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Looking for personal finance software? Here's how Quicken and YNAB compare.

Quicken vs. YNAB

MEE KO DONG / Shutterstock

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Updated: July 13, 2023

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One of the best things you can do for your finances is to keep track of your money. Understanding where it comes from and where it goes is a big part of better long-term planning designed to help you reach your goals.

There are plenty of tools available to help you keep track of your finances and plan for the future. Two of those tools are Quicken and YNAB. If you're looking to make the most of your money, consider your situation and read this review to get an idea of which app is more likely to work best in your circumstances.

YNAB vs. Quicken overview

Highlights YNAB Quicken
Rating 4.3/5 4/5
Budgeting ✅ ❌
Investment monitoring ✅ ❌
Retirement planning ❌ ❌
Bill payment ❌ ❌
Manual entries ✅ ✅
Bill management ❌ ❌
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YNAB

YNAB is short for “you need a budget,” and that's exactly what it focuses on. Launched in 2003, the main thrust of YNAB is to help you create a budget that allows you to “give every dollar a job.” The app focuses on forward planning and creating a zero-based budget. The main pillars of YNAB include:

  • Give every dollar a job: Whether it goes into savings, is spent on groceries, or pays for a trip to the movies, each dollar should be assigned to a spending category. This gets you to think ahead of time about what you will do with your money.
  • Embrace true expenses: Think about large upcoming purchases and break them down and integrate them into your monthly planning. Whether it's a vacation or an annual premium, plan for it each month so that you don't bust your budget when it's time to pay.
  • Roll with the punches: If it looks like you're spending more than the allotted amount in one category, you need to adjust the amount you're spending in another category. There's flexibility, but the budget must balance at the end of the month.
  • Age your money: When creating your budget with YNAB, you're supposed to get to the point where your income is one month ahead of your expenses. This is about making sure you develop good habits that break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

You can integrate the app with your online accounts and see what's happening in real time. Or you can decide to manage it mostly manually.

Open a YNAB account

Quicken

Quicken is one of the oldest and best-known money management apps out there. It's been through a number of iterations over the years, moving from desktop to online. Today, there are Quicken versions that address various financial needs.

  • Starter: Synchronizes your accounts to give you an overview and helps you with basic budgeting.
  • Deluxe: Creates a more detailed spending plan and customize your budget, as well as setting up and tracking financial goals.
  • Premier: Includes features that build on the previous two versions. This version allows you to pay your bills online and get extra insight and help with investments and taxes.
  • Home and business: For those who manage a business, this version lets you separate your categories into personal vs. business. It also lets you keep track of various deductions and even send invoices.

Quicken is more robust and provides a more holistic view of your finances while offering budgeting capability.

Visit Quicken

How are Quicken and YNAB the same?

  • These two tools are similar in that they can help you make a budget and track your spending.
  • They both offer a degree of automation, synchronizing with various accounts to help you get a look at what's going on with your money.
  • Both come with apps that can be accessed via desktop or mobile device.
  • Both have manual features on top of automatic features.
  • Both require paid access, although the pricing structures are different.

How are YNAB and Quicken different?

In general, YNAB focuses mostly on creating a budget and sticking to it. The idea is to help you make a plan for your money and improve your finances by following that plan. It's easy to use and fairly simple to get started.

On the other hand, Quicken is much more robust with a wider variety of tools and specialties. Quicken has budgeting tools, but the focus is more on overall money management. You can get help tracking your investments. And if you get the more expensive versions, you can even plan out taxes and manage various business functions.

Tools and features: YNAB vs. Quicken

YNAB

  • Goal tracking: Set goals and break them down into actionable monthly budget items. Track your progress and improve your finances.
  • Real-time tracking: It's possible to sync your accounts automatically to see how things stand and make tweaks as needed.
  • YNAB workshops: You also get additional support from YNAB workshops on a variety of helpful subjects. These include mastering credit cards, creating debt repayment plans, and planning for large expenses.

For the most part, YNAB tools are basic and focus on the basics of money management. You won't find much in the way of investment tracking or long-term planning as it relates to tax liability and other more complicated topics.

Quicken

  • Budgeting: Use Quicken to create a budget and track your spending.
  • Investment tracking: You can keep track of all your investment accounts with the help of Quicken and see your net worth. You can even use a portfolio analyzer if you have the Premium or Home & Business version.
  • Bill pay: With the appropriate version, you can use Quicken to set up online bill pay.
  • Taxes: Use Quicken to manage Schedules C and E, plus integrate with TurboTax when it's time to actually prepare your taxes.
  • Business: You can save rental documents and issue invoices with the help of the Home & Business edition. Plus, you can categorize expenses properly.
  • Free credit score: Each quarter, see your Equifax VantageScore.

It's important to note that, for the most part, the advanced features are available only if you pay for the Premier or Home & Business version. You can create a budget and track expenses automatically with real-time syncing with any of the versions. But you won't be able to use most of the more advanced features unless you pay for a more expensive version of Quicken.

Quicken vs. YNAB: Annual fees

With YNAB, it's fairly straightforward. You can choose to pay $11.99 per month, or you can pay for an annual subscription for $84 per year. This works out to just $7 per month and amounts to an annual savings of $59.88 over paying monthly. YNAB claims that it can save you $600 in a year by using its techniques, so it might be worth the cost.

On the other hand, with Quicken, you pay an annual subscription fee based on the version of the product you plan to use. You might be able to get a lower price on your first year, depending on the version, so check with Quicken when you decide to download the software. And if you shop around, you may find an even lower price for Quicken at some online store. Standard annual prices are as follows:

  • Starter: $34.99
  • Deluxe: $49.99
  • Premier: $74.99
  • Home & Business: $99.99

As you can see, you can get any version but Home & Business for less than what you'd pay with YNAB. Depending on what you need, this might be a better choice, especially if you think you'll use all the features offered by Quicken.

Standout features: YNAB vs. Quicken

The biggest standout feature of YNAB is the way it walks you through the budgeting process and really gets you to think about your goals and what you want your money to accomplish for you. YNAB promotes a thoughtful approach to money. And it has a number of helpful educational resources and tools designed to help you change how you think about money.

On the other hand, Quicken has standout features that set it apart as a complete financial management app. If you pay for one of the higher-priced versions, you can get online bill pay and help managing your business, as well as tax-planning help. These are standout features that speak to the way Quicken goes beyond budgeting to provide a more complete suite of tools.

Simplifi by Quicken is another plus. This award-winning cloud-based budgeting platform is exclusively available on mobile and the web, requiring no software downloads.

Open a Simplifi by Quicken account

Quicken vs. YNAB: Whom are they better for?

When looking at any money management app, it's a good idea to take some time to think about what you want to accomplish and what you need in your finances.

For those looking for a simple quick-start tool to help them get a handle on their money and make better budgeting decisions, YNAB is likely to be the better choice. YNAB is designed to build a financial foundation and focuses on planning ahead. If you need help with the fundamentals, YNAB is probably the better choice for you.

On the other hand, if you have more complex money management needs and want an app that's reasonably priced, Quicken could be a better fit. However, using Quicken has a higher learning curve, and there could be features you don't need. It's a more complicated tool, so you need to be prepared for that. But if you're ready to include investment tracking and long-term tax planning into your financial objectives, Quicken could be a good choice.

Be honest about what you want from a money management app and think about where you're at with your money right now. Your YNAB vs. Quicken decision should be based on what fits your financial journey.

Customer service: YNAB vs. Quicken

This is where Quicken outshines YNAB. Indeed, Quicken has more robust customer service, with regular hours and the ability to speak with someone on the phone or via live chat. Additionally, if you pay for the Premier or Home & Business version, you get access to special priority customer service.

YNAB doesn't offer phone support. There is a live chat function, but there could be times when the support is delayed for up to 24 hours.

Both software packages offer FAQ pages that can help you find answers to your questions. And there are community forums that provide you with access to others who may be able to help you work through some of your issues.

Security: Quicken vs. YNAB

Both of these tools offer bank-level encryption to keep your data as safe as possible.

Additionally, they can connect to thousands of financial institutions to update your data in real time. YNAB won't populate your old information, but it will start tracking your information going forward.

It's important to note that Quicken is primarily desktop-based, and that's where the information is stored. You can use cloud-based sync to update your information on the Quicken app or web-based app, but the meat of the program is on your desktop.

YNAB offers an app for mobile devices and is cloud-based.

Sign up for the YNAB personal finance app

So, which is better?

As with most things related to personal finance, the debate between Quicken vs. YNAB is really more about your specific needs.

YNAB is better for simple budgeting functions. If you want help putting together a basic budget and tracking your progress, YNAB is the better choice. It syncs quickly and easily and can be adapted for use by couples for household budgeting. It's easy to get started and has tools designed to help you improve your long-term finances and stop living paycheck to paycheck.

On the other hand, Quicken is better if you want more tools and you think you'll use the features. If you have investments or business income or want help with more advanced financial management, Quicken is a better choice.

Carefully think about where you're at and what kinds of financial tools you need to better manage your money.

Kara Perez Freelance Contributor

Kara Perez is a freelance personal finance writer.

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