Fresh Start?

I'm pretty much still using my initial budget that I set up when I started using YNAB in April of this year. I've tweaked it here and there, but now I think I want to move a bunch of categories around, get rid of some, add new ones, etc. Am I better off doing a fresh start or simply rearranging what I'm currently using? I don't want to lose the data I've collected since April and I'm unclear of what gets saved when you do a fresh start.

Any help greatly appreciated.

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  • I’ve never fresh started in six years of using the software. Just don’t delete any categories and you’ll be fine. Hide them if you must, or repurpose them if needed; over time my “TV” category became “Entertainment subscriptions” as I went from a cable bill to several types of media streaming, and my “car payment” category has been used for a car payment, hidden, unhidden, hidden again, and soon will be unhidden to be a category for saving up for the next car  

    The official YNAB advice is to fresh start liberally and often. You don’t lose the old data, but it is sequestered in a separate budget. Not my preference, so I haven’t done that. 

    Like 2
    • WordTenor Thanks for the tip. I listened to one of Jesse's You Tube videos last night about fresh starts and it seemed to me that when you do that, you lose the historical data you've gathered and you basically start all over again. Not something I want to do. Like you, I need to hide/unhide/move/rename/make new categories, so probably best to stay with the same budget and do as many alterations as necessary to get it where I want it.

  • I've never Fresh Started either. I started YNAB(3/4) in 2009 and using this YNAB since early 2016.  It was painful to "close down" YNAB4, but at least it's there, and thankfully I haven't needed to open it as often as I thought I would (yet I do keep transaction records in other places that go back even further).  

    I'm excited to say I just renamed a category this week.  Even though I have 70-80 categories, I still consider most of them very concrete and straightforward (no "fun money" or "just because" stuff).  My 10 yr old "Computer" category just became "Computer & Technology," which is still in the Recreation master category.  I'm not putting things like a new printer, toner, cables, iPad cases etc. in "Household Needs" anymore.  It's exciting!  I do hide, but rarely, as most of my categories are routinely used or True/Emergency expenses.

    Definitely rearrange or rename.  I can say it's always a work in progress as your living/family environment changes, and even your thought process changes.  Just my opinion, but unless you have some major disaster or setback in your budgeting, I think the Fresh Start is overrated.  I'd much rather see a duplication function. 

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  • I like the historical view of my (coming up on 5 years) budget.  I have repurposed categories along the way -- car loan became next car savings; new sofa became furnishings; new laptop became electronics -- and I have both combined categories into one (both my transit pass and parking categories were blended into a generic transportation category which eventually became just fuel)  and separated spending from one category into two (separated grooming from clothing).

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    • HappyDance Is there a relatively easy way to combine categories or separate them other than re-categorizing each transaction manually? As I continue to think this through, I find that some items I had separated are better off combined and vice versa but when I tried to do this I wasn't really sure how to accomplish it.

      • HappyDance
      • YNABing consistently since 2014
      • HappyDance
      • 1 yr ago
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      There is no built-in YNAB function for this.  This is the method I use.

      For Combining:

      I make a temporary group in my budget, and I move the categories I want to combine together under it. This just keeps the discard and target categories together, which makes it easier for my eyes to locate them on the screen.  Then I systematically:

      1. starting at the beginning date of my budget, move all the funds from the discard category to the target category (don't worry about the overspend this creates, as you will deal with the transactions in the next step)

      2. click on the name of the category you want to eliminate, and select DELETE category.  YNAB will ask if you want to assign the transactions for this catgory it to a new category, and I select the target category name, then click the confirming DELETE.   Easy-peasy.

      3. move the category back to where it goes and delete the temporary group/master category


      For separating Expenses:

      I make a temporary group/master category, and move the category I intend to work with to it.  Then I create a new category in the same group.

      1. Go to the All accounts view, search for the transactions you want to separate out.  Using the example of moving my hair cuts out of my clothing category, I did a payee search for the salon, then opened each occurrence and reassigned it to the new category. Doing this will create a series of overspends in the target category which never had any funds budgeted to it. 

      2. Once you have reassigned all the expenses you want to move, the next step is to deal with the budget overspends.  You move through your budget from oldest date to current month.  Click on the overspend, YNAB will ask you which category to cover the overspend with, and you can select the original category. 

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    • HappyDance 

      I'm commenting so I can find this again when I want to do it. Your way is much easier than what I did last time. :)

      Like 1
    • HappyDance This is great. Thanks for the walk/thru.

      Like 1
  • HappyDance said:
    starting at the beginning date of my budget

     re: combining... I wouldn't do this. Instead, I would not venture beyond the current month:

    1. Make a note of the CC Payment category balances in the current month and ensure TBB = $0.
    2. Delete one of the categories to combine, and pick the other category when asked how to recategorize. (This will put a bunch of money in TBB.)
    3. Restore the CC Payment categories and move the rest from TBB to the destination category.

    This may cause overspending in past months' budget areas, but I don't care about that. I use YNAB to plan my future spending.

    At some point, I hope YNAB will realize that moving transactions without moving the budgeted funds is a poor design choice. After they finish the implementation, #3 will be unnecessary (nor will there be overspending).

    Like 2
  • I'm coming to this discussion a year late, it appears! I've just done a bunch of reworking of my budget categories over the last couple of days. (Tried to go from a topic/category based arrangement that I'd been using for years back to YNAB's recommended tiered budgeting approach (immediate, true, extras...) to see if that would help me shift my thinking a little. But then I just couldn't live with the grouping of so many categories together in 3-4 master categories. So... then I tried to combine some things into single line items - like Ben's example in the budget nerd video where he combines all of his subscriptions together into one line item and budget's one amount to cover all those transactions in the month (with just a note to indicate what's included). I was assuming that every time I combined or separated categories, YNAB was also shifting those funds. Well, that created quite a mess with the added TBB funds for current month and swaths of red and yellow across my previous months' budgets. Oh my!! I'm a bit overwhelmed and cannot begin to go back and sort all of that out!! I was so hoping to have another year of useful historical data collected. But alas, I think I'm headed for a fresh start! Did this once before and it's not too bad. But it's not what I want to do. So in case YNAB product managers are seeing this -- this is one more plea to PLEASE implement moving the $$ when transactions are recategorized!!

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    • Beige Mare You don't need to fresh start. 

      You can keep the historical transactions and don't worry about the past budgets. 

      Just put everything in the current month where you want it. If that's too confusing, set all categories to 0 in the previous month and then you have a mini Fresh Start in the current month. Plus you keep your transaction data, which is the only thing that matters for reports. 

      Like 3
  • I’m going on 11 years of contiguous data. I love seeing my net worth history over that time.

    But yes, currently, you really have to know what you’re doing when moving things around, recategorizing, and especially deleting! I even figured out how to clean up 10 years of hidden categories the other day.

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