Top 5 reasons I switched from Mint to YNAB

I am on the road to pay off my student loans and am a bit of a budget nerd and a Dave Ramsey fan.  I have been using for about 5 years and this month (August 2014) I finally made the switch to YNAB. I carefully considered switching from Mint to YNAB for about a week. I attended several webinars and learned the ins and outs of how to use YNAB and what they are all about. I finally bit the bullet the purchased YNAB, and here are the top 5 reasons (in no order) for why I am loving it.

The user experience

Maybe its my inner nerd, maybe its the fact that I love excel, but the user interface for YNAB is just awesome. In Mint you constantly have to switch between screens to get the information you want. Here are a few examples that drove me crazy and how YNAB nails it:

  • Landing on the overview page when you login – this does me ZERO good outside of just seeing my balances.
    • YNAB takes you straight into the budget screen… DUH!
  • Want to see what transactions are in each category? You have to click on the category name to get to a new screen that has them listed – then, you have to go back to the budget screen. UGH!
    • YNAB lets you click on the total amount you have spent in each category, then a small bubble appears showing the transaction for it! GENIUS! Untitled
  • Mints budget screen might look cool, but it ends there. If you need to change the amount in a category you can use little arrow when you hover over them to adjust by 10 dollars. Oh, you want to be more exact than that (zero based) – then you need to click the little edit details link, then you get a pop-up where you can enter a new dollar amount. Seriously?
    • YNAB lets you simply press any numerical operator on your keyboard and you get a calculator that will adjust that category. Whoever decided this needs a raise! calculator

Looking ahead

This is one of the biggest reasons I started looking for alternatives to Mint. With Mint you can only look at the present and past months for budgets. Want to get ahead at all – too bad. This is where YNAB saves the day. By being able to look at future months you can work your way up to being a month ahead of your expenses – which is one of YNAB main goals for you. On top of that, you can start setting aside money now for future expenses. Speaking of which, lets talk about digital envelopes.

Digital Envelopes

Mint has a somewhat hard to find option to let you start each new month with the previous months leftover amount for a category – but this feature always gave me issues and was hard to plan with since you could never look ahead into next month. Alternatively you could try to save for a goal with Mint, but unless you wanted to hold the money in a separate bank account it would never work. With YNAB you can think of each category as a digital envelope. Each category has the following for each month:

  • Budgeted – The amount you set aside for the particular category for a particular month
  • Outflows – Transactions within the particular category that have occurred in a particular month
  • Balance – The total amount of money remaining in the particular category

So whats the big deal? Its August when I am writing this, so I am going to use the ‘Budgeted’ column and put in $150 each month into my “Christmas” category. By the time December comes I will have $600 in the ‘Balance’ column for this category (assuming I buy no presents prior to December) and will be able to buy presents worry free! Since I will have the money already set aside come December my stress level for Christmas has gone to zero – thanks YNAB!

Working with that I have

Oh Mint, I love how you just assume the world is a simple place. When its time to budget in Mint they want you to take the amount of income you will get for current month, then list your spending for the current month. Don’t get paid until the 15th? Too bad, Mint doesn’t care. Mint only cares about total income minus total spending for the current month and does not consider existing money in your accounts. Have to pay rent on the 1st? Then you better make sure you have it in the bank, because Mint will just assume that if your total income is more or exact yo your total spending, you are all good! Enter YNAB. YNAB starts you with ALL of your money – and thats it – and thats how it should be. The bottom line is that with YNAB you should be working with money that you have TODAY – not next week or next month. Why you might ask? Simple – shit happens. This is a good thing though because this addresses the issue with Mint. With YNAB you enter income as you get it – and not before. By doing this you are forced to prioritize expenses and are encouraged to get a month ahead of your expenses. Once you achieve this its awesome, and you can sleep at night like a baby – even when the transition of a month is coming.

Manually adding transactions

Initially I was torn with this. The one thing I LOVED about Mint was the fact that it would automatically track all my accounts and expenses/income. But then it would happen – I would login to Mint and the dreaded yellow exclamation point showed up. Some website was down, or I had changed my password, or I had to answer a security questions, or blah blah blah. While this didn’t happen often, it SUCKED when it did happen. Why? Because you couldn’t see your latest transaction or know where your budget stands! YNAB saves the day! Guess what – no more account syncing. You may not like this at first, but you will once you get started. First, it addresses the biggest issue I had above. Second (and more importantly) it changes your mindset. For me, I used to spend a bit more freely with Mint because things would just show up that I had spent and it was no big deal. With YNAB I find myself thinking a bit longer before I spend money knowing that I am going to have to fully acknowledge that I am spending this by adding it myself to YNAB (I use the mobile app for this). I know it may sound lame, but this extra step made my mentality change and require an extra step of mental validation before I spend money.

But wait, YNAB costs money!

Yes – YNAB costs money and Mint is free. That being said (and being on the other side of the fence) trust me – it’s worth it! Good news as well – they have a free 34 day trial so you can try it out for yourself today. Plus, since I bought it already you can get another free month on top of your 34 day trial using the link below. Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment or question below as well!

YNAB Free Month  – (

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  • DebtKilla

    It costs $60 with or without your discount.

  • jagg2637

    Make sure you click on ‘Purchase’ in the navigation next to ‘Method’. If you click on the one that appears in the ribbon at the very top it might not apply. Let me know if you still have any trouble with it!

  • Andrew

    I’d love to read a follow-up blog 6 months from now. One thing I’ve heard from friends is that they LOVE ynab the first few months, and then the reality of inputting every single purchase starts to really build. Life happens, and they find themselves stressed out once a week trying to figure out where and what they have spent.

    Mint & YNAB come down to discipline. Either way you cut it — budgeting takes discipline and a software isn’t going to solve the root of a problem.

    Please do a follow up blog — because I’m considering the switch to YNAB from mint.

  • jagg2637

    If you are on twitter you can follow me (, as I post my blogs up on there as well. I will for sure do a follow up once we hit next year. At this point I am in month 2 and still going strong. I HIGHLY suggest getting the mobile app to enter in transactions, then using the desktop version to reconcile and map out your actual budget. If there wasn’t a mobile app it would have been a deal breaker for me.

  • jagg2637

    Just realized I had a typo in my twitter link. Here is the correct link:

  • cws05nuts

    No one comes close to

  • jagg2637

    For overall financial TRACKING I don’t disagree, it is awesome. However when it comes to BUDGETING Personal Capital is lacking compared to YNAB. You can track what you do with your money but its all reactive vs proactive. It lacks any real way to budget out your income ahead of time for expenses, or plan for future expenses.

  • Great post! I found and fell in love with YNAB last May. I was so skeptical that I waited until Day 32 of the free trial to buy it. Now, I can’t imagine managing my money any way other than zero-balance budgeting with the Four Rules of YNAB. YNAB is so real that YNAB itself told me I couldn’t afford it (even discounted) until I had a few more paychecks in hand! I keep discovering closet YNABers in my life, and I wonder why they never told me. So I’m telling everybody!

  • Try doing both! There are some YNABers who use it *with* Mint, actually. YNAB has a 34-day free trial, too.

    Maybe my experience can help. I am 9 months in. Disclaimers: Before YNAB, I was doing manual expense tracking in Excel. I’m persnickety by nature, so manual entry doesn’t bother me. I’ve never used Mint. You *can* download transactions from your bank and import them into YNAB, but I don’t.

    Mint is meant for expense tracking: telling you what you already spent. YNAB is meant for budgeting: telling you how you planned to spend your money. YNAB (the company) sells desktop software so you can keep your zero-balance budget electronically without programming any formulas.

    YNAB is actually big on education, which addresses the root problem, as you wrote. You can set up your own spreadsheet to keep a zero-balance budget if you want, or do it by hand on paper. You can even learn the Four Rules of YNAB for free from the site. YNAB makes money by doing the programming part for you. And it works!

  • jagg2637

    Thanks for the comment Lindsay! I was in that boat too – I tried to recreate YNAB in excel before I finally gave up and just bought it. I love being a full month ahead and living on last months income. You should sign up for my newsletter or follow me on twitter so you can know when I post next! I plan on posting some budgeting tips next and will be posting my progress each month towards becoming debt free. Thanks again for commenting!

  • Angela

    Just wanted to point out that I recently found a new personal finance app (for PC) named Geltbox Money ( that eliminates the need for third party aggregation services.

    Geltbox is a personal financial aggregator designed for homes and small businesses. Geltbox gives you a clear overview of your expenses, investments, loans and assets. It aims to help you plan your monthly savings and your investments. The ultimate goal is to help you reach financial security.

    What makes Geltbox Money special and unique?

    Geltbox Money lets you sync to any financial website in the world.

    No need to use online financial aggregators, which are limited to certain financial institutions.

    Record your own downloaders and have them run automatically in your device.

    Can work in most countries in the world.

    Data and credentials are stored and encrypted locally.

    No need to give away your user names and passwords.

    No need to store your personal financial information online.

    many more features…

  • James Taylor

    I use Geltbox Money.