If you are one of the 3.6 million people who uses Mint for managing your personal finances, you might be panicking with the news that Mint will be shutting down completely by January and is hoping to push users to Credit Karma.
As a long-time user of Mint, I can tell you that budgeting gets much better than Mint. In fact, switching from Mint to YNAB was the best thing that ever happened to our finances.
My husband and I started using Mint in 2007, just after it launched. We loved the convenience of signing into one app, then having Mint automatically sign into all of our other accounts for us, giving us a current picture of all of our financial information in one place.
What Mint did, providing that consolidated picture of accounts, it did well, but Mint was never a great budgeting tool.
Mint is fine for seeing where your money went, but not a really good way of telling it where to go, which is what a budget should do.
In 2014, after seven years with Mint, we began budgeting with YNAB and have never looked back! YNAB taught us solid budgeting principles and habits that led us to pay off six figures of student loan debt in three years, then buy a house a year later. We still faithfully manage our money with YNAB now, nearly 10 years later.
So that you can get an idea of the differences, let me elaborate on the 4 big issues we had with Mint budgeting and then share how YNAB overcame those problems. Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it, you can always try YNAB for free so you can see for yourself!
Here are 4 major drawbacks of using Mint for budgeting:
1.Income and Spending aren’t connected in Mint
Clearly income and spending are two vital parts of a budget. In Mint income and spending are separate and distinct rather than integrated. Sure, there is a graph that shows your spending versus your income in general terms, but it is a record of the past, rather than a plan for the future like a budget should be.
2. Mint doesn’t use zero-based budgeting
Zero-based budgeting means your income minus your expenses equals zero. That doesn’t mean that you “spend” every cent, in the traditional sense of spending. It means you give every dollar a job, like paying your bills, eliminating debt, saving for retirement, or buying groceries. By assigning each of our dollars to a specific budget category, we can maximize the amount that goes toward our goals
Since Mint doesn’t give us a good way to account for being over-budget in one category and under-budget in another category, it’s pretty hard to make sure your each of your dollars has a place to go.
3. Mint doesn’t help with going over budget
The budget bar graph gives an idea of how much we have spent already in each category that month and how much more we have left to spend, but it does not offer much help if we do go over budget. There is no consequence for going over, except that the entire bar for that category turns red. That might be useful if it added some information, but there is no visual indication of whether you’re one dollar or a hundred dollars over.
4. Credit cards were complicating our budget in Mint
We use credit cards for convenience, rewards, and protection. We always pay our credit card off each month, so getting into debt isn’t an issue for us. The problem with Mint was that it was hard to know how much extra we could pay on our student loans (we wanted to pay as much as we could).
Using credit cards with a traditional budget means you are actually spending next month’s income since bills lag a month behind. Since our bills came the month after the purchases, our monthly income and spending never matched up.
This made knowing how much to pay toward our debt hard. We would take what looked like excess in our checking account and put it toward debt, but the next month we would have a credit card that required the bulk of a paycheck.
YNAB solved all the problems we had with Mint
Unlike Mint whose main focus is reporting, YNAB is actually designed as a budgeting tool. YNAB (pronounced “why-nab”) is more than just a budgeting tool, it’s a philosophy and method for managing your money.
In 2013, we set a goal to pay off our six figure law school debt. With such an audacious goal, budgeting became extremely important to us. Mint’s weaknesses stuck out like sore thumbs. We discovered YNAB and were hopeful that it would solve our budgeting frustrations and allow us to pay the maximum possible on our student loan debt. We took the leap with YNAB in 2014 and we haven’t looked back. Nearly 10 years later, we are still faithfully using YNAB to budget!
Here is how YNAB solves the budgeting problems of Mint:
1. In YNAB, income and spending are inseparable
In YNAB you only budget money you have, not money you plan to have. This is a major shift from traditional budgeting where you budget the income you plan to get that month. This might seem like a subtle change but it’s actually huge!
2. Zero-based budgeting is YNAB’s middle name
The first of YNAB’s four rules is “Give every dollar a job.” YNAB teaches you to spend according to the funds you have allocated to your various spending categories, not the total balance in your checking account.
If you are just starting, you will budget only the money you have to work with now. Each time you get paid, you can tell each of those dollars where you want them to go. You’ll start budgeting for the most important or urgent things first.
If you have a specific goal, you can put your end-of-month excess toward that savings or debt payoff goal. Otherwise, the excess will just carry over into next month’s “available to budget” balance and you’ll have a chance to assign it a new job.
3. Dealing with overspending is easy with YNAB
If you have given up on budgeting because you never stick to the arbitrary numbers you set at the beginning of the month, the YNAB method will help you see that you are not a budgeting failure. You just need a budget that is flexible. YNAB won’t magically make more money if you overspend in one category, but the app allows you to easily move money around between categories to account for necessary overspending.
When you have learned the YNAB method, you are less likely to have problems with overspending, because you can easily look at the money allocated to each specific budget category. Those amounts aren’t just arbitrary numbers, they represent actual real dollars in the bank. If you don’t have enough money in the category you want to spend from, you need to move money over from another category to cover the purchase you are about to make. When I say “move money” I mean move money in YNAB, you definitely don’t need separate accounts.
4. YNAB handles credit cards like a boss
I love the way YNAB deals with credit cards. I think it is seriously the safest way to use credit cards. YNAB treats credit card spending as if it were cash. It is “gone” from the budget when you make the transaction, even though the money is technically still in your checking account until the bill is paid next month. When you spend money in YNAB using a credit card, YNAB keeps track of those transactions so that when it’s time to pay your bill the money is all there waiting for you. When you spend according to your YNAB budget and keep everything up-to-date, you don’t have to worry about accruing credit card debt. With YNAB you can safely rack up those points and miles while your budget runs seamlessly.
Happily move on from Mint!
If I sound like a YNAB superfan, it’s because I am. It’s not just me though. I regularly hear from readers who thank me for introducing them to YNAB because it has revolutionized their finances, too.
So instead of being sad that Mint is going away, use this as an opportunity to step up your budgeting game! Whether you have loads of debt to pay off, you’re already a millionaire, or you’re somewhere in between, YNAB will help you manage your money.
You can try YNAB for free for a month. You’ll definitely want to take advantage of the awesome classes to help you make the most of your trial and get the hang of budgeting the YNAB way. You’ll be so glad you did!