6 Best Free and Cheap YNAB Alternatives in 2022 • Benzinga

We have the tools you need to succeed with this whole budgeting thing

Direct import? Yep. Monthly funding goals? Got ‘em. You won’t be alone, either. We offer more than fifteen different free live Q&As—things like “Create a Debt Paydown Plan” and “Saving Money On Groceries.” And we have an active community of YNABers who are happy to help new budgeters, alongside our stellar support team.

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YNAB vs. Mint

  YNAB does not guess at transaction categorizatio YNAB does not guess at transaction categorization, like competing sites do, but you can set up rules to automate this process for some payees.

YNAB’s budgeting tools differ from Mint’s. Mint logs all your transactions automatically and does an excellent job of guessing spending categories so that you don’t have to. But Mint’s budgeting is completely different. Instead of thinking about how much money you have to spend, Mint shows you how much money you historically have spent in any given category. Then it suggests a budget limit based on that amount. You keep an eye on how much you’re spending day to day, and Mint delivers push notifications if you creep up to your ceiling. You can always tweak your budget as spending patterns become clearer with time. 

In some ways, it’s a philosophical difference, but the difference is this: You make a complete budget based on how much money you expect to earn in a given month and how much you think you will need for your categories in YNAB. In Mint, you set spending limits on yourself based on your history of spending, regardless of where the rest of your money goes. You’re not really balancing a budget (though Mint keeps a running tally of income versus expenses). You’re simply trying to stay below the limit you’ve set for each category. YNAB wants you to use all of your money every month, even if some of it goes to prepaying line items in the next month’s budget.

YNAB Community

The YNAB community includes:

  • YNAB Blog
  • YNAB Forum
  • YNAB Podcast
  • YNAB YouTube

YNAB, it seems, has evolved from a single budgeting app to becoming more like a community of like-minded people. 

Excellent Security

YNAB, like the other services I’ve reviewed in the personal finance space, promises to keep your information encrypted and secure and makes its full security policy publicly available. The policy is strong, especially the part about completely deleting your account should you choose to leave the service (some personal finance sites let your data hang around for a time even after you’ve stopped using them). It uses bank-grade or better encryption, and it does not store your bank credentials. YNAB is not a fly-by-night company; it’s been around since 2004. In addition, the company has multiple security types, including two-step verification.

Account accessibility has improved since my last review. YNAB works with multiple companies that provide the connections made to your bank accounts, such as Plaid. If you don’t like the provider you start with, you can switch to another—an unusual feature for a personal finance service.


What Are YNAB and Mint?

YNAB and Mint are both budgeting platforms with mobile apps from which you can manage your budget. A budget is a plan for how you’re going to spend and save your money. There are many budgeting strategies a person can use to manage their money. 

Both YNAB and Mint draw from the envelope budgeting strategy. The concept requires you to assign your income to different spending and savings categories. Traditionally, this strategy uses cash in actual envelopes. Once the money is gone from the envelope, the budgeter will need to stop spending in that category or borrow from another envelope. Digital budgeting often uses the same concept but requires a bit more self-discipline to stick to spending and saving goals. 

How Do YNAB and Mint Work?

YNAB and Mint allow you to set up digital envelopes or spending goals for each category in which you typically spend money. These can include planned bills like rent or a mortgage in addition to variable costs like groceries and health care expenses, which you’ll need to estimate. 

Mint develops spending goals for you based on your spending history, which you can adjust to your liking. YNAB goes a step further by coaching you through the process of setting realistic spending goals that will help you save. Both services provide you with reports so you can track your progress. 

Who Should Use YNAB or Mint?

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, are overwhelmed by debt, or want to make big changes to your finances to help you save more, YNAB is going to provide you with more guidance and a bigger overhaul to your budgeting strategy than Mint will. If you just want to keep track of where your money’s going, make small adjustments to your spending habits to reach your savings goals, and have access to your credit score, Mint should do the job. 

Since YNAB has a free trial and a money-back guarantee, don’t weigh the price difference too heavily when making your decision. If you think Mint will work better for you, go ahead and download it since it’s free. And if you think YNAB will work better for you, give it a try. If after 34 days you feel like you could accomplish the same thing on your own with a free app like Mint, then cancel. But if you find it to be a game-changer, remember that you can absorb the cost with how much you save. 


Both platforms provide automatic synchronization of your bank, credit card and loan accounts with many financial institutions.

While Mint supports a larger number of banks and financial services than YNAB, it also seems to have a lot more technical problems with synchronization. This is an ongoing complaint among users; you can feel their frustration when you read their comments on synchronization on Mint’s forums. Not only does Mint seem to have a lot of disruptive issues, they seem to have a bad reputation for not fixing the synchronization issues in a timely fashion.

Synchronization is an area where YNAB excels over Mint.

Winner — YNABWinner — YNAB

Which is Better? YNAB or Mint?

There are several similarities between the two apps, but they have a different focus. YNAB is really about changing the way that you think about your money. As their website says:

  “What really makes You Need A Budget different is that we can teach you how to manage your money and get ahead-for good. What if your bills rolled in, and instead of piling up, you just paid them? No sweat. What if you didn’t even realize it was payday because you had money in the bank and weren’t desperate for that check to arrive? Forget everything you think you know about budgeting and prepare to experience total control.

The idiomatic language, the use of italics, and a sentence in bold type lend themselves to the style of a personal trainer. And this is exactly what YNAB is trying to be. YNAB is the personal finance equivalent of the trainer that makes you do the extra ten minutes on the running machine.

No one really needs a personal trainer to do exercise, but having one and paying a fee encourages you to commit yourself. It is the same with YNAB. You are paying them to make you work on your money rather than your body. 

One client who is quoted on the YNAB website states, “When I started using YNAB, the heavens opened, and angels sang! Seriously, it was so simple! It really clicked with me.”

Many reviewers state that the personal finance platform is easy to use and quickly becomes a habit. YNAB is in the business of creating converts who won’t mind paying the fee.

Mint’s website is soberer:

  “We help you stay on top of your accounts, bills, and subscriptions. Get notified when your subscription costs increase and when bills are due.”

If YNAB’s budgeting software is a combination of a personal trainer, running machine, and you, Mint is simply you and the running machine. You can use Mint just as you use YNAB to monitor your income and expenses but with Mint, what you do with this information is up to you.

The treadmill is in your spare room, but are you going to use it?

The big difference is that YNAB is proactive, Mint is good at tracking your expenses and income. Which is better is a matter of personal choice. If you need a trainer, then YNAB is for you. If you prefer to go it alone, then Mint will work well.

YNAB vs. Mint: Mobile App

Both Mint and YNAB have strong mobile apps, and are available on a similar range of devices. You can use either on iOS or Android, on a desktop via web browser, and on Apple Watch. YNAB further allows you to access YNAB via Android watches.

Most of the same features available on the web interface are available via the two apps’ mobile interfaces as well. And both are well-designed to provide an overview as well as drill-down detail into accounts and transactions.

Both YNAB and Mint have some interaction ability with Alexa smart speakers. And while you can also engage with YNAB via Google Assistant, Mint’s Google Assistant integration only works for those who have Mint installed on an Android phone. 

YNAB vs. Mint: Security

Both YNAB and Mint use bank-level encryption and undergo regular third-party security audits. The Mint app is protected with a four-digit code and features multi-factor authentication. You can also enable two-step verification in your YNAB account settings. 

Mint vs YNAB: Teaching Children About Money

Children don’t learn much about managing their finances in their schools and some parents are reluctant to talk about financial matters with their kids. A child can leave school knowing a lot more about calculus than about personal finance. This is a pity because the sooner you learn how to manage your money the better. It is, after all, an essential skill. 

YNAB produces some YouTube videos aimed at educating children but there are apps specifically for young people. For young children there are, for example:

  • Allowance+. Free or $0.99 a month
  • PiggyBot. Free
  • Rooster- Free for the basic version

For teens:

  • Bankaroo. The basic version is free
  • BusyKid. Free
  • gohenry $3.99 a month

Children will find that these apps are easy and fun to use. They will help to make children more aware of the value of money and help them learn lessons that will serve them well as they get older.


The big perk with using the YNAB app is that it forces you to be thoughtful about your money and it makes you allocate funds toward saving and investing. For these reasons, the app is favorable for anyone trying to get out of debt.

User reviews generally agree: According to YNAB's website, the average customer saves $600 in their first two months and more than $6,000 in their first year of using the app.

YNAB also offers educational resources, such as a budgeting blog, and superior personal customer support. Another big perk is YNAB's 100+ free, live, online workshops offered every week by expert teachers. Workshops are short (20 minutes) and designed around different subject matters, such as "Getting Started," "Debit and "Credit Cards", "Building Savings" and "When Money's Tight."

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: 

  1. 💸 Give every dollar a job. Every dollar you earn (and have in your budget) should be allocated to a specific purpose. 
  2. 🧘 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. 
  3. 🥊 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.
  4. 🗓️ 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.

Bottom line

For a budgeting app that really puts you in control of your finances, You Need A Budget (YNAB) is a clear winner. Its zero-based budgeting approach lets you be be purposeful in your spending and saving for the future.

If you are trying to get out of debt and stop living paycheck to paycheck, check out the app's free trial to see if it works for you.

Those looking for a budgeting app with less commitment should try Mint (rated the best free app) or PocketGuard, which has an automated savings feature and sets spending limits for its users.

Learn more: 5 tips on what to look for when choosing a budgeting app

YNAB vs. Mint: Account Setup

To track your expenses in either app, you begin by linking your various financial accounts. After identifying the financial institution where you have an account, you’re prompted to enter your online username and password, and then both Mint and YNAB establish an ongoing connection to that account, which regularly updates with new transactions.

After you’ve entered all of your bank and credit card accounts, Mint allows you to further add loan or investment accounts. This allows you to track their current balances as part of your overall net worth picture in Mint. But note that these account types do not allow managing or interacting with individual transactions in any way. In other words, it is a “read only” link for these accounts.

In YNAB, account setup is just the beginning. The heart of YNAB’s approach is to use the information gleaned from analyzing your past spending to create a plan for how you’ll spend next month’s income. So account setup is followed by the critical step of allocating your funds in the budget area of the app.

Distinguishing Features

YNAB requires a little more time and attention to learn than other budgeting apps that are more “set it and forget it.” The good news is that YNAB doesn’t leave it up to you to learn how to successfully navigate the app alone.

Your YNAB account also comes with access to dozens of live workshops each week covering every aspect of the app and how to budget using YNAB. There are also hundreds of helpful articles and guides, a YNAB podcast and an online forum to help you get started and to answer questions as they arise.

Take Control of Your Money

Whether you’re in college or a working professional balancing a career and raising a family, you can use a budget app. Even if you aren’t in debt, creating a budget and sticking to it will allow you to save more toward retirement or other financial goals like owning a home or buying a new car.

Whether you use YNAB, Mint, another competitor or simple pencil and paper, sit down with your bank statements today and draft a budget for you and your family. Your future wallet will thank you!

How Do I Add an Account with YNAB?

One of the first steps you’ll want to take, is to sync an account with YNAB, so that the software can start tracking your income and your expenses. 

In this case, you’ll want to hover to the top of the dashboard, where you see the title “Add an Account” and click on “Start!”

Customer Service and Education

Neither Mint nor YNAB offers customer service support via phone.

When you click on the support button on Mint’s website, there is a list of common questions and issues you can scroll through to help yourself. If you can’t find the answer to your question, you can either email the team or hit the chat button for online help. Response to my specific inquiry from Mint was slow. Spotty customer service seems to be a recurring experience of users who post on their website forum.

YNAB offers email support with the promise that you’ll receive a reply from a real person within 24 hours of sending your question or concern. My question was answered in less than three hours, and I was provided a link to their “get started” class, which is a tutorial that helps you prioritize your financial obligations and goals. You don’t have to be a paying customer — or even signed up for the free trial — to take the class.

Additionally, everybody can benefit from the help and support that comes from regular interaction with others in similar circumstances. You’ll find that help in the user forums on both Mint and YNAB. Each also publishes a blog, MintLife, and The YNAB Blog, with educational articles to help you improve your money management skills.

Both YNAB and Mint offer online training videos and tutorials that make learning quick and easy. YNAB’s training is more comprehensive, and their customer service seems more responsive. Of course, better customer service might be expected from a paid service than a free one.

Winner — YNABWinner — YNAB

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.

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