YNAB vs. Simplifi: Which is the Best Tool to Conquer Your Budget?

March 12, 2024

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Want to know the “secrets” to successful budgeting? It’s simple (as are most things in personal finance). First, it’s about finding the right solution that fits how you think about and manage money. Then, you must make budgeting a consistent habit and stick with it, even when discouragement sets in.

Most people give up on budgeting for the following reasons—all of which have to do with creating new habits:

  • It takes extra time and effort.
  • The numbers (especially for those who struggle with overspending) can be discouraging, especially at first.
  • They approach it with a restrictive mindset instead of focusing on being intentional and improving.

A great financial management tool can help you with each one of these challenges. In this YNAB vs. Simplifi review, we’ll compare their features and limitations to help you decide which tools might best help you reach your financial goals.

What is YNAB?

YNAB logo

YNAB is a highly esteemed, zero-based budgeting program with a dedicated base of long-term users. Unlike many other personal finance apps, YNAB focuses solely on budgeting (hence the “B” in the full name You Need a Budget).

It’s important to understand that YNAB is not just a budgeting app but also a method of proactively managing (not just tracking) cash flow. There are four fundamental “rules” that are essential to understanding the YNAB way:

  • Rule One: Give Every Dollar a Job (assign money to categories before you spend it)
  • Rule Two: Embrace Your True Expenses (plan for irregular and nonmonthly expenses)
  • Rule Three: Roll with the Punches (adapt your budget as things change)
  • Rule Four: Age Your Money (stop the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle)
YNAB Four Rules

What is Simplifi?

Simplifi logo

Most people are familiar with Quicken, a comprehensive four-decade-old budgeting software program. Simplifi is their new modern money management tool aimed at younger users.

Simplify aims to simplify (hence the name) money management with net worth, financial goals, and efficient cash flow tracking.

The dashboard includes a comprehensive summary of your complete financial situation, including investments, all in one central place. The visuals, charts, graphs, and filters help you see exactly where you stand financially to make better financial decisions.

YNAB vs. Simplifi: Round 1 (Best Features)

While both YNAB and Simplifi have some of the best features available for paid budgeting apps, they are significantly different in the strengths they offer their respective users. Here are a few of our favorite features to consider when deciding whether YNAB or Simplifi is the best fit for you.

YNAB: Best Features

Our in-depth YNAB review provides a more comprehensive list of its many features. However, here are some of the best ones that make it stand out the most from other personal finance apps.


Being able to customize your budget is essential. Everyone has their own goals, priorities, and methods of managing money. Fortunately, YNAB shines when it comes to allowing for budget customization. Some of these customization options include:

  • Budget views (referred to as “focused” views).
  • Categories & subcategories (plus listing order and emojis!).
  • Accounts (including order of listing in your budget).
  • Payees (including setting up custom rules for categorization by payee).
  • Scheduled upcoming transactions.
  • Targets (i.e., goals) for each category.
YNAB Customization

Efficiency of Cash Flow Tracking

Saving time is an essential component of all budgeting apps. YNAB helps streamline your budget by facilitating direct import of transactions from your bank accounts.

In addition, categorization is “learned” from past transactions. While this requires you to categorize each transaction initially, it ensures awareness and accuracy. One of the newest features also allows you to review and select from multiple recently used categories for the payee.

The “auto-assign” budget feature is another way YNAB streamlines the budgeting process. With the click of a button, you can assign your available money (such as when your paycheck hits your bank account). YNAB even prioritizes assigning those funds to your budget based on upcoming due dates. When looking at individual categories, you can see last month’s spending, average spending, and upcoming scheduled transactions and auto-assign those amounts with the simple click of a button.

Education & Community

One of the best things about YNAB is the community. Whether it’s helping troubleshoot issues, answering questions, or sharing wins, YNAB users support each other. The “YNAB (You Need a Budget) Fans!” Facebook group and YNAB Reddit are thriving communities to check out if you want to learn more about YNAB.

As for “official” YNAB education resources, you’ll likely be able to find any possible topic or tutorial you’re looking for in many various formats. These include:

  • Live and recorded webinars (including onboarding for new users).
  • Blog posts.
  • YouTube channel (check out Hannah – she makes it all so fun!).
  • Other social media outlets (including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).
  • You Need a Budget book, written by the founder Jesse Mecham.
  • A directory of YNAB-certified coaches.
  • Top-notch customer support if you need help troubleshooting.

Simplifi: Best Features

Due to Quicken’s extensive experience creating personal finance apps, it should be no surprise that their Simplifi app has a wide range of comprehensive features. Check out our thorough Simplifi Review for even more of our favorite features.

Comprehensive Dashboard

The visuals in Simplifi’s dashboard aim to help you understand your current financial situation immediately. The dashboard includes:

  • Actual spending vs. planned spending
  • Top spending categories
  • Upcoming bills
  • Investment holdings
  • Progress toward specified financial goals
  • Milestones & achievements reached (such as not overspending, reaching a particular net worth, completing a goal, etc.)
Simplifi dashboard

One unique widget on the dashboard is the “Spending Watchlist,” where you can set up customized lists of transactions, payees, or custom tags you want to keep an extra eye on. This is an excellent feature for those struggling with spending in a particular category or store (hello, Amazon, and Target!) or to monitor specifically tagged expenses, such as reimbursements.


Simplifi is one of the least expensive budgeting apps available. The annual subscription fee is only $47.88 ($3.99/month but paid annually), and they frequently offer up to 40% discounts.

For less than half the price of most personal finance apps but with similar features, Simplifi is a great value and a top-notch solution for budget-conscious folks.

Ease of Setup & Use

Setting up Simplifi is extremely fast and easy. From the initial sign-up, the app walks you through step-by-step to get started as efficiently as possible. Getting started is as easy as:

  • Step 1: Link your financial accounts.
  • Step 2: Set up your bills and subscriptions.
  • Step 3: Specify goals (the ability to assign an account to the goal is also a great feature!).
  • Step 4: Finalize your spending plan.

Simplifi even identifies possible bills and subscriptions (essentially any repeat transactions) and suggests monthly spending category figures based on imported historical data so that you can quickly and easily get started immediately.

On an ongoing basis, Simplifi automatically categorizes incoming transactions. You can then quickly review them for accuracy and check in to ensure your current month's expenditures align with your planned spending.

While Simplifi does allow for significant customization, it encourages users to get set up and started quickly, helping to keep people motivated with their budget.

YNAB vs. Simplifi: Round 2 (Areas for Improvement)

Let’s break down some of the things you should be aware of with both apps. This way, you can decide whether these apps will fit in with your preferred method of managing your financial resources.

YNAB: Areas for Improvement

There are a few things that may discourage some people from utilizing YNAB. While it is a popular choice, and its’ fans are vocal about how much they love it, others find that it simply doesn’t work for them.


YNAB costs $99/year or $15/month when paid monthly (yes, even in their pricing, they’re trying to get you to plan in advance to save money!). YNAB does offer a free 34-day trial. Students can utilize YNAB for free for a year by contacting YNAB customer support and verifying their status at a higher education institution.

This is on the more expensive end for a budgeting app (especially when the typical budget-conscious person is trying to spend less). Still, it’s a comparatively small price compared to the potential benefit. YNAB users report that this additional clarity in their spending saves them many times that amount, even within the first year.

Initial Learning Curve

The main thing new users complain about when trying out YNAB is the somewhat steep learning curve. Because YNAB presents a method of budgeting that is new to most people, it requires a mindset shift that can be challenging initially.

One point of confusion for new users has to do with the way YNAB handles credit cards. Unlike other budgeting apps, YNAB nets credit card balances against available bank funds. It also creates negative balances in categories when there are insufficient funds to pay off the expenses on the credit card. This is effective in helping its users gain awareness about overspending, but the method can take time to understand.

The learning curve is a significant reason YNAB has extensive onboarding and educational resources.

Simplifi: Areas for Improvement

Despite being an excellent budgeting app, a few things may discourage people from using Simplifi.

Not Yet Extensive Features

As a newer tool in the personal finance space, Simplifi is still rolling out features requested by its users. This mainly includes investment features, which are currently limited to tracking holdings and overall performance. While Simplifi has a leg up on YNAB by even pulling in investments (YNAB generally only pulls in cash accounts that directly affect the budget), it still needs some improvement in the extent of information it provides.

Simplifi continues to improve its product based on customer feedback and continually makes it better and more efficient.

Debt Tracking & Payoff Tools

Getting out of debt involves changing spending habits and better monitoring your expenses to align with your incoming funds. These are all things that Simplifi does well; however, they do not (currently) offer built-in tools to facilitate planning debt payoff.

Using a zero-based budget (an option not required in Simplifi) may help users limit their spending to only available funds. Another tool may be necessary for those with the primary goal of paying down debt.

YNAB vs. Simplifi: Final Verdict

Which tool wins between YNAB and Simplifi? It depends on your main focus and need for a personal finance app.

For budgeting overall, YNAB is superior. It increases your awareness around spending, allows you to customize your budget entirely, and has a proven track record of users saving more money. However, if you’re looking for more of an all-in-one app where you can visually monitor spending trends and spend minimal time on an ongoing basis, Simplifi is likely the best solution for you.

The following chart compares some of the most important things to consider when choosing budgeting software and our vote for whether YNAB or Simplifi does it best.

Bank importYesYesTie
Shared accessYesYesYNAB (add’l people)
AvailabilityWeb, iOS, Android, iPad, Watch, AlexaWeb, iOS, AndroidYNAB
Cost$99/year $15/month$48/yearSimplifi
Unlimited budgetsYesNoYNAB
CSV exportsYesYesTie
Ease of SetupNoYesSimplifi
Customer ServiceHelp Menu, Email, In-App MessagingPhone, Chat, Community SupportYNAB
SecurityBank Level/2FABank Level/2FATie
Educational resourcesYes (blog, podcast, videos, webinars)Yes (blog)YNAB
One-on-One SupportNetwork of CoachesNoYNAB
Detailed reportsYesYesSimplifi (more advanced)
Automated categoriesYesYesTie
Split transactionsYesYesTie
Scheduled transactionsYesNoYNAB
Category rolloversYesNoYNAB
Irregular income featuresYesYesTie
Investment & portfolio trackingNoYesSimplifi
Credit monitoringNoNoTie
Debt managementYesNoYNAB
Goal settingYesYesTie

Both YNAB and Simplifi aim to help you reach your financial goals and be more intentional regarding your limited financial resources. As such, we encourage you to consider which features will help you stick with your budget in the long term and choose accordingly.

Find more about YNAB here and Simplifi here.

Where do you fall on the YNAB vs. Simplifi debate? Which budgeting solution is better for you?

Please let us know in the comments below.

Kathryn Hanna

Kathryn Hanna, CPA/PFS, CFP® is a financial coach & consultant with a passion for personal finance education. She blogs at Making Your Money Matter, where she focuses on helping people create a financial life they love. When she’s not creating personal finance spreadsheets, Kathryn can be found hiking in Arizona with her 3 kids or watching Netflix.

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