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Two of the biggest players in the world of budgeting apps are Mint and YNAB, which stands for You Need A Budget. Both help consumers track all their expenses, categorize them by expense type, assess how much is going where, and decide allocations for the future. But as you’ll see, there are important differences in these two tools, including very different budgeting philosophies and pricing models.
For anyone feeling motivated to develop a strong new strategy to help them achieve financial goals such as getting out of debt, spending less, or simply saving more, YNAB offers not just an app, but a whole new way of thinking about what you can do with each dollar you earn. Meanwhile, those who simply want to track where they’ve spent their money, as well as see a real-time snapshot of their total net worth in one place, might prefer Mint’s more straightforward approach.
To make it easy for you to decide which platform is best for your needs, we carefully researched the features, ease of setup and use, compatibility, pricing, and more to lay out a head-to-head comparison of these two popular tools.
- How It Works: YNAB helps you proactively manage your money by prompting you to allocate every dollar of your income to expected expenses or savings for that month
- Reporting: Reports in three categories: spending, net worth, income vs. expense
- Extra Features: Allows you to plan as far into future months as you’d like
- Ease of Setup & Use: Adding your accounts is easy, but getting acclimated to the YNAB budgeting philosophy and process involves a learning curve
- Device Compatibility: iOS, Android, web browser, Apple watches, Alexa
- Cost: Free trial period, then $14.99/month or $98.99/year, with money-back guarantee
- Best For: Those wanting to take a very hands-on approach to forward-thinking budgeting, including adopting a new way of thinking about “giving every dollar a job"
Teaches a new way to think in advance about how you’ll spend or save every dollar of your income
The very proactive, hands-on approach may help you save more money than other systems can
Well-designed web interface
Enables you to plan as many months in advance as you’d like
No ads or offers appearing in the interface
Involves a bit of a learning curve and can feel a bit overwhelming when first starting
Regular disciplined interaction is necessary to fully benefit from the YNAB budgeting philosophy
Can seem pricey (no free version after free trial)
- How It Works: Mint enables you to regularly review all of your financial accounts, including enabling you to see exactly where you’re spending your money
- Reporting: Reports in multiple categories, including spending, income, & net worth
- Extra Features: Provides access to a free copy of your credit score
- Ease of Setup & Use: With its more hands-off approach, Mint is very easy to set up by simply adding all of your financial accounts
- Device Compatibility: iOS, Android, web browser, Alexa, Google Assistant (only for Android users)
- Cost: Free, supported by ads and offers
- Best For: Those who want to categorize their spending, create this month’s budget, and see an overview of all of their financial accounts in one place
Very easy to set up and use
Once your accounts are connected, the approach can be very hands-off, meaning you can come back anytime and catch up
Connects with an exceptionally large number of financial institutions, making almost all U.S. and Canadian accounts connectable
Free to use
Can only set a budget for the current month
Because Mint can be used in a more hands-off way, it may not prove effective for some users in saving money, paying down debt, etc.
Web interface design is less attractive and user-friendly
Web and mobile interface includes ads and offers
YNAB vs. Mint: At a Glance
|How It Works||YNAB helps you proactively manage your money by prompting you to allocate every dollar of your income to expected expenses or savings for that month||Mint enables you to regularly review all of your financial accounts, including enabling you to see exactly where you’re spending your money|
|Reporting||Reports in three categories: spending, net worth, income vs. expense||Reports in multiple categories including spending, income, net worth|
|Extra Features||Allows you to plan as far into future months as you’d like||Provides access to a free copy of your credit score|
|Ease of Setup & Use||Adding your accounts is easy, but getting acclimated to the YNAB budgeting philosophy and process involves a learning curve||With its more hands-off approach, Mint is very easy to set up by simply adding all of your financial accounts|
|Device Compatibility||iOS, Android, web browser, Apple watches, Alexa||iOS, Android, web browser, Alexa, Google Assistant (only for Android users)|
|Cost||Free trial period, then $14.99/month or $98.99/year, with money-back guarantee||Free, supported by ads and offers|
|Best For||Those wanting to take a very hands-on approach to forward-thinking budgeting, including adopting a new way of thinking about “giving every dollar a job”||Those who want to categorize their spending, create this month’s budget, and see an overview of all of their financial accounts in one place|
YNAB vs. Mint: Approach
At the most basic level, these two personal finance tools do the same thing, which is to help you understand where you spend, and how much, so that you can better decide how to allocate your resources in the future. But while Mint takes a very familiar approach, YNAB introduces a much more forward-thinking strategy that is quite a bit different not just in its implementation, but also in the user’s whole way of thinking.
With both apps, you link all of your bank and credit card accounts to the platform in order to capture every transaction. From there, you can categorize each transaction by its spending or income category. With this information, Mint can then show you reports of how much you spent in each category over various time periods. This then enables you to, optionally, set budget amounts for this month by each of your spending categories. Alternatively, you can simply observe how your spending this month compares to last month, or this month a year ago.
In contrast, creating a budget is not optional with YNAB—instead, it’s the cornerstone of the entire platform and the YNAB way of thinking. YNAB refers to its strategy as “giving every dollar a job,” meaning you make a decision before the month begins on what you will do with every dollar you take in. Rather than simply see what you have spent, YNAB requires you to allocate your income to expenses you prioritize. Then it’s just a matter of following that plan, rather than spending mindlessly.
YNAB vs. Mint: Features
Both Mint and YNAB provide register views of individual accounts as well as an overall transaction log of all your accounts, the ability to establish savings goals, and a reporting area that allows you to slice and dice your financial data into different analytical views.
In addition to tracking account balances and transactions, Mint can also monitor your bills for you. Accounts you have linked, like credit cards, will automatically appear in the bills section, indicating the minimum payment due, the last statement balance, and the current balance. But you can also add other bills, like your cell phone bill or your monthly water bill. Even if the payee for your bill isn’t in the Mint universe, you can add it as a manual account.
One drawback of Mint is that it does not provide full customization of categories. It does allow adding your own subcategories to the existing master categories (think Auto & Transport, Food & Dining, etc.), but you cannot edit or delete any master categories or delete subcategories established by Mint. All you can do is add additional subcategories.
In contrast, YNAB’s interface allows you to completely customize your entire set of categories and subcategories, making it more appealing for those with particular preferences or less typical expense types.
YNAB vs. Mint: Account Setup
To track your expenses in either app, you begin by linking your various financial accounts. After identifying the financial institution where you have an account, you’re prompted to enter your online username and password, and then both Mint and YNAB establish an ongoing connection to that account, which regularly updates with new transactions.
After you’ve entered all of your bank and credit card accounts, Mint allows you to further add loan or investment accounts. This allows you to track their current balances as part of your overall net worth picture in Mint. But note that these account types do not allow managing or interacting with individual transactions in any way. In other words, it is a “read only” link for these accounts.
In YNAB, account setup is just the beginning. The heart of YNAB’s approach is to use the information gleaned from analyzing your past spending to create a plan for how you’ll spend next month’s income. So account setup is followed by the critical step of allocating your funds in the budget area of the app.
YNAB vs. Mint: Ease of Use
Using Mint is very straightforward. You link your accounts, the transactions populate, and you categorize them in order to analyze your spending and establish budget amounts. As you use the app, you can begin to build a collection of “rules” that help speed things up by automatically renaming and categorizing transactions it can recognize based on your past history.
Reviewing your budget, establishing or monitoring progress toward savings goals, or heading over to review your reports can all be easily accessed by heading to the appropriate tab on the web interface or the app.
Mint’s desktop interface leaves something to be desired, however. Though navigation is simple, the transaction register is relatively small, especially compared with the more user-friendly register design YNAB employs. The Mint dashboard via web browser is also a little lackluster.
Though YNAB’s account setup is simple, getting up to speed with the monthly budgeting process can take a little time to learn. Rather than referring to bank balances to decide how much you have left to spend that month, YNAB encourages you to decide in advance where you will assign each dollar of your income. This change in approach can take a little getting used to, but that’s precisely the point. YNAB aims to change how you think about your money and how proactively you create spending plans. To bring you along, it provides many helpful videos and articles.
YNAB also allows you to create spending plans for as many months into the future as you’d like, whereas Mint only allows you to set your budget for the month you’re currently in.
YNAB vs. Mint: Mobile App
Both Mint and YNAB have strong mobile apps, and are available on a similar range of devices. You can use either on iOS or Android, and on a desktop via web browser. YNAB further allows you to access YNAB via Apple watches.
Most of the same features available on the web interface are available via the two apps’ mobile interfaces as well. And both are well-designed to provide an overview as well as drill-down detail into accounts and transactions.
Both YNAB and Mint have some interaction ability with Alexa smart speakers. Mint’s Google Assistant integration only works for those who have Mint installed on an Android phone.
YNAB vs. Mint: Security
Both Mint and YNAB use bank-level encryption or better, offer the ability to use two-factor authentication for increased protection, and do not store your credentials in any way that is readable by staff. In addition, both of the mobile apps offer biometric login support (e.g., touch ID, face ID, passcode, pattern-drawing, etc.), as well as the requirement to reauthorize the connection whenever switching out of the app and coming back to it.
YNAB vs. Mint: Cost
One of the most conspicuous differences between YNAB and Mint is that Mint is free with ad support, while YNAB charges a monthly or annual subscription fee after a free trial period.
Mint’s free status is appealing to many, though it comes at the price of having ads and offers peppered into your view of accounts and transactions. Some of these can be closed out to improve the view, but others are locked in place.
YNAB offers a 34-day free trial, opting for 34 days instead of the more typical 30 so that users can get through a full month and still have a few days left over for month-end analysis. If the trial sells you on committing to a paid subscription, those run $14.99 per month, or $98.99 for a year.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Are YNAB and Mint?
YNAB is a budget-heavy personal finance app, while Mint is more broadly functional. Both aim to help you gain a detailed understanding of how much you spend on what every month and ultimately every year, with the goal being to apply that knowledge to budgets on future spending, so you can spend less than you earn and meet important financial goals.
Mint also allows you to track other accounts that impact your net worth, like loans and investments; provides a review of your upcoming bills; and even lets you regularly review your credit score for free.
For its part, YNAB lacks the ability to link investment and loan accounts, or track bills or credit scores, in favor of delving deeper on the budgeting front. It not only provides the ability to budget, but requires it for anyone aiming to fully use the platform. It also is designed to push users toward forward-thinking budgeting, having you assign every dollar of next month’s income to the expenses you prioritize for that month. The idea is then to simply follow that plan as best you can throughout the month, rather than spending at will.
How Do YNAB and Mint Work?
With both platforms, you begin by linking all of your banking and credit card accounts, providing usernames and logins so the account transactions and balances can regularly update in YNAB or Mint.
The transactions that appear can then be classified into different spending categories, enabling you to run reports on how much you spent on which expense types, how your expenses compare to your income in various time periods, and how your net worth is changing over time.
YNAB requires the additional layer of determining a budget for next month, with detailed planning for every dollar coming in. You then use the tool to regularly review your spending plan.
Who Are YNAB and Mint Best For?
Mint is especially useful for the consumer who wants to track where their money is going but prefers a less involved approach. Keeping transactions updated in Mint, but only categorizing them from time to time, is not especially problematic with Mint, other than needing time to get through the backlog of transactions that have accumulated.
Those who want to dig deeper with Mint certainly can, setting budget categories for the coming month. But the budgeting step can be skipped in Mint.
YNAB, in contrast, is designed for going deep. Budgeting isn’t just an option, it’s the crux of the program’s entire design and philosophy. This makes it a great choice for those who want to implement something new and deliberate. Whether they have a debt reduction goal or are aiming to keep more of their money in the bank, YNAB is an excellent option for those motivated to roll their sleeves up and get serious.
How Much Do YNAB and Mint Cost?
The cost comparison between these two platforms is significant since Mint is completely free and ad-supported. YNAB can be given a free test drive for more than a month, but after that, continuing to use the app will set you back $98.99 every year, or $14.99 per month.
The question becomes whether YNAB’s sticker price is worth it. If one’s financial outcome with either apps were equal, then clearly Mint would be the more economical choice. But YNAB claims that its new budgeters average $600 savings over the first two months and $6,000 in savings over the first year. If this holds true, $98.99 for the year would be well worth the investment.
YNAB’s approach requires more learning and continued engagement. But it’s possible that those who thrive with this model will indeed reap the benefits of putting in the work.
How We Evaluated YNAB vs. Mint
We took a detailed look at all of Mint's and YNAB’s features and strengths by digging deep into their product documentation, doing a hands-on exploration of their web and app interfaces, reviewing what customers and review sites like and don’t like about the apps, and assessing how each service makes money.