Have you ever heard of You Need a Budget (YNAB)? YNAB is a budgeting tool created to help you have better control over your finances.
It’s a great product. In fact, I’m going to give you the details on what it is and how it works. That way you can decide if it’s right for you.
However, I’m also going to share some YNAB alternatives. Depending on your budgeting style, you might not find YNAB a good fit.
We’ll show you some similar software programs to help you decide which budgeting program will offer you the most help.
There are many reasons why budgeting is important, and these tools will help you to do it better.
Table of Contents
What is You Need a Budget (YNAB)?
Let’s start by talking about how YNAB works. The goal of YNAB is to help you do three things better with your money:
- Stop living paycheck to paycheck
- Get out of debt
- Save more money
How is it able to help you meet these goals? First, you’ll link your bank and debt accounts to your YNAB account. It starts by asking you to define what’s most important to you. Is it your pets? Travel? Your kid’s sports programs?
Next, it’ll help you learn how to give every dollar you earn a job. Essentially, that’s all a budget is. The site helps you to put every dollar to work in the way that’s best for you.
You’ll assign some dollars for paying bills and others for paying fluid expenses. Other dollars will get assigned toward savings goals. For instance, you can make a goal to save up for a new smartphone.
And, you can change your budget line items whenever you need to. Let’s say that one month you’ve got an unexpected vet bill. Just adjust your YNAB numbers to cover for that by spending less in a different area — for example, eating out.
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The YNAB website says that the average new user will save $200 in the first month alone. Your first 34 days with YNAB are free. This means you can try it out for a whole month to see if it’s right for you.
After that, you’ll pay $84 a year to keep using the system. That’s about $7 a month.
And if for some reason you decide YNAB isn’t for you, it has a 100% money back guarantee.
Now you know about YNAB, but what else is out there? Let’s talk about some YNAB alternatives.
5 You Need a Budget (YNAB) Alternatives
There are a few different options you may want to check out. Each one helps you reach your financial goals better, but they all work differently.
Here are some details on each of the five You Need a Budget alternatives we found.
1. Personal Capital
Personal Capital will help you manage your money. However, it does so in a much more comprehensive way than YNAB.
When you sign up with Personal Capital, you start by linking all of your financial accounts. You’ll include checking, savings, credit card, loan, retirement and investment accounts. Now you’ve got a complete picture of your entire financial situation in one place.
Next, you need to choose between the services Personal Capital offers. One is a free financial tracking service. The others are paid financial advisory, wealth management and private banking services.
Free Financial Tracking
The free financial tracking tools help you keep an eye on your overall financial situation. It’s nice because you don’t have to check each account manually online.
Instead, you just pull up your Personal Capital account and get a full view of your net worth and financial picture. This service is completely free.
That said, you will regularly get calls from advisers whose goal is to have you upgrade to a paid service. You may find these annoying. Just keep in mind that you are not required to upgrade. As long as you follow the terms and conditions, you can use the free service for as long as you want.
Paid Advisory Services
Personal Capital also offers to manage your investments, for a fee. If you sign up for paid services, you’ll get access to a team of financial advisers. There’s a $25,000 minimum investment for this service, which is higher than competitor websites. If you’ve got $200,000 or more, you’ll get two dedicated financial advisers.
As of this writing, the fees for investment services are as follows:
- 0.89% annually for the first $1 million
- 0.79% annually for $1 million to $3 million
- 0.69% annually for $3 million to $5 million
- 0.59% annually for $5 million to $10 million
- 0.49% for over $10 million
These are also higher than competitors’ fees. Wealthfront, SigFig and Betterment for example, charge 0.25% to 0.35%. But Personal Capital’s overall package is considered one of the most comprehensive in the field.
Personal Capital’s Free Tool vs. YNAB
The main difference between YNAB and the free Personal Capital tool is that the Personal Capital tracking tool gives you a long-term view.
With YNAB, you can manage your budget in line with your paycheck. It’ll help you manage your money for the current week, two-week period or month.
Personal Capital is able to give you a big-picture, long-term view of your money. This is because it includes retirement and other accounts. Also, it shows you how your retirement savings picture looks based on your current spending.
It pulls together current spending numbers, spending goals and more to help make sure you’re on track to save enough for retirement.
Plus, this version of Personal Capital is totally free. You’ll only pay if you decide to use their advisory services.
2. Tiller Money
Tiller Money is another YNAB alternative. It puts much less emphasis on investing than Personal Capital. But it’s great for budgeting, expense tracking and deb payoff. In that way, it’s closer to YNAB.
The main difference between Tiller and the other options on this list is that it uses Excel and Google spreadsheets.
When you sign up with Tiller Money, you link up your accounts, just as you do with YNAB. Next, you’ll create customized spreadsheets to help you manage your money, such as:
- Monthly budget spreadsheet
- Debt snowball spreadsheet (yes, it’ll help you get debt-free using the debt snowball method)
- Net worth tracker
- Weekly expense tracker
The worksheets are attractively designed and super easy to view and use. In fact, I signed up for Tiller a while back and am loving it. It’s thorough but easy enough for tech novices like me to use.
And it’s affordable. Tiller Money costs $59 a year. That averages out to $4.92 per month.
Read more about it in my full review of Tiller Money.
Automated Email Updates
Another great feature of Tiller Money is that it’ll send you an email every day. The email notifies you of any new transactions that occurred in your accounts in the previous 24 hours.
To me, this is a nice way to ensure you can catch any unauthorized transactions on your accounts early. And it’s nice to see how much money I spent the day before at a glance. All in all, the system is pretty thorough.
Tiller Money vs. YNAB
The main difference between Tiller Money and YNAB is the customization aspect. Tiller Money does a great job at creating great spreadsheets that are completely customizable.
And it’ll automatically update every spreadsheet you create. Bonus: Tiller Money is cheaper than YNAB by about $2 a month. That’s not a lot, but we budget-obsessed people know that it all adds up.
Mint was founded in 2006 and is currently owned by Intuit. It offers you a way to budget and track your money in one place.
Like the other services listed here, Mint gives you easy access to your bank, credit card, investment and loan accounts all in one place.
It’ll also send you alerts if your bank account is running low or you have payments due on loans or credit cards. This is a nice feature because it helps ensure that you won’t accidentally forget to make a payment.
Late payments often result in late fees and raised interest rates. So in that way, Mint can help you save money.
In addition, Mint will let you know how much you’re paying in ATM and other fees. And it’ll alert you if there are any large or unusual transactions on your accounts.
Bonus: Mint helps you keep track of your net worth. It’s displayed at the top of your account every time you sign in.
Mint vs. YNAB
Both Mint and YNAB do a great job of helping you budget. Their interfaces and features are pretty similar.
However, Mint is completely free. There’s no charge to use it. That fact might leave you wondering how Mint makes money.
Mint makes money in a few ways:
- It offers various financial services to members, and it gets paid a referral fee if you sign up
- Mint has clickable ads on the site, which gives it the ability to bring in ad revenue
- You can sign up for premium access to your credit report with Mint, and it charges a fee for you to do that
Since the Mint and YNAB budgeting tools are pretty much equally great, the biggest reason Mint might be better for you is that it’s free. And free is good.
In addition, Mint has several additional features that YNAB doesn’t. It offers a more complete view of your finances and an alert system. Check out the Mint website for more information.
CountAbout was founded in 2012.
Its main goal is to be a step up from Quicken. In fact, you can seamlessly migrate from Quicken to CountAbout.
The site will automatically sync your Quicken data into the CountAbout system. One nice thing about CountAbout is that you can rename spending categories as you see fit.
CountAbout’s prices are also very reasonable. It costs $9.99 per year for the basic budgeting plan.
If you’re willing to upgrade to the premium plan, you’ll get an added benefit: automatic download of transactions. The premium plan is only $39.99 per year. That equates to a bit over $3 a month.
Along with budgeting tools, CountAbout also provides:
- Graphs to help you assess income and spending
- Ways to incorporate recurring transactions and split transactions
- Apps for Android and iOS
It’s a fairly thorough system that should meet the needs of most basic budgeters.
CountAbout vs. YNAB
The only big difference between CountAbout and YNAB is that YNAB allows investment tracking and CountAbout doesn’t.
And of course, CountAbout is cheaper, even if you do choose to sign up for the premium program.
EveryDollar is the budgeting brainchild of well-known personal finance expert Dave Ramsey. The website says it’ll help you create your first budget in less than 10 minutes. It’s a simple program that’s fairly easy to use for people of almost any technical skill level.
EveryDollar has a free version where you can add income, spending and budgeting information manually.
It also has a premium version called EveryDollar Plus. This version costs $99 per year ($8.25 a month) and gives you the convenient benefit of automatic downloads for your transactions.
EveryDollar vs. YNAB
There are a few differences between EveryDollar and YNAB. YNAB has investment tracking and bill management, whereas EveryDollar does not.
On the other hand, EveryDollar has tax reporting capabilities. YNAB does not.
In addition, EveryDollar is available in the U.S. and Canada, while YNAB is only available in the U.S.
Using a budgeting program like the ones we’ve mentioned here is important. It helps you avoid common budgeting mistakes that can have a long-term impact on your finances.
You Need a Budget (YNAB) is a popular budgeting tool that’s been around for a long time. It has a way of making budgeting more fun.
Bonus: The site has a light-hearted feel to it. Check out its “About” page for some laughs.
That being said, there are alternative budgeting options out there if you find YNAB isn’t working for you. Depending on what you need, one of the budgeting programs here is likely to suit you.
Have you ever used YNAB or any of the other programs we talked about? Share your thoughts about them on our social media accounts.