YNAB refugees: experiences/tips please


From searching, I find lots of posts from a few years ago, with people discussing Monzo vs YNAB (You Need A Budget, a budgeting app) and using them together, but I can’t find much recent.

In those posts the main pros/cons discussion seemed to be things like the lack of auto-imports into YNAB and the fact that manually moving money between pots in Monzo was tedious.

Both of those no longer apply - Monzo links nicely with YNAB and (I think) with a Plus account, linking cards to pots would potentially automate much of the tedious moving money around objection.

Plus, the price of YNAB has increased fairly significantly (£85 last year)

My situation is that I currently use YNAB for budgeting (not particularly rigourously, partly because I’m lucky enough not to be needing to count pennies and partly because there’s no way I’d convince my wife to use it), and just have a couple of pots in Monzo, which really amount to money for now and money for a bit later.

My question (which I don’t expect a definitive answer to) is ‘do I pay for Monzo Plus and ditch YNAB?’

I’d love to hear experiences from people who’ve done it. What works well? What’s frustrating? Would you do it again? Did you go back?


I like both and use both. Until Monzo allow all other accounts (including loans etc) to manually be entered I can’t use the app to full potential.

But for day to day spending Monzo works well for a quick overview.


Great point, thank you, I hadn’t thought of the other accounts thing.

That said, I’m not sure how much value I really get out of that with YNAB, I’ll give it some thought.

Do you have Monzo pots associated with YNAB categories? If so, do you find it easy to keep things in-line, or is there much of an overhead?

I did. Despite my inner control freak saying “don’t do it”. I’ve used YNAB’ish tools for decades to keep track of finances ‘offline’, starting with Quicken, then MS Money, then… all of 'em. YNAB is the best independent finance control service available at the moment - in my experience.
However - I didn’t use ALL of YNAB as it should be used. I basically cherry-picked on features I needed and ignored the rest. It’s a powerful package if used to its extent, and probably worth paying for if you do. But I didn’t.

Monzo Trends evolved quickly just at the right time for me to be able to almost replace everything I needed from YNAB. So I didn’t need to subscribe to YNAB at the higher pricing. Trends is very good at showing drill-downs quickly without any manual intervention.

The lack of manual accounts in Monzo to be able to give a true, full, picture of your financial position. It’s getting there though - the addition of Mortgages to Connected Accounts is great.

Not being able to enter - or view/report - the future beyond what is predicted in the next Monzo ‘cycle’. YNAB allowed me to enter future, manual transactions (coupled with future repeating transactions) to allow me to do ‘what/if’ trials on the finances. You can’t yet do this with Monzo.

Ditch YNAB again? Yes, I would. I can’t believe how liberating - and time-saving - it has been to concentrate just on the Monzo app for financial control.

No. When I ditched YNAB in November last year, I thought it’d be tough. Thankfully, it hasn’t been.


Save money and budget but give us £85 to do it.

Doesn’t sit well for me.


Thank you for this amazingly detailed reply, really appreciate it and it sounds like your were in much the same position that I am. I’ll give a bit of thought to exactly what features I really use and give it a try.


Yeah, there’s definitely some irony there, isn’t there?

YNAB have a reasonable justification arround the fact that they’re not really about saving money, but about budgeting well so that you can afford Nice Things. They are expensive, but a Nice Thing - obviously you can do everything they do for free in a variety of ways, but it’s a well-thought-out app with a very good service behind it. That’s costs money.

It’s no different to Monzo charging. Or almost any decent budgeting app.

To be honest YNAB isn’t just budgeting. It’s there to change your whole idea behind money and how it works. You don’t budget month to month, pay check to pay check, it’s a mindset change that, while it has a steep learning curve, once set up and working means you don’t actually think or worry about money because everything is accounted for.


It costs a lot.

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So I signed up to Plus yesterday, and have had a bit of a play. There are a couple of things that are getting in my way - perhaps I’m missing something, or need a mindset shift to make it work:

  1. Doesn’t apply to my joint account, I didn’t realise this, and it might be a bit of a deal breaker. I can probably work around it, by just shifting everything except my wife’s random ad-hoc spending to my personal account, but that’s annoying.

  2. I didn’t realise there was a limit of 5 virtual cards (although now I do realise it’s obvious that there would have to be a limit). I was hoping to have lots of small pots with separate cards, to mimic YNAB categories without having to do lots of manual shifting money around. Again, probably work-aroundable by lumping similar groups together, although I’d prefer to be able to breakdown more easily what’s in each category.

  3. The biggy, I can’t see how I can achieve an analogue of YNAB’s long-term goals. For example, I have categories for things like ‘road tax’, and ‘home insurance’, with goals that repeat annually, and specific longer-term things like ‘washing machine replacement’, ‘sofa replacement’ with goals that try to represent the expected lifespan of those things.

YNAB makes it really easy to divide up income into those buckets and then if necessary to prioritise which I’m going to sacrifice if unexpected big expenses come up, but also then to get back on track later.

As far as I can tell, in Monzo all I can do is give a pot a goal but not a date, so it seems like whether I have individual pots or lump them all together, I still need some external way to track what the money in each pot is earmarked for.

That external thing could easily be a spreadsheet, which probably gives me more control (although also requires more maintenance) than YNAB, but given that a year of YNAB is only £20 more than a year of Plus, and I’m not getting nearly as much value from Plus as I’d hoped, I’m thinking I might abandon the change.

I realise that I’ve been somewhat indoctrinated into the YNAB way, so am open to a shift in my thinking, if anyone has suggestions from experience?

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Does anyone know how to link both flex and monzo’s current account at the same time?

Then don’t get it? If you think you would get value from £99 a year or whatever then use it. I certainly do.

Plus would be £60 a year. £39 over a whole year more isn’t exactly a lot. It’s £3.25 more per month than Plus would be.


I shifted my thinking away from YNAB and into Monzo categories. I don’t use Virtual Cards, other than for giving a VC to each kiddo for spending via their Apple Pay wallets. MrsW Personal account is unused and mine (Premium) is used only for the IFTTT 1p saving challenge, an Instant Access Savings Pot and to fund the VC’s.

Although I’m in the same unfortunate position as you are - we use a Joint Account as the primary account, so no custom categories.

So we’re using the standard categories and shoe-horning stuff into those for reporting via Trends. Tags and notes help too.

The biggest mindset shift for us was the Bills pot. Put an amount into the Bills pot and forget about it. All transactions to/from (mostly from :cry:) are simply categorised as ‘Bills’. Once the amounts are put into the Bills pot to cover the upcoming bills from the various incomes throughout the monthly cycle, whatever is left is disposable spending and can be more accurately categorised. This is timed to perfection and I don’t think I could financially operate without it now.

Now if JA’s supported custom categories, we’d be laughing. Or crying, depending on the spend…

I tried for a while to use both… And it’s just hard to combine.

One of the philosophies of YNAB is that it doesn’t really matter where your money is.

Spending account / savings account - etc - all fine ‘cos you’re budgeting the total pool of it and the balance is irrelevant (for budgeting)

You then record the spend - again YNAB isn’t bothered where the money comes from. It’s all pre allocated spending based on your budget.

Where this clashes with Monzo is Pots work a little different - to get a Pot to work in YNAB you need to treat it as a new account.

In Monzo ecosystem, a pot is where you can do savings, add to your bills budget, etc. In YNAB that doesn’t matter.

So trying to do both becomes confusing - you’ve got to allocate money in your budget in YNAB and also move money into the right pot in Monzo.

Either I would say - abandon pots, budgets, categories in Monzo, and truly use YNAB for the account.

Or abandon YNAB and embrace the way Monzo does it.

The difference I would say is YNAB is about a mindset about spending money, and inherently needs you to balance your books to the penny for it to be accurate.

Whilst Monzo is only realistically a spend tracker (imo) - looking backwards at past spending decisions in the main.

If you’re trying to get out of Debt, or save for financial retirement, or generally have a specific set of goals bigger than “spend a bit less”, I’d say YNAB is the better product.

If you want to see your general direction of spending go down - or just monitor a general trend - Monzo does that well.

But they are very different and hard to use both together to their full potential.


That’s my point.

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