Why do you prefer manual input over direct import?

So I've seen in an official YNAB seminar and read quite a bit on this forum that a lot of people seem to prefer manual transaction entries over direct import and I'm curious as to why that is? I've been using the old YNAB (classic? 4? whatever it's called....) for years now and just recently updated to the new YNAB and I thought direct import was the only option; turns out I was wrong. But I still thought that was a major...advantage to the update maybe. Like I've said I just recently switched, it literally hasn't even been a week yet, so I haven't really been able to form my own opinion on the matter so I'm curious to everyone else's. Why do you prefer manual input??

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  • I don't have a choice (not US based) but the main reason I like it is because it means my budget is always up to date and I know intimately where my money is going at all times. A minor reason would be that it adds a small "cost" to any transaction and that's another way to discourage unnecessary purchases... but if that was the only advantage I don't think I'd keep going 🙂 In the end I wouldn't be comfortable sharing my banking credentials with any other software than my bank's website anyway, so I wouldn't use direct import even if I could.

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  • I use both manual entry and direct import. I like using manual entry because it allows me to keep my budget up-to-date at all times. Generally, it takes 1-2 days (or longer) for transactions to clear through the bank and then show up through direct import. I use manual entry at the time of purchase (or the day of the purchase, if it's something that my husband has purchased) and then I direct import once a week or every-other week. The direct import feature provides a verification of what I've already entered manually and reveals anything that I may have forgotten to enter manually. I feel like if I didn't keep track of purchases manually, then I may overspend in certain categories waiting on the direct import feed (simply because of the delay of transactions clearing the bank). Especially if you are still living paycheck-to-paycheck, manual entry is essential; if you have a buffer, direct import is simpler.

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  • I have no interest in sharing my log in credentials with an outside party.

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  • The way I look at it, I want to enter my own transactions in real time so that I can match them against what the bank's records are. That way, any incorrect charges or other oddities are apparent. If I buy a $2.78 breakfast on Tuesday, I may not remember the exact amount I spent on Thursday when it shows up via automatic import, but if I mark it down immediately, and then later in the week find that I've been charged $3.11, I can investigate the discrepancy. By examining and entering my own receipts, I have recently found two discrepancies, one for $100. So it's worth it to me.

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      • mamster
      • mamster
      • 5 mths ago
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      • Reported - view

      doctor_who I really want a $2.78 breakfast.

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      • doctor_who
      • Silver_Boa
      • 5 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      mamster OK, my hypothetical "breakfast" was an iced coffee. Which is actually $2.35; I was just throwing random numbers out there. 😅

      Reply Like 2
    • mamster Some Ikeas apparently do breakfast. It's about that much. Weird, I know.

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    • Maroon Rain 

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  • I maintain four on budget accounts and two off budget.  I manually enter all transactions partly because I don't have a choice (I'm in Australia) and partly because I enjoy it.

    Why do I enjoy it? 

    1. It makes me mindful of every transaction.  I've found engaging my brain in my budget frequently a real game change for me.
    2. Even if I had the choice, I would manually enter those transactions. 
    3. Every time I want/need to spend, I have to open YNAB to check my categories.  Since I'm there, I can enter the transaction.
    4. As mentioned below, I might forget the detail of a transaction so I enter it straight away.
    5. I also dislike the idea of sharing my bank credentials with any software.
    Reply Like 4
  • Same as others have stated.  I manually input all transactions soon after they occur so my budget is up to date at all times.  The direct import information simply confirms my manual entries, a few days later.   Though I will admit, lately, when I make a Debit card purchase locally, most of the time, by the time I get home it has already cleared the bank.   

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  • Why I prefer manual entry:

    I do a lot of cash and gift card transactions. Those have to be entered manually.

    I enjoy the detail work of entering all my transfers and transactions daily. It gives me a birds-eye view of my money. I truly value the sense of awareness that daily manual entry gives me. I know, for example, that although my total account liquidity is the highest it has ever been, my pocket money category is down to its last $20 for the month.  That means that even though I'm "rich" and my accounts are bulging with excess right now, I will definitely be avoiding impulsive unnecessary spending on treats in the next two weeks so as to not exceed the remaining $20 in that category.

    The really big reason why:

    Providing access to a third-party aggregator service (and giving that service my passwords) violates my account holder's agreement (all of them) and releases the banks I deal with  from any responsibility in the event of a hacking/fraud event.  I would much rather rely on my federally regulated, deposit-insured bank located here in Canada (with a local office/branch that I can walk into and deal with people face-to-face) to handle my account security and to deal with any breach than rely on some budget software company in another country to keep my accounts and money safe.

    Reply Like 6
  • Awareness and engagement.

    Your finances aren't going to improve on their own just because you drafted a budget. You have to live according to that budget: To ensure your spending is aligned with your priorities.

    Manual transaction entry forces you to constantly engage with your budget and reconsider your priorities. You're more likely to be successful and achieve your financial goals when you do that. IMO this is especially true for folks who are new to budgeting with YNAB and do not (yet) have a strong sense of where all their money is going.

    Reply Like 7
  • This isn’t either/or. I input manually to keep my budget up to date but I’ve been using Mint practically since it launched and aggregation doesn’t bother me. So I use direct import to clear transactions. Depending on the time of month and the size of the transaction, I may not put it in. For instance, if I buy a coffee on day 2 of the month and I don’t remember if it was $3.58 or $3.85, rather than waste the time looking it up or having to match an incorrect transaction later, I’ll just let it import. $4 extra in my dining out category isn’t going to cause me to make some huge mistake. Toward the end of the month, I’m more careful because my dining out money is usually more gone by then. 

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  • One issue is that toward the end of the month, if you only import, the transaction might come in after you move on to the next month. This can cause some problems in a couple of ways, especially if you are the kind of budgeter  who has a clean-up routine at the end of the month.

    If you clean out the remainder in your category at the end of the month before the transaction posts and is imported without having manually entered the transaction, you've already reallocated the funds that would have covered the purchase, and you might otherwise have left them in the category. And you'll get different behaviors depending on whether the transaction ultimately posts with a previous month date or a current month date, and whether cash-based or credit card-based overspending.

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  • thanks for all of your replies. you've given me a lot to think about...still not sure what i'm going to do. lol. i liked the ease initially of transactions importing on their own since i've been doing manual input for so many years now, however the fact that it's taking a day or two (or three) sometimes is bugging me because as you all mentioned, then my budget isn't as up to date as it could be.

    but in using direct import i do like the fact that i then don't have to go log into my 10 different bank accounts/credit cards separately every couple days when i want to make sure everything has been entered/cleared. and yes i do have 10 (2 bank accounts, 8 credit cards), no i don't use them all. only....2 in normal everyday rotation. however i'm a points person so i use different credit cards for different things at certain times depending on what will get me the most points at that time of year type of deal. and that's just the budgeted accounts! 3 additional tracking accounts... *sigh*

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  • I prefer manual import because I like to keep my accounts cleaned up daily.  I log into each bank account daily and view my pending transactions and then enter them manually into YNAB.  If there is a balance on a credit card I go ahead and pay it as well, I do not like to see a balance on my credit cards as I think of them as debit cards.

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  • For my usage "Direct Import" is back up, did I make a purchase and forget to enter it, enter the wrong amount entered $8.87 when it was $8.86, or my personal favorite an Amazon order the was $100, but shipped in 4 boxes of $25 each.

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  • I have direct import set u but am feeling overwhelmed. I think I feel overwhelmed by the amount of information in there and Im not sure what to do with it. Would it be better to start over with manual? But then how would I track the expenses that are automated, like how there is an auto pay on my utilities bill each month (and it's a different amount each month). Thanks for any suggestions. 

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    • Kelly Fidei I set these up as "scheduled transactions." Usually I receive the bill a few days before the autopay/direct debit goes out so I adjust the upcoming scheduled transaction in that case, or if I forgot I adjust it when I'm reconciling later on. Hope this helps, good luck!

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  • I use cash whenever possible.

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  • Another bonus to manual input is that there aren't any auto-import errors.

    There's seems to be a thread everyday about errors with importing and frankly, I'm glad I don't have to deal with that.

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