Best Personal Finance App for Couples
Healthy relationships are built upon a foundation of good communication, mutual respect, and a shared desire to achieve life’s goals together.
(And other important stuff, like sharing your fries if your significant other fails to order their own and not skipping to the next episode of the show you’re supposed to be watching together.)
Strong relationships also require intentional, ongoing, proactive effort. Love shouldn’t feel like hard work, but navigating through life’s many moving pieces with a partner can certainly present some challenges—and a lot of those are related to managing finances.
Money is one of those subjects that can feel difficult to discuss but is easy to argue about. A recent survey by YNAB and eharmony revealed that a difference in spending habits and financial priorities were two leading causes of relationship conflict. That same study showed that couples who budget were more comfortable discussing finances and felt more confident about the relationship because they were able to do so.
So, maybe money can’t buy happiness—but learning to communicate about it can curb conflict, and that seems like an important piece of the puzzle.
Why Budgeting as a Couple Improves Relationships
Think of a budget as an impartial money mediator, an objective source of truth, and, ideally, a guide that supports your shared life goals.
It’s a spending plan, not a spending prison. Your partner likes stopping for a fancy coffee with a hard-to-pronounce-name on the way to work every morning? That’s fine, even if it’s not how you would choose to do it—as long as it’s in the budget.
A budget gives you permission to relieve yourself of the burden of doing constant mental math to figure out if you can really afford something. Also, no one has to be the bad guy when the budget serves as a spending reference. If there’s no money left to assign to the Drive-Thru Coffee category, then there’s your answer; it’s time to hone some at-home barista skills instead.
Another hidden benefit of budgeting for couples? Making a clear and intentional plan for your money creates a roadmap for your life. It’s easy to dream about traveling or to bookmark kitchen renovation ideas on Instagram, but budgeting presents you with options to help make all of those big things happen.
That fancy and convenient coffee is a lot less palatable when it’s cutting into your Tour of Italy category.
Why YNAB is the Best Budgeting App for Couples
There’s an abundance of personal finance apps available these days, all with their own pluses and minuses. Honeydue, Goodbudget, Personal Capital, and Mint are all frequently listed alongside YNAB on ‘Best Budgeting App for Couples’ round-up articles.
The best budgeting app is whichever one you’ll actually use, so do some research and see if any of those options resonate with you—but stick around and see what we have to offer first.
What is YNAB?
It’s true that YNAB has a mobile and web-based app, but YNAB is actually more than that—it’s a method for money management. The YNAB Method is a philosophy that changes your money mindset and a framework for making spending decisions.
The app is the tool that helps you implement the YNAB Method, with features to help make it easier to align your spending with your priorities and to achieve your shared financial goals.
The YNAB Method consists of four simple (but life-changing) rules:
Rule One: Give Every Dollar a Job
Budgeting isn’t about restriction—it’s about spending your money meaningfully. Whenever you or your partner get paid, ask yourselves, “What do we want this money to do before we get paid again?” Then assign every dollar to a budget category. It’s zero-based budgeting; every single dollar has a job to do.
The YNAB app is like a digital envelope system, so picture your budget categories as envelopes and whenever you get money, you assign that money to the budget category/envelope/job to be done. Then you wait for more money.
Rule Two: Embrace True Expenses
Your spending doesn’t just stop at your monthly bills. Larger, less frequent expenses (like auto maintenance and annual subscription renewals), should be included in your monthly budget too.
Car repairs, holiday shopping, insurance premiums—it’s all inevitable. Stop these budget busters in their tracks by breaking them down into more manageable monthly chunks so that you’ll have the money when you need it. Fewer financial emergencies leads to less debt and a more peaceful day-to-day life.
Rule Three: Roll With the Punches
There’s no such thing as a normal month… and that’s okay. You have a life to live! If you end up overspending in one of your budget categories, that’s no big deal.
Remember how your budget categories are like envelopes? If the grocery envelope is empty but you need ingredients for taco night, just move some money from another envelope. Budgets that don’t bend break. Be flexible.
No guilt necessary, it’s your money.
Rule Four: Age Your Money
As your mindset about money begins to change, you’ll notice that you and your partner are more purposeful about your spending and it will become easier to find ways to save money.
Eventually, you’ll be able to cover next month’s bills with the money you earned last month. Your money will be at least 30 days old and you’ll have some breathing room in your budget. And that buffer will continue to grow! Knowing that you’ve got next month’s expenses covered will bring you such a sense of security.
Is YNAB the Best Budgeting App for You and Your Partner?
Philosophy is important, but so is functionality. Let’s see if our software, features, and services are a good fit.
YNAB’s the best budgeting tool for you and your partner if:
You want to share a budget while also having the option to create other budgets.
YNAB Together allows you to share your subscription (and budgets of your choosing) with a loved one, which makes it ideal for managing a household budget, even if you don’t share a joint bank account.
You want to get diligent about paying down debt.
Car loans, mortgages, credit card debt, student loans…debt happens. It also keeps you shackled to decisions you made in the past, which limits getting ahead in the future.
You can get out of debt (and stay out) with YNAB. Use the Loan Planner to experiment with different debt payoff plans to see how much time and money you can save by making additional payments.
YNAB is also set up so that you can continue using credit cards (yep, you can keep doing your cashback deals and travel points) without accruing debt.
The app moves money from your spending category to your credit card payment category so that the funds are allocated for your payment by the time you have to make it.
Your partner buys a pack of gum at the store using a credit card. (Why? I don’t know.) When the transaction is entered, the amount spent is deducted from the Groceries category and automatically added to the Credit Card payment category.
You want to make and meet spending and savings goals.
As you’re creating your budget, you have the option to set a spending or savings target for each budget category. This makes it easier to decide how to allocate paychecks to make sure that you have enough for upcoming expenses.
Progress bars help keep you on track by making it easy to see how close you are to your goals. YNAB will do the math to tell you how much more you need to contribute and by when.
You want an always available, easily accessible way to visualize your finances.
Your partner is at Target (again) and there’s a sale on Hearth & Hand stuff. They don’t need to call you and ask, or guiltily hide the Target bag in the trunk until you leave home.
They can check the mobile app (available for Apple and Android) and see if there’s any money in the Home Decor category. They don’t even need to open the app if they’ve got a YNAB widget on their home screen.
Want to know who spent more on take-out this month? Or looking for an easy way to track deductible expenses so tax time isn’t a receipt-searching nightmare? Use customizable flags to make your transactions more easily searchable.
Curious about your net worth? Want to know if you’ve really spent more on groceries this year than you did last year? Reports provide an easy and interesting way to dissect your spending data.
Your tax preparer is going to love us.
You’re willing to do the work, but might need a little help.
Change takes effort. No one runs a marathon or knits a sweater without practice—and budgeting is easier than either of those things. You’re a work in progress, and so is your budget.
If you respond best to some budgeting bootcamp scenario with a drill sergeant yelling about how you should be willing to eat rice and beans for the rest of your life, we might not be your best bet.
We’re more like a friendly yoga teacher encouraging you to stretch a little deeper when and where you can, offering some gentle support if you need it. But we’ll also tell you to order extra guac when you want it, because that counts as self-care.
If you want to set something up once and never look at it again, well, I don’t see how that’s going to work with any budgeting system, but it won’t work with YNAB. You and/or your partner will need to spend a few minutes each week managing your budget—and that’s what keeps you focused, accountable, and accurate.
We also recommend scheduling a regular budget meeting date night, because managing your money can be fun, and doing it together helps keep everyone invested in the outcome of your income.
Keep scrolling to download a Financial Date Night planning worksheet.
Budgeting doesn’t come naturally to everyone and it certainly isn’t one-size-fits-all. We offer a ton of material to help you learn in whatever way works best for you. We have a whole hub of resources to help you learn how to budget as a couple, a video library, podcasts, guides, blogs, live workshops, support, a newsletter, money-saving challenges, and active social media communities, all for free.
Ready to learn everything there is to know about managing money with your honey? Check out our comprehensive guide on Managing Money as a Couple.
How to Get Started with YNAB
If you and your partner are ready to try YNAB, start with a free 34-day trial. There’s no commitment or credit card required, so this won’t be some zombie subscription where monthly payments will pop up if you forget to cancel.
Check out this blog post with embedded videos to learn how to set up your YNAB budget and get your partner to participate so that you both start on an even playing field.
Ready to be the best “Budgeting Together” couple that the world of personal finance has ever met? Here’s some extra credit to help you level up together: Sign up for our short email series to get a free download of the YNAB Money Night, Done Right date planning worksheet, which serves as a helpful guide for reviewing your spending, saving, and goals on a regular basis.
A healthy relationship is like building a house. Sure, you might be able to slap up a pretty facade fairly quickly, but taking the time to draw up plans, build a solid foundation, and prioritize what really matters will result in a home that you can love for a lifetime. Learning to manage your money together is a load-bearing part of sharing a life, and YNAB can help you stress less about spending while helping you spend more on what really matters.
Ready to make financial decisions that feel good? Want to learn to love how you spend together? Start your free trial today. Your future selves will thank you.