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You Need a Budget Review: A Budgeting App That Will Change How You Manage Your Money

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Bottom line: This paid budgeting app will show you how to better manage your money so that you put every dollar that you make to good use.

You Need a Budget
Best budgeting app overallYou Need a Budget

Full You Need a Budget review

Pros

  • Secure
  • Syncs to financial accounts
  • Includes goal setting tools
  • Provides detailed reporting
  • Free 34-day trial period
  • Provides educational resources

Cons

  • Costs money to use
  • Takes time to learn
  • Can't pay bills within the app
  • No support for most international banks

At a glance

iOS app rating 4.8/5 stars
Android app rating 4.1/5 stars
Cost Free trial for 34 days. Then $11.99/month or $84/year.

What is You Need a Budget, and how does it work?

You Need a Budget, or YNAB, is a popular paid budgeting app. While some budgeting apps only show people what they've already spent, You Need a Budget focuses on zero-based budgeting. The app teaches you to put all of your money to use -- including using your money for expenses, paying off debt, and saving extra money.

You Need a Budget has four rules:

  • Rule one: Give every dollar a job. Every dollar will be assigned a task, such as rent, savings, groceries, etc. This rule will teach you to make sure that you're using all of your money well. This is helpful for learning to make fewer impulsive purchases.
  • Rule two: Embrace your true expenses. This will allow you to budget accordingly so that you have the money you need to pay for all of your expenses. That includes buying gifts or paying your real estate taxes, even if they're not monthly expenses.
  • Rule three: Roll with the punches. This will make it easier for you to recover after making a mistake. If you overspend, it will be okay -- because you've got extra money budgeted elsewhere. You can move already allocated money around to make it work.
  • Rule four: Age your money. This will allow you to get ahead and not live paycheck to paycheck anymore. After some time of using You Need a Budget, you'll have a routine in place and you'll always be ahead.

Once you follow these rules and adjust your money management habits, you'll have better control of your finances and you'll be less stressed.

To get started using the YNAB app, you'll do the following:

  • Set goals. First, you'll make a plan for your spending, savings, and debt payoff so that you're able to change how you manage money.
  • Link your financial accounts. Linking your bank account, credit cards, mortgages, and other loans will help you better track where your money is going.
  • Budget your money. You can customize categories and choose how much you want to spend in each category.
  • Schedule future transactions. Plan in advance for future bills so that you know how your next paycheck is being spent.

It's a good idea to gather copies of your bills and financial records so that you make sure you note all of your expenses -- both regular expenses and occasional expenses that you pay. It may also help you to look at past credit card statements and bank statements. While it takes time to get everything set up, it will allow you to use the app effectively.

For many, using this app will result in changing their budgeting habits for good. Our detailed You Need a Budget review will better explain its top features and capabilities.

Top perks

Gives every dollar a "job"

YNAB focuses on putting every dollar you bring in to use -- whether it's towards expenses, paying off debt, or adding to your savings. This zero-based budgeting approach will result in less wasted money and more money saved.

Many other budgeting apps only send alerts that you've gone over budget after you spend the money. YNAB teaches you how to be in control from the start by budgeting your money for the whole month. That way, you know to check each category and see if you have the funds to spend or not. For many users, this results in fewer impulse purchases.

Maintains security

You can feel comfortable using YNAB because it's a secure app. The company has password rules to help users create stronger passwords. All data is encrypted, and if an account remains inactive for a long time, the budget data will be deleted as an extra security measure.

Syncs to financial accounts

When you use YNAB, you'll be able to connect and sync your financial accounts. This will make it easier for you to truly see where your finances stand. You also have the option to enter your financial details manually.

Includes goal-setting tools

YNAB encourages its users to put every dollar to work. That means no money gets wasted, and extra money gets saved. Because of this, the app features goal-tracking tools. The app lets you set money aside for the following goals:

  • Spending
  • Target savings balance
  • Build monthly savings
  • Debt payoff goals

RELATED: Need a savings account? Check out The Ascent's guide to the best savings accounts.

Provides detailed reports

If you're someone who likes to track your progress and also appreciates graphs and charts, then you'll enjoy the reporting features included in YNAB. Some of the reports that you can view include:

  • View data by dates: This is an excellent way to view your progress over time -- for example by viewing this year's data vs. last year's data.
  • View account growth: You can view the growth of any financial account -- whether it's your checking account or an investment account.
  • View spending by category: You can take a closer look at how much you're spending in certain categories.
  • View spending trends over time: Use this reporting feature to see how you're spending on different categories from month to month.
  • Track your net worth: YNAB can also help you track your net worth over time, by looking at your total assets and your total debts.

Free trial period

Using You Need a Budget regularly will cost you money, but you can take advantage of a 34-day free trial. This will allow you to test out the app's features and decide if you want to commit to the subscription fee. The company also has a free 34-day boot camp that you can do while you're on your free trial.

Offers daily 20-minute financial education workshops

YNAB wants you to succeed with your budgeting goals. To help you improve your financial efforts, they offer daily 20-minute educational workshops, where you can learn more about budgeting, money matters, and savings tips. These personal finance guides are something that competitor apps don't provide, so it's a perk that stands out.

What could be improved

It's a paid app

If you're looking for a free solution, this isn't it. The app does offer a free trial, but after the trial ends, you'll need to pay for it. There are other free budgeting apps on the market, and some paid apps cost less. Those apps may work for you if you don't have a lot of money to spend on paid apps at the moment. However, YNAB really is packed full of features, and that may make it well worth the investment.

It takes time to learn

You Need a Budget takes time to learn. That's because the app has a unique approach to budgeting with its four rules in place. You'll need to spend time:

  • Setting goals
  • Adding financial accounts
  • Budgeting your money
  • Scheduling transactions

It also takes time to learn to follow your plan. If you're ready to make financial changes, this time will be well spent. Just don't expect to be able to set up and learn YNAB quickly.

You can't pay bills within the app

If you're looking for a budgeting app that will also allow you to pay your bills, this isn't it. You Need a Budget will help you budget for your bill expenses, but you'll have to pay them off of the platform. Other personal finance apps like Quicken allow you to pay your bills within their app.

If you have a bank account outside of the U.S. or Canada, YNAB won't support it.

Alternatives to consider

If you want an app that is free: Mint is a budgeting app alternative that is completely free to use. This app will allow you to see where your money is going, set goals, and get access to reminders and alerts. It also supports linking your financial accounts within the app. But you may want to stick with You Need a Budget if you need a zero-based budgeting app to help you track every dollar.

If you want an app that uses a similar budget system, but is cheaper: Goodbudget is an alternative to consider. This app works similarly with the mindset of putting all of your money to use. It functions as a digital envelope system to help you better manage your spending. It's intuitive, and allows you to plan for regular and occasional expenses. While Goodbudget is a paid app, it's cheaper than You Need a Budget. But you may want to stick with YNAB if you want to connect your financial accounts and don't want to have to rely on manual logging.

What are the costs?

YNAB offers a free trial, which is valid for 34 days. After that, a membership costs $11.99 per month or $84 when billed annually.

This app is right for:

You Need a Budget is a good fit for people who are ready to make serious financial changes. While this app comes at a price, it will help you improve your budgeting and make sure that you put every dollar you make to good use.

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