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 Mint.com 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!
- 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!
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.
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!