Personal Finance

YNAB (You Need a Budget) Personal Finance Software Review


Editor's Note

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Instead of the usual food post, thought I’d post this for you for “food for thought” lol. (Sorry Sandy @yesiamcheap I know you love my food posts!) I haven’t been out to eat very much so I don’t have anything new to share this month. Sorry guys- no food porn today.

As many of you know, I had a huge Quicken Home and Business software usage FAIL in January (despite my attempts, I was unable to master it or intuitively understand it). Don’t get me wrong, Quicken is great and there are so many people who swear by it. I know Quicken is a powerful machine/beast but for a simple gal like me, I was looking for something that wasn’t so difficult to look at and worked on my Mac without me having to go to a windows interface.

(What can I say, I’m a total convert to the Mac)

One of my readers suggested I get YNAB. What does it stand for?

You Need A Budget.

I was looking for something safer than and et voila, the idea of YNAB was planted in my mind by a Y& reader.

To find out whether you should stick with Mint or maybe try another popular budgeting app like YNAB, click here to read more about the different options and determine which one is right for you.

It has apparently taken the personal finance world by storm unbeknownst to me… and I can see why. It’s intuitive and it feels like “Quicken” but it is more aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly.

For one, there are video instructions on how to get started.

Secondly, there are instructions that you can click on when you toggle it with your cursor.

I am a big fan of easy-to-read, to-the-point instructions.

Thirdly, they seem to truly care about your budget because of their YNAB methodology

They have a YNAB philosophy composed of 4 principles or rules:

  1. Give every dollar a job
  2. Save for a rainy day (or other infrequent expenses like car insurance, property taxes, vacations etc.)
  3. Roll with the punches (the software is smart enough to take off the money you go OVER your budget in January from February- so that you WILL feel guilty and won’t be tempted to think you’re starting fresh… thus making you more accountable)
  4. Stop living paycheck to paycheck (they want you to spend THIS month what you earned LAST month)

Without further delay here is my PROs and CONs list for YNAB 3:


  • Runs on a MAC (need I say more, Mac fans?) (and of course runs on the PC as well)
  • Easy on the eyes, very visually friendly
  • User-friendly (not as user-friendly as but easier than Quicken, that’s for sure!)
  • You can manually import/download your data from your banking account just like you can do for Quicken.
  • There’s an Android and iPhone application for YNAB (yes, there’s an app for that)
  • You can track your budget on the go with the app, and then SYNC your data (safely through wifi connection, IP addresses, and a password) with YNAB on your computer
  • It has really nifty charts and graphs that appeal further to the visual person in you
  • It’s FREE for you to try for 34 days…and then.. see the CONS…
  • If you are paranoid about hackers accessing your information on (really, who isn’t? We all should be paranoid, unfortunately) but you don’t like the sterility of Quicken, then YNAB may be for you.
  • Call me crazy, but the YNAB people actually sound like they CARE (unlike the big conglomerate companies I suppose). They care that you save. They want you to save and they want you to stop living pay cheque to pay cheque. They even created a YNAB philosophy to show that they care about you. Apparently, YNAB users save on average
  • Seriously, they even have LIVE ONLINE CLASSES to help you with your budget. Of course, you can always watch the prerecorded courses as well.
  • I love the tabbed look of “January” “February” and “March” 2012 and you can see the month forward or behind to keep track.


  • This is personal finance software. It’s NOT the software you want to use if you have a home-based business or anything complicated for that matter
  • Unlike it doesn’t automatically “sync” your data directly from the banks/credit card accounts- However, according to YNAB, this is done purposefully so that as a person with a budget, it will FORCE you to look at your information and input your data and expenditure. It will force you to keep your budget tight instead of slacking off.
  • After the 34 blissful days are up, you won’t be able to use it unless you pay for it (makes sense for me, I suppose LOL). The cost of it is US$99 when paid annually (or $14.99/month on the monthly plan). The good thing is that they don’t charge you for upgrades (unlike Quicken where you may need to go out and buy new software every few years)

My Verdict?

As you can see from the disproportionate Pros and Cons list…I’m a fan. Although it’s $60 for the software + $4.99 for the iPhone app, I think it’s worth its money, especially for the amount of support you get (classes, videos, explanations etc.).If you’re an Excel whiz (which I am not) you probably don’t need YNAB, but if you’re not and you’re struggling with budgeting, YNAB is probably the way to go. I do love how has automatic details about your bank accounts etc. but I worry about security and I do understand that I’m not actually “budgeting” when I just update my

Here are some pictures of what YNAB looks like. They are screenshots (yeah get to practice that function on my Macbook Pro again).

The numbers I inputted are just made up, so don’t get too excited okay? 😉 This is what the budgeting portion of YNAB looks like. Note the awesome blue tabs.

This is what one of the graphs looks like:

This is what the iPhone app looks like:

Pretty easy to use and simple to look at.. and there’s a security Passcode option as well.

To summarize, YNAB is an easier-to-use, less-powerful version of Quicken. If you don’t like complicated detail-oriented spreadsheets (like Quicken), YNAB is the way to go.

I’m just going to end with a cheesy mock-MC commercial not that I’m selling/affiliate linking this software, just giving my honest opinion on it.

  • $99 (paid annually) for budgeting software? Check
  • YNAB app? Check
  • Peace of mind with your budget and confidence in your personal finance?
  • Priceless

Readers, have you ever used YNAB? It seems Canadian friendly btw (hurrah!). For those who have tried Quicken and YNAB and Mint which one won your heart and why?

Young young


Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals.

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