Mint or YNAB: The Growing Demand for Money Management Tools

Mint is a popular money management app that has carved out a space for itself in the personal finance industry. It effectively addressed a gap in the market by providing smart financial advice to young professionals eager to get a grip on their money.

Since its launch in 2006, a number of competitors have cropped up to challenge Mint’s popularity. One such alternative is You Need A Budget, known as YNAB for short, prompting users to conduct comparisons of YNAB vs. Mint.

mint vs ynab

Image Source: YNAB or Mint?

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Mint vs. YNAB: Purpose and Mission

A distinction to make when comparing Mint vs. YNAB is the difference between the two company’s missions. While both are money management apps, they differ in their approaches.

Mint is meant for budgeting and tracking your expenses in a way that allows you to gain a better understanding of where your money is going. Aside from that, you are ultimately responsible for how you allocate your money and what you do with the information that Mint provides you. Think of it as a financial information tracking tool.

The YNAB alternative app to Mint differs in its approach. Not only does it provide users with money management tools, it also provides an entire philosophy around personal finance. Users are encouraged to think about their money in a purposive way that enables them to use their money meaningfully.

The YNAB Alternative: An Innovative Approach

You Need A Budget’s goal is to present an alternative to traditional ways of saving money and creating budgets. YNAB sees budgeting as a breakdown of a person’s priorities. Instead of viewing budgets as a sacred text that must be followed to the letter, YNAB emphasizes the importance of a flexible budget that is adaptable to life’s occurrences.

This is a useful approach. One Gallup poll found that only 32 percent of Americans take the time to put together a comprehensive budget each month. Not creating a realistic budget or failing to build an emergency savings fund are among the top reasons why many budgets fail. YNAB is meant to provide a solution to this problem. It makes sense why these two factors would regularly derail budgets.

Underestimating your expenses or how much you spend on certain variables, like groceries, and thereby going over budget can lead you to say, “Forget it” and toss the whole plan out. In addition, failing to build emergency savings may mean you go entirely over budget one month when an unexpected expense crops up, causing you to lose morale in the entire endeavor.

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YNAB or Mint: YNAB Reinvents How You Think About Money

When looking at YNAB vs. Mint, take into account your personal competence with money and whether you have a good understanding of your finances. For those who are good about saving and really only need an easy, user-friendly tool, either program should work just fine. However, if you need to completely reprogram your mentality towards money, YNAB may be the better option.

At the core of YNAB’s philosophy are priorities. Any individuals embarking on a goal towards financial security should have an understanding of what is important to them and what brings them joy.

YNAB alternatives in the financial technology industry certainly allow users to set goals, but there is rarely as much emphasis on sitting down and really thinking about them – either alone or with a partner – as there is with YNAB.

According to YNAB, determining what your priorities are will help guide the rest of your financial decisions. This makes sense. YNAB encourages users to take into account day-to-day goals they may have as opposed to just long-term goals, like retirement or emergency savings (although those considerations are important as well).

For example, if your goal is to eat healthier foods, this will be an important consideration when creating your budget. Your budget will need to reflect a higher price for groceries and quality food items. Additionally, you will know to allocate a smaller percentage of your discretionary income towards eating out.

With setting your priorities as the overarching imperative, YNAB has three guiding steps or principles:

  1. Give every dollar a job.
  2. Embrace your true expenses.
  3. Roll with the punches.

YNAB presents a refreshing way to look at money that makes the dull task of budgeting feel like embarking on a spiritual journey as opposed to a tedious chore. Instead of thinking of budgeting as a straitjacket, YNAB presents budgeting as a way to make the best use of your money in the same way we are often encouraged to make the best use of our time.

YNAB alternatives present budgeting as a tiresome task that can be made more enjoyable with colorful charts and a nice interface while YNAB actually paints budgeting as a way of life. If you get a three-hour break in a busy week, chances are, at the outset, you will feel excited at all the things you can now do. However, as you start breaking down the time, those three hours will no longer feel like enough.

If you originally planned to take a nap, watch a movie, read a book or call an old friend, you are soon required to make an assessment of which activities are a better use of your time. As YNAB notes, this requires honesty about how much time each activity will actually take and recognition of how finite your time is.

According to YNAB’s philosophy, the same idea applies to your money. You only have a finite amount. While this realization does not mean you have to live an ascetic lifestyle, it does allow you to do something important: give every dollar a job.

Once each dollar is assigned a purpose, you can understand its value better. If you decide that $400 in your budget has a specific purpose, you either leave it in place until it answers the call of duty or reassign it after deciding another task is more important. If you think of your money in this way, it limits the risk of impulsively deciding that drink money for another night out is a better use of a hundred dollars you specifically set aside for car insurance.

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YNAB Presents a More Realistic Way of Allocating Your Money

Ever allocate a specific amount of time to complete a task, only to realize halfway through that it’s not going to be enough? The same thing happens with money, and responding to this in an honest way is crucial for preserving the integrity of your budget.

If you realize that a certain expense will unavoidably cost more each month, make the adjustment. Your budget is not set in stone, and YNAB recognizes that avoiding this reality can take your financial goals off track and advises that you embrace your true expenses.Finally, YNAB, in opposition to YNAB alternatives that condition us to beat ourselves up when unexpected expenses crop up, advises users to roll with the punches. Traditional budgets encourage us to stick to them at all costs, but an adaptable plan is crucial to successful money management.

YNAB or Mint: User-Friendliness and Layout

Mint allows you to see all of your accounts in one place. You can link your checking and savings accounts, PayPal account, and credit cards to your Mint account and receive an overall picture of your financial situation.

Its layout shows these accounts in a narrow pane to the left. The rest of the screen shows you useful information, like your credit score, how you’re doing on your monthly budget, and any upcoming bills that need to be paid.

YNAB cuts right to the chase. Its platform is all about putting its three principles to use. Users can still find an overview of their multiple cash and credit accounts in a narrow pane on the left, but the rest of their dashboard is taken up by a breakdown of their budget. The purpose of users’ money is put right in their face and is unavoidable.

If you’re deciding whether to go with YNAB or Mint, YNAB provides a more proactive, purposeful approach to money management.

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YNAB or Mint: Setup, Tracking, and Budgeting

Mint provides a convenient option for importing multiple accounts from the same bank at once. YNAB provides the same service, but it requires a more manual approach. Unlike Mint, if you have multiple accounts at the same bank, you are required to enter your information for each separate account.

While Mint may provide the more convenient option, YNAB has a faster setup. Mint experiences delays in getting some accounts linked up while YNAB has accounts ready to go and an overall balance to display within 24 hours.

When it comes to tracking expenses, Mint is the clear winner. This is to be expected as expense tracking is part of Mint’s unique value proposition. Mint provides an easy and convenient method for viewing expenses and searching for specific transactions. 

With regard to budgeting, the main difference between YNAB and Mint is the approach the two apps take as opposed to any serious flaws with the programs. Whereas Mint takes a more rigid approach to budgeting that emphasizes the traditional, disciplined approach, YNAB allows for flexibility so long as every single dollar accounted by the app is assigned a purpose.

YNAB’s approach to budgeting emphasizes this. A “To Be Budgeted” amount is displayed at the top of the screen to always remind you of the money that has yet to be allocated. If you are someone who has a tendency to spend leftover money without putting any towards savings, this is a helpful way to remind you that every dollar has value and should be treated accordingly.

One department in which Mint excels is its visuals and graphics for displaying trends and account information. This method of presenting dull financial data in a fun, digestible way is a celebrated feature of Mint’s brand. In this department, YNAB simply doesn’t compare.

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YNAB or Mint: Pricing

YNAB is $5 a month or $50 a year while Mint is free. In comparing Mint vs. YNAB, those who are just getting started with personal money management are most likely to choose Mint. Not only is it free, but it has substantial name recognition, a strong band, and a solid following that swears by its features.

YNAB may be hard-pressed to win over people with its subscription-based business model when there are free YNAB alternatives with similar features. The trade-off for Mint’s free service is the persistent ads and product recommendations.

At the end of the day, whether you choose YNAB or Mint or another alternative, the important part is your choice to utilize a tool that empowers you to take a proactive approach to your money.

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