Creating a budget (and sticking to it) is one of the most important things you can do to ensure you’re managing your money correctly. Yet so many people are reluctant, and often nervous, to incorporate this step in their financial plan. While budgets tend to be associated with restrictions and unnecessary hassles, there are numerous tools that can help ease the process.
If you’re looking to rein in your monthly spending and get your finances under control, using a budgeting app may be worth your consideration. However, there are dozens of options to choose from, with each one having something unique to offer. It’s helpful to know which ones are designed with your needs in mind while still offering exclusive features.
If you’ve been considering incorporating a budgeting app into your financial plan, but aren’t quite sure where to start, we’ve taken the first step for you.
This article will take a look at two of the most popular budgeting apps on the market; You Need A Budget (YNAB), and Mint.
Keep reading to find out which of these budgeting apps is the best for you and your money.
An overview of Mint
As one of the oldest and best-known budgeting apps (it has been around since 2006), Mint has a pretty solid reputation. It’s owned by Intuit, the same company that makes Quickbooks and TurboTax. This budgeting tool operates on the idea that to see where you stand financially, you need to see everything in one place. To get the most out of the Mint platform, you’ll need to link all of your accounts, including any checking or savings accounts, mortgages, credit cards, loans, investments, etc.
In Mint, you’re able to build a personalized budget, track your spending, set any necessary reminders for bill payments, monitor your credit score, and see how your investments are performing. Every time you log-in, your financial data will update automatically, and you’ll be able to see your financial information in a sleek, user-friendly platform. One of the most well-liked features among users is that the budgeting app automatically categorizes your transactions from linked credit and debit cards and will track them against a budget that’s customizable to your needs.
Mint is an incredibly helpful tool because it keeps an eye on your finances, so you don’t have to. You can sign up for alerts that will be sent directly to your email or smartphone regarding late fees, bill reminders, over-budget spending, rate changes, and more. You also have the ability to track spending by specific categories and can look at your monthly cash flow to see an overview of where your money goes on a month-to-month basis.
How much does Mint cost?
One of the best aspects of Mint is that it’s 100% free to use and you don’t have to worry about any hidden fees. Yet this brings up the question of how this budgeting platform makes any money. Mint generates its revenue through four separate channels:
- Advertisements that appear on their website and app
- Premium accounts offering credit-report monitoring in exchange for a user fee
- Recommendations to save using various financial services from other institutions and companies where in return they receive a referral fee
- The sale of user data such as consumer spending, the average credit card balance, etc. This data is collected anonymously and doesn’t refer back to any individual user.
Pros and Cons of Mint
To help you make a better assessment of whether or not Mint is the right fit for you, we’ve put together a list of pros and cons:
|Pros of Mint
|Cons of Mint
|Ease of use
|Lack of investing features
|Free to use
|Financial summaries and alerts via email or text message
|Problems with account synchronization
|Free credit score courtesy of Equifax
|Lack of bill pay feature
|Email or text alerts for unusual account activity, bill reminders, and low balances
|Doesn’t support multiple currencies
|Easily customizable, digestible financial reports
Automatic categorization of downloaded transactions
|Can’t assign multiple savings goals to one account
|Easy-to-find help and support
Overview of You Need A Budget (YNAB)
Compared to other budgeting apps on the market, You Need A Budget (YNAB) has a unique approach. YNAB steers users away from relying on traditional budgeting buckets and instead recommends building a budget based on individual income, giving every dollar a job in your budget. This is similar to what’s known as a zero-based budgeting technique.
YNAB’s budgeting strategy is built on four main rules that have been designed to help users live within their means, get out of debt, save money, and stop living paycheck-to-paycheck. They are as follows:
- 💸 Give every dollar a job. Every dollar you earn (and have in your budget) should be allocated to a specific purpose.
- 🧘 Embrace your true expenses. Similar to a sinking fund, reduce your stress by taking those large, less-frequent expenses and break them into manageable, monthly bills.
- 🥊 Roll with the punches. Be flexible and allow yourself to move money around if you overspend in an area. Stay on track with your long-term goals by anticipating and adjusting for overspending in specific categories in some months.
- 🗓️ Age your money. Be more purposeful about your spending, consistently spend less than you earn, and be more than prepared for the future. Stop spending everything the minute it goes into your account, quit living a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle, and get to the point where you are spending what you earned last month.
By following these four rules, YNAB believes you can gain total control of your money.
How much does YNAB cost?
YNAB charges $11.99 per month or $84 annually, with the first 34 days free so you can try it out for yourself. If you choose to pay for the service on an annual basis, it works out to a better deal of 7$/month.
While all of us are quite too familiar with the free trial model, where we forget about them and let the first charge go through, YNAB doesn’t require your credit card information upon signing up. A refreshing change if you ask us.
Pros and Cons of YNAB
Still not sure whether your financial plan would benefit from YNAB? Here are our most important pros and cons of the platform:
|Pros of YNAB
|Cons of YNAB
|Easily pulls in your financial information
|The fee of $11.99 per month or $84 annually
|Switch between multiple budgets without restarting
|No investment tracking feature
|Flexible data export
|Customer service only available by email
|Syncs with over 12,000 banks
|No bill tracking or bill pay features
|Syncs with multiple devices
|No bill tracking or bill pay features
|Easily track spending
|Lack of reporting
|Free for 34 days
|Doesn’t do a good job of showing your overall financial health
Mint vs YNAB: Which app should you choose?
The question of which service is better depends on your unique situation. Both Mint and YNAB provide a user-friendly tool to improve your money management skills—and financial future —by helping you budget effectively. They’re both designed to show you how and where you spend your money, but it’s clear they offer slightly different services. So the question of which budgeting tool is better depends on your unique situation.
If you’re looking for a tool that can easily organize your financial data in one place while monitoring both your credit score and net worth, the answer is Mint. It provides you with a good overview of your financial situation and offers more services and features than YNAB does.
However, if your primary focus is to set and build a budget, YNAB is the service you’ll want to use and will be worth the cost if you need extensive help in this area. It also teaches its users how to be proactive with their money, whereas Mint has a more passive approach.
At the end of the day, there doesn’t specifically need to be a winner between either YNAB or Mint. The reason being is simple; both budgeting apps are helping you manage your money, and that’s the most important feature.
Keep in mind that it’s also okay to use multiple tools for managing your money, so nothing is stopping you from using both if that’s what helps you out in the long run. With YNAB’s free trial and Mint’s 100% free platform, you can try both for the first month to determine which of these budgeting tools is best for your financial situation.
You can also read our recent comparison of EveryDollar vs Mint for more considerations when it comes to budgeting tools.