How far back do I go?

Hello! I am just starting YNAB, and my OCD is already taking over. I've entered May transactions, but now I'm wondering, should I go back and enter what I have from the rest of the year? I have all of my bank statements and could enter those transactions, as well as credit card stuff. Or do I just start at May 1 and go from there?

13replies Oldest first
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Active threads
  • Popular
  • I started on the 20th of the month and didn't bother to try and fill in the beginning part of the month.  It gave me enough time to get the hang of using YNAB and to make changes to my budget so then when the 1st of the next month came around, I was ready to begin in earnest.  I didn't plan it that way, but it worked out well.

    Like 2
  • Even better: Start at May 18th and go forward. 

    Like 3
    • Ben
    • Toolkit for YNAB Designer & Developer
    • furiousfalcon
    • 2 yrs ago
    • 2
    • Reported - view

    I wouldn't. You can't change your past decisions, so you're just creating a lot of extra work for your self in adding transactions, trying to get everything to reconcile, "budgeting" past spending, etc. I wouldn't go back further than the 1st.

    Like 2
      • MinnieMom
      • Orchid_Koala.1
      • 2 yrs ago
      • Reported - view

      Ben That makes sense. I was thinking it might give me a handle on how to budget, but the work to reconcile would probably really mess with me. Thanks!

      Like
      • Ben
      • Toolkit for YNAB Designer & Developer
      • furiousfalcon
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Orchid Koala Sure thing. There's already enough to learn without making things harder on yourself. ;)

      Definitely check out the classes and learning materials on YNAB's website as you're getting started. They also have a YouTube channel with a lot of good content if you find videos helpful.

      Like 2
  • I've already put in May to date, just wondering about entering previous months

    Like
      • HappyDance
      • YNABing consistently since 2014
      • HappyDance
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Orchid Koala 

      From one obsessive compulsive to another ( 🙂 ), don't look back. That's like bringing all your old margarine containers with you when you move. Throw them out and start a new collection of margarine containers.  Start now. If you have to obsess, obsess on learning the software and getting your budget categories right and figuring out how much you need to save to catch up some of those irregular categories. Take the classes. Read the blog articles. Chat with other forum members. 

      Like 2
      • Bakari
      • Bakari45
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Orchid Koala , I also recommend not looking back. Start with today. Depending on your spending habits, plan on monitoring and updating YNAB account at least two or three times a week. By July you’ll have a  better idea how you’re spending your money and how much you need to budget for various categories. The big leap comes when you can budget one month ahead. So yeah, no point trying to budget in the past. While those past transactions would show your spending habits, you’ll get all that information in the next few months. Welcome to YNAB. It’s always great to see people getting started the program.

      Like 1
  • Good advice! I started tinkering with one of my accounts just to see how it would work. I keep a small checking account for PayPal purchases. It gets used mostly for loading my Starbucks card and an occasional online purchase. I have fewer than 20 transactions since Jan 1 and I've been loading those, just to see, right? Now I know for sure I don't want to go backwards!

    Like 1
  • Your transaction history is useful for helping setup your categories and making more realistic budget allocations. 

    When I first started out, I skimmed my previous 12 months of history and tried to ensure that I had categories setup in YNAB that would fit all of those transactions.  It also helped give me a more realistic sense of how much I spend on (say) "Home Maintenance" in a given year, so I could start budgeting an appropriate amount instead of making a wild guess (which would probably be too low, if I'm being honest.)

    That said, the beauty of the YNAB system is that you're expected to make changes to your budget as time goes on.  So even if your initial allocations are way off, or you forget to setup categories for expenses that arise, it's easy to Roll With the Punches and re-adjust / create new categories on-the-fly. That's really the whole point of using YNAB: You're supposed to engage with it and become more aware (and more thoughtful) about how you spend your money. It's not Mint.com , where you passively setup a budget and sit back and watch.

    Like 1
    • I agree, looking at all your past transactions is a great way to get a feel for your current category needs.

      When I started, I tried to do exactly what the OP is attempting and imported several months of old data. I didn't fully understand the mechanics of clearing and reconciling transactions, so my accounts were a mess. I ended up nuking it all and starting over from scratch--but I made a separate budget where I could import the previous 12 months of data and mess around with it without affecting the "real" budget.

      Now with some experience I feel like I have a pretty good handle on clearing/reconciling and I know I have the skills to make it work if I wanted to add it all in to the main budget, but that experience has also come with the realization that the past doesn't really matter. Budgeting is for the present (and the future) and I'm all set there.

      Like 2
  • Coming from Quicken, the two hardest habits for me to break were forecasting instead of budgeting and trying to have too much detail.  The more I use yNAB, the more I want to simplify tracking my ordinary expenses and instead focus on either a) items I want to come under better control or b) treat myself to with longer term planning.  If you want to forecast or have greater control, take it outside of yNAB into Google Sheets or a similar spreadsheet.  Shrink your time horizon for dealing with income, and only plan out True Expenses and Wish List items.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  YMMV.

    Like 1
  • I love all of the anecdotes and explanations here! MinnieMom it sounds like you gave it a shot and now fall into the majority - while adding those past transactions is possible, it's not necessary nor suggested.

    A good budget is a forward facing budget. :)

    Like
Like Follow
  • Status Answered
  • 2 yrs agoLast active
  • 13Replies
  • 1344Views
  • 10 Following