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.
Quicken – the Gold Standard for Money Management Tools?
Quicken is one of the longest running money management tools, and for many years, it was the gold standard. However, things have changed in recent years. Let’s take a look.
There are several different versions of Quicken which offer a similar core capability, but may have a specialized additions. Quicken has released many versions through the years, including 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 apps for more information.
For many years, Quicken was a desktop only software program. Then, when Mint.com launched, Quicken Online became a thing. Until Intuit, the makers of Quicken, bought Mint.com. Quicken Online was quickly scuttled, as Intuit focused on the Mint brand. (more about what Mint.com brings to the table). The desktop version of Quicken continued, but it seemed like the focus was moving online.
Intuit later sold Quicken to a group of Private Equity investors, who took the brand solo, and turned it into an annual subscription model. This has turned off many loyal users who are looking for viable alternatives to the Quicken app.
Quicken vs. YNAB
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.
Another important note is the cost for each of these tools. Cost is a major factor is deciding which tools you are going to use. Nether YNAB Pro or Quicken is free.
YNAB is going to cost you $6.99 every month, while Quicken is going to range anywhere from $34.99 a year to $89.99 a year, depending on which plan you choose (if you pay for 2-years, you get a slight discount).
The Starter package is their cheapest option. This lets you view all of your accounts and categorizes your expenses. At $34.99 a year, it comes out to be just less than $3 a month. This is half the price of YNAB, but price isn’t everything. Because this is the cheapest option from Quicken, you won’t get all of the tools and advantages.
Another unique advantage of YNAB is the additional support you can get. They have excellent customer service if you have any problems, but you can also use some of their other channels if you need help. YNAB has a forum you can use. More than likely, other people have had the same questions, and the forum is a quick way to find the answer.
On the other hand, there are some things Quicken delivers which YNAB doesn’t. One of those is your 401k statements and other advanced investments. YNAB Pro likes to keep is simple, which can get in the way of some of the more complex financial aspects.
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, easier 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.