I've spent all day entering all my transactions from our checking account for July into YNAB. As I entered transactions in the checking register, I had to also set up other checking, savings and investment accounts we have because there are multiple transactions going between all those accounts. In the real world, our checking account still has a balance of $300+ in there but YNAB says I'm overdrawn by $8.45 based on what I've entered. But all my transaction entries are exactly what's debited out of our account. I feel like I need a YNAB person to look at what I'm doing. I've already tried creating a budget twice twice and deleted it twice before ending up with what I have now, and it still doesn't match. I've got 20 days left on my trial and if i can't get it to match before August, I'm going to start behind the 8 ball already. I feel like I'm spending so much time on this and I have nothing to show for it, nor do I understand it any better than when I started. Very overwhelming.
I would really recommend not entering past transactions. Start from today in a clean budget:
1. Adjust the categories to better suit you. I really think it's helpful to get used to the method and software by using a structure with these category groups:
- bills/immediate obligations
- variable needs (like groceries)
- known true expenses (6 month/annual bills)
- unknown true expenses (contingency pots like for auto maintenance, medical, veterinary)
- future savings goals (vacation, home, large purchases, etc)
- loss of income fund (3-8 months of expenses is a common goal)
2. If you already are used to another budgeting structure, it could give you ease of mind to set up goals for each category. The point of goals is to remind you how much you probably want to budget there each month, as well as to take advantage of the work-saving quick budget features. You can skip them for now if you like. Just don't actually budget anything yet.
3. Add your accounts (checking, savings, credit cards). Just enter today's cleared balance.
4. Schedule regular bills and transactions into the account register where they will happen. Use only future dates, and choose a repeating cycle if applicable. If you have a variable bill and haven't received a statement, just guess for the amount. Tip: put the month in the memo when you update to the correct amount. That way, it's easy to see what is accurate.
Note: if you'd like to set up tracking accounts for mortgage, loans, investments, etc. You can do that here as well. They just don't impact the budget.
5. Start allocating your money to categories. Stop when your TBB = $0. This is the priority order I use for people new to the software/method:
A. Fill categories with only what you will need to spend from the rest of the month or until you will get paid again (bills due, food, transportation).
B. Do you already have savings? Put that money in the savings categories as you see fit.
C. If you have enough money to start with, calculate how much your monthly income is, and budget that amount to a category called Income For Next Month. Disclaimer: you can also just go fill out the entirety of August's budget using only your regular income number. If you budget into the future, you open yourself up to a bug called Stealing From The Future. Since you've had a rocky start, I'd avoid that workflow and use the holding INM category until August gets here.
6. Add any transactions that are pending in your accounts. It's good practice to see how to categorize, etc.
7. If there were any transactions that surprised you and caused an overspent (negative) category in the budget, use Rule #3.
And if that's still confusing, check out YNAB's help docs and tutorials online and on YouTube.
Nick True has quite a lot of material in YouTube as well, though he does a fair bit of unnecessary extra work to keep his accounts and categories synced. He does a good job showing the basic software with step by step examples, last I checked, though.
Hi Powder Blue Case !
We do not suggest importing past transactions when getting started. A good budget is a forward looking budget. You should use the money you have on hand today, to budget for any upcoming expenses between now and the next time you'll be paid. If you have a moment, check out Ashley's 7 Tips for Starting Your First Budget.
That being said, if you're determined to import transactions since the beginning of July, it can be done. It sounds like you're manually entering each transaction. Have you given File-Based Importing a try? It's possible your starting balance needs to be adjusted, you're missing an inflow transaction or have outflows that have been duplicated. You can check our Help Doc on Reconciling for tips on finding those discrepancies.
Powder Blue Case said:
I had to also set up other checking, savings and investment accounts we have because there are multiple transactions going between all those accounts.
You don't necessarily need to set up all the accounts because you have transactions. You can consider those transfers as expenses and income if you prefer to keep things simpler at the start with only one account. You can always add more accounts later. If you add the accounts later, you can change all the past transactions to transfer or just leave it as is and look forward. That said, it makes sense to add accounts from which you spend frequently. And ultimately, it is better to add your savings to YNAB so you can give a purpose to those funds but it doesn't have to be done right from the start.
Also, I wouldn't ever add investment accounts in the budget as the balances of those can vary a lot. Consider the money you send to investments as an expense from the budget perspective. If you still want to see your financial picture including your investments in YNAB, you can add investment accounts as tracking accounts so their balances can be used in the net worth report.
Some YNABers with a lot of experience add their investment accounts to the budget, but it requires a good understanding of how to do it.
Thanks everyone for the tips. Our next paycheck comes in this Friday so I'm going to try again. I think I get it. The problem I'm having is that I'm very concrete and don't do well with "abstract" concepts. If I had to physically remove cash from the bank and stuff each envelope. I'd totally get it. But I'm struggling with "virtually" allocating the funds. Now I understand once I do that, I can't look at my bank account. I have to look at my budget. I'll see how it goes this Friday. Thanks again!