The ability to reign in your spending is a personal finance superpower. It could mean the difference between wealth and a life of genteel poverty. But for most people, budgeting seems like an arduous and complex task; and they believe that a budget requires lots of effort to maintain and track.
But you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting yourself – technology in the form of budgeting apps has made light work of counting your pennies. A budgeting app is just what you need if you have trouble drawing up a budget and sticking with it. However, there’re so many budgeting apps available that choosing the right one becomes a chore.
Since not all budgeting apps are born equal, I have taken time to sift through the tons of apps out there to weed out those with more fluff than function. And in my candid opinion, Mint and You Need a Budget (YNAB) are two personal finance apps worth your time and money.
So, which shall it be?
YNAB vs Mint: Which Budgeting App is Better?
Mint is a personal finance tool owned by Intuit, makers of the popular TurboTax software. Mint has over 10 million users and has been around since 2006.
Central to Mint functionality is the concept that your financial status can only be correctly ascertained if all your transactions can be viewed in a single location. Thus, for Mint to work, you have to link all your accounts, investments, mortgages and credit cards, etc.
I like this app because it lets me create a budget, track my spending, set notifications for due bills, monitor my investment and check my credit score.
You can sign-up for Mint here.
YNAB or You Need A Budget is even older than Mint. However, it only became popular relatively recently and now features in every top 5 best budgeting app list.
The YNAB app has as its core, four rules which are designed to help you keep more of your money.
- Rule 1: Give every job a dollar. Allocate all the money that enters your linked accounts to a purpose until you are back to square one – in this case, $0. Otherwise known as zero-budgeting.
- Rule 2: Embrace your true expenses. Set goals to save towards a specific future, considerable expense such as a vacation, emergency funds, buying a home, etc.
- Rule 3: Roll with the punches. You should be flexible with your budget. If a need arises, you can tweak things without feeling guilty.
- Rule 4: Age your money. A way to get you spending money you earned at least a month ago. Ultimately, you’ll be weaned off the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle.
Try YNAB here free for 34 days.
Signing up to Mint is free and easy for me: and that’s because I’m a user of their TurboTax software for many years. They let me use the same login for both Mint and TurboTax. If you also have a newer mobile phone, there is an option to log in using your fingerprint which I did.
YNAB offers a 34-day free trial and if you choose to continue, bills you $6.99 monthly or $83.99 if you decide to pay annually. Note that YNAB doesn’t ask for your billing information upfront which makes it easier to get started with the free trial.
Once you sign up on YNAB, you are directly taken to your dashboard which contains a list of all the possible budget items. All the items are set at $0, and you can start allocating your money once you link your accounts.
Mint is free and therefore an obvious choice if you prefer all your accounts in one place. All you need is an email address and a password. After a successful sign-up, you must link your accounts before carrying out any other action.
A good design is the key to great user experience. Design wise, YNAB is simpler than Mint. However, both apps have a clean, functional look. As expected, YNAB doesn’t feature ads. Mint, being free, has ads all over the screen. But most of them can be closed.
The main difference between Mint and YNAB can be seen on their dashboard. The dashboard on Mint displays your accounts, bills, loans, mortgages, credit score, and spending. At the top of the page, you can easily toggle between credit score, transactions, goals, trends, bills, budget, and ways to save.
The YNAB dashboard simply focuses on budgeting. And it’s the first thing that you see once you log in. A column on the left will let you switch between your budget, reports, and account. This intuitive design allows users to get right into what they aimed to achieve with the software.
Between YNAB and Mint, it will be hard to decide who has a better design and user experience. But for me, the absence of ads gives the YNAB a distinct edge.
If you aren’t familiar with zero-based budgeting, YNAB may take you some time to get used to. This is because it also teaches you how to cut a budget asides form showing you where you are at financially.
Mint is more user-friendly but has lots of function which, if you insist on using them all at once, will take you some time to set-up exactly how you want. Lots of people use Mint for checking their credit score, tracking expenses or goal settings. These functions on their own are also great stand-alone personal finance tools.
When it comes to budgeting proper, YNAB has had stellar reviews from users. As stated earlier, the principal behind YNAB budgeting is “to give every dollar a job.” This means that you allocate every dime of your paycheck to budget items until nothing is left.
Why is this approach effective and a hit with users?
Zero-based budgeting as used by YNAB allows users more flexibility with their budget without sacrificing discipline. For instance, instead of simply saving what is left over after budgeting and spending, you set aside the savings amount right from the start.
Mint’s budgeting tools can create an automatic budget for you based on your spending habit. This means it will require some time to learn your spending habits as you use the app. The auto budget can then be adjusted by you as needed.
Mint basically has no customer support. That being said, they do have a support page which is just a collection of articles that discuss common issues.
In contrast, YNAB has various ways of attending to customer’s issues. Their customer support is accessed through their homepage. There, you’ll find a comprehensive list of topics discussed in community forums, over 300 podcast episodes that discuss different budgeting issues.
If none of these addresses your concerns, you have the option of sending them an email.
Of course, the YNAB distinctively superior customer service is expected since it’s a paid solution while Mint is free.
Which one will really help you create a better financial life?
Which is Best for Improving Your Finances?
Personal finance is a lifetime engagement. You can’t just log-in to an app and voila! You have your finances all straightened up.
YNAB is purely budgeting. It doesn’t invest in helping you create investments or track your expenses.
On the other hand, Mint goes further to allow you to link your investment accounts – 401k, mutual funds and brokerage accounts. Thus it can give you a global picture of your financial status at each point in time. Investment is a crucial predictor of a sound financial footing.
Finally, Mint vs YNAB, Who Wins?
The answer to this depends on your expectations for your personal financial tools. YNAB is a budgeting machine, and you’ll be hard pressed to find any other app better. Mint, however, gives you a bird’s eye view of your financial status.
You may be put off by the cost of the YNAB software, but I love that it teaches how to plan ahead with my money while Mint has a more laid back approach being that it just shows my current financial position.
Between Mint and YNAB, there must not have to be a clear winner and nothing stops you from using the two apps at the same time. Mint is free, and you can use YNAB for 34 days before paying a dime. So you can test-drive the two at no cost and decide on which one you prefer.