I recently published a review on You Need a Budget, and a reader asked me how YNAB compares to Quicken. YNAB and Quicken are both powerful and useful financial management tools, but they have different advantages and disadvantages. The key difference is that YNAB Pro is designed for making a budget and acting on it, and Quicken is designed primarily as a tracking tool.
You Need A Budget Pro
YNAB Pro is designed as a budgeting tool, and it does this job very well. The goal of YNAB is to track all of your income and your spending and “learn” your tendencies. After about 30 days or so, you should have a good idea of where your money is going and YNAB will make recommendations for where you can cut back on expenses and how you can better use your funds.
YNAB is a zero based budgeting system, which means every dollar is given a job. As you go through your monthly expenses, any funds that are left over will be assigned a job based on the priorities you assigned it when you set up your profile. The goal is to help you reach your financial goals more quickly and use a budget to your advantage.
There are several different versions of Quicken which offer a similar core capability, but may have a specialized additions. The versions are Quicken Deluxe, Quicken Premier, Quicken Home & Business, and Quicken Rental Property Manager. If you don’t have specialized business or rental property needs, you should be fine with a copy of Quicken or Quicken Premier. You can compare Quicken products for more information.
Quicken is a more robust money management tool than YNAB. Quicken is designed to track income, expenses, net worth, taxes, investments, business transactions, rental property information, and even pay bills. But it is also a more complicated tool than YNAB Pro.
Quicken also offers a free online version, and Quicken Medical Expense Manager, which is designed specifically for tracking medical expenses, but does not have some of the other features.
Which is better – YNAB Pro or Quicken?
Quicken and YNAB are very different tools, so it depends on your needs. If you are simply looking for a budget or money management tool (as in cash flow and expenses), then I would recommend YNAB Pro over Quicken. YNAB Pro is much easier to set up, use, and navigate. And for most people, simpler is better.
Quicken can also be used as a budgeting tool, but it is better equipped for tracking expenses, not “giving every dollar a job” and making recommendations for your money. If you need a tool for tracking investments, net worth, assets, business income/expenses, rental properties, or other more advanced features, Quicken is a better option than YNAB.
Advantages of Quicken over YNAB Pro:
- Track investments, including basis price, asset allocation, etc.
- Some versions of Quicken allow you to manage specific financial situations, such as rental properties, medical expenses, small businesses, etc.
- Track net worth (all assets, including liquid assets, real estate, cars, and other property).
Advantages of YNAB Pro over Quicken:
- Simple and easy to set up, navigate, and use.
- Give every dollar a job.
- Get recommendations for how to spend and manage your money.
An easy way to look at the two software programs is this: Quicken does a better job at tracking the past and all your assets; YNAB Pro does a better job of helping you create a path forward.
Which is the better money management tool – Quicken or YNAB Pro?
My verdict is that if you have specialized needs such as tracking your investments – including cost basis, asset allocation, forecasting, etc., or want to track a home business, rental property, or specialized medical care, then I would recommend using Quicken. But if all you are focused on is creating a budget that works and maximizing your money management, then I would recommend YNAB Pro.