Which is the better financial app for us: Mint or YNAB?
August 2, 2016 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Difficulty level: Canada.

I've heard good things about Mint--well, mostly excellent things--so when we signed up to give it a go...we had problems. We could hook up two out of three accounts we had (RBC just wouldn't link to it and we see on the Mint community that this is a recurring issue) and they didn't have the mortgage holder for our house as one of the ones they list. We figured we could add it in Settings because it is a monthly withdrawal and set in stone, but there was no way we could. The chat help service was nice enough to let us know that they aren't set up to enter Canadian addresses under the Property link. Understandably, this has frustrated us. Have any Canadian MeFites used Mint successfully? Or would we better off with YNAB?

What we want out of a financial app:

- Tracks both bank accounts and credit cards, and creates a very granular budget (food, entertainment, pets, clothes, etc.)
- Able to add money spent in real time via iPhone app and allocate it to budget categories
- Produces reports on spending trends over time and alerts when budget thresholds are close/met/exceeded
- Add and track a mortgage manually (from a specific small lender that won't be in most systems)
- Recurring payments
- Goal-setting and goal tracking

Of course, if you have a financial app that works great for CANADA we haven't heard of, please let us know!
posted by Kitteh to Work & Money (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I went through the same process a couple of years ago, and I ended up with YNAB. My understanding is that Mint is for tracking whereas YNAB is for tracking AND budgeting. It took me a while to understand the difference but essentially tracking is all about "what did I spend my money on?" whereas budgeting is "what CAN I spend my money on?". YNAB has been instrumental in reducing our debt and curbing overspending. It's an absolutely essential app for long term financial health.
posted by aeighty at 9:30 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I found Mint easier to use but it is always looking back. You set a budget of $100 for food, okay great, but you're not actively planning how each dollar that comes into your account is going out. YNAB does that very specifically saying, I am being paid $500 so I can only spend $500 right now.

Your specific wants, it seems that both programs can do all of those but in different ways. What it comes down to is YNAB is more time consuming because it is a philosophy of if I don't have the money, I shouldn't spend it!

Not Canadian, but I have experienced it absolutely hating some financial things that should be a snap to add.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:33 AM on August 2, 2016

Best answer: YNAB checks most of your boxes, but the system depends on a lot of manual entry--so you don't need to be sent an alert when you exceed a certain amount in your budget, because you're entering almost all transactions yourself. The "new YNAB" web app (often referred to as nYNAB) does some direct transaction import for certain banks and credit card providers, but they offer it with the caveat that, within their philosophy, you're supposed to be using it for verification and for catching missed transactions you forgot to enter yourself, not primary tracking as in Mint. You're generally expected to set up and manage your accounts yourself, which means you could set up your mortgage lender on your own and call it whatever you want, though they may not have a direct link to the lender's systems to do any of the 'verification' of transactions.

The YNAB mobile app is so-so and hasn't changed a lot in many years, even as the core app has been significantly overhauled (you can't make budget adjustments from it, which is highly annoying) but I've still gotten into the habit of whipping out my phone and recording transactions against their appropriate budget as soon as they happen, and that core function it is pretty good at.

YNAB is very "opinionated" software, mostly focused on being forward-looking (their report generation functionality seems to be pretty minimal for that reason, from what I can tell), and you need to be on board with their approach for the software to work for you.
posted by Kosh at 9:45 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I never was able to get Mint to work with all of our accounts when I tried it. it was an endless frustration. Having events auto-entered is great; knowing they won't be is fine. Not being sure if Mint was going to be able to access our accounts and accurately import data? Not helpful. Also, at the time I tried to use it, electronic transactions posted slowly enough that I couldn't wait for them to show up in Mint to know our balances—we are people who need to keep a really close eye on what our balances are or we will tend to spend the same money twice. Nowadays, most transactions show up so quickly that when I use the debit card I'm not always asking for a receipt, but that was a problem for me a few years ago when I gave Mint a try.

I bought YNAB in a fit of wanting to do the best possible budget in the world! I never did that, and I basically don't use its budget feature at all right now, because I found it difficult to adapt to its month-in-advance process. But! I find it an easy program to use for tracking spending. You do have to enter things manually, but the ability to put in recurring expenses, and a robust auto-complete function, mean it's rare for me to actually have to type all the fields of an entry. Its lack of integration with an app for phone or tablet can be a problem. When I was primarily using my iPad rather than a laptop, it was inconvenient to keep up-to-date. I'm very happy with it now, and who knows? Maybe someday its budget process will work for me, too.
posted by not that girl at 10:32 AM on August 2, 2016

Response by poster: I've been reading this Lifehacker side-by-side comparison: I think we would love to use Mint if we could just get it to let us enter our damn mortgage and link to RBC. I am a little concerned about having to check in and update YNAB every day. I wouldn't say my partner and I are scatterbrained, but sometimes we get busy and would likely miss checking in at some point.
posted by Kitteh at 12:30 PM on August 2, 2016

I couldn't keep up with YNAB either. I can skip a week of Mint and just go back and change any mis-assigned items. It also emails me a weekly spending summary which is very helpful from a "You gotta do better!" or "Great job!" motivation perspective.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:33 PM on August 2, 2016

Best answer: You don't *really* have to check in and update YNAB every day if your budget isn't scraping so close to the edge that a splurge or two would send you into overdraft. I should be better about it, but I'm not, and I can catch up with all my transactions on the weekend. The worst that happens is when I spend cash and forgot what it was, or loose track of a receipt I should be splitting up into multiple categories. For all its flaws (seriously? no reporting yet? such a botched launch!), the new online version of YNAB with direct imports definitely makes the neglect a little easier to catch up on.
posted by foxfirefey at 1:44 PM on August 2, 2016

I really like Mint, but one thing that sometimes grates about it is that there are different reporting functions that are only available on the website vs. the tablet app vs. the mobile app.

For example, the mobile app has a very simple graph of current-month cash flow (this much earned, this much spent) which simply is not available on other platforms, whereas the website has great features for tracking investment growth... which don't exist at all on mobile.
posted by psoas at 2:16 PM on August 3, 2016

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