Ynab vs. Mint

wizard210wizard210 Posts: 15Member
edited February 2013 in Desktop
I have just purchased YNAB and have been using Mint for some time now. I'm not sure which is better.

What does everyone else think. Mint can do budgeting as well. Plus i'ts free.
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Comments

  • TrevorTrevor Posts: 724Member, Beta Tester
    I use both. I use YNAB for budgeting and Mint to have a picture of my overall finances.

    I don't track things like my mortgage balance, retirement fund or investments in YNAB, but Mint has the complete picture.
  • lindylindy Posts: 102Member
    Does Mint do the same thing as eFinPlan, which isn't free?
  • mozzie61mozzie61 Posts: 2,040Member, Beta Tester
    I have not used Mint (it's US centric and not really suitable for us down under), but ultimately I think you're comparing apples with oranges. From their website Mint appears to be "full blown" financial software whereas YNAB is laser focused on your budget.

    YNAB doesn't have all the pretty graphs and charts, or automatic tracking of account balances that Mint has but is deliberately focused on budgeting only. YNAB's budget focus will ruthlessly expose your spending habits and potentially confront you with some home truths that hurt, but in the process it will help you make better spending decisions and get back some control on all those dollars that previously flowed so easily from your hands. There is nowhere to hide with YNAB, no pretty graphs to get lost in, no goal charts to make you feel better, just the raw numbers that don't lie (ok YNAB has a few pretty bits other than its slick interface, but I rarely use them :)). While Jesse and the team continue to improve YNAB's functionality and some of its form the methodology is unchanged from the early days (other than a small Rule order change). It's this simple approach, combined with the methodology that has produced the many success stories and testimonials seen on the YNAB website. My own success story as a reforming debtaholic is a work in progress and you can read about it in my journal if you wish, but the change in our financial circumstances since starting YNAB in May 2010 is substantial enough for me to sing the praises of YNAB over and above any other financial software.

    In addition to the great program YNAB has these forums made up of friendly and helpful people that are at various stages in their YNAB evolution (they will give you a kick up the #%$$ if you need one). The wealth of information and experience in here is worth many times more than the cost of the software. In these forums you're likely to find mostly the "YNAB converted" so I imagine you won't see much in defence of Mint. There is a reason for this YNAB conversion, however, and that is IT WORKS. Not by itself and not automatically (a promoted feature on the Mint website), but for those prepared to spend the time to learn the YNAB methodology the results speak for themselves.

    No YNAB doesn't keep all our financial affairs in one place, no YNAB doesn't automatically update all our account balances or spending, no Jesse doesn't update me with the latest investment trends (whatever use they are), but yes YNAB has improved our financial situation many fold, yes YNAB has changed the way we think about money, yes YNAB keeps us accountable and yes I'm a YNAB convert. :)
  • MalisaMalisa Posts: 6,140Member, Moderator, YNAB Team, Beta Tester
    When I was looking around I set up Mint, mostly because they had a pretty iphone interface. What I recall is that there was next to no flexibility in the categories. That was 6/09 though.

    As has been said, I could see using them in conjunction with one another. Mint as an aggregator of account information, but not as a budgeting tool (differences in philosophy or shortcomings, depending on your position).

    I actually used Yodlee Money Center (was also free at the time) as I was setting up YNAB to look at a little historical info (not necessary, but made me feel better about my first month's budget amounts) and found it much more flexible, though not as pretty. It's much more involved. And at the time, they didn't have an iphone solution (beyond their dry website). But there were talks of one, so perhaps there is one now.

    Sometimes, it makes sense to not spend money to save money (getting some/most books from the library or borrowing from friends). Sometimes it makes sense to spend money to save money. YNAB, for me, is definitely the later.
  • INAB26INAB26 Posts: 1,537Member, Beta Tester
    I used Mint for about a year. The problem I found with trying to use it at all for budgeting is that it first only knows about transactions your bank knows about. So it takes time for things to clear. That can be a problem when you think you have $50 left in a category so you spend it and then later realize that it actually had already been spent and now you're over budget.

    It also doesn't offer flexible categories and I found that it did a lot of really crazy automatic categorizing that I was always having to re-do. There also was no way to split a transaction which made it very inaccurate.

    I canceled my mint account and haven't looked back.
  • jimsmartjimsmart Posts: 8Member
    Mint seems to be listening. Transactions can be split, custom categories can be made and once you have recategorized a transaction it will always use the category for that vendor. It may not be YNAB, but it is moving in the right direction.
  • aeronutaeronut Posts: 8Member
    YNAB Enhancement Request:

    There is one feature of MINT.com that would be a huge time saver in YNAB! I would like to see YNAB automatically assign categories like MINT.com does. It is FAR easier to just go down the list of transactions and just confirm the assigned category is correct than to manually select a category for every transaction!

    And then I would also request a step further than what MINT does. I would also like to be able to visually tell which transactions have been confirmed (e.g. highlighting, bold text, or check mark, etc). I would like to see an option in the transaction pop-up menu to confirm (or un-confirm) the categories for the selected transactions.

    If MINT's budgeting was proactive like YNAB, I'm sorry to say I would stay with MINT. On a regular basis, it's just easier. I hope YNAB listens.

    Sam
  • WairereRoseWairereRose Posts: 5,875Member, Beta Tester
    I would be extremely irritated if YNAB were to automatically assign categories - however, if you like this to happen, you can set up your Payee Settings to have this happen when the transactions are downloaded.

    Go to View (top left from any screen), then Payee Settings, and edit to your heart's content.
  • BearmouseBearmouse Posts: 63Member
    aeronut wrote:
    There is one feature of MINT.com that would be a huge time saver in YNAB! I would like to see YNAB automatically assign categories like MINT.com does.

    I have to agree with WairereRose here. I do not want YNAB to automatically add categories. In Quicken, this is where I got messed up as it would add categories that had no budget. If this were to be added, I would like to see the ability to turn it on if you want to with the default being in the off position.

    I think more about my each dollar I spend and what category I am spending it on. YNAB keeps me honest. Automatic turning on of things would mess me up again.
  • RodeoClownRodeoClown Posts: 4,096Member, Moderator, Administrator, YNAB Team, Beta Tester, Beta Moderator
    YNAB assigns categories based on what you assigned to that payee last time - so you'll have to do it at least once, but from then on it will be automatic.
    As for transactions that need confirming - there's a great big blue exclamation mark on each transaction you import that tells you you need to accept that transaction.

    Hopefully for now those will cover your needs - but we are always willing to listen to suggestions (although they don't always make it into production), so thanks for taking the time to suggest these!
  • sulacosulaco Posts: 46Member
    I used Mint as a sort of trial run for a month or so back when I had a smart phone running Android. It was neat, but once the shiny wore off, I got rid of it. The two things I disliked the most were, if I lost my phone, it was too easy for someone to gain access to ALL of my financial data and two, if my Mint password was compromised, so was ALL of my financial data.

    The thing I like the most about YNAB is that it's fully contained on my computer. If someone gets my computer, I can nuke the hard drive remotely (as well as send the police a picture of anyone using it). Plus, YNAB is much more customizable, based on the zero-dollar budgeting system, and Jessie is a lot cooler than some executive weenie at Intuit. :lol:
  • aeronutaeronut Posts: 8Member
    If your computer has internet access, it can be hacked too. And any smart phone these days have security features like was mentioned for the case where your phone gets lost - those features just need to be turned on and used. Security is mostly user dependent; there is very little advantage from one financial software to the next. Portability is another issue

    As far as YNAB versus "fill_in_the_blank" software... Looking at the big picture, there is one unique feature of YNAB that I haven't seen with the other financial software out there, and that is the buffer concept. You can actually create that concept (and abide by the Four Rules) in any other software (in the same manner the old YNAB Pro did), but it just won't be displayed like YNAB. Now besides the buffer concept, the real difference is user interface and "bells-and-whistles". Right now YNAB has an advantage in having a very good user interface (simple, uncluttered, aesthetically pleasing, intuitive, easy to use), but they need to work on adding more features (automatic update of accounts, auto-categorizing (my suggestion above was misunderstood), Android support(?) :-), etc etc). If done well, they can still keep the UI as good as it is, and not necessarily complicate things.

    YNAB could dominate personal financial software (and I hope they do. I think they are on the right track with the idea of living off previously earned income.) if they keep their UI as good as it is now, AND add the features! Besides, I'm no fan of the Intuit Empire.
  • maryeamaryea Posts: 587Member
    I tried Mint for a while a few years ago...it was not what I wanted. I liked the overall view it provided but I wanted a strong focus on budgeting which is much better in YNAB.
  • brown685brown685 Posts: 532Member, Beta Tester
    I used Mint a while ago. I quit because I did not want my bank login and password information stored in a large corporate database.

    ING Direct recently moved to providing a read only login for sites, like mint, and programs like quicken. If all my banks had this, then I would be more willing to use a site like mint.

    I may try mint again some day, but for now I will stick to Quicken and YNAB.

    Quicken is still much better about reminding me to pay bills, track my 401k and calculate my net worth. YNAB keeps my budget.

    James
  • litterbuglitterbug Posts: 3,645Member, Beta Tester
    I admit to ignorance about Mint, but I know what's unique about YNAB, and that's how thoroughly the budgeting rules are incorporated into every detail of the software. In my view, it's not personal finance software; it's budgeting software. Neither the promotional stuff on the webpage nor the members of this forum pretend that it does what Mint, Quicken, or whatever other financial wizards are out there. What it does is incorporate very targeted budgeting rules into every single aspect of what it does do. The budget screen provides an invaluable summary of my situation, with exactly the information I need to make decisions, very little more (which would be confusing) and no less (which wouldn't work). In a few short weeks my basic approach to money has changed dramatically, and I've already gone from close to zero before a paycheck to not dipping below $500. I no longer check my bank balance every day to decide whether I can afford something.

    On the other hand, I have never actively managed my investments and I 'balance' my checkbook regularly by hand-reconciling it with my online bank activity screen. Reports? They never helped me, they just told me I was doing things wrong. And the big lumps of expenses I never planned for and the complication of big periodic reimbursements for things I'd already racked up debt for never made sense in a spreadsheet or Quicken budget. So in my case, a budget based on retrospective spending doesn't work. YNAB doesn't just tell me generally what I should do; if I use it, it tells me how to be prepared for anything and helps me get more satisfaction from what I do spend my money on.

    As for additional features, I have my own list but am very aware that one of YNAB's best features is its lack of features. It's sleek, lightweight software that does everything I need, a lot of things I want, and nothing that I don't need and might distract me from my mission: financial happiness.

    Sure, I'm a new YNAB convert with correspondingly fervent beliefs. But aside from a mind that works just like it, YNAB has no equal. The promotional stuff on the website and the members of these forums are quick to admit that it lacks many functions and conveniences of
  • aeronutaeronut Posts: 8Member
    "one of YNAB's best features is its lack of features"... With that logic, a simple calculator should be far superior to YNAB because it has even less features!
    Adding features does not necessarily mean adding complexity.
  • RodeoClownRodeoClown Posts: 4,096Member, Moderator, Administrator, YNAB Team, Beta Tester, Beta Moderator
    For doing simple calculator work, yes, a calculator is definitely superior to YNAB.
    For doing budgeting, not so much. ;)

    Adding features is (by definition) adding complexity - how we pass that complexity on to budgeters using the software is where it starts getting tricky. We're super aware that we need to keep things simple, but at the same time we want to improve the software and make it even better for budgeting. We have many discussions about how to balance these two principles, and it's why sometimes you won't see a feature that people keep asking for (user-definable budget periods for instance), but other things make it onto The List (the Android app is currently in beta testing).
  • aeronutaeronut Posts: 8Member
    I'm talking about the complexity of the user interface! Just adding new functionality doesn't mean you have to muddle up the UI!
  • aeronutaeronut Posts: 8Member
    Oh never mind. Okay, YNAB is the epitome of perfection. Nothing can be improved.
  • RodeoClownRodeoClown Posts: 4,096Member, Moderator, Administrator, YNAB Team, Beta Tester, Beta Moderator
    aeronut wrote:
    I'm talking about the complexity of the user interface! Just adding new functionality doesn't mean you have to muddle up the UI!
    I know exactly what you're talking about there, but adding new functionality involves exposing it to users, which means changes to the UI. We've obviously got changes in the works, and we work really hard to make sure that new functionality doesn't make the product harder to use for people who don't need the new features.

    Back on topic though - seeing as I misunderstood your automatic categorising of transactions, can you please elaborate?
    Do you mean having YNAB guess what it might be before you've ever categorised anything from that payee?
  • litterbuglitterbug Posts: 3,645Member, Beta Tester
    That's not the point everyone's trying to make, aeronut.

    I disagree with the idea that YNAB's innovation is the concept of a buffer and a nice interface. Heck, I figured out that I needed a month's expenses in reserve years ago, but that didn't keep me from losing it and not being able to get it back. YNAB's contribution is that the software is carefully designed to drive the user to implement a particular series of rules to get to the buffer, and then use them to go beyond that to accomplish more, in a way that is customizable without being fussy. If I could have followed YNAB's rules on my own (as I did for years before life changed and I wrecked my finances), I wouldn't need a budget at all. :roll:

    If it's possible to get great reconciliation and download features in place, great, but they're not necessary to the mission: creating and maintaining a workable, sustainable budget. The interface is nice, but it's nothing special without the method.
  • aeronutaeronut Posts: 8Member
    RodeoClown wrote:
    Do you mean having YNAB guess what it might be before you've ever categorised anything from that payee?

    Yes! Now you got it! And that is what MINT does. Every unknown transaction is assigned a category with a "best guess". It's not always right, but it is much of the time. And as you correct it, it "learns". It's a real time saver! It's a powerful new feature that would not change the UI - what do ya know. It's really only one step further than what YNAB does now. It just adds "brains" to YNAB's categorizing.

    To others... Questioning someone's suggestion to try to understand it is constructive. Bashing it, or shooting it down without consideration is not constructive, and is rude.
  • JoelJoel Posts: 9,712Member, Beta Tester, Beta Moderator
    aeronut wrote:
    RodeoClown wrote:
    Do you mean having YNAB guess what it might be before you've ever categorised anything from that payee?

    Yes! Now you got it! And that is what MINT does. Every unknown transaction is assigned a category with a "best guess". It's not always right, but it is much of the time. And as you correct it, it "learns". It's a real time saver! It's a powerful new feature that would not change the UI - what do ya know. It's really only one step further than what YNAB does now. It just adds "brains" to YNAB's categorizing.

    To others... Questioning someone's suggestion to try to understand it is constructive. Bashing it, or shooting it down without consideration is not constructive, and is rude.

    YNAB has a "best guess" feature already in place.

    In uses your most recent category for each payee to make a best guess at the category.

    New payees you have to select the initial category (I'm not sure how YNAB would be able to make a "best guess" with no information at all to tie it to)

    There are also many things under payee settings you can do to default categories for certain payees as well.

    Your suggestion is already there, at least, in my opinion. Unless I'm understanding what you are suggesting wrong...
  • aeronutaeronut Posts: 8Member
    J.Mann wrote:
    YNAB has a "best guess" feature already in place.

    In uses your most recent category for each payee to make a best guess at the category.

    New payees you have to select the initial category (I'm not sure how YNAB would be able to make a "best guess" with no information at all to tie it to)

    There are also many things under payee settings you can do to default categories for certain payees as well.

    Your suggestion is already there, at least, in my opinion. Unless I'm understanding what you are suggesting wrong...

    J.Mann,

    Yup, you are misunderstanding what I am suggesting. Luckily, I think rodeoclown understands. YNAB currently does NOT have a "best guess" feature. Right now, YNAB only knows how to categorize payees according to rules you have already set up. What if you have a new payee for which you have no rules set up yet? YNAB does not categorize it. But MINT does! MINT has rules like YNAB, PLUS it takes a guess for new payees too. You asked how YNAB would be able to make a best guess with no information at all to tie it to - ask MINT how they do it - because they do! And it guesses pretty well!

    Imagine after importing your bank data (sigh - another time wasting task) and you are going through that new data in YNAB. You look at each transaction to make sure it is categorized correctly so your budget is accurate. For payees that have a rule set up, the category is already selected - Yeay, you don't have to do anything! - You can quickly move on to the next transaction. For every transaction with a new payee though, you have to at least pick a category, and maybe even setup a new rule. NOW, imagine for those new payees, if YNAB made a pretty good guess as to what the category should be! - Yeay, again you don't have to do anything! - You can move on to the next transaction. Ah ah, but what if it guesses wrong? You were going to have to pick a category anyway if it did not guess, so what time was lost? - None. Saves time in categorizing AND saves time in creating rules since you will need less of them!
  • PatzerPatzer Posts: 3,794Member, Beta Tester
    aeronut wrote:
    RodeoClown wrote:
    Do you mean having YNAB guess what it might be before you've ever categorised anything from that payee?

    Yes! Now you got it! And that is what MINT does. Every unknown transaction is assigned a category with a "best guess". It's not always right, but it is much of the time. And as you correct it, it "learns". It's a real time saver! It's a powerful new feature that would not change the UI - what do ya know. It's really only one step further than what YNAB does now. It just adds "brains" to YNAB's categorizing.

    To others... Questioning someone's suggestion to try to understand it is constructive. Bashing it, or shooting it down without consideration is not constructive, and is rude.

    Sam,

    A lot of what you perceive is bashing is motivated by people having two separate concerns, both of which are valid. First, there are people who honestly believe the feature you propose will degrade their use of the software. Color me skeptical here; I don't believe that artificial intelligence is very smart, and I won't believe the software will guess right on the first try until I see it do so more than 80% of the time. If you don't get that good a hit rate on the first attempt, it doesn't save me any keystrokes at all. The second attempt doesn't matter, because by that time YNAB is remembering the category I used for this payee last time even if we don't have your new feature. If your suggestion would provide an artificial intelligence guess for an existing payee that might be different than the category I used last time, it would degrade the functionality of the program as I use it.

    The other concern is resources budgeting. Every long term YNAB user could name one or more features they'd like to see added. To the extent a feature I don't care about gets put on the list, it's competing with features I do care about. Even if I can turn your feature off, programmer time devoted to implementing it is programmer time not devoted to implementing account reconciliation or real printing or user defined budget templates, all of which I would find useful.

    Here's a slight variation of your suggestion that would be useful to me: Instead of having the program guess, allow the user to set a standard category for a payee. For any payee with a standard category set, the standard category would be suggested whenever that payee is used, even if the last used category is different. I would find this useful for Walmart, where most of my purchases are Groceries:Food but I could buy stuff in a lot of different categories. Yeah, I can work around it by using payees like Walmart Pharmacy for Medical:Drugs and Walmart Misc for one-off stuff; but it would be a bit of a convenience not to have to do that. (Note to development team: It would also be a convenience if my payee Walmart Splits would remember the fact that I want to use a split transaction.) I'd classify this feature as something to do if it doesn't take much programmer time, and something to forget if the programming is complex. It would be useful, in fact more useful to me than your suggestion; but not useful enough to justify a major effort.

    If you intend your suggested artificial intelligence guesses to apply only to imported transactions, that would eliminate my concern about degrading the program because I will import transactions roughly never. It doesn't take away my concern that resources devoted to your suggestion aren't being used on any of the stuff I'd like to see in the program. I strongly suspect that programming such intelligence to the level that it would be correct on the first guess 80% of the time would require a huge programming effort; if it were easy, programmers wouldn't use Mechanical Turk. The development team could tell me that my suspicion is incorrect; if it turns out to be trivial to implement your suggestion for imported transactions, I don't have a problem with it.

    One final thought for you. In a previous message, your (apparently sarcastic) comment was,
    aeronut wrote:
    "one of YNAB's best features is its lack of features"... With that logic, a simple calculator should be far superior to YNAB because it has even less features!

    From time to time, people suggest changing/improving the YNAB calculator function. I never speak in favor of these suggestions, because I have a perfectly good calculator in my pocket which is superior to any calculator function I've seen built into any program. If someone were to go on at length about how improving the YNAB calculator was a wonderful, killer feature that absolutely had to be added to YNAB and people who disagreed just didn't understand, I might descend to a response that you would consider "bashing" on such a thread.

    This forum is usually pretty polite. If you feel bashed, there's a good chance some of the people who you think are bashing think that you are pushing pretty hard for something that is probably irrelevant or at best a very minor improvement with a high programming cost.

    Patzer
  • INAB26INAB26 Posts: 1,537Member, Beta Tester
    aeronut wrote:
    YNAB does not categorize it. But MINT does! MINT has rules like YNAB, PLUS it takes a guess for new payees too. You asked how YNAB would be able to make a best guess with no information at all to tie it to - ask MINT how they do it - because they do! And it guesses pretty well!

    It's been over a year now since I used it, but personally, that was the feature I absolutely hated the most about Mint. For me, it did not guess pretty well, and it was just annoying to initially have messed up budget numbers until I went back and fixed everything. It seemed to go mostly on general categorizations given by credit card companies which don't necessarily mesh with my budget categories at all and sometimes the things it picked were just bizarre. If this were to ever be considered for YNAB, I would certainly hope it would be greatly improved or something that could be turned off.
  • aeronutaeronut Posts: 8Member
    "initially have messed up budget numbers"... If YNAB does NOT guess, and assigns no category, your budget is still wrong. If it guesses incorrectly, it does not make your budget any more wrong than if it does not guess at all.
  • Turf_HackerTurf_Hacker Posts: 6,000Member, Moderator, YNAB Team, Beta Tester
    Perhaps I'm a Luddite :D but I never bother with importing transactions. They are generally time-late, and I want to know with a high degree of accuracy what my category balances are *NOW* rather than waiting for the transaction to post and be imported. I usually enter transactions on the day they occur, with scheduled transactions for my regular bills and paychecks. Since I don't have transactions every day, I average maybe a minute a day actually entering transactions with no session ever longer than 10 minutes. It keeps me more closely involved with where my money's going, and I like it that way.

    I know others use it differently and more power to them. Like Patzer, I don't really care what they do with the import function because I never use it and see no need at all to even have it. There are some other enhancements I would prefer to see make the cut, especially in the area of reporting...

    Just my $0.02...
  • INAB26INAB26 Posts: 1,537Member, Beta Tester
    aeronut wrote:
    "initially have messed up budget numbers"... If YNAB does NOT guess, and assigns no category, your budget is still wrong. If it guesses incorrectly, it does not make your budget any more wrong than if it does not guess at all.

    Actually, I pretty much never import with YNAB, choosing instead to enter manually every day or so so that I always have accurate budget numbers. Still, I wouldn't want it trying to guess as I enter transactions either.
  • PatzerPatzer Posts: 3,794Member, Beta Tester
    aeronut wrote:
    "initially have messed up budget numbers"... If YNAB does NOT guess, and assigns no category, your budget is still wrong. If it guesses incorrectly, it does not make your budget any more wrong than if it does not guess at all.

    If it doesn't guess, and you have to enter a category, you have to think about the right category. Error checking will flag the blank category and force you to put something in, and presumably you will know what category or split of categories is correct.

    If it guesses wrong, and you don't spot it, your budget is wrong.

    I'm sorry, but I see more potential for harm than good in the software guessing about a category on a new payee.

    I started out thinking your idea was irrelevant, and you've managed to convince me it's harmful. But if the harm can be restricted to people who import as a primary means of data acquisition, and it doesn't take any significant amount of programmer time to implement, I don't have a problem with it being done.

    Patzer
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