Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

This device is too small

If you're on a Galaxy Fold, consider unfolding your phone or viewing it in full screen to best optimize your experience.

Skip to main content

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

Review Updated
Natasha Etzel
By: Natasha Etzel

Our Personal Finance Expert

Ashley Maready
Check IconFact Checked Ashley Maready
Many or all of the products here are from our partners that compensate us. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

Bottom line: This paid budgeting app will show you how to manage your money better so you can 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

  • Gives every dollar a "job"
  • Secure
  • Syncs to financial accounts
  • Allows for budgets to be shared
  • 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

At a glance

iOS app rating 4.8/5 stars
Android app rating 4.8/5 stars
Cost Free trial for 34 days. Then $14.99/month or $99/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 users 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 paying rent, saving, buying groceries, etc. This rule will teach you to ensure 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 so you have the money you need to pay for all 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 be less stressed.

How to start using the YNAB app

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

  • Set financial 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 budget 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 to ensure you note all of your expenses -- both regular 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 change 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 work -- 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 of the other best budgeting apps only send alerts that you've exceeded your 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 can check each category and see if you have the funds to spend on a particular purchase. For many users, this results in making fewer impulse buys and makes managing personal finances easier.

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 can connect and sync your financial accounts. This will make it easier for you to see where your finances truly 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.

Ability to share your budget with family and friends

The app's new YNAB Together feature allows members to share their budgets with others, making it easy to manage your finances as a couple or family. You can add up to five additional members to your group at no extra cost. This feature is unique for budgeting apps.

Provides detailed reports

If you like to track your progress and also appreciate 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 versus 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 more closely examine how much you're spending in certain categories.
  • View spending trends over time: Use this reporting feature to see how you spend 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 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 all the YNAB budgeting features and decide if you want to commit to the subscription fee. The company also has a free Debt Boot Camp that you can do while you're on your free trial. Resources like this can help you prioritize your debt payoff goals.

RELATED: Want to eliminate your credit card debt quickly? Check out The Ascent's guide on how to pay off credit card debt fast.

Offers live financial education workshops

YNAB wants you to succeed with your budgeting goals. To help you improve your financial efforts, it offers multiple live educational workshops throughout the week, where you can learn more about budgeting, money matters, financial tips, and savings tips. These personal finance guides are something that competitor money manager apps don't provide, so it's a perk that stands out.

High-yield savings account comparison

We recommend comparing high-yield savings account options to ensure the account you're selecting is the best fit for you. To make your search easier, here's a short list of standout accounts.

Show Best Offers Available in

Account APY Promotion Next Steps
up to 4.60%
Rate info Circle with letter I in it. You can earn the maximum APY by having Direct Deposit (no minimum amount required) or by making $5,000 or more in Qualifying Deposits every 30 days. See SoFi Checking and Savings rate sheet at: https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.
Min. to earn: $0
New customers can earn up to a $300 bonus with qualifying direct deposits!
5.05% APY for balances of $5,000 or more
Rate info Circle with letter I in it. 5.05% APY for balances of $5,000 or more; otherwise, 0.25% APY
Min. to earn: $100 to open account, $5,000 for max APY
N/A
4.35%
Min. to earn: $0
New customers can earn a $200 bonus with a minimum $25,000 qualifying deposit. Terms apply.

What could be improved

It's a paid app

If you're looking for a free personal finance solution, this isn't it. The app offers a free trial, but you'll need to pay for it after the trial ends. Other free budgeting apps are 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 is packed full of features, and that may make it well worth the investment.

There's a learning curve

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

Alternatives to consider

If you want a free app: Mint is a budgeting app alternative, and the free version costs nothing 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. Goodbudget has a free version with limited features and a paid version with more capabilities. The paid Goodbudget plan is 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 rely on manual logging.

What are the costs?

YNAB offers a free trial, which is valid for 34 days. After that, a membership costs $14.99 per month or $99 when billed annually.

This app is right for:

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

FAQs

  • You Need a Budget is a paid budgeting app. You'll need to pay $14.99 monthly or $99 annually to use this tool. However, a 34-day free trial is available. The free trial allows you to test all the YNAB budgeting features before investing in a paid subscription.

  • You Need a Budget uses zero-based budgeting, which is a method that allocates every dollar to a purpose so you can put your money to good use as you learn new spending, saving, and debt payoff habits. Many other popular budgeting apps show you how you spend money after the fact. If you're interested in learning a new way to manage your money, YNAB may be a good fit for you.

Our Personal Finance Experts