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You Need A Budget 4 Review for Mac and Windows

YNAB Expands Features for Budgeting Software

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


The budgeting feature screen in YNAB 4.

Budget Feature in You Need A Budget 4

You Need A Budget.
You Need A Budget 4 (also know as YNAB 4) is personal finance software with strong budgeting features. The software runs on Windows or Mac computers, and iPhone, Android and Kindle Fire apps are available. The mobile apps let you view your financial accounts and synchronizes transactions entered on the mobile device with the desktop software using Cloud Sync, discussed below. YNAB 4 has many improvements over the previous version, YNAB 3.

New Features in YNAB 4

YNAB 4 is sporting a new user interface, which is better organized and offers a cleaner look compared to YNAB 3. The scheduled transactions tool remains collapsed unless you want to use it and accounts used for budgeting, off budget and closed accounts collapse on the sidebar. The budget information is now consolidated at the top of each month and YNAB 4 has an autosave feature that saves data frequently. It is now possible to restore your budget to previous versions if you make an error. Other new features are:
  • 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 4 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 in to 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 for Backing Up and Sharing Data

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

YNAB 4 Spending by Category Report

You Need a Budget.
You Need A Budget 4 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 4 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 4 Pros, Cons and Prices

  • You Need A Budget will actually teach you how to budget very effectively as you use it.
  • Strong support with options for getting help right away, including online classes and an active user forum.
  • Free 34 day trial (download link at bottom of review).
  • Keeps you really close to your spending so you know where your money goes because you have to "give every dollar a job", that is, assign a category to all spending.
  • Prepares you to eventually live on last month's income.
  • iPhone, Android and Kindle apps let you enter transactions and check your budget on your mobile device.


  • YNAB 4 does not do automatic transaction downloads. You must use the online banking site for each financial institution to download transactions. However, YNAB does a great job of importing those transactions.
  • If you need features like investment support, financial planners for college, retirement or other life events, or advanced debt reduction planning tools, you'll need to consider Quicken or other software (see links at the bottom of the page for options).
  • Can be slow to load when you first start it up and when moving between the Budget, Reports and Accounts sections of the software.
Prices and Upgrade Policy

You Need A Budget 4 regular price is $60. That price may seem a little steep, but the software is solid, updated frequently for free with improvements,and will continue to function for years since upgrades are never forced. If the software upgrades within six months of purchase, the upgrade is free. There is always a discount for upgrades to new versions and currently, YNAB 3 users can step up to YNAB 4 for $40. While you shouldn't need a refund given the 34 day free trial, YNAB will refund your money if you contact them with an explanation.

YNAB for iOS, Android and Kindle Fire are $4.99 each.

Summing Up the Review

You Need A Budget mobile apps for Android and iPhone.

YNAB 4 Mobile Apps for iPhone and Android

You Need a Budget.
I like You Need A Budget 4. A lot. The software is pokey to load, but once it starts up, it works smoothly. While I wouldn't recommend it to someone who wants a lot of whistles and bells for managing all aspects of their finances, it is rock solid for anyone who is willing to put in some extra time with transactions each week. Budget amounts need to be set up every month, but you can roll last month's amounts forward to the current month and then make adjustments if needed to a few categories. I wish YNAB 4 had a way to connect directly to banks and credit card accounts so transactions would update automatically, but the import feature works well.

I also appreciate the lengthy free 34 day trial. While You Need A Budget isn't difficult to use, sometimes it takes a bit for the budgeting rules it uses to catch on. The online forums are great for getting help, the Help feature in the software has all the information needed to use the software, and regular tech support is available if you need it. The online classes are helpful for seeing the software in action and learning more about effectively managing money.

It's obvious that a lot of thought and work has gone into You Need A Budget 4, and of all the personal financial software I've tried over the years, it rates among the best which is why I give it five stars. You can download the free trial or purchase YNAB 4 online .

YNAB Mobile App

You can learn more about the YNAB mobile app from my January, 2013 Best Android Apps list, and you can learn more about all mobile platforms on the YNAB mobile app page.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by You Need A Budget. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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