Do I need to enter figures every month?

We started with YNAB in the middle of January, and by the end of the month I was feeling really encouraged and excited. Then February rolled around.
I had assumed that the figures entered in January in the "budgeted" column would automatically roll into February. Am I wrong?

If we had made an expense in one of these categories, the figure in the January "activity" column did move into the "budgeted" column for February. But that's not the monthly figure we want.

Am I missing something?

Thanks for any help.

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  • Hi, Harveys

    YNAB is a zero-based allocation budget.  Every time you receive income, it's up to you to assign those dollars to jobs in your budget.  Funds you added to categories in January that you didn't spend will still be sitting in those categories (available to spend) in February.  I have a template budget and pretty much budget the same 1/12th to each category every month. I use the quick budget features on the right hand side of the screen to do that for me.  You can click on any categories in any combination or select all the categories and use the following quick budget options.


    • underfunded:  will fill any category to it's goal amount
    • budgeted last month: clearly, what I budgeted to the category last month
    • spent last month: this can be a handy way to replace spent funds and bring a category balance back to what it was last month before you began spending.
    • Average budgeted: the average budgeted over the last months to a max of 12 most recent months - not very handy until you have a few months under your belt
    • Average spent: this one is a handy one, especially in the beginning, because not everyone has a good sense of how much they really spend.  I know I found it surprising.
    • Set available to 0: will release unused funds from every category selected. Handy if you have to deal with an emergency. Select any lower priority categories, click on set to 0, and use the funds from those categories to deal with a higher priority.
    • Reset: wipes out all the changes to this month's budget column and rests it all to zero

    Only budget until you get to zero, then stop budgeting.

    Hope this helps.

    Like 1
      • Harveys
      • Trying hard to budget
      • Tan_Zebra.1
      • 2 yrs ago
      • Reported - view

      HappyDance Thanks for that. I'll see if I can make sense of it all now.

    • Harveys HappyDance is spot on (as usual!). I wanted to add a quick link to the Quick Budget article in case you need it, but the post above pretty much covers it! :)

  • If you receive income only once a month, then it would probably be easier to enter your figures once a month as well. But if you receive income more often than that, then you may want to budget more often than once a month so that your categories are covered as you go.

    Basically, you'll want the overall "To Be Budgeted" amount at the top of your YNAB to be $0 by the time the next month rolls around. Think, "assign every dollar a job" -- whether that money's going towards your various categories as expenses or savings, every dollar you currently have needs to be assigned/accounted for.

    For me, I look at my budget at least as often as I have paydays (biweekly) so I can zero out YNAB. I never want my overall "To Be Budgeted" amount at the top to be "in the red" -- coz that means I'm over-budgeting (i.e. over-spending) money I don't yet have. So for my situation, I enter my figures on a biweekly basis to match my paydays.

    I also don't enter figures in my categories for any of the future months, because I haven't gotten paid yet for those future months, i.e., I can't budget what I don't yet have -- or else my overall "To Be Budgeted" amount will end up in the negative (and in red), which is a no-no.

    For instance, on payday I'll enter $1,00 inflow, and so the overall "To Be Budgeted" amount at the top of your YNAB should reflect the same amount of $1,000 (in green). Then I go through all of my categories and budget the amounts to set aside, until my overall "To Be Budgeted" amount drops to $0 (still in green). Once I hit $0, I can't budget any more -- it means I've given every dollar a job towards paying for or saving for something, and it's not possible for me to budget more money than what I currently have. 

    When my next payday rolls around 2 weeks later, I start the above process of again -- enter my paycheck as an inflow, then budget funds into my categories until the overall "To Be Budgeted" amount is down to $0 (in the green).

    At the end of the month -- if I budgeted correctly, my overall "To Be Budgeted" amount shouldn't show any funds carrying over to the next month, because I've already assigned every dollar a job via my categories. In order to have funds carried over into the next month, I do so through individual categories I've budgeted for, instead of leaving money to sit in the overall "To Be Budgeted" amount at the top. For example, if I budgeted $500 in my grocery category for the month of January & I've only used $250 of it, the remaining $250 will automatically roll over as available funds in February's grocery category, while my overall "To Be Budgeted" amount at the top should remain at $0.

    Hope this makes sense!

    Like 1
  • Budget is supposed to be “setup” once a month (easy ways to copy over), but shouldn’t need to be adjusted much after establishing baselines. The first month, especially half-way-in is pretty much useless to budget for.. I ended up budgeting just my remaining bills and moving from a healthy “Stuff I forgot..”.

    YNAB was confusing me, especially for my End Of Month Rent I was trying to budget for, until I realized it was designed around FUNDS AVAILABLE AT TIME OF BUDGETING, and does not take in account future income (probably good overall, although very nagging if trying to defer funding within a “monthly budget”).

    I resolved this by adding my immediate/linked savings account as a Budget account (I would rather it be a Tracking account). I would probably have given up on YNAB without a month “cover”. For plain tracking there are different programs that are simpler..

      • BlueJhay
      • Bluejhay
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Beige Koala  Yes, YNAB is based on funds available at the time of budgeting, that way you're not putting yourself in the hole by spending money you don't yet have (or may not get). 

      If all you want to do is track what goes in or out of your account after the fact, then you're not really looking for a budgeting tool, but more of an "aggregate" tool (i.e., gathers data from your accounts and presents the combined data in one view/location). 

      I didn't understand this concept when I first started using YNAB because I was acclimated to the "aggregate tool" methods rather than the actual planning & financial awareness that comes from using YNAB... but once the difference was explained to me, I realized that it was me who was using these tools incorrectly & thereby holding myself back from making any true progress.

      Like 2
  • Thanks for the answers and suggestions. I still don't get it, but I'll just play around for a couple of months and see if the penny drops. (see what I did there.)

    Not sure who changed the status to 'answered' but I guess it has been.

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