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How to Transition From Mint to YNAB
Ready to change your relationship with money?
Welcome! Come on in. Make yourself comfortable—push that stack of dollars waiting for jobs aside and sit down. We’ll get to all of that in a minute. So, you’re from Mint? How’s your journey been going so far? Yeah, the detour from what you’re used to must be tough, especially on short notice. Traffic was probably pretty bad on the old information super highway as you researched a new route, huh? There’s just so much noise and construction out there. And the pot holes? Don’t get me started on the pot holes. Just when you think you’ve found the right path, you hit a bump in the road and end up mad all over again that you couldn’t just stay where you were.
Well, you’re here now. And YNAB isn’t going anywhere. So let’s unpack your things and get you settled in for the long haul with the best way to set yourself up for success when transitioning from Mint to YNAB.
Embracing Change: A New Mindset
Being forced to make a change is inconvenient and disruptive, but it’s also an opportunity to reevaluate other aspects of your life—financial and otherwise. You may think Mint worked just fine for you…but did it change any of your actual behavior? Bringing more awareness to your spending is valuable, but aside from that awareness, can you say your financial health improved since you began using it?
Mint’s strong suit was set-it-and-forget-it expense tracking. Despite having some traditional budgeting features, it mostly offered a retrospective look on how you spent your money.
YNAB takes a more hands-on approach and empowers you to be proactive in deciding how you want to spend your money. This is important because your money is you—it’s the fuel that funds your needs and wants and hopes and dreams. It deserves your attention and intention.
And a hands-on approach doesn’t mean using YNAB will be time-consuming or challenging. Using YNAB will be different from what you’re used to, but that little bit of extra effort will change your relationship with money, help you break old habits, and inspire you to achieve new goals.
The upfront investment of learning a new system and establishing new habits will pay off for a lifetime.
The Method: What’s Different About YNAB
Mint is just based on math; it’s numbers, charts and equations.
YNAB is based on building better habits; it offers a philosophical framework for making spending decisions and encourages you to align your spending with what actually matters to you in life. And it does the math stuff too.
YNAB is based on the YNAB Method, which consists of four easy-to-implement habits that simplify spending and maximize saving:
Rule One: Give Every Dollar a Job
Every dollar you spend on something you don’t really care about is a dollar you can’t spend on something you do care about. Assign a purpose to every single dollar you have—whether it’s to pay your groceries, mortgage, or for future plane tickets—and get clear about where you want your money to go.
Rule Two: Embrace Your True Expenses
Future-proof yourself and your money by breaking up large, non-monthly expenses into smaller, manageable chunks. When you can see that your upcoming car registration, life insurance premium, or even a general home repair goal is funded, you’ll sleep better knowing that you’re ready for whatever life throws at you.
Rule Three: Roll With the Punches
Managing your money shouldn’t feel punitive or restrictive. Yes, you make a plan for every dollar and, yes, you should try to predict “unexpected” expenses, but if something comes up or your plan changes—just move money between categories to cover it. No guilt or shame needed. It’s your money.
Rule Four: Age Your Money
Once you start the habit of spending more intentionally, you’ll start to accrue savings automatically. Eventually, you’ll be paying bills with money that you made more than 30 days ago. You’ll have a built-in buffer—a pile of money waiting on bills, instead of the other way around.
Once you start putting those four habits into practice, making decisions about money gets easier and you'll save more effortlessly.
New to You: Features & Functionality
Philosophy is life-changing and all but finding your way around new features, functionality, and lingo is important too. You can’t exactly give every dollar a job if you don’t know the difference between what Mint calls a “Budget” and YNAB calls a “category,” so let’s start there in our summary of need-to-know differences so that you can find your way around.
In Mint, each and every expense you allocate money toward is called a Budget.
In YNAB, they are called categories.
In Mint, you can choose a category for each Budget from a dropdown box that includes categories and subcategories. You can’t consolidate or delete categories or subcategories. New YNABers may benefit from consolidating and getting less granular than their existing Mint set-up.
In YNAB, you create category groups to help organize related expense categories. You can name categories whatever you’d like and even customize them with emojis.
In Mint, when you “add a Budget,” you’re prompted to choose an existing subcategory and predict how much money you’ll need, how often, and if you want leftover money to roll over. Mint starts with some default “Budgets” and you can add more.
In YNAB, setting targets for each category achieves a similar functionality and is helpful for tracking your saving progress and needs. Leftover money always rolls over to the next month, unless you re-assign it elsewhere.
In Mint, you can create a Goal which shows up at the bottom of the Budgets tab. You name your Goal, decide how much you will need and when you will need it, link that Goal to the account in which you’re saving for it, and Mint tells you how much to save each month. Goals are a separate feature, and not an integrated part of your actual Budgets.
In YNAB, you set savings goals within each category by adding a target. YNAB prompts you to assign the correct amount of dollars to that category each month and shows a progress bar so you can track your success. Targets are integrated into the category itself. Unlike Mint, which bank account this money is being saved in is irrelevant because YNAB categories “set aside” your money for saving the same way a separate account would. If you had Goals in Mint, you'll want to create categories with a target for those in YNAB.
In Mint, when you’ve “budgeted” money to a category, it’s automatically treated as if it’s funded, regardless of if that money exists. If you budget $800 a month towards groceries, Mint will assume you will have that $800 to spend. If you accidentally blew $200 of those grocery dollars on eating out that month, you might not know until your card is declined.
In YNAB, when you’ve “assigned” money to a category, it’s as if you put real cash in an envelope toward that expense. YNAB is a zero-based method, so you only assign money you actually already have and you stop once you reach zero. So, if you plan to spend $800 a month on groceries, you could assign $400 from this paycheck and $400 from the next or $200 each week—but you can always trust that you can cover the expense. If you blow $200 on eating out, you’ll know as soon as you have to figure out which category you have to “borrow” money from to cover that overspending.
Accounts & Transactions
In Mint, you can see all of your accounts and transactions under the Transactions tab. You can click on individual accounts for details specific to that account, but the default view shows all accounts and transactions. All accounts in Mint are linked for automated transaction entry and account balances update automatically, with no user awareness or involvement around how or why.
In YNAB, you can see all of your accounts and transactions under “All Accounts” or by clicking on an individual account in the sidebar. You choose whether accounts are linked or unlinked and have the choice of automatically importing transactions, manually entering them, or both (which is a great way to start the habit of being more aware of your spending!) YNAB will match up any duplicate transactions. You can also add and delete transactions and manage account balances manually.
In Mint, you can find searchable data about your spending, net worth, income, net income, assets, and debts under the Trends tab.
In YNAB, you can find searchable data about spending, net worth, and income vs. expenses on the web under Reports. You can also see your average spent amounts right in each category, so you can adjust your targets as your spending and priorities change!
In Mint, you can group and locate transactions by tagging them. Reimbursable, Tax Related, and Vacation are the default options but you can also add customized tags.
In YNAB, you can flag transactions with seven customizable colored flags. You can also add a hashtagged keyword to the memo section of a transaction to make it easily searchable.
MoveMint: Making the Change
In This MoMint
Mint is the past. YNAB is the future. We need to address both as we begin.
Download your Mint CSV file and take screenshots of any trends, reports, or other information that you may want to reference later. Even if you don’t use this data to set up YNAB, it’s still good to have.
As you set up YNAB, start from today forward. You can use your Mint data as a reference to set up categories, targets, or as an estimate to assign amounts—or you can start from scratch and build a brand new master plan for your money.
Mintegration: How to Import Data from Mint
Moving is rarely fun, but we’re the faithful friend that shows up on moving day with extra packing tape and their own Sharpie.
It’s true. We’ve made this process painless with a browser-based tool that will import categories and average spending amounts from Mint and transform them into ready-made targets in YNAB. Easy peasy.
Just log into your YNAB account on a computer and follow these steps:
1) Use our Mint to YNAB migrator
Brand new to YNAB? Click Migrate from Mint on the welcome screen.
Migrating from Mint into an existing YNAB account? Select the name of your budget in the upper left-hand corner and choose Migrate from Mint from the drop-down menu (you may need to scroll down).
2) Download your Mint data
Download your Mint transaction file if you haven’t already done so.
3) Import your Mint data into YNAB
Click Select File and select your exported Mint file. Click Next. A video tour of YNAB will pop up as your data is processed—enjoy the show before clicking Next.
4) Start customizing your spending plan
Now that your data is in YNAB, you’re ready. Click Let’s Go to begin.
Note: If you had Goals set up in Mint, you will need to add those as categories with targets manually.
Still want access to the Mint transactions you downloaded from Intuit? We understand. You can do that too! However, the categorization from Mint won’t carry over to YNAB, so you’ll have to spend time categorizing those transactions.
If you feel strongly about that transaction information existing in YNAB instead of in the CSV file on your computer, we recommend creating a separate historical YNAB spending plan—you can have as many as you want—and import your transaction data into there instead of your current spending plan. That’s the easiest way to have that information in YNAB without having to take time categorizing or making sure account balances match.
Your best bet is to start fresh in YNAB, using that Mint.com data as a resource to estimate your expenses and to turn your Mint Goals into categories with targets.
(Don’t worry, that CSV file of old data will still come in handy when you need to track down the purchase information for that water heater you replaced or you’re trying to estimate how much you spent at Amazon during the last holiday season.)
Let’s Grow: Set Up YNAB & Get Started
You get to choose your own adventure when it comes to how you want to learn about setting up YNAB:
If you prefer an entertaining seven-minute Mint-specific video with helpful metaphors, graphics, and an expert to explain things, click here:
What’s that? Seven minutes of Ben M. wasn’t enough for you? Hey, we get it. Check out this recording of Setting Up YNAB with Ernie. (You’re gonna love him.)
If you’re seeking step-by-step basics to read, check out the instructions in our Knowledge Base.
If you’re looking for some longer reading material to curl up with, our Ultimate Getting Started Guide is an option.
Need a new friend to help you along the way? Register for one of our free, live workshops about starting YNAB or switching from Mint.
Regardless of how you choose to learn YNAB, no one’s getting left behind on this journey to less money stress. You’ve got options.
Extra Credit: Additional Resources
- FAQ: Transitioning from Mint Edition
- YNAB Isn't a Mint Alternative—It's Better
- YNAB vs. Mint: A Better Way to Manage Money
- Is YNAB Worth It? 12 Users Weigh In
- YNAB Tips: Habits of Successful YNABers
- Why a Faithful Mint User Switched to YNAB
- How to Do Credit Cards in YNAB
- Slay Your Loans With YNAB’s Loan Planner
- How to Use YNAB’s Targets
- Introducing YNAB Together
- Change Your Money Mindset email series & workbook
- How to Get Help in YNAB
- The YNAB Method
- Free Workshops
- YNAB Videos
- YNAB Guides
- YNAB Blog