t require as much ongoing account maintenance as there are fewer details. Since you will need to build your own budget, you may prefer setting up a value-based spending plan that allocates money towards your most important priorities first.
Simultaneously, you can track your progress for planned expenses and receive text alerts when you near your spending limit.
Planning for the future is easy because you can create savings goals. Additionally, the cash flow forecast tool estimates how much extra money you will have over time based on your current spending and saving amounts.
After downloading transactions, this budget app can track your recurring bill due dates and send reminders to avoid missed payments and accompanying fees.
It can also track offline bill due dates and notify you when the monthly payment amount changes.
You can’t schedule bill payments through Mint. The app previously offered this service several years ago through a third-party service they no longer partner with.
However, you can use the bill negotiation service to look for discounts on recurring subscriptions such as phone or cable bills. It’s free to start negotiations, but a success fee applies when discounts are procured.
You can keep tabs on your investment account balances and asset allocation since you can connect to multiple brokerages. For example, you can link your employer-provided 401(k) and a self-managed taxable account.
This service won’t manage your investments, but you can track your performance and calculate your net worth. If you want a free service that focuses more on your investments, Empower is a good choice.
Credit Score Monitoring
Unlike most competing apps that focus exclusively on budgeting and net worth tracking, you can track your credit score for free. You can receive daily updates for your TransUnion VantageScore, which is similar to the industry-standard FICO Score.
These updates won’t hurt your score, and you can view your TransUnion credit report to look for potential errors and see if previous negative marks continue to appear.
This feature also includes a scorecard for the various factors influencing your credit score range. These insights can help you decide the best ways to improve your creditworthiness.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Mint?
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of this free budgeting service.
- It’s free
- Customizable budget categories
- Tracks bank and investment account balances
- Offers non-budgeting financial tools
- Displays ads and product offers
- Mint Premium is for iOS devices only
- Limited hands-on budgeting features
If you want a free platform that doesn’t offer many bells and whistles, Mint is worth trying.
How YNAB and Mint Are Similar
Both finance apps make it easy to create a monthly budget and track your account balances to avoid overspending. You can also monitor your taxable and retirement investment accounts and create long-term goals for saving targets or paying off credit card debt.
Additionally, both apps are accessible by Android, iOS, or web browsers. Couples can view their budget at the same time, add manual transactions, and customize their financial plan.
How Are Mint and YNAB Different?
Budgeting is the main feature of both apps, but the primary Mint vs. YNAB differences are the membership costs and types of additional features.
Mint is free and has more additional monitoring tools that are not directly related to budgeting. While you won’t be able to build as in-depth of a budget as with YNAB, it’s not as time-intensive.
Additionally, its simpler interface can be more welcoming for those who find its competitor overwhelming.
In contrast, YNAB specializes in budgeting by offering more in-depth tools and hands-on support that can make it easier to develop a spending plan for every potential expense. The setup process is quick but can still require more time than Mint.
Additionally, the ongoing time commitment for You Need a Budget can be more demanding since it’s more detailed despite being automated. Also, it doesn’t offer as many personal finance features, and you may need to use multiple finance apps.
Customer Service and Assistance
Mint provides live chat support seven days a week from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time. Email support and multiple online articles for non-urgent matters are also available.
YNAB provides human-based support, but users must submit an inquiry. It can take up to three days to receive a response. There is a knowledge library with articles and how-to videos covering most app features.
This app also offers weekly free online workshops regarding the basics of navigating the platform and making a budget.
How Secure Are YNAB and Mint?
Both services use bank-level security to protect your data and linked account details. Two-factor authentication (2FA) makes it harder for hackers to log into your account since they must enter a time-sensitive passcode from a linked phone number or email.
One potential downside with Mint is that your data is anonymized and sold to advertisers.
Is Mint or YNAB Better?
The best budgeting and personal finance app depends on the budgeting style, features, and subscription fee you’re comfortable with. Be sure to choose the program that’s most likely to improve your finances.
While it costs money, YNAB tends to be better overall if you need help making a budget or you like in-depth tools. People struggling financially can have more immediate progress, and the 34-day trial period is enough time to decide if it’s worth the cost.
Mint is better for people less likely to log into their account frequently since its casual budgeting approach requires a shorter time commitment to categorize transactions. It can also be a suitable replacement for YNAB when you don’t need extensive hands-on help.
What’s most important to you when choosing a money management app?
Josh uses his personal experience of paying off over $130,000 in personal debt and changing careers to write about saving money, investing, and paying off debt. He has regularly written for notable outlets including Wallet Hacks, Well Kept Wallet, and Debt Roundup.
Josh was previously an operations supervisor for a Fortune 500 company for seven years. He is married with three small children.