I’ve been a user of YNAB for maybe 7 years now, It’s been great, but its push into pure web, increased costs, and removal of all their forums has had me looking around. I tried EveryDollar but hit similar road blocks - web, pretty much YNAB but with stricter rules about how to budget.
Then tried Moneywiz, that was ok but more flash than substance I felt and their envelope budgeting was a work around.
Banktivity thought I’ve given a real chance and actually ended up paying for the subscription. It has cash envelopes like YNAB but allows much more data correlation and analysis. Where’s the money going, what does the cashflow lookalike forecast over 6 months, and way more.
I guess this is a post to see what you are all using, and if you’re in the hunt for it I figured this forum would appreciate the Mac / IOS focus on personal finance management.
I’ve tried Banktivity but am sticking with YNAB. I was hoping it could act as both YNAB and Personal Capital for me, but it lacked some connectors I needed for it to work for me. I also found the interface unappealing aesthetically. As for YNAB, I finally got my wife using the app daily so there’s no switching in my future. It’s the only budgeting app we’ve ever remotely stuck to, and that’s worth the subscription for us.
FWIW, here is a link to discussions started some five years ago.
EDIT – The two general approaches in personal finance management are an envelope or bucket system for budgeting and a checkbook ledger type system for tracking. YNAB and Moneywell exemplify the former as their basis, while Banktivity and Moneywiz exemplify the latter as their basis. You can track finances in a checkbox style view even an envelope-based system, and you can budget or project forward even in a checkbook ledger-based system. This is therefore only to say that, beyond one or the other base approach that an app takes, most also offer at least a fair way to handle the companion approach.
Perhaps the underlying insight from five years ago is this: As you decide what software/app to use, you might first consider what approach you will be more comfortable using, budgeting or tracking. Or put differently, the well structured design approach in YNAB will be of little use to you if you cannot make sense of envelop budgeting.
It’s been a little while since I tried Banktivity, I don’t remember cash flow forecasting being a feature. How does this work? Are you able to forecast balances on a checking/current account in to the future? And does it factor in future budgeted items / envelope allocations and bills into that forecast?
This is a really solid review, I found the same reasons for liking the app. Mostly calendar and great detail. I haven’t had those issues but you’re 100%, if you can’t trust the app to do what its meant to do then nothing matters, you have to trust the numbers are right.
I use (and like) Banktivity. I gave YNAB a second look last year and ultimately decided not to switch. Here are the thoughts I jotted down during my evaluation:
Banktivity 8 only shows a category in “Fill Envelopes” if it has a budget amount associated with it. This means I sometimes have to give categories a fake amount (like $5.00) to get them to always appear (or if they appear organically from spending, then Banktivity asks if you want to start budgeting for them). YNAB always shows all the categories, which is more flexible. UPDATE: This has changed in Banktivity 9; I now see all categories in the Fill Envelopes window, making it easy to allocate money to a category that is not part of the configured budget without needing to first edit the budget to include that category.
Banktivity’s goals are separate from envelopes, and they are clunky. I can’t set a goal’s due date, only the target amount and the number of contributions I want to make or the amount of each contribution. The goals seemed to be tracked by accounts and not categories. YNAB’s goals are integrated within the categories, so it shows if you are on track or how much you need to contribute this month to meet the goal’s objective.
Banktivity’s reconciliation process associates specific transactions with specific statements. YNAB’s reconciliation is focused on making sure your running balance matches the financial institution’s. It doesn’t have functionality to record statements as a set of specific transactions. I found Banktivity’s statements reconciliation to be a lot easier when trying to figure out when the running balance got off track.
Banktivity accepts attachments for transactions. YNAB does not.
Both Banktivity and YNAB can search across all transactions. Banktivity lets you search by keyword and minimum/maximum amount. YNAB is similar, although for amounts, you have to select inflow or outflow, and Banktivity doesn’t force you to specify a direction. Banktivity groups search results by account, which makes it difficult to review results that span across accounts. If you sort by transaction amount descending, you’ll have to review each account’s group of transactions to find what you are looking for. YNAB presents all results in a table form with clickable headers to sort the results as desired (I have requested this as a feature for Banktivity).
In the budget area, YNAB lets you add notes to categories (which stay with the category into subsequent months), and a small note to the month itself. Banktivity doesn’t have notes (although I have requested it as a feature).
Banktivity has comparative reporting (e.g., see spending this year compared to last year). It doesn’t look like YNAB does, although you can see trends (in the form of bar graphs) over a multi-year period to draw your own conclusions.
In YNAB, I don’t like how the Credit Card Payments has every credit card account that’s ever been added, including closed ones. Why would I want to see closed cards there? And YNAB prevents you from moving them into a new category group, which is frustrating. The only workaround I’ve found is to hide the entire Credit Card Payments group, which seems to be fine.
Banktivity can track investments, including cost basis, share price for buy/sell, and other useful data. In YNAB, you can set up a tracking account, but it’s more focused on you being able to see the current balance for reporting on net worth and not tracking the minutiae related to the activity of investment accounts. That hands-off approach might be fine for things like workplace retirement accounts, but for accounts that I am actively involved in managing (personal IRAs, HSAs, taxable investments), I like having all the information in the same place as the rest of my financial data.
In Banktivity, if I want to see my grocery spending for the current month, I can click the envelope for the category, or I can use a report. In YNAB, I have to go to All Accounts and then filter and search to find transactions. It’s OK once you get used to the process of building a search, but I wish the headers in the table were clickable filters to make it easier.
Jumping to an arbitrary budget month is very easy in YNAB. In Banktivity, there are a few buttons in the drop-down, but to go really far back in time, you have to page backward, one month at a time.
Banktivity lets you set up both income and expense categories, similar to an accounting chart of accounts. YNAB lets you configure expense categories, but the only option for income is Ready to Assign. If you want to track different income streams, you have to use the Payee field for grouping or use the notes/memo field. I find income reporting easier in Banktivity because I can see the breakdown of Wages, Book Royalties, Credit Card Rewards, Interest Income, Investment Income, and Miscellaneous Income; it feels cleanier than cluttering up the payee with the organization name as well as the type of income.
Changing payees on arbitrary transactions in Banktivity is easy. It took me some time to figure this out in YNAB; you have to use the Toolkit extension, which also adds some other nice buttons (Clear Selection, Toggle Splits).
In Banktivity, I can record a pre-tax contribution to a HSA by adding a transfer transaction to a split entry for my paycheck. In YNAB, the only thing I’ve figured out is to add a new category (HSA Pre-tax Contributions) because I don’t see a way to initiate a transfer to a “tracking” (i.e., not on-budget) account.
YNAB is built around categories and category groups. The reporting is group-based. However, I don’t think of my budget that way; I think of it as categories and not groups. YNAB’s default reporting is too generic for my tastes. I could fix this by putting each of my categories into a group, but that seems like a lot of work. I could also put everything into a single “Budget” category, and then use the drill-down feature. The drill-down is nice, but I sometimes have to do a lot of clicking to finish my investigation or use another report (like Income vs Expense). I do like how Income vs Expense has an average calculated. Banktivity, on the other hand, allows hierarchical categories, and it automatically does roll-up/drill-down reporting. Its income vs. expense report won’t show an average, but it WILL show a comparative period.
YNAB has a baked-in workflow to encourage you to review, approve, and categorize transactions. Banktivity encourages you to look at new transactions by badging the accounts in the sidebar, but I’ve found it helpful to create an Uncategorized Transactions report, which is the first thing I check when opening the program. It provides a single screen to quickly process any new transactions. After I’m done, I review the accounts with new transactions to make sure any that were automatically categorized or matched are correct.
Banktivity lets you save many different files, so if you want to try out a new budget without fully committing, you can do that. YNAB doesn’t have that option–you can do a fresh start (or perhaps set up a new trial account?), but that’s it.
One more item I like about Banktivity: I’ve organized my account groups so that all my budgeting accounts live in the same folder tree. By looking at the top folder, I can easily see my total cash on hand and compare it to the total amount in my budget envelopes, and the two figures should match. This is a quick check to validate I haven’t accidentally over- or under-budgeted. I did not find a way to accomplish this type of immediate total budget reconciliation in YNAB.
My main reasons for sticking with Banktivity were:
The envelope budgeting in Banktivity is good enough for my needs. I don’t use goals, and while I agree that YNAB presents a more sophisticated view of budgeting, I don’t require those features.
I like being able to attach files to transactions. I do this sparingly, but I find it very handy for important receipts or other documents I want to keep close to the data.
I think Banktivity’s reporting is superior.
And most importantly for me: Being able to have a single application manage my everyday cashflow, budgeting, and investments is more appealing than using multiple applications (like YNAB for budgeting and Personal Capital for investment tracking).
I have been using Banktivity for 10 years (previously called iBank).
I used others (YNAB, Moneywiz) and also tried a few apps that looked promising (Money, Quicken), but every time I ended up coming back to Banktivity. It has some features that others don’t have, the iOS app is great (especially in v9 supporting Reports), generally its UI is acceptable.
Into a bit more detail about its unparalleled features:
I like its capabilities in reports. I can apply different filters to save as different versions of the same report type. I can click on the number and drill down to a more granular level.
It supports investment accounts. This allows me to have a full picture on my family finances. The investment report is great to see how well my portfolio performs.
Sorry, I could have been more clear. What I meant to say was, YNAB doesn’t let you make a copy of an existing budget; you can certainly set up a new budget. When I was first getting started with budgeting, I wanted to try out different approaches (what happens if I put these accounts on- or off-budget, etc.). This was easy to do in Banktivity because I could save a copy of my existing file and play around with the copy to examine the ramifications of these changes. In YNAB–as far as I know–my only option was to create a brand new budget and re-import/re-enter all my data, re-set up my categories, etc. before I could start making the tweaks I wanted to investigate.
I should say this was an ephemeral need on my end. Once I was satisfied with my approach and the operational details, I no longer had a need to duplicate my Banktivity file to investigate what-if scenarios. And it seems like YNAB could have supported this same sort of investigation–it just would have been more work to get the duplicate budget configured than making a copy of a Banktivity file.
That makes sense - and I believe they have that option covered now, as I understand that to the be “Fresh Start” option they have, which deletes all the transaction data.
I tried going back to the old YNAB for a year, but I’m back on the online version now, as I found a definite lack of engagement and decline in my personal finances without using the online version, so that yearly fee feels a bit better knowing I’m more on top of things.
However, I would add it’s not perfect, as I certainly have to make use of the YNAB Toolkit, which expands it’s use slightly!
Thanks for pointing me towards this, spent the day getting set up in Banktivity again with a migration of ~5 years data from Moneydance and some manual edits to get my envelopes set up from nYNAB. It’s looking pretty good and everything is balancing .
The ability to forecast (along with wanting to track my investment portfolio) was the missing piece for me and was what has been keeping me running both nYNAB AND Moneydance side by side. I had to set up some dummy monthly placeholders for things like groceries / eating out / fun money etc… but now that I have those recurring the forecast report is working well.
I’m going to run the trial for a few weeks but if this works then I’m really happy that I can move to one app for budgeting / forecasting & investment tracking
I’ve been using Moneydance very happily for several years now. I’ll be curious to hear your comparison after using Banktivity for a while. I don’t use Moneydance’s budget module, I use it as an envelope system. Haven’t found anything better, so I’m interested in learning more.