YNAB Budget App Review

by Jessica Sommerfield · 13 comments

My husband and I have tried a few different budget apps the last few years, and the latest one we’ve settled on is YNAB: “You Need a Budget.” In light of our recent cross-country move and job changes, we decided to make the switch from free platforms such as Good Budget (which offers a lot for a free app) to a paid service that would allow us more options for fine-tuning our new budget. So far we’re happy with its performance and are learning more about the available features as we go. Here’s the lowdown on YNAB, and why you might want to check it out for your own budget needs.

How it Works

YNAB operates very similar to other budget apps, with a few extra perks. Its Cloud Sync technology connects your accounts across all devices to maintain to-the-second accuracy on your balances. You do have to manually download the transactions into YNAB from the banking websites though. As with any budget app, the sooner you enter the details, the more accurate your categories. Entering transactions immediately is by far the best habit to get in to.

Other options include:

  • Viewing all your accounts simultaneously
  • Splitting transactions between categories
  • Generating various types of reports to analyze your finances
  • Locating specific information with a powerful search engine
  • Scheduling transactions
  • Using a reconciliation ‘wizard’
  • Setting aside monthly amounts toward large, irregular bills such as insurance premiums, property taxes, etc.

What Makes It Better?

Even though it requires a one-time $60 payment, this includes one license that can be used across countless devices and formats, whether Apple, Mac, PC, or Android. YNAB offers a 34-day trial to give you a chance to decide if their budget software is worth the price.

The 4 Rules of YNAB also make it unique:

  • Give every dollar a job
  • Save for a rainy day
  • Roll with the punches (even when you make mistakes)
  • Live on last month’s income

As my husband pointed out, the last rule is particularly key to the program’s mentality, since it directs you to constantly look (and pay) ahead. This keeps you one step ahead of unplanned expenses that might otherwise catch you off guard and leave you playing catch up, sometimes for months. Another great feature we appreciate about YNAB is the ability to easily compare months. Comparing month-to-month makes it easier to spot trends and spending categories where you’re consistently under or over-budget that may need some tweaking.

Actually, you don’t even need to pay in order to benefit. The website offers a wealth of free online videos, boot camps, articles, and other resources from their budget experts. The cost of $60 is to use the extensive YNAB spreadsheet software, which ties nicely with all the concepts explained in the videos.

Overall, YNAB reports that after one month of use, its users’ net worth increases by an average of $200. After nine months, that amount jumps to $3,000 additional dollars in your pocket. Of course, YNAB isn’t the only budget app that will save you money… experience proves that the act of tracking and planning your spending and saving on a consistent basis makes you richer, long-term. If you haven’t tried a budget app before, enroll in a trial with YNAB or another free platform, and see how much of a difference you see in your finances.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Jessica Sommerfield says:


    This error is being corrected. We are sorry for the misinformation. But this blog is based off real experience, in addition resources from other users and the site itself. The previous commenter implied I had not used the product, and that is not true (as stated previously). If I had not, statements about “my husband and I” in this blog would be outright lies. We have both been using the product for a short time; he, however, has used it more extensively than I have.

    Again, the editor is correcting the errors that occurred due to misunderstandings. Thank you.

  • Melissa says:

    How exactly can you write a review of something if you haven’t tried it?


    “In addition to a multi-use YNAB license, the $60 one-time fee gives you access to a wealth of free online videos, boot camps, articles, and other resources from their budget experts. For an additional $60, you can download more extensive YNAB spreadsheet software, which might be ideal if you’re a small business owner or have a very complex budget.”

    As stated above, the classes, forum, and other help material are all completely free right from the start. And there is no “additional $60” fee, it’s a 34 day free trial, and then if you so choose ONE $60 cost for YNAB 4. The above paragraph makes it sound like in order to get the full program you will have to pay $120 – which is incorrect.

    But really – I’m mainly shocked you have the guts to write a review of something that you haven’t even tried for a short period.

  • Jessica Sommerfield says:

    You are right — Cloud Sync is the function being referred to, and it does not automatically link. Sorry if there was confusion about that. Information about the resources was off the YNAB site itself, and we have not used them, personally. Classes are free, but upgrades beyond one’s current version of YNAB, although discounted, are not.

    YNAB is within a large class of app-based budgeting systems like Good Budget, Budget Simple, Mint.com, and others. It certainly isn’t as complex as say, Quick Books, but it is very comparable to a lot of Cloud-based applications out there. The use of the word software is probably inappropriate for what YNAB and these types of budgeting applications, since they have distinct differences.

    Lastly, the picture chosen is a loose representation of the topic and not intended to exactly reflect its content. Thank you for your input!

    • Kelsey says:

      ” Its Cloud Sync technology connects with your bank accounts to maintain to-the-second accuracy on your balances”

      This isn’t a case of misunderstanding; it’s a case of an inaccurate article. Cloud Sync does not connect to your bank account. YNAB does not connect with your bank account.

      Users can download transactions into YNAB from their banking websites, but those usually only include cleared transactions and so they will be a day or two behind reality.

      Please correct your article or, better yet, actually try the software. And then correct the article.

      • David Ning says:

        Thanks for pointing us to the error.

        Jessica alerted me of your concern and we edited the article to correct the error.

        • Kelsey says:


          There’s another error.

          “In addition to a multi-use YNAB license, the $60 one-time fee gives you access to a wealth of free online videos, boot camps, articles, and other resources from their budget experts. For an additional $60, you can download more extensive YNAB spreadsheet software, which might be ideal if you’re a small business owner or have a very complex budget.”

          The online videos, articles, and courses are 100% free. You don’t even need to download the software to use them. The one-time $60 fee is only for the spreadsheet software. There is no “more extensive” version, just the same version that’s available in the free trial. The total cost for YNAB is $60, not $120.

    • YNAB User says:

      I would have to say you probably haven’t used the software yourselves if you are comparing it to your examples. The entire methodolgy is different.

      This is poorly researched, which is sad since YNAB has a very user-friendly site with clear information on it.

  • YNAB User says:

    Um, YNAB doesn’t automatically connect to your bank accounts. Cloud Sync is to enable the user to update the app between multiple computers/tables/phones. Maybe you mean the import feature? But again, that is not automatic.

    Also, all of the support information and classes are free to anyone. You don’t have to purchase anything in order to take advantage of them.

    My last contention is your statement that YNAB is like other budgeting software out there. It so isn’t as YNAB doesn’t operate on projections (huh, like your image at the top of this post shows) and uses actual money on hand. It is completely unlike most, if not all, budgeting software.

  • Jon says:

    Confessed YNABer here. If my wife and I had had YNAB 20 years ago we would probably be millionaires by now. Only used it since April ’15 and for the first time we actually live off a great budget, save a ton and are at peace with our financial picture.

    Best “budgeting” software on the market…not to be confused with “money tracking” software.


  • Still creating my own budget with excel but I may check out ynab in the future. Thanks for the info.

  • Ramona says:

    I absolutely loved it, with one exception (that actually made it unusable for me): it doesn’t support multiple currencies. I have to budget in 3 separate ones: USD (my US based clients), Euro (my clients from the EU) and Lei (the Romanian currency, since I actually live here).

    Sure, I could have 3 separate budgets, but it’s too much work to keep on switching between them. I tried for few days, but it was annoying.

    The moment they’ll make it multi-currency on the same budget/account, I’ll use my license (yes, I was ‘smart’ enough to actually purchase the license).

    Right now I am using AceMoney, which is not mobile supported, but it’s not a huge deal for me, since I do all my work on my PC anyway.

  • Jessica Sommerfield says:

    Thanks! That’s the information on the site, but we haven’t used it ourselves, so that’s good to know. Free is even better!

  • April says:

    I’ve been using YNAB for almost 2 years and love it! The only thing I’ll add is you don’t actually need to pay for the software in order to take the free classes or watch the videos. Those are all available to anyone.

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