Linked vs Unlinked

I'm new to YNAB and I am trying to get everything set up. I know I need to either have transactions happening that I can sort or manually entering transactions so that the budget actually shows money being taken away from the categories. I can't decide which one would be best, for the following reasons:

I have my accounts linked at the moment, but I am seeing a bunch of transactions that I am not sure how to organize. We have the problem of buying multiple different category things at one store, so in other words the transaction will need to be broken down into several budget categories.

On the other hand if I were to have it set up unlinked, I would have to manually enter every single transaction. This worries me because I can hardly keep up with receipts as it is. It is so easy to forget to enter even a receipt amount for a few days, and then miss something. My wife and I both spend, so we both need to keep up with this.

I am also having trouble with YNAB showing the correct amounts in my bank account. I have already unlinked and relinked and still having issues there. I feel like it may be easier just to unlink and manually enter my money into my accounts.

What is your experience with linked vs unlinked?

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  • Organized Chaos said:
    I know I need to either have transactions happening that I can sort or manually entering transactions so that the budget actually shows money being taken away from the categories

     Can you restate this in different words please? I don't understand what you're saying.

    I would say it's best to enter transactions at the moment the purchase or expense is made manually. You can use direct import to catch those transactions you forgot. I know you are barely keeping up, but it gets easier as you get the habit built. But how do you build the habit? You do it even when it's not easy.

    As for making purchases that span multiple categories, that is what split transactions are for. When I get home from the grocery store, I open up the transaction in YNAB and change the category from just "groceries: essential" to "Split transaction".  Then I add as many line items as I have categories I purchased it from. I use a ton of categories, so it could get really granular. I could easily have 8-10 line items. Just make sure they all sum up to your total transaction and you're golden. But if you're struggling at this point to keep up with your receipts, maybe just unclench a little on the split transactions and accept that your spending reports will be a little bit fuzzy in the beginning. I did, and now I'm past the point of that mattering much. I focused on building the habit first and then refined it to suit my preferences from there.

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  • To clarify that first statement, I mean I have a line at the top that says "uncategorized transactions." This is where they are coming in from my bank because it is linked. 

    So you are saying that maybe it will be best to just unlink everything and focus on entering everything manually for the time being?

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

      Organized Chaos - even if you have your accounts linked, the official method is to enter everything manually and use the import of transactions from the linked accounts as a back-up to double check your manual entry and fill in any gaps. Waiting for your financial institutions to have the transactions cleared so they can be imported means that your budget is inaccurate for days at a time. Let's say you have $35 in your grocery category and you go to the store on Friday and spend $15. There is no way that transaction will be imported until at least Monday, but most likely Tuesday. So when your partner goes to the store on Sunday and glances at the app to see the balance, the $35 will still show even though the reality is that there is only $20 in the grocery category. Manual entry can be most helpful when you go to a place like Target where you can buy groceries and furniture and clothing, etc. You get home and look at the receipt and figure out how you want to split one transaction across your various categories. If you wait until the bank imports the transaction, you may have lost the receipt and you're just guessing.

      Like 4
  • Well I guess manual entry will be the way to go.  I may focus on setting everything the way I want it, and then start the actual budget in April. 

    March has been the first month in a long time where we have fully tracked spending, and I need that info to set up budget category goals anyway. 

      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 1 yr ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view

      Organized Chaos With YNAB, the best time to start is always now. You don't need to know exactly how much to allocate to your categories based on past spending. Just use your best guess. If you're wrong, you just apply Rule 3: Roll with the Punches and adjust your categories.

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      • bevocat
      • Sometimes, It Just Sucks to Be You
      • bevocat
      • 1 yr ago
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       Organized Chaos I guarantee you're going to be doing this regardless of if you start now or wait until everything is "perfect". BTW, as a recovering perfectionist, "perfect" never comes. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is right now.

      Like 2
  • Hi Organized Chaos ! Welcome to You Need A Budget! You can use either one. It's up to you! Entering transactions yourself definitely gives another level of awareness, when it comes to your finances and the YNAB Method.

    When you add a linked account, we first import just your Starting Balance. After that, we’ll import transactions that clear on or after the date of your Starting Balance. 

    If you see an Uncategorized Transactions category in your budget, it means you have transactions in your accounts that need to be reviewed and categorized. Look for accounts in the left sidebar of the budget that have a little dot next to them. Click on those accounts and you'll be able to categorize the transactions. Once they are all categorized, that category will automatically disappear from your budget! Here is a quick gif to demonstrate.

    Let's get those categorized, then see how those balances look!

    Like 1
  • So far I've found the best method is a hybrid. I manually enter the transactions as they happen. Then when YNAB finally imports the transactions I go in and match them to what I've already entered. 

    Manual entry is really the only way to ensure that your budgets are accurate at any given time. The imports serve as a back up. Just in case you've missed something or entered something incorrectly. 

    With regards to the correct amounts in your account, I had this issue as well. The issue for me happened when I first linked my accounts. For some reason it went in and pulled the starting balance but then it added transactions that happened prior to me signing up. Odd but definitely fixable. 

    At any given time your available amounts should match what's actually in your accounts. 

    If you find this number is off, the easiest way I've found is to first get your accounts on track by editing your starting balance in the account.

    As an example, YNAB says I have $1,000 available in all my combined categories. I check my accounts and see I only have $950 available. If you have multiple accounts just go in and see which account is off and if you have a transaction in that account that is missing from YNAB. 

    If all your transactions are accounted for, just adjust the starting balance to be less the $50. Your TBB should now be -$50 and you'll need to go in and adjust your budgeted categories to get TBB back to $0.

    Hope that helps. 

  • I think the account balance thing may be that we constantly move money around in our banking app. I could see the possibility that ynab is just struggling to keep up. 

    Hopefully a budget will fix that mess for us anyway, and there will be no need to move money except for when the budget is adjusted - I'm thinking weekly when we are paid. 

    For now I have unlinked accounts and figured out how to manually enter amounts into the accounts, which will enable us to reflect our bank amounts and properly fund the budget. 

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