Actual Budget is the opensource selfhosted alternative to YNAB


I used to love YNAB (You Need A Budget), especially the classic desktop version, because of its fantastic features. The app’s zero-based budgeting system, real-time synchronization, and comprehensive financial reports were indispensable in managing my finances effectively. However, when YNAB transitioned to a cloud-only version and stopped supporting the classic desktop app, the sync became spotty. Additionally, the price of YNAB eventually turned me off, prompting me to look for a more affordable alternative. That’s when I discovered Actual Budget, a free and open-source option that offers similar functionalities.

Overview of YNAB

Key Features:
– Zero-based budgeting system
– Goal tracking and progress visualization
– Real-time synchronization across devices
– API for data extraction to tools like Power Query and Power Pivot
– Native mobile (Android and iOS) apps

Target Audience:
YNAB is ideal for users who want a structured approach to budgeting and are comfortable with a bit of a learning curve to maximize its features.

YNAB offers a free 34-day trial, followed by a subscription fee of $14.99 per month or $99.00 per year.

Overview of Actual Budget

Key Features:
– Envelope budgeting system
– Simple, user-friendly interface
– Offline accessibility
– Self-hosted, open-source platform
– Installation via desktop and mobile Progressive Web App (PWA)
– End-to-end encryption for enhanced security

Target Audience:
Actual Budget is suitable for users who prefer a straightforward and easy-to-use budgeting tool with an emphasis on simplicity and offline functionality, and who are comfortable with self-hosting software.

Actual Budget is open-source and free, but requires self-hosting.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Feature/Aspect YNAB Actual Budget
User Interface and Ease of Use Modern and intuitive interface but may require time to learn. Simple and clean design, easy for beginners to navigate.
Budgeting Methodology Zero-based budgeting, every dollar is assigned a job. Envelope budgeting, dividing funds into specific categories.
Integration and Compatibility Syncs with multiple devices, integrates with numerous banks and financial institutions. Limited integrations, requires self-hosting.
Customer Support Extensive online resources, workshops, and responsive customer support. Community-based support, focus on simplicity and self-hosting documentation.
Pricing $14.99 per month or $99.00 per year after a 34-day free trial. Free, open-source, but requires self-hosting.
API Available for data extraction to Power Query and Power Pivot. Not as robust as YNAB’s for data extraction.
Desktop and Mobile Apps iOS and Android apps. Desktop via the browser. Installation via Progressive Web App (PWA) for offline use.
End-to-End Encryption Not available. Optional end-to-end encryption for enhanced security.
Data Ownership and Security Data is hosted on YNAB’s servers, with the associated risks of cloud storage. Self-hosted, meaning you own and control your data, with the ability to secure it and set up robust backup systems to minimize the risk of data loss.


Both YNAB and Actual Budget offer unique advantages depending on your budgeting needs. YNAB is perfect for those seeking a detailed and structured approach to budgeting, with advanced features and robust data integration. I particularly enjoyed using YNAB’s API to analyze my financial data in Power Query and Power Pivot, which made data analysis easy and comprehensive.

However, the transition to a cloud-only version and the ongoing subscription fees can be drawbacks. Additionally, hosting data on YNAB’s servers comes with risks of data loss or breach. On the other hand, Actual Budget is an excellent free alternative for those who prefer simplicity, offline capabilities, and have the technical know-how for self-hosting. The app can be installed as a Progressive Web App (PWA) on both desktop and mobile devices, allowing you to work on your budget even while offline. Additionally, Actual Budget offers optional end-to-end encryption, ensuring that only you have access to your data. With self-hosting, you own and control your data, and with proper backup systems, you can minimize the risk of data loss.

Personally, I have switched to using Actual Budget solely due to the heavy price I had to pay for YNAB. I recommend my readers consider Actual Budget if they are looking for a cost-effective solution and are willing to invest some time in learning self-hosting. With the PWA, you can seamlessly manage your budget offline, and a VPS can help you synchronize your data across multiple devices easily. End-to-end encryption provides an added layer of security, making it a robust option for privacy-conscious users. Plus, owning your data means you can secure it and back it up as needed, minimizing the risks associated with cloud storage.

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