I’ve used a lot of money management tools. From mint.com, which is free, to Quicken, which is not, I’ve tried them all. And without a doubt the absolute best tool for budgeting is YNAB (short for “You Need A Budget”). A few days ago, the folks at YNAB released a new version of their software, YNAB 4 (you can check out my YNAB 3 review for the basics of the program). It includes so many new features that I thought a YNAB 4 review was in order.
What’s New in YNAB 4
The short answer is that a lot has changed with the new version. This is a major update. Here are the highlights:
Perhaps the most significant change is what YNAB calls cloud sync. Using a free Dropbox account, you can sync your budget and accounts with your iPhone or Android device. This is an important improvement to the software. Now you can use your smartphone to record purchases, and with Cloud Sync your budget is automatically updated on all devices where you run YNAB 4.
Improved Look and Feel
There were a number of changes to how YNAB looks, ranging from updates to the sidebar to an overhaul of the budget interface. Overall the changes are very appealing. I like the colors they chose, and the interface seems less cluttered.
A big part of the problem with YNAB 3 was the use of too many colors. With YNAB 4 the interface is much simpler, which makes navigating and reading your budget easier. Here are some examples:
YNAB 3 Budget Screenshot:
YNAB 4 Budget Screenshot:
YNAB 3 Sidebar Screenshot:
YNAB 4 Sidebar Screenshot:
While these changes are not revolutionary, they make for a better user experience. Where the interface really pops is with the new reporting.
Reporting in YNAB 3 was not the best. Reports consisted of spreadsheets that could be very hard to read, with very little graphics to help you understand the data. With YNAB 4, all reports have been enhanced.
With YNAB 4, you can view your spending by category or payee. This can come in handy when you want to see how much you’ve spent eating out, for example. With version 3, you didn’t have the ability to slice and dice the data this way. On top of that, the new reporting not only shows you the raw data, but it gives you a nice graphic representation that makes interpreting the data a snap. The same improvements have been made to the net worth report and the income & expense reports.
Peace of Mind
YNAB 4 makes two improvements that help keep your data safe. First, there is now an autosave feature that saves your data as you work. I’m a bit surprised this wasn’t a feature in earlier versions, but better late than never. And second, you can restore your budget to earlier versions, kind of like Time Machine on the Mac. So if you make a whopper of a mistake entering information, you can cut back to an earlier version.
Importing and Exporting
While I’ve not tested this one, YNAB 4 now will not import duplicate transactions from a QIF (Quicken) file. These feature alone would have saved me a ton of aggravation when I first started using YNAB. And now you can export data (something I never do) to QIF or CSV at a transaction level, rather than your entire budget.
So How Much Does All This Cost?
Here’s how the pricing works for existing YNABers:
If you purchased on or after December 27, 2011, you get YNAB 4 for free. The folks at YNAB call this the “My timing couldn’t have been worse, I just purchased this yesterday” guarantee.
If you purchased on or before December 26, 2011, the upgrade will cost $40.
If you’re new to YNAB, version 4 costs $60.
And for those that are new, keep in mind that they offer a free 34-day trial. Thirty-four days? Yes, 34 days. That way you can use the tool for a full month to see if it helps you better manage your money.
You can get more details at the official YNAB website.
Published or updated June 27, 2012.