Getting Started for Dummies

I'm at a loss here, I understand the four rules, I understand the ideas behind everything, but I have absolutely no clue where to start and how to start entering things. My accounts are all connected, but where the hell do I go from here? It's a lot of lines and columns that are not even remotely self-explanatory.

My situation is not that abnormal:

I get paid once a month at the end of the month. I only have a few hundred dollars in my account right now, and all my must-pay bills are paid right now. I live with roommates, so expenses are split and some I pay and get reimbursed for and some they pay and I reimburse them for.

It just seems wildly overcomplicated to get started and everything is geared towards understanding concepts and not "here's what you do first", especially if you're starting in the middle of the month. Am I missing something obvious?

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  • If you have added all your accounts, flip over to the budget page. Look at your categories (which are 100% customizable; you don't have to go with the template list). Look at your To Be Budgeted balance at the top. What do those dollars have to do before you get paid again? Assign the dollars the jobs that are needed by entering $X into the left column for Category A, and $Y into Category B, etc until your TBB is 0. Then you stop. You should not budget money that you do not actually possess right this minute.  When you receive more money, your TBB will increase and you assign jobs to all those dollars until it is back down to zero. Every time, ask yourself, what does my existing pot of money have to do before I get paid again. If you haven't already, put your savings account(s) on budget and assign jobs to those dollars as well (Car Replacement in 5 Years, Medical Emergencies, Income Replacement, etc). If in 4 days you realize that you shouldn't have allocated $25 to Category A because you really need it in Category B due to an upcoming bill, that's just fine - make the adjustments in the budgeted column. There is no prize for predicting the future with 100% accuracy. Before you spend, check the category available balance (right column). Is there enough to cover that expenditure? Great, go forth and spend! Not enough? Okay, what's the plan? Take $2 out of Eating Out to cover the shortfall on Clothing? That's cool, roll with the punches and make the adjustments.

    YNAB starts from today. However today you may have an existing balance on a credit card. Have you budgeted for that? If not, scroll down to the credit card payment category and try to budget enough that the available balance matches your current credit card balance. If not, just be aware that as far as the budget is concerned, when it comes time to pay the credit card bill, you have only allocated enough in your budget to pay what is in the Available column under credit card payments. If you want/need to pay more, you have to take it out of another category.

    Reimbursements are a bit more complicated and you should probably hunt down the support materials at You Need a Budget for more details.

    Like 4
  • Also, sign up for a class or two. 

    Like 1
    • jenmas What if your pot of money is $100,000 or more???? I am not seeing how I am going to assign enough "jobs" to get TBB down to 0????????????????????

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      • satcook
      • satcook
      • 3 wk ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Hot Pink Elk what is that money for??

       

      job loss fund?

      down payment?

      vacation?

      car repairs?

      house repairs?

       

      make categories and start budgeting!

      Like 2
      • jenmas
      • jenmas
      • 3 wk ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Hot Pink Elk first are you fully funding a 401(k)? If not, adjust withholdings. Next make sure the IRA is fully funded. If you have an HSA fully fund that. Do you have a Loss of Income category to cover 6 months? How about a category for the next time you need to buy a car. Annual medical out of pocket maximums for this year and next. If there is still left over, then create a category for taxable investing, fund it, and then "spend" the money by investing it in a low fee mutual fund.

      Like 2
    • Hot Pink Elk very easy: to start with just one very big category with the main aim for that money (retirement/income replacement?). Once you write the actual goal on it you start to realise it is meant to be used for more than that... you can split it out into more categories over time; it helped me to get started with the basics and get more granular over time as I got more familiar with the program.

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  • Good advice above ... the one thing that was hardest for me in the beginning is that you don't actually have to do anything. If you've set up your accounts and given every dollar a job (category) in the budget screen .... that's really it for now. 

    Now you just try your best to spend your money for the rest of the month staying under what you have in each category. 

    Like 1
  • Hi Magenta Inspector !

    Jenmas and ChicagoFlyer are spot on! I just wanted to leave  a short video that shows things in action.

    If you still have questions, please don't hesitate to ask! :)

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  • Faness   Just to offer some feedback from an even newer user than the original poster above, the video you linked strikes me like many of the other help videos I've seen so far -- that is, it just isn't nearly as helpful to a novice as it needs to be. 

     

    For instance, between :45 seconds and :54 seconds into the video, the video says to check what's available in the category before spending it, then to record the spending in the account where it took place while "categorizing appropriately" -- this is frankly gobbledeegook to a new user like me, and I suspect to many other new users like the OP. 

     

    Admittedly, i still need to check out a live help session but so far, the Quick Start guides and online help videos just seem to me to be pitched at entirely the wrong level for new users.  YNAB really does need a Getting Started for Dummies.

    Like 2
    • Green Cartridge Thank you for the feedback! The section you pointed out is our way of stating how to enter the transaction (selecting the category it belongs in). We have more resources on how to record your spending, but I understand how more resources could be avoided if the first one was clearer.

      We're continuously working on making our on-boarding experience easier and we appreciate you taking the time to weigh in! :)

      Like 1
  • Yeah, this is exactly what I mean, a lot of instructions are gibberish if you don't understand the details of what are being discussed. Like, from what I'm interpreting from this thread, you have to go in and update the budget after every. single. transaction. in or out of your accounts. That's a tremendous amount of work to remember to do, especially if you have to repeat creating the budget every month or every time you get paid

    There's no mention anywhere that if you start between pay cycles you only budget the money you have at the moment. I quite literally stumbled into the Budget Template document and discovered you can schedule transactions that you know are coming. Stuff that feels like it should be part of a step-by-step instruction guide. The quick start materials are far too sparse.

    Honestly, I'm probably not gonna stick with this because I don't have the time to dig deep into resources and attend live webinars that don't have recordings posted just to figure out the basics of how the system works.

    Like 2
      • jenmas
      • jenmas
      • 1 yr ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      Magenta Inspector You have to do what works for you. Is what you're doing right now working for you? If so, great! I wish you good luck, good health, and good fortune.

      If on the other hand you've been trying to improve your financial situation and haven't been making headway, then maybe you do need to try a system that is different from anything you have done before and requires different things from you than other apps or systems have (hint, hint, YNAB) and understand that in the beginning you may very well have to be willing to spend more time dealing with your budget than you ever have. I spent a weekend when I first started taking class after class to learn the nitty gritty of the system (it was a combination of the live webinars and recordings of previous webinars). I arranged and rearranged in the beginning. But now that it is up and running, I spend fewer than 5 minutes per day entering transactions and making adjustments (I choose to do 100% manual entry). At the end of the month I spend about 20 minutes make adjustments to reallocate leftover funds from discretionary categories or savings categories that have gotten to a higher balance than I require. For me personally, I have no problem devoting time to my financial well being. It is important to me and I am willing to prioritize the minimal time I spend having to budget every month (4 years in, I am at the point where I budget the same every month so "budgeting" for me is literally hitting the quick budget option to budget the same amounts I did last month). HOWEVER, it may not be your priority in which case, this is not the system for you.

      Now, YNAB cannot create money for a person. So at the end of the day, it ultimately comes down to this: spend less than you make. As simple and as complicated as that. Some times life circumstances make that literally impossible and the result is increased debt. YNAB cannot undo that. But it can help you have an accurate view of just what you do have, what you need it to be able to do, and what it can actually do.

      Like 4
    • jenmas I don't expect miracles, and I have no problem putting time in, but the poorly detailed and not-so-clearly documented nature of the program gives me serious pause. I don't need to be convinced to try it; I'm trying to try it. I just need clearer explanations, preferably with step-by-step instructions, which most things have, to help me get to that point. For example, you mention a quick budget option that lets you budget the same as last month. I hadn't heard of that before. That, obliquely, answers one of my issues (repeating creating the budget every month), but tells me nothing more about it than it's name and that it exists and maybe does what I'm wanting.  

      Like 2
      • jenmas
      • jenmas
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Magenta Inspector The documentation on Quick Budget is on the website: https://docs.youneedabudget.com/category/114-budgeting

      Like
  • Magenta Inspector said:
    Like, from what I'm interpreting from this thread, you have to go in and update the budget after every. single. transaction. in or out of your accounts.

     That's not accurate.

    Your spending transactions automatically adjust the budget. Your income gives you money that needs to be budgeted (hence the name "To Be Budgeted" for the big number at the top of the budget screen. You then add it more money to your categories.

    It's pretty basic.

    1) Receive income

    2) Budget income to categories

    3) Spend money based on your category balances

    4) Next time you get paid, go to 1).

    YNAB is a spending and saving plan based on only the money you have. It's an allocation budget system. Just ask what this money needs to do before the next time you get paid, and add it to the categories accordingly.

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  • Hi from someone who is also a newbie and got the programme a week ago

    I've come to the conclusion there is no quick answer to learning YNAB, you just have to buck down and learn how to use it in small bite sized pieces. It's a fairly steep learning curve which is annoying because I like to have stuff ready, sorted and set up..

    But already I've realised it's worth it. I'm away on vacay at the mo and I've been playing with it all week (How sad is that lol). But I've managed to get all my catagories etc set up and I've realised how much money Hubs and I 'waste' every month. We're going away to Tenerife next October and I want to pay for it monthly. I thought I'd only manage half then have to pay for the rest from our savings. Thanks to YNAB I've realised I can pay it in full by next July. And that's just one thing... 

    I've only scratched the surface so far and I still get frustrated with it (especially the app), but I'm plugging away. I refuse to let it beat me. In fact I like it so much despite how hard it is, I'm seriously considering buying it for my daughter though I'll probably end up having to do her accounts for her!!!
    Please don't give up on it..
    Cheers
    Kim

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    • Kim happy you made it. doesn't help us losers......

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    • Hot Pink Elk There are no losers here! We're all at different places on our financial journey, or learning about the YNAB Method. I see you posted earlier in the thread, and a few ideas were added to help give each of those dollars a job.

      This community is great for advice, and if you need help with your budget—you can always send our team a message in the app by clicking the question mark in the bottom right.

      Like
  • I HEAR YOU!! I struggled for MONTHS trying to get YNAB to work for me. I HATE HATE HATE numbers and I'm fairly sure they hate me too.

    But I was determined to make it WORK. I watched youtube after youtube (go to Mapped Out Money and look at his YNAB vids, he helped a lot https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfRqvJFJ6LLQ62lKmOUXATw) live lesson after live lesson, read and read what I could find.

    Then I just started doing it. I flubbed it up many times.  Had to fresh start a billion times. BUT NOW I'M DOING IT!! And I freaking love it. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have, coming from a fresh newbie perspective, and do my best to help. GOOD LUCK!

    Like 3
  • I watched a lot of recorded how to start lessons. Also, watching Nick True helped me a lot, though he does something overly complicated with tying up categories to account balances. But all the rest is good.

    These https://www.youneedabudget.com/video-courses/ came out after I started. I find them very clear and I think they cover everything.

    YNAB does involve learning something new. But it is so worth it.

    Like 1
    • Powder Blue Pony The Nick True reimbursement advice is also a bit off, especially regarding someone buying something on your behalf.

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    • dakinemaui oh, good to hear. And I think I agree. I watched it recently and didn’t quite understand. Thought that was me... Suppose it isn’t 😊. Phew.

      He did somehow help me in the beginning. I think because he shows his actions in the program all the time, while the YNAB video’s last year were more about the principle. The new ones show the program as well. Now I just watch them for entertainment (really get a life!😂 But I LIKE YNAB and so far have been able to convert only my 11 year old son and no one else)

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