You Need a Budget (YNAB) Review – A Tool to (Finally!) Get You Started

You Need a Budget, otherwise known as YNAB, is a popular budgeting tool that helps customers take control over the finances and proactively manage their money. YNAB features a proven savings method, access to real-time information from all your accounts, goal tracking, reports, and more.

What is YNAB?

If you’re struggling with your finances and need some help staying on track, YNAB comes highly reviewed. Unlike some other budgeting and personal finance apps, YNAB takes a proactive approach that not only tracks where you spent your money but also encourages you to plan and account for every dollar spent. This can help you to stop living paycheck to paycheck cycle, save money, pay down debt, and improve your financial health.
YNAB isn’t free to use—there’s a subscription cost of $11.99 per month or $84 per year. That makes it pricier than some competing apps, like Mint or Personal Capital. But YNAB’s unique approach to saving and budgeting and its robust set of financial tools have earned it a devoted following. Plus, YNAB can help you save money, so you may find that the monthly fee more than ends up paying for itself.

How does YNAB work?

If you’re curious about YNAB but don’t want to commit upfront, the company offers a 34 day free trial period for customers to try out the product.
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To start a free trial, you’ll first need to create an account with a username and password. It takes just a few seconds to create an account, with no payment or even payment method required upfront.
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YNAB is totally customizable, but it does start you off with some basic monthly budget categories, including immediate obligations like rent and utilities, monthly “true expenses” like auto maintenance and insurance premiums, debt payments, quality of life goals like vacations, and just-for-fun goals like eating and out and miscellaneous shopping.
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To start using YNAB, it’s recommended that you link an account. This can include bank accounts like checking accounts and savings accounts, credit card accounts, and more. While this step isn’t necessary, YNAB allows you to automatically import transactions and income from your linked account, making it easier to track everything and assign a purpose to every dollar you earn.
After you link accounts, the next step is to start setting goals. YNAB features a unique budgeting system in that, instead of just retroactively tracking and categorizing spending, it encourages you to proactively plan for routine spending using goals. For example, you can set a goal for monthly software subscriptions, they work to save up that amount of money for next month’s expenses.
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After you set your goals, the next step is to come up with a budget. YNAB gathers information from your linked accounts about how much money you have saved up. You can then create a budget that allocates this money to various monthly expenses. You can budget money for expenses like rent and utilities, as well as other purchases like software subscriptions and restaurants. YNAB even has a designated category for “stuff I forgot to budget for” in case you need a little more wiggle room.
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You can also set up any scheduled transactions that you already know the cost of, like monthly insurance premiums and rent payments. This makes it easy to visualize your cash flow, what your basic expenses will be, and how much you’ll have leftover to spend on other things.
If you need to move money from one category to another, YNAB makes it easy to do so. For example, if you plan to spend less on groceries one month and dine out a little more, you can move some of your budgeted spending from “Groceries” to “Dining Out.” This is also helpful if you’ve accidentally overspent in a particular category and need to shuffle the numbers around to make your budget work.
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Along with its helpful budgeting software, YNAB also comes with plenty of other tools that can help you to visualize your finances and set you up for financial success. This includes tools that estimate your spending, net worth, and monthly income vs. expenses.
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You can use YNAB for free for 34 days. After that, you can sign up for a monthly or annual subscription to continue using the service.

How much does YNAB cost?

YNAB is free for the first 34 days. This gives you time to test out the budgeting software, track expenses, and get a feel for how using YNAB can help you to master your finances and save money. After that, YNAB costs $11.99 per month for a monthly subscription or $84 for an annual subscription
YNAB’s pricing is more expensive than many similar free tools. That said, YNAB claims that new budgeters save an average of $600 in their first two months and $6,000 in their first year. This means that, for many customers, using YNAB can more than make up the cost of a subscription.

YNAB features

YNAB has plenty of great features that make it a beloved budgeting tool.

Proactive budgeting

One of the biggest differences between YNAB and its competitors is that it takes a proactive approach to budgeting. Rather than just passively tracking spending, YNAB encourages you to make a forward-thinking plan about how you’re going to spend your money. YNAB’s four rules help to prevent overspending and to make sure that every dollar is accounted for.

Flexible tools

YNAB is extremely flexible and can work with you no matter what your budget and goals are. Whether you’re struggling to get out of debt, want to break the paycheck to paycheck cycle, or just want to save up some money for a nice vacation or an emergency fund, you can use YNAB any way you want.

Real-time information

YNAB features seamless syncing with all of your linked accounts, so you can get real-time information about your earning and spending. It also allows you to share finances with a partner for shared budgeting.

Goal tracking

Part of YNAB’s forward-thinking approach is an emphasis on goals. Instead of reacting to spending and earning, YNAB encourages its customers to set goals for themselves when it comes to personal finance. Whether this means saving up money, paying down debt, or just reigning in spending in a particular area, YNAB is set up to help you to succeed.

Reports

When it comes to personal finance, sometimes it can be hard to see the big picture. Luckily, YNAB makes it easy to access a zoomed-out view of your finances. Using YNAB, you can view your net worth, spending trends, and income vs. expenses, with plenty of graphs and charts to help you visualize your progress.

Helpful customer support

YNAB is dedicated to helping its customers make the most of its budgeting software. Helpful customer support representatives can answer questions, troubleshoot problems, and provide advice if you’re ever stuck or not sure how to make the best use of YNAB. They also offer free, live online workshops every week and plenty of helpful tutorials.

Referral program

Love YNAB? You can earn a free month of YNAB when you refer family and friends.

Who is YNAB best for?

People struggling to manage their finances

If you’re having trouble managing your money and making ends meet, YNAB is a superior budgeting tool. The company has many satisfied customers who have used YNAB to get on top of their personal finances and budget for success.

People who want to manage finances with a spouse or partner

It can be hard to manage shared finances with spouses and partners when only one of you has access to a budgeting spreadsheet or tool, especially if you have separate bank accounts or cards. YNAB makes it easy to collaboratively budget and manage money with other people.

People who want to be proactive about personal finance

Unlike many other budgeting tools, YNAB takes a proactive approach to personal finances. If you’re looking to not only track spending, but also play an active role in how you manage your money, YNAB is a great fit.

Who shouldn’t use YNAB?

People who want a free tool

YNAB isn’t free; it costs $11.99 per month or $84 annually. This means that it’s not a good fit for customers looking for a free tool.

People on a strict budget

YNAB excels at helping customers curb spending and be mindful of their money. That said, if you’re already on a super strict budget and still struggling to make ends meet, YNAB might not be worth the cost. The tool is best for customers who have a little wiggle room in their budget and are trying to trim the fat, rather than customers who are already stretched thin and already know exactly where every penny is going.

Pros & cons

YNAB vs. competitors

While YNAB is a great tool, there are a few other options you might want to consider when it comes to budgeting apps.
CompanyPriceFocusLinked accounts
YNAB$84/yearFocuses solely on budgeting and money managementYes
Personal CapitalFreeFocused on long-term financial planningYes
MintFreeHolistic picture of your personal financesYes

Personal Capital

Personal Capital is another great personal finance app that can help customers to save money. Unlike YNAB, Personal Capital is free to use. In general, Personal Capital places a greater emphasis on long-term planning, investment, and retirement, while YNAB has a stronger focus on everyday and month-to-month spending. Personal Capital also features personalized advice from a licensed fiduciary advisor for an additional fee.

Mint

In many ways, Mint is YNAB’s main rival. The main difference between the two tools is in their approach to budgeting: rather than encouraging a proactive approach to budget setting, Mint meticulously tracks your spending in order to provide analysis of spending and saving trends that can help you make better financial decisions. Mint also provides a holistic picture of your personal finances, including your total savings, debt, assets, and net worth.

FAQs

How much does YNAB cost?
YNAB costs $11.99 per month or $84 per year.
How long is the free trial?
You can try YNAB for free for 34 days.
How can YNAB help save money?
YNAB’s proactive approach to budgeting helps customers reign in overspending, thoughtfully plan for future expenses, and cover the basics without having to think about it.

The bottom line

If you want to learn how to manage your money better, YNAB is a great tool that can help you do so. It allows customers to plan for expenses, set financial goals, create a budget, and adjust on the fly whenever their circumstances change. YNAB can also help you to curb spending by planning spending in advance, rather than just retroactively tracking spending. Overall, YNAB is a handy budgeting tool that’s well worth the price if you’re trying to get a handle on your finances and aren’t sure where to start.

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