YNAB is Now Free for College Students

The headline basically says it all.

We’re fighting free with free.  I was given a free t-shirt when I signed up for my first Visa credit card while in college (charged a mattress on it, forgot about the payment, paid it off, and cut it up in disgust—the card, not the mattress).

More kids are graduating from college absolutely weighed down by student debt. I don’t know what portion of their debt is avoidable, but I’m confident that if those students were following YNAB’s Four Rules, they would graduate with less debt.

Starting today, if you’re a college student (even only part-time), we’ll let you use YNAB for free while you’re in school.

How to Obtain Your Free Copy of YNAB

  1. Write to us at support@youneedabudget.com and include proof of registration at your college.

  2. We’ll send you a special license key, good until the end of the calendar year.

  3. At the end of the year, just shoot us another email if you’re still cranking away on your schoolwork, and we’ll send you a new license key that’s good for the entire next year.

Answers to a Few Questions

If I’m still living at home, but am attending college, do I get a free copy?

Yes! Instead of having a household license (the kind we sell every day), you’ll receive a special license key that is good for your personal use, through the end of the calendar year.

Why not have the license key run for the entire school year?

Different countries have different “school years” and we thought it’d be easiest to handle them all with an easily-remembered calendar year. It’s 2014, you’ll need the 2014 Key. It’s 2015? Grab the new 2015 Key.

Can I share my license key with my friends that are also students?

Instead of having your friends use your license key, send them over our way (support@youneedabudget.com, with their proof of registration) and we’ll set them up properly. This helps us in a few ways: 1) We can send them a few emails re: getting started with YNAB. 2) They’ll receive an invitation to our spring free online class we run for college students re: student loan debt and, 3) We’ll know how successful this program is. If it’s successful and gains some traction, we’ll hopefully be able to get some media muscle behind it and let even more schools know.

What about Making YNAB Free for [some other well-deserving group]?

Perhaps some day. We’re new at this, and want to see where this goes!

What should I send as a proof of registration?

You can send a scan or screenshot (PDF, jpg, gif, etc.) of a document issued by your college, with your name, the college name, and information that shows you’re currently enrolled.  This may include a school ID card, a report card, a transcript, or a tuition bill or statement.

How Does YNAB Benefit from This? You Don’t Run a Charity.

YNAB has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past several years. That growth has come almost entirely from word of mouth. We think that having a bunch of super-savvy, money-smart, socially-active, recent college graduates—all hooked on following YNAB’s Four Rules—will only increase that word of mouth. Also, we really like the idea of college students graduating with less debt, even if it means they miss out on a free t-shirt from Visa.

Please Help Us Spread the Word!

Use the buttons below to share this post on Facebook, tweet this post on Twitter, or forward this blog post to college students you know (or, parents of college students you know)!

150 Responses to “YNAB is Now Free for College Students”

  1. obstschale

    That is sooooo awesome! But one question: Are international students welcome as well? E.g. I’m living in Germany.

  2. Rose

    This is such an awesome idea! Students grab this while you can!!

  3. Tom

    I already passed this on to my son. I love my YNAB and have showed it to him.

  4. Shanta

    Will a screenshot of confirmation that they received my housing work as proof that I’ve registered? I don’t have

  5. D. Nathan Meehan

    You saved me money! I told my two college age sons a week ago that if they bought it and stuck with it fastidiously for four months I would reimburse them 150% of the cost.—so to say thanks I will dump our budget software and buy a copy of yours….hopefully they will be real customers when (if?) they ever finish school. Both are bound to grad school.

    • nathansmithz23

      Woah! Small world, Elder Meehan! Hope you’ve had a smooth adjustment coming back from HK!

      I’m going to finally hop on and try using YNAB. Can’t beat free.

  6. Natasha M

    This is a great idea. I started using YNAB in university and have told tons of student friends about it. I’ll pass it along.

  7. Jim

    Does this offer stand if someone just graduated (Dec), and is now in the midst of job searching before the student debt bills kick in? (Jun)

  8. Dan Tieken

    Does the code work to redeem YNAB on the Mac App Store?

    • mark

      Nope – this key will only work for copies downloaded directly from YNAB. (Because we don’t have a way to make this work through the app store.)

    • mark

      Nope, sorry. It will only work with copies of the software downloaded directly from YNAB.

  9. LeiraHoward

    I just sent emails to the two college students I know (youngest brother and youngest brother-in-law). We’ve already recommended this to all our siblings (and I know that at least 3 are using it), but the whole “free” thing might kick the still-in-college crew into using it a bit earlier. :) Plus they can share the info with their friends in college.

  10. Dayna Flumerfelt

    I passed this along to my little sister who’s a college freshman! One of the things that I always say is that I wish I learned this stuff earlier – maybe she’ll jump on board. :)

  11. Maiya

    This is a really wonderful offer, Jesse!! I will be setting my daughter up with YNAB when she goes off to college this fall! I sure wish I had a buget tool like YNAB when I was in college!

  12. Lee L.

    Is there any chance you would run a deal for those recently graduated college students? I want to buy the software, but with money as tight as it is, I keep holding off for a sale. I would suppose recent grads need it just as much as current students, if not more when you consider the enormous debt they often have to deal with after they are done being students.

  13. Audra

    I purchased YNAB when I started college…and paid to upgrade to the new version (still in college)! Any reimbursement for already YNAB-loyal students? I do hope it takes off in popularity. I love YNAB.

    • Audra

      JK. I just read the details and would rather keep my permanent copy of YNAB rather than only have it until I graduate. :)

  14. Rebekah Basinger

    Is the offer available to graduate students. If so, I’ll encourage students enrolled in Messiah College’s Master of Arts in Higher Education to check it out. Come to think of it, I’ll tell them anyway, as all are either already or soon will be working with undergrads. Thank you for providing a much needed resource.

      • Texacali Living

        Awesome! About to send this to all of my med school friends. If you guys could also push webinars on how to deal with loans through YNAB, that would be helpful too. It’s the number one thing my med school friends give me as why they “can’t” use YNAB.

        “I don’t have an income since I have to live off loans so there’s no point in using a budget” Eek.

      • jesse

        Oh dear, a part of me died right there. We need to help those brilliant, broke students.

      • Kristen

        Could you update your website so that it is clearly available to grad students? I think it will circulate even better this way.

        I’ve been a YNAB user since last year and am excited to spread the news to my grad school circles! Thanks so much!

  15. Martin

    Is the only difference in software that the license expires at the end of this year? That is, if at some point during the year I want to buy a full version, will the exiting budget still work or be able to be ported over?

    • mark

      Hi Martin – Yes, it’s the same software, so updating to a permanent key wouldn’t disrupt any part of your budget.

  16. Tracy

    I’d second the question about documentation of registration for housing. Is that sufficient? I’d love to get my daughter set up before she leaves for her first year in late summer. I don’t know when she’ll be considered “enrolled,” but we have sent off a significant housing deposit.

  17. Linda

    Could you possibly add Military and Retired Military to the list. Soldiers and their family could certainly use something like this, especially since cutbacks are being made to the military population.( These are the people fighting for our freedom) Thank you for such a wonderful program.

    • Clarence

      I agree, being retired military myself I know how hard it is to leave a steady military job and get back into the competitive outside world without any real training on finances. It would be nice to have the superb knowledge that this program provides.

  18. colodude

    Very generous offer, worthy of your team’s character. This is a good anchor point for resetting the cultural norm back to “save first”, and “owe no man…”

  19. Sam

    What a fantastic initiative. Well done Jesse and team YNAB.

  20. jcw3rd

    This is just a bit off-topic, and there are no students involved, but can I ‘gift’ a copy/license to a friend or relative? I have a s-i-l that could use YNAB, but can’t afford it. I would like to buy her a copy as a gift. Maybe as a gift-certificate?

    — jcw

    • jcw3rd

      Never-mind. I just found my answer on the YNAB home page.

      — jcw

  21. Stephanie @ Six Figures Unders

    Awesome! I am excited to share the news! I’m can’t wait to tell all my friends and family and blog readers who are college students!

    YNAB is really helping us maximize our student loan payments. I love that YNAB is more than just awesome budgeting software, but a method and philosophy for managing money. Getting on the right track with YNAB while still in college will help so many people!!

  22. Joshua Beall

    You need a poster that promotes this. Do you have one? I work near a small college and could post something in the stairwells at their student life center. I’m sure that would generate some activity. I’d love to post something there for you. I can print full color, 8.5″x11″. I can print bigger than that, but the bigger it is the less likely it will get approved by the faculty.

  23. Tim

    Why not just use a .edu email address for USA schools as verification like Microsoft does? I dig the initiative just hoping to help streamline the process. I get that some unaccredited schools don’t do this and maybe for them the extra steps are necessary

    • Mia

      Because many schools, even the fully accredited ones, are doing away with hosting email accounts for students. My school gave me a .edu address, but everything to that .edu address gets immediately routed to my Gmail account.

    • Josh

      There are lots of people with .edu email addresses who are not college students. Those universities don’t just run themselves ;-)

      • Grażyna

        Both of the universities I attended give their alumni a permanent .edu address as well.

  24. Patrick

    Great deal. I know this will pay off for you guys in the long run!

  25. Kenny

    YNAB : you are awesome in every way imaginable : not just great software, but great people too.

    I’ll spread the news.

  26. Jack

    I’ve graduated from college and am now training full-time in a flight school, and have taken up a loan for that. This means I’ll graduate with a huge debt to my name at the end of it.

    Can this offer be open to students training full-time in such schools too?

    • Erin

      Jack, flight school sounds like school to me. :) Give us a shout!

  27. Corrie

    Amazing! Love ynab and have shared with my college freshman daughter. Forwarding this to her and her friends right now! You guys rock!

  28. Haley Coulter

    I am a high school student that will be starting college in August. Will this offer still be available in the fall?

    • mark

      Hi Haley – As a high school student, you’d be welcome to take advantage of the offer now. No need to wait. :)

  29. Mayde

    This is perfect timing. How would this work if I am currently using your trial version?

    • mark

      Same way – just submit your proof of enrollment, and we’ll send you a license key!

  30. Mary

    I love YNAB. This is awesome! I have had a long, post high school educational path (college, medical school, residency) and the loans to show for it. I am tracking all of my student loans in YNAB now, but had used YNAB in college and been aware of the incredible financial burden I was taking on, I gaurantee you I would have a lot less debt. Kuddos to you! One day I’m gonna work for YNAB!!

  31. Peyton

    I think Mark may have just answered my question, but I want to be certain. Are high school students able to get this deal. I am teaching Generation Change at church and would LOVE to use YNAB to help them understand their budgets.

    Thank you

  32. Drucinda Woodman

    End of 2014,what happens if student, or now ex student ignores your email?Will they be automatically enrolled & billed for new year??

    • mark

      Hi Drucinda – they won’t have purchased anything, so we won’t have a credit card on file. If they fail to renew, YNAB will simply stop working for them.

  33. Dave M

    Cudos Jesse! It’s so awesome that YNAB is doing this for college students!

  34. Staci

    Great idea!

    Question: My son is a high school senior and I want to teach him to use YNAB while he is still at home. Can he qualify?

    Here’s why I think this is a good idea: Our daughter is now completing her first year of uni and we started her on YNAB when she enrolled in September. Since we failed to start her off at home, she has not been disciplined, has found it confusing, and has not stuck with it.

    What do you say? Can our graduating senior get in on this deal?

    • erin

      Hi Staci,

      Actually I’d recommend setting up your son with your household license, since that license is permanent. Your license allows you to use YNAB for people in your immediate household, so that should work. :)

  35. Kim

    I’m seconding Peyton’s question. Will you give it free to high school students also?

  36. Isaac Vrooman

    What if you have already purchased the program while in college? Can you be reimbursed?

  37. Tony

    What about a student that just purchased YNAB (It’s worth every penny!) in February?

  38. emb09054

    What if you already have YNAB and have been enrolled in college….refund? Thanks!

    • Jesse

      We’d rather just have you keep your license, since that license is good forever, and not just for the year :)

  39. Brian

    This is awesome! Will definitely share.

    Any progress on a browser based version?

    I’m a student, and am going to replace my computer with a chromebook soon, mainly to stay within my budget. But, YNAB won’t work on that….


    • mark

      Hi Brian – we’re always making progress, but we don’t have a release date yet.

  40. Jennifer

    Ignore my last question…. I would however like to know if my current version of YNAB can be upgraded for free since I am a student. What happens then after the year? Will it automatically downgrade?

    • mark

      Hi Jennifer – what do you mean by upgrading your current version of YNAB? Have you paid for the software before?

      • Jennifer

        I guess the answer is a no.. I have had no reply.. Yes I have already paid for the software. I would like to upgrade to ynab4 but I am unable to afford it. I am a student.

      • tcw

        Sounds like you can email your registration info to YNAB and get a 2014 key for YNAB 4, and you’ll still have your permanent key for YNAB 3. It would be more like a brand new version than an upgrade, but you would get to use YNAB 4 free for 2014 with the new key. Not sure why no one has replied–everything I’ve seen indicates this is how it works.

  41. Emily

    You guys might be my favorite business, ever. What a great way to both build your business AND help people!

  42. martha

    If my spouse is a student, are we eligible to participate for free?

    • mark

      Yes – your spouse would submit proof of enrollment, and you’d receive a student license key.

      • Aleksej (@avascenk)

        Do you need a translated copy of documents? Or how are you going to translate international languages?:)
        Sharing this with all people I know:)

      • mark

        Just send it in; we’ll sort it out! I’m sure the documents will have some sort of indication of educational authenticity, regardless of language.

  43. Susan Harris

    Hi. Thank you so much for the offer…but a day or two late…:(. I’ve used my trial version as a student, and having just graduated in Dec…I saved up enough money following your four rules…and just two days ago, I bought the full version! Wish I would have waited a few days and then that money could have been budgeted elsewhere! Water under the bridge now…great initiative here and you will be helping a lot of struggling students with your great software! Thanks for putting me on the right track!

    • Jesse

      Susan, congrats on graduating! And thanks for supporting YNAB with your purchase. Hopefully you earn back that $60 quickly, and it can be deployed efficiently to your highest priority item.

  44. Wrica

    Can we be reimbursed if we are currently a student And have bought the software?

    • mark

      Hi Wrica – We couldn’t reimburse you because you have a permanent license key, whereas students are basically receiving extended trial keys. They have to use a new one each year they’re in school, and would need to pay for YNAB if they choose to keep using it after graduation. In other words, you’re ahead of the game!

  45. Margaret

    Awesome. Just shared on FB (and tagged my brothers who are in college) and sent a message to moneysavingmom.com to see if Crystal will feature this on her blog. :)

  46. Andre Rosario

    Bumped this on Tumblr and Facebook! Really glad to share with my friends. I preferred this to Mint and to making my own Excel spreadsheets.

  47. Carly

    Hey, thanks for all that you do!
    I was wondering if there was any way to reimburse a student (me) that has already purchased YNAB.

    Thanks for your time.

    • mark

      Hi Carly – If you’ve already purchased, you have a permanent key. The “free while you’re a student” offer is basically an extended trial that students will have to renew each year they’re in school. Once they graduate; they’ll have to buy the software. In other words, you’re ahead of the game!

  48. Tanya Williams

    This is FANTASTIC!!! And have shared it with a group of undergraduates that I mentor. I am wondering if you could offer this for any students who are in school. I work at a seminary – of only graduate students – and I am working on developing a financial stability and security program for them as the deal with debt and I would love to offer this as a resource. Can it be accessible by graduate students in seminary as well (most of them are going to be low paid ministers, activists, etc.) so learning to work with money will be important.
    thanks, t.

  49. lizzie

    hi, love YNAB (fully paid happy user!) and think this is a great idea. I have a family member who is studying at NvQ level (vocational college in the UK) – would they be eligible? have been encouraging them to get it for a while, cost has been their only reason not too…

  50. Luke

    Hi Jesse, what a generous offer!

    I would like to introduce my sister to YNAB, but YNAB4 won’t run on her old iBook G4. Will the code work for YNAB3 as well?

    • mark

      Hi Luke – I’m really sorry, but YNAB 3 isn’t available any longer. She’ll likely have to wait for our online version to be released, but I have no idea when that will be ready.

  51. Catharine

    This is so great! My daughter is choosing a budget program right now. She graduated early though – in December (to save money)but doesn’t walk until May. Can she use her ID to get YNAB for free?

  52. Alannah

    Hello! If the student is in Canada, are they still eligible if they’re in college rather than a university? Thanks!

  53. John Kessler

    I’m a university economics professor who has been using YNAB for years. I’ve been telling my students about YNAB every semester. This is great news for them and for all of us – there are benefits to everyone when our students begin their careers on strong financial footing

  54. David L

    I really love YNAB and I would recommend it to all the students I know. My only hesitation is that YNAB still doesn’t deal with lump-sum incomes perfectly. I would love to be able to categorise a transaction as income, split between this month, next month, the month following that and the month following that. Right now, you can only categorise transactions as income split between this month and next month.

    What I’m describing would be a much more user-friendly solution than what is officially recommend in this article: http://www.youneedabudget.com/support/article/variable-income

    Here are the drawbacks of the two methods:

    [Budget for the future with your “now” dollars] The disadvantage of this method, to use the example from that article, is that “$3000 available to budget” is displayed for April, when really it should be “$0 available to budget”, since that $3000 is meant for May.

    [Create a “deferred income” category] The disadvantage of this method is that is it is counter-intuitive for a beginner, since categories seem to be for things you spend money on. Also, the “budgeted in Jan” number includes the -$1500 number, which makes it harder to check how much money you have available to categorise vs how much you have budgeted on different categories.

    YNAB already has the solution to this, it just needs to be extended beyond two months!

  55. L. McGraw

    Hi! I sent proof of college enrollment on 27 March, but still have not received a key for this offer. Did I miss the email, or have the keys not been sent out yet? My trail expires in just a few days.

    Thank you again for this offer!

  56. Janice

    I work at a University- I’m posting this on my bulletin board!

  57. Richard

    Would you ever consider extending this offer to teachers and other educators?

  58. LK

    Woohoo! I’ve been spreading YNAB around my graduate program, and I was 10 days away from having buy it when my trial runs out. Thank you!

  59. Tori

    What if you’re enrolled in school full-time, but you also happen to be married and have a baby and maybe the household version would be more appropriate for your situation rather than the personal version? Would it be possible to get that version instead? (I do have proof of my registration)

    • mark

      Hi Tori –

      To be clear, there’s no “student” version of the software – it’s just a different type of license key. Students will have to prove enrollment and obtain a new key once per year, while people who pay for a normal license key will keep it forever. So, if you’d like a permanent license key, you’ll want to buy it. If you’d like to use it for free while in school (why not?), get in touch with your proof of enrollment and we’ll get you a key. In either case you’ll be using the same version of YNAB.

      • Mariana Almeida

        Can this version later be converted to a regular paid version? I’m worried about losing data if I use the version with the license key for students. If I like it after using it as a student, I want to use it for my whole household (meaning to add hubby.)

  60. Joel Greggain

    I published this offer in our school paper last month. Hopefully some of my fellow grad students give YNAB a shot. I really like it!

  61. Sara

    Does this apply to college students who are in their final semester/just finished it, and are graduating? Most US colleges are graduating in the next few weekends, but I just found this program

  62. Amy

    SO happy about this! My daughter was using the 34 day free trial, but this will help her (AND her friends!) enormously! Thank you, YNAB!!

  63. Luke Strawn

    I discovered this program through Reddit and I have to say – I can’t wait to get started! I’ve heard monumentally amazing things about YNAB! You all are such wonderful people and I look forward to the online classes and finally working my way out of debt!

  64. Official YNAB Discount / Referral Coupon

    […] for YNAB? Better than that – YNAB is FREE for college students! Details can be found here: YNAB is Now Free for College Students. Keep your expenses low and use the free version until you have graduated. When you are ready to […]

  65. John Reynolds

    Once it reaches the end of year and the license “expires” will the software provide a “grace period” until a new key is received from Support? I don’t want to be out of town when the year ends and my iPhone app stop working because I cannot send in proof for a new 2015 key right away.

    How early can a 2015 key be requested in December?

    Hope a grace period is available!

  66. Shon

    My emails never goes through :/ Is this offer over?

  67. Jayne

    I was wondering if you offer it to students in a technical school.

  68. Rose

    Hi, if students receive a new key for the next school year by writing an email to get the new key for that year how will the students’ keep on budgeting if there is a break/lapse/interruption between the time they send the email and the time that they receive the new key?

  69. Piers

    Hi there. I’m a Engineering student from Palermo, Sicily – Italy. Could I use your offer as well? I’m curious about it but I’d like to try it on this semester before possibly buy it.
    Another question: the Student key and\or the full key can be used from multiple devices (e.g. every family member smartphones and computers)?

    Thanks a lot in advance, regards


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