If you’re looking for budgeting software, there are two names that will come up on every list: YNAB vs Mint. Both are among the best apps to help you keep track of your outgoings, categorize your expenses, and see what money needs to go where and when so you can allocate it.
If you’re looking to finally get a handle on your money, start saving, get out of debt, or live within your means, creating a budget is a great idea. But, they’re not right for everyone. So, today, we’re going to guide you through the pros and cons of each software and help you decide which is right for you.
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But first, why budget in the first place?
Budgeting doesn’t sound very exciting, but it’s the best way to start having a better handle and relationship with your money. If you constantly feel like you don’t have enough (despite making more than you ever have before), live paycheck to paycheck, or find yourself using credit cards at the end of the month more often than not (even if you then pay them off next month), then a budget will help you assess where your money should and shouldn’t be going so you can make better decisions.
Here are a few benefits to budgeting to get you started:
- Helps you understand your cashflow
- Prevents overspending
- Highlights fixed expenses that can be lowered
- Gives you power over money
- Allows you to make plans for big purchases
- Reduces the stress of not having enough money
- Allows you to establish goals
- Helps you identify money problems before they occur
- Increases motivation to save, pay off debt, and give more
What are the different types of budgeting?
The good news is if you’ve tried budgeting before and found it hasn’t worked for you, there are dozens of ways out there for you to try to find the best type of budgeting for you. The key to finding the right way to budget is finding one that works in a way your brain understands and enjoys. If you find a certain way of budgeting restrictive and annoying, know that there will be a system out there that works for you.
Here are three simple budgets to create a family budget that fits your style:
- The Antibudget Budget. This budget is best for people who don’t like budgets and have a fixed set of bills. Determine how much you make, calculate all of your expenses for the month, determine how much you want to save/invest (pay yourself first), whatever is left is your spending money for the month. If you spend less than what you accounted for, you can put it in another savings account or invest it for the long term.
- The 50-30-20 budget. This budget was coined by Senator Elizabeth Warren. It’s simple and intuitive. There are three simple steps to this budget: 50% of your after-tax income is spent on needs (anything you have to pay for), 30% on wants (because you have to have some fun in life), and 20% on savings and investing.
- Zero-based budget. This budget is for people who want to know where every dollar is going. And it’s my favorite. While it may seem a little more complex than the other two, it’s simple once you get the hang of it. It offers the most accurate estimate of what is coming in and what is going out. No matter what your financial goals are, this budget will hold you accountable and help you get there. Work on ways to save money, debt payoff, lower bills, and investing more with this budget.
What is YNAB?
YNAB or You Need a Budget, is budgeting software that works similarly to the old-fashioned envelope system, where you’d create an envelope for every spending category and only use the money in that category to pay for that thing. When the system is used correctly, it can help you get out of the pattern of living paycheck to paycheck and start having some emergency money and later, savings.
It reports your spending, income versus expenses, and net worth.
What is Mint?
Mint is more focused on allowing you to see where your money is going by reviewing all your accounts in one place. It divides all your monthly income and outgoings into six categories: income, spending, assets, debts, net income, and net worth.
A bonus of Mint is it allows you to see your credit score as a part of the service.
Pros and Cons of YNAB
- Getting your accounts connected and set up is easy, though a little more complicated if you’re outside the US, but accessibility is getting better all the time
- Low cost – $14.99 a month or $98.99 for the year.
- It’s compatible with almost any device (iOS, Android, web browsers, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Android watches)
- Free trial available
- It “forces” you to understand where your money is going and gets you to take a hands-on approach, which helps many people start saving money right from the start
- Well designed with an aesthetically pleasing interface
- You can plan months ahead, which is a great option if you know you’ll always have a certain amount coming in each month (even if it’s just a base salary)
- No ads to distract you asking you to do the opposite of what you’re trying to do (save money)
- You can customize all your categories and subcategories
- There’s a lot to learn and if you don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty of your money, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll get overwhelmed and stop before you start
- If you don’t have the same income each month coming in at the same time, things get more complicated
- If you don’t budget one month/week, getting everything back in order can be frustrating
- It’s a bit too expensive if you’re on a low income or looking to cut down on expenses to get out of debt
Pros and cons of Mint
- Very easy to set up (note Mint is only available to US residents at this time)
- Compatible with iOS, Android, web browsers, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa
- It’s completely free to use
- Information is more simplistic than YNABs, so easier to check-in when you’re glancing at it on your phone when considering if you can eat out or make a purchase
- The much more hands-off way of budgeting means if you don’t look where your spending is going and act on that information, you’re really not going to benefit
- Because the app is free to use, there are ads asking you to do the opposite of what you’re there to do (save money)
- Can only budget one month at a time
- Design isn’t quite as nice as YNAB’s
- You can’t customize all your categories and subcategories
YNAB vs Mint: Which is right for me?
Both budgeting apps are great ways to keep track of your money, but YNAB is better for those who want to spend time managing their money. If you want every dollar to have a place and you’re happy to spend a few hours setting things up and learning how to use YNAB, then you’ll love it.
However, if you get bored of trying to manage your money after 15 minutes, choose Mint. Mint will help you create a household budget, track your spending, and see all your accounts at a glance. It’s a great first step to better managing your money.
If you’re an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of person, you may need to try building in checking your chosen app and managing your money into your daily, weekly, and/or monthly routine so you actually use the budget, rather than setting it up once and forgetting about it.
Either way, both apps are a great choice and since YNAB comes with a 34-day free trial and Mint is 100% free, you have time to test them both to see which is right for you. If you don’t yet budget, now is the time to start!
So there you have it. Two great budgeting tools with multiple pros and cons to keep track of your financial data and month-to-month changes.
The key is to find one that you’re actually going to use. Set a reminder to check in with your budget every week and review your monthly expenses at least once a month.
Stay on top of your budget and how much money you are bringing in and spending. If these budgeting systems aren’t for you checkout my budgeting worksheets or spreadsheet in my resource library here.
Theresa is a personal finance blogger. She writes content for busy professional women to take control of their money and investments. She enjoys reading, traveling, cooking, and writing. Her work has been featured on GoBanking Rates, Your Money Geek, Savoteur, the Corporate Quitter, Thirty Eight Investing, and more.