You Need a Budget Review 2021 | The Truth About YNAB

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You Need a Budget — or YNAB, for short — is a popular budget app. In fact, Millennial Money has chosen YNAB as the top budgeting app for 2021.

Why? Simple: YNAB can help you visualize and understand budgeting at a glance. And it also offers valuable tools to track and monitor your progress. 

The app is great for beginner budgeters and advanced users alike. Plus, YNAB syncs with more than 12,000 banks, giving you a deeper understanding of your financial situation at any given time.

YouNeedaBudget

Overall Rating

9

Bottom Line

YNAB is one of the best budgeting apps out there to help you save money and get a handle on your finances. They also provide a risk-free, 34-day free trial.

Pros

  • Save hundreds or thousands per year
  • Helpful graphs and reports
  • Goal-setting feature for long-term tracking
  • Dual budgeting component
  • 34-day free trial

Cons

  • Not free
  • The platform can be buggy
  • No phone supoort
  • Budgeting only - no additional financial functions

Mobile App

9.5

User Friendliness

8.0

Promotions

9.0

Security

9.0

Keep reading our YNAB review for all the reasons we think the You Need a Budget app belongs on your mobile phone.

or, skip straight to the section on how to sign up for YNAB

What Is YNAB?

You Need a Budget is a personal finance app created to help you monitor your spending, keep tabs on your financial accounts, and reach your savings goal. 

Unlike some of the other financial apps we’ve reviewed, YNAB charges a monthly fee. But if you’re serious about managing your money, You Need a Budget is definitely worth it.

Launched in 2004, YNAB uses the envelope budgeting method.

What is envelope budgeting?

Envelope budgeting — also known as zero-based budgeting — involves dividing each paycheck into different spending categories. These can include necessities like your mortgage or rent, utility bills, transportation, and groceries. You should also have an “envelope” for fun stuff, like eating out and going to the movies.

This system prevents overspending by earmarking certain amounts for each category. If you run out of funds in one spending category, you must borrow money from another. But you should avoid doing that.

Unlike many other budgeting apps, YNAB asks you to budget with the money that you have. So you’re not budgeting based on future cash flows, but instead with the money that’s already in your account.

How Does YNAB Work?

YNAB operates on four rules for successful budgeting. Follow them to improve your financial situation.

1. Give every dollar a job

One of the core concepts of YNAB is to determine how you spend your money the moment you get it.

Do this by analyzing your bank accounts and allocating money into specific budget categories — like bills, groceries, housing expenses, and emergency funds. 

2. Embrace your true expenses 

YNAB refers to large, infrequent expenses as true expenses. This may be an annual insurance premium, car tires, or a new roof for your house.

You can plan for true expenses using the YNAB app. By planning, you can more easily account for these expenses when they occur.

3. Roll with the punches

Overspending happens. For example, a friend may tie the knot — forcing you to dig a little deeper into your pockets for the wedding and its associated expenses, including travel, attire, and gifts.

YNAB advises adjusting your budget as necessary. If you overspend in one category, simply take money from another to cover the difference. 

4. Age your money 

YNAB helps you budget by planning to spend last month’s income, rather than your current paycheck. It calls this strategy “aging money.” 

By aging your money, you can increase savings, reduce stress, and never worry about living paycheck to paycheck. 

YNAB Features

Here are some of the top features included with YNAB.

Reports 

Highly visual learners sometimes struggle with spreadsheet-style budgeting. YNAB offers easy-to-understand reports like charts and graphs, which make it simple to track your progress. You can access your reports directly in the YNAB app at any time.

Goal tracking

As YNAB explains on its website, budgeting isn’t about restriction. Instead, it’s about setting and reaching goals.

You can use the YNAB app to set different financial goals. The app lets you divide your budgeting goals for both the short and long terms.

Dual budgeting 

One of the top reasons why household budgets fail is due to a lack of cooperation. For example, you may start budgeting, but your partner might keep overspending.

When managing household expenses, you have to work as a team. YNAB makes this possible using its dual budgeting tool.

Mobile app

Like most people today, you probably spend a lot of time on your smartphone — maybe even more than you care to admit. Many personal finance apps have great desktop versions but skimp on the mobile app. Not YNAB.

You Need a Budget offers a fully loaded mobile app for Android and iOS devices. You can even access your budget with your Apple Watch.

Manual or automatic data entry

YNAB lets you choose whether to enter transaction information yourself or upload data directly from your bank account.

Some people prefer the manual approach because it forces you to pay more attention. The more time and effort you put into budgeting, the better the results. If you automate the process, the experience may not be as effective. 

Think about what style works for you and proceed from there. You can always adjust this process as time goes on.

YNAB Pricing

The YNAB app doesn’t cost anything to download. But you’ll need to purchase a subscription plan if you want to use the service. YNAB costs $11.99 monthly or $84 annually.

Unfortunately, YNAB is the costliest budgeting app on the market. However, the company offers a generous thirty-four day trial. So you can try it before you buy it to decide whether it’s worth investing in.

Is YNAB worth the price?

We think the price of YNAB is more than worth it. When you sign up, you’ll get a powerful budgeting app for less than what you probably spend on Netflix.

And according to YNAB, on average, new budgeters save $600 during their first two months. During the first year, YNAB helps them save more than $6,000. 

Consider cutting out a subscription service you hardly use and allocating that money into a budgeting app. Your bank account won’t notice the difference.

How to Sign Up for YNAB

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to sign up for YNAB.

  1. Create an account
  2. Use the free trial
  3. Create a new budget
  4. Choose a budgeting style
  5. Select an account type
  6. Start budgeting
  7. Track your progress

1. Create an account

Start by visiting YNAB’s registration page. Enter your email address and create a password to open an account. 

Unlike other paid services, you don’t need to enter your credit card information to sign up for YNAB.

2. Use the free trial

After signing up, you’ll have thirty-four days to sample the service for free. During that time, you’ll receive full access to the site and its budgeting features.

3. Create a new budget 

Once you’re up and running on the platform, go ahead and create a new budget. 

You can name the budget, choose a currency, and set a number format and currency placement.

4. Choose a budgeting style

Next, you’ll need to determine whether you want to link your external bank accounts or enter transactions on your own.

5. Select an account type 

YNAB provides two options during setup: budgeting and tracking.

Budgeting accounts hold money. Use them to track daily expenses. They include checking, savings, cash, credit card, and line of credit accounts. 

Tracking accounts include assets and liabilities like 401(k)s and mortgages. They don’t impact your daily budget, but they help you keep tabs on your overall financial situation.

6. Start budgeting 

After you set up your accounts, head over to the budgeting screen. Look for a figure on your screen with a total amount that you can budget. For example, it may say that you have $3,000 to budget.

After that, go through each category and allocate your money into different buckets. 

7. Track your progress

The final step is to make budgeting part of your daily routine. Set aside a time every day to log in and either check your balances or update your spending. Make this a priority so you stay on track.

Is YNAB hard to set up and use?

You may need to spend some time poking around and experiencing the platform before you get the hang of it. 

Truth be told, there’s a bit of a learning curve for YNAB. Categorizing can also be tedious, especially if you have a lot of daily transactions. On top of that, loan and credit card information can be confusing to set up in the system.

Current YNAB Promotions

Here are the best promotions for YNAB as of this writing.

YNAB referral program

All YNAB subscribers receive a unique referral link they can share with friends and family members. After your friend signs up, you can track their progress on a referral dashboard to see how much time is remaining in their thirty-four day trial. 

If the friend signs up at the end of the free trial, you’ll both get a free month of YNAB. So it’s a win-win. 

Free thirty-four day trial

During signup, you get a free thirty-four day trial. This is a great chance to see if you like YNAB without having to commit any financial resources. 

You can cancel at any time during the trial without having to pay. 

YNAB Security

According to YNAB, security is its top priority. The company uses password hashing, data encryption, and accredited data centers.

YNAB outlines a variety of additional protections in its security policy. It’s a good idea to scope this out before signing up.  

But don’t worry. YNAB is legit and safe to use. You shouldn’t have any reservations about trusting the platform with managing your personal data. 

Customer Service and Support

You may occasionally need to communicate with a support specialist when using YNAB. Unfortunately, YNAB doesn’t currently offer support by phone. 

However, you can use live chat to communicate with a representative. You can also submit a help ticket through the YNAB mobile app.

YNAB also offers a free help center with a full library of answers. You may be able to use this for quick self-service to find the solutions you’re looking for.

YNAB Pros and Cons

These are some of the advantages and disadvantages of YNAB.

Pros

  • Great for learning budgeting
  • Mobile app
  • Save hundreds or thousands of dollars per year
  • Dual budgeting component 
  • Referral program 
  • 34-day free trial 
  • Helpful graphs and reports
  • Goal-setting feature for long-term tracking

Cons

  • Not free
  • The platform can be buggy
  • No phone support
  • Budgeting only — no additional financial functions

YNAB Alternatives

Here are some of the top YNAB alternatives.

Mint

Mint is one of the most comprehensive financial analysis platforms on the market. You can use Mint for a variety of financial tasks — like controlling your spending, checking account balances, and monitoring your credit score. Mint, which is free to download and use, also has a useful budgeting feature. 

Personal Capital 

Personal Capital is another great platform for managing personal finances. The app has several tools, including a net worth tracker, retirement planner, and fee analyzer. Budgeting is also available through the Personal Capital platform.

Personal Capital’s financial tools are free to download and use. 

If you want to use the platform’s wealth management service, the company charges an 0.89 percent account management fee. However, this isn’t available to everyone; you need at least $100,000 in your account to access it.

Honeydue 

Honeydue is another free budgeting app. This one’s designed specifically for couples.

The app allows users to budget together to make more informed decisions about their financial well-being. You can track different accounts, coordinate bills, and even chat with your partner in the app to give praise or ask about transactions. 

EveryDollar

EveryDollar provides a platform for tracking daily transactions. This app has a free and a premium version. The free version requires you to enter transactions manually every day.

Automation is available through the app’s premium plans, which cost $59.99 (three months), $99.99 (six months), and $129.99 (twelve months).

Quicken

Quicken offers a robust tool for budgeting that syncs to more than 14,000 financial institutions. You can use Quicken to discover savings opportunities, track spending, and create goals.

You Need a Budget FAQs 

These are some of the most frequently asked questions about YNAB.

Does YNAB work?

Full disclaimer: YNAB can’t work miracles. It can be very effective, but you have to use it and stick to the plan to accomplish your objectives.

If you sign up thinking YNAB will automatically solve your financial problems, it won’t. What it can do is provide solid budgeting advice and tools to help you understand and limit your spending. 

Do I need a budgeting app?

You don’t necessarily need to use a personal finance app for budgeting. You can make a budget using a traditional spreadsheet or even a notepad.

The nice thing about using a budgeting app is you can take it with you wherever you go. Using apps like YNAB, Mint, and Personal Capital, you can turn your phone into a hub for financial management.

You need to budget regardless of your income level. It doesn’t matter what budgeting method you use, as long as you’re using one.

Does YNAB provide real-time updates?

YNAB updates in near real-time. Expect a short delay for credit card, checking, and savings transactions to clear in the app. 

The Bottom Line

YNAB is one of the best personal finance tools on the market. But that’s exactly what it is — a tool. To benefit from it, you have to put it to use. 

If you’re serious about taking control of your finances, it’s worth spending extra money on a yearly plan. In all likelihood, you’ll save a lot more than you spend on YNAB. 

You can use this app to monitor your cash flow and expenses across different spending categories. Plus, you’ll have an easier time reaching your savings goals. You can even gain advanced tracking across investment accounts and liabilities for even more benefits.

At first, budgeting may be hard. You might even hate it. 

But take my word for it: Stick it out. Most things that are really difficult at first turn out to be worth it in the end.

With the right approach to budgeting, your savings will pile up over time. Your stress levels should also plummet as it gets easier to pay bills and make ends meet. 

And just think: Every day you budget gets you one step closer to financial freedom. Take a deep breath, relax, and start budgeting today.

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