Review: You Need a Budget for Personal Finance

After 9 Months, YNAB Users Save $3,300 on Average

You Need a Budget app screen
••• You Need A Budget includes a spending by category report to see how you've spent money. You Need a Budget

You Need A Budget (YNAB) is a personal finance software with strong budgeting features. The software runs on Windows or Mac computers and has a mobile version for checking your budget and entering transactions when you're not using your computer. The mobile apps synchronize transactions entered on your smart phone or tablet with the desktop software using Cloud Sync. 

You Need a Budget Features

YNAB is easy to use and intuitive.

 The scheduled transactions tool collapses unless you want to use it and accounts used for budgeting, off budget and closed accounts collapse on the sidebar. The budget information is consolidated at the top of each month and YNAB has an autosave feature that saves data frequently. It is  possible to restore your budget to previous versions if you make an error. Other  features include:

  • Easier printing
  • Switch between multiple budgets without restarting
  • Account reconciliation wizard
  • No duplicate transactions with QIF import
  • More flexible data export
  • Improved reports that easily drill down to details

Strong Budgeting Tools

You Need A Budget  is based on the idea that you should have savings set aside to dip into when unexpected expenses come up, and the software helps you to build this financial cushion if you don't already have it. Another great thing about YNAB is that it also helps you move toward paying down and being free of all debt.

Details at the top of each month column on the budget screen show you money that was not spent and was rolled forward from the previous month, the total overspent in all spending categories the previous month, income that's come into date for the current month and the total amount budgeted in the current month.

To keep this information useful, you will need to enter or download transactions every few days or at a minimum, once a week.

Cloud Sync

You Need A Budget  automatically saves changes frequently while you're working in the software using Cloud Sync. This feature requires a free DropBox account, and you can share data across all of your computers and use YNAB on any Windows or Mac computer you own. These backups also make it possible to easily roll back to previous data if you mess something up.


YNAB doesn't offer a ton of reports, but what is included is very useful since the reports have decent options for customizing the data by timeframe, budget categories, payees and by accounts. Here are the reports you get: Spending by Category, Spending by Payee, Income vs. Expense and Net Worth. Click on slices of a pie chart to get more detailed information, and the reports can be printed and data exported.

YNAB Pricing

You Need a Budget is low-cost; if you opt for the monthly plan, it's $5 a month. However, if you sign up for the annual plan, it's just $50 a year, a $10 savings. 

YNAB also offers a free 34-day trial for new users. 

And for college students, you can use YNAB for free; just upload proof of your school enrollment and your fees will be waived.