Outgrown YNAB?

I have used YNAB for several years now, and it has changed everything about my life. I manage finances for my household and I really don't understand what I was doing before YNAB. THANKS YNAB!

Now that we have paid our debts, prepared for retirement, and sent our student to college, I am getting the feeling that I've outgrown it. Does anyone else feel like there's a point when you have too much money to worry about spending $150 on dining out rather than $100?

Or maybe I've just strayed too far from the YNAB path? I just felt like it was easier to justify when I could see real changes. I've been contemplating the idea of just picking a minimum checking account balance at the end of the month, and sending the rest to investments.

Anyone have thoughts about any of that rambling?

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  • When I was doing the Dave Ramsey plan using YNAB I found budgeting to be pretty stressful because my budget was so tight, so eventually I switched up his plan and made up my own.  Now my budget is a lot less strict and tight and it's a lot less stressful.  Maybe you need to just increase your dining out to $150?

    I actually discovered YNAB in 2011 and got myself out of debt, but then I got lazy and quit.  Believe me, if I had been using YNAB continuously that entire time I would be in a much better financial state today so I would urge caution because you really don't want to feel the regret I feel right now.  Actually, I'm in a lot better shape than a lot of people because I kept investing a lot and avoiding debt until my divorce last year, but I was on the credit card float with no emergency fund, so really I was one month behind instead of having the money to pay my cc right on hand when I make a charge and having a 3-6 month emergency fund, my goal.  If you get off YNAB, just be very careful not to let it all go by the wayside.  The way YNAB allows me to use credit cards responsibly and never get into the credit card float situation (except under an emergency situation) to me makes the little bit of effort it takes to keep up with my budget worth it.  All I really do is reconcile my accounts and budget once a month (I'm paid monthly so I don't even need a buffer to do this) and then enter my transactions on the go, checking my budget before making a purchase.  

    Ok, wait, I lied, sometimes I just stare at my budget and admire it.  And sometimes I think about how to tweak it because that's fun for me.  What can I say, I'm a nerd!

    Like 9
  • I’m where you’re at but I still find value. You could probably do what you describe but I still find that YNAB maximizes my savings and allows me to know exactly where my money is going. I still like that feeling of control and knowledge.

    As for your dining out example, I don’t worry about that any more either. But I like knowing in general how much I spend in that category each month.

    Another thing I’d miss is knowing exactly how much I have set aside for everything. I like knowing how my savings is divvied up. Like how much is set aside for property taxes, home maintenance, car replacement, vacation, etc. rather than just having one giant pot of savings.

    If you do stop using the software, keep us posted on your results. My YNAB usage has definitely changed over the years. Rolling with the punches is done very easily these days with no guilt whatsoever.

    Like 5
    • Alemap
    • Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler -Albert Einstein
    • alemap
    • 1 yr ago
    • 6
    • Reported - view

    Maybe a starting point could be to create larger categories to simplify tracking, e.g. monthly bills grouped together, core for groceries/gas/household/etc., and fun stuff to include dining out/entertainment/travel/etc. It would make it easier to continue, and still help you identify if you start to drift away from the four rules

    Like 6
  • I've actually started a bit with some of these ideas. Maybe I'll just take them to the next level. I've already moved savings to Ally because I like having it off budget, and their buckets function like YNAB categories.

    I could take a few of my credit cards off budget, that way I don't have to track so many categories and transactions; it's like YNAB Lite.

    I'll report back with the brilliant insights that I am sure to have in this process. 😁

    Like
      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 1 yr ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      goose61282 The problem with savings buckets managed by banking systems isn't the saving... it's what to do when you want to spend it. That part is built into YNAB.

      Like 2
  • I would not say you have outgrown YNAB, you have just been so successful that it is boring now.  I would just keep using it and enjoy the success.  To leave it now would be like eating right, exercising and then when you reach your physical goal going back to your bad habbits again :). 

    Like 5
  • I think you need to start thinking bigger.  Maybe an extra $50 on dining out isn't something to worry about but an extra $500 or $1000 in some category might be.  Or maybe start setting bigger goals

    Like 4
  • Well, that didn't take very long. 🤣

    In the planning stage of removing a few cards out of the budget I made a few realizations: 1. I want to keep tracking them, which is 98% of the effort and then 2. my reward would be to put myself on the float.

    So, I'm going to lean more into Alemap suggestion and reduce categories rather than transactions. I think it's probably all the detail work that's causing the angst.

    I think I would like YNAB to be more of a one stop shop, but really it's designed for one specific task and there's only heartache to be gained by trying to use it for more (Investment tracking, retirement planning, etc.)

    Like 6
      • PhysicsGal
      • Nerdy female homo sapien
      • physicsgal
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      goose61282 Another option that a friend of mine does and I would consider doing someday is to use one checking account for your bills (rent/mortgage, utilities, any other monthly recurring bills) where you put enough to cover them every month (could be via direct deposit from paycheck), a checking account where you put a set amount for spending money for the month for groceries , gas, all the spending that changed month to month (also could be direct deposit), and then savings accounts (Ally buckets?) for your true expenses and other long term savings goals. 

      Then when you're out of money in your spending account, you can't spend any more money until you get paid again.  But it's a lot harder to roll with the punches this way, since you can't steal from your true expenses or savings goals for an unexpected expense as easily. 

      Or you could even do this thing with a credit card and set up some alerts so it tells you when you're getting close to your spending money limit for the month.  Or two credit cards.  Just don't fall into the credit card float.  I don't want to be on the float ever again!

      Note that this is budgeting by accounts, which is a lot less powerful than YNAB, but if your budget isn't tight and you don't mind doing it that way, it's an option.

      Like
      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 1 yr ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      PhysicsGal Budgeting by account is more complicated than just using YNAB to divide up your money and not have to maintain multiple accounts. It's one of the reasons people tend to simplify once they start using YNAB. It's less effort to move numbers around on a spreadsheet than to move money between real accounts.

      Like 4
      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 1 yr ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      goose61282 

      goose61282 said:
      I think I would like YNAB to be more of a one stop shop, but really it's designed for one specific task and there's only heartache to be gained by trying to use it for more (Investment tracking, retirement planning, etc.)

       You can track investment account balances for net worth, butthat's about the best you can do in YNAB.

      I highly recommend you become a spreadsheet guru for investment tracking and retirement planning. It's what I did. Especially since something like Google Sheets has a function that will pull in data for publicly traded investments.

      Like 2
  • Last night I narrowed my spending categories down from 26 to 14. I have also removed all of my non-spending accounts. So I'm at 6 credit cards and my checking account.

    I'm on the fence about putting my savings account on budget. I put longer term savings there for the extra interest. I know it's not a life changing difference, but a free lunch is a free lunch. The fungible aspect of dollars can make it a little tricky when you start spending big chunks of money in YNAB. When all your cash is in checking it's fantastic, but when you forget that a $12,000 credit card payment is being drawn today and the cash is in the wrong account....that's not fantastic; so I've gotten in the habit of making the bank transfer on the day I make the purchase. I know that's not really a shortcoming of YNAB, but my own habits and thought processes. Maybe I should make a note to be more responsible and record upcoming credit card payments.

     

    (On a side note, it's funny how two days ago I thought I was a responsible adult, and now I write that paragraph of ridiculous behavior. I'm just going to grow up and put the savings account on budget.)

     

    nolesrule I have been using Personal Capital for about 6 months.  I like most of what it does, but when I removed my investments from their service, they removed the historical values for those accounts; so I tried YNAB reports. Now I'm going to take your advice and try some spreadsheets. The only one I want right this second is net worth, which is easy enough to build. An asset allocation might be nice, but sounds trickier.

    Like 1
  • Okay, I think I'm back on track. Over the last two days I have greatly reduced the number of categories I have, brought savings back into the budget, and added tracking accounts. This should lower the amount of budget adjustments, give me a better view of my total picture, and consolidate my monthly net worth data.

    I think the mistake I was previously making with the tracking accounts is that I was linking them, causing all kinds of havoc when transactions occurred. Now I can just adjust their balances once a month.

    Thanks to everyone for your insights; they really reminded my why I started using YNAB in the first place.

    Like 7
    • goose61282 thanks for sharing all this! It is very interesting to see the value of ynab at different stages of financial strength.

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  • goose61282 said:
    I'm on the fence about putting my savings account on budget. I put longer term savings there for the extra interest. I know it's not a life changing difference, but a free lunch is a free lunch. The fungible aspect of dollars can make it a little tricky when you start spending big chunks of money in YNAB.

    I'm glad you came to your senses and put your savings in your budget. 😉Because what you said there has nothing to do with having your savings in your budget. This is exactly what most of us do. We maximize our interest in long term savings and use scheduled transactions and running balance to make sure we have enough in checking at all times.

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  • goose61282 said:
    I think the mistake I was previously making with the tracking accounts is that I was linking them, causing all kinds of havoc when transactions occurred. Now I can just adjust their balances once a month.

    Yes, that's exactly how most of us handle our net worth reports and YNAB handles that excellently. I have my full net worth going back to 2012.

    Like 1
  • Hi all, I have a question of a similar line of thought.  I have been using YNAB for years and it has truly changed how I see/use money and has given me some financial freedom.   I am trying out a YNAB-lite practice since I recently got married and my spouse and I have combined funds.  


    We are both equally frugal, but my spouse sees entering transactions and all the budget categories as unnecessary and a hassle.  We both earn decent wages and the goal of YNAB at this point is joint savings goals, and using the end-of-the-month money towards paying off student loans/maximizing investments.  

     

    My YNAB-lite idea is to just have 3 main spending categories. (Monthly expenses, my fun money, his fun money). 

    Since I've used YNAB for years, I have the YNAB reports, so I have a good idea of what our monthly expenditures are multiplied by two (gas, food, student loans, rent, etc).  The plan is to only enter in transactions for our fun money and just do Reconciliations to figure out the true expenses for the month.

     

    The area I'm troubleshooting

    -There are always pending transactions, like checks for rent, credit card balances, etc that make account reconciling more tedious.   Anyone tried this before?  Any suggestions on how to streamline? 

    Like
      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Pink Pegasus That's a terribly reactive plan. You can't pay your true expenses with money you used months ago to pay down student loans.

      There is an alternative involving having your investment account as part of the budget, but given the fact your current plan for the future seems to be based on reaction, I'm not sure I should provide you with the details on how to do it safely.

      Like
  • @noles Maybe I didn't explain my plan well.  For example, our average expenses every month are $4500 (including student loan payments).  With incoming paychecks this month, I use those funds to accommodate that $4500. Then the overflow fills out $200 fun money buckets.  The overflow from that gives us extra student loan payments to pay down the balance more quickly.

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      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 6 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Pink Pegasus I'm still not sure I get it. I've never met an average month in all the years I've been using YNAB. Some day I'll have to review the standard deviation. I just spent $4200 from a True Expense category yesterday.

      Now, the truth is, I only keep on average 6.5 months plus a few other categories in cash at any given moment, with the rest invested. But I still maintain a comprehensive budget so I know what all my money is for, including how much of my budget is invested.

      I don't think simplifying is advisable, because you'll eventually lose track of the individual expenses and either will suffer lifestyle creep or forget about things that need to be paid that just don't happen very frequently. Or at the very least it'll become too easy to lose track of your actual priorities and therefore your spending will no longer align with them.... which is the reason many of us continue to use YNAB even though we are probably in a similar, if not better, financial situation than your post represents.

      Like 1
    • nolesrule yes, I do fear the lifestyle creep.  I'm going to try this out for a few months and see how it goes.  Maybe I can ease my partner in to tracking transactions with the fun money categories and see how things go.  

       

      goose61282 thanks for the feedback!

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      • Ceeses
      • Ceeses
      • 6 mths ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      Pink Pegasus I'm not totally sure what your problem is. It seems it all stems out from the fact your spouse doesn't want to enter transactions. It's quite common and doesn't mean you have to modify your use of YNAB. My husband only looked at YNAB 2-3 times since we started using it (in 2014). He looked long enough to understand the concept and done. 
      Since then, he never enters his transactions (didn't install the app). I use file-import to get all the transactions in YNAB regularly. He will simply discuss his shopping plans with me if he intends to spend a significant amount (I don't care about a coffee, a take-away lunch or a cheap gift etc.): 

      Him: "I was thinking to buy some pants and shirts"

      Me: "Sure, we have $200 and no need to buy clothing for the kids this month"

      Or:

      Us: "Should we change the stovetop?"

      Me: "If we want, we can. We have the money saved for it"

      Obviously, I probably have to WAM more than if he was completely onboard with YNAB but it is much better than no YNAB. And it seems to me, it would be better than what you are proposing.

      Like 4
    • Ceeses thanks for sharing your experience.  That could work as well.  Don't you get tired of matching up his transactions to categories? There's no tension when you ask "so what's this transaction?"

      Currently, our credit union (therefore our debit card) isn't compatible with direct import.  Maybe we'll get a credit card that is compatible or it sounds like YNAB is getting a new partner for direct import. 

      Like
      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 6 mths ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      Pink Pegasus My wife has never done any data entry in YNAB in 6.5 years. She did put the app on her phone so she can see how much is in what category, after years of asking how much we have in a category. There's no tension about what category a transaction belongs to. I ask, she answers, I put it in YNAB. We're done.

      One of the reasons this works is we have a pretty standard budget with lots of categories. Every few months we sit down and analyze the categories and make sure the funding amounts line up with how we are really spending. Sometimes, we  cut back a category (or even eliminate some expense entirely), other times we increase our spending. There's still plenty left over at the end of the month.

      I'll be honest that the solution presented by the recently returned original poster sounds more complicated than just using YNAB for everything with a bunch of categories.

      Like 4
      • Annieland
      • I was told there would be no math.
      • Annieland
      • 6 mths ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      Pink Pegasus I'm like the others whose spouses do no YNAB data entry.  When we started over a decade ago, if he so much as bought a cup of coffee I needed to know immediately, things were that tight.  There was no direct import or even a phone app.  I got a $1.50 spindle from Staples that they use at restaurants.  He was instructed to put any receipts on the spindle when he came home from work.  I collected whatever was on the spindle like an inbox and entered and categorized.  It worked for years!

      It's funny, these days when I ask him about a transaction so I can categorize, he starts rambling about what it is, why he had to buy it, how he's going to use it, blah blah blah.  I'm like, Dude yo, stop. I don't care, I just need to know if it's a business thing or if it's your stuff or a gift.  Done.  In reality, most transactions that come in on his end are memorized payees, nothing new.  

      Also, what we've done since 2009 is each have a "Spending Money" category for cash.  That's cash withdrawn from the ATM.  I don't track it.  Get cash, buy your coffee or give it to the kids or whatever, I'm not tracking it.  It's around $100 and accounted for.  Done.

      Be particular in where you choose to slack off, or you could come to regret it quickly :).

      Like 4
      • Ceeses
      • Ceeses
      • 6 mths ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      Pink Pegasus others have replied but I don't get tired of matching his transactions because now most payees are auto-categorised. The main issue is the cafe at his work. It may be an expense for him  if buying coffee or another category if he's buying lunch. I usually know if he is going to buy lunch so I just guess the highest amount around that date is the lunch.

      I don't have access to direct import as I'm not in the USA. You should investigate file-based import, it works really well for me. And a simple trick: instead of approving every single transaction after the file- based import,  check your cleared balance is the same in YNAB and your bank,  then simply hit reconcile. The reconciliation will approve every transaction imported and matches,  etc. Then you only have to deal with categorisation. And maybe payee clean up at the beginning so auto- categorisation can happen in the future. 

      Like 4
      • goose61282
      • goose61282
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view
      nolesrule said:
      I'll be honest that the solution presented by the recently returned original poster sounds more complicated than just using YNAB for everything with a bunch of categories.

       
      I can’t believe I missed this reply! I knew you were going to say that as I was typing it. 😂 It’s funny how you can feel like you know someone that you actually don’t know at all. 
       

      I can’t say you’re wrong, but it’s what works for me this week. I like that 90% of my budget is automated at this point, but who knows what will happen if I get bored? I’m toying with the idea of getting rid of all my credit cards, but that’s a topic for another thread. 

      Like
    • Pink Pegasus Just a heads up with what I do with fun money and a spouse who doesn't YNAB. I hate having a bazillion payees, seriously do I need to know how much he spent at Jane's coffee shop vs Joe's Cafe? No! So when those transactions flow/enter into to YNAB I rename the Payee to "Shaun" and maybe make a memo about where the money was spent i.e "Joe's Cafe".

      If it's not clear what the purchase was for that's when I ask e.g. he might buy a coffee & snack from the service station but it also might be a couple of litres of fuel for the lawnmower which would go to our "House Stuff" category and not his fun money category.

      Plus, when I look at my reports I don't have 500 coffee & sandwich shops listed, instead I have one big, fat, expensive category called "Shaun" that I can shove in his face if he ever complains about not having any money 😉

      Like 1
    • Annieland
    • I was told there would be no math.
    • Annieland
    • 6 mths ago
    • 5
    • Reported - view

    Great thread, I missed it when I was on forum hiatus last year.  All I can say is, OMG I can't imagine ever outgrowing YNAB!!

    In all my ups and downs it would have never occurred to me.  Everyone in my household knows I hang onto our budget for dear life.  To me, more money means more responsibility to make wise decisions.  When things are tight, yes YNAB gets you out of the mess, but it's basically spend as little as possible, especially on non-essentials. With more money it's all about spending wisely, perhaps on larger expenses.  Might be a fine line, but for me it's a huge deal.

    Maybe the only difference for me is I don't do a ton of checking categories before I spend if I know in my mind it's there, or I easily have the reserves to cover it.  Since we replaced a bunch of major appliances last year I had to restructure that True Expense category, seeding it 50% and then setting a monthly savings goal.  Well, whoopsie, it's already all gone because we just decided to replace our 12 year old mattress.  I remembered how old our mattress is because I bought it around when I started YNAB in 2009, making small monthly payments (cheap mattress, too).  This more expensive one we bought with cash no problem.

    I use YNAB for spending tracking and planning only.  I look at my YNAB net worth as representative of my cash management progress.  All major investments I track separately in a finance program.  Everyone has their own personal situation and life stage, but I've found YNAB to help guide me through all of them and I expect the same in the future.

    Like 5
      • Katejo
      • katejo
      • 6 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Annieland  Similar for me. I am not planning to drop Ynab at all. It is so useful for organising my funds and knowing which money is available. I also don't need to check any categories before spending because I know I have the money for the job even if a transfer is needed. I don't get excited about payday as I did initially. I just do it when needed.

      Like 2
    • Annieland I wanted to chime in too after 4.5 years of YNAB. I firmly believe I'll never outgrow it. I had a journal on the old forum in 2016-17. Everything was tight, I complained a lot, I was feeding a family of four on a grocery budget of $250/month, etc. Our income hasn't increased a ton—lifestyle creep probably would have taken all of it without YNAB—but our budget looks so different now.

       

      Things that have changed for me since I first started with YNAB

      • Though we've been a month ahead since January 2017, I only added "income for next month" categories a few months ago. I separate this by freelance vs taxed income, then at the beginning of the month, take a fixed percentage of taxed income for donations and budget the rest, while freelance income gets a percentage for donations, retirement, and personal spending money.
      • I don't really check categories at point of purchase anymore if it's a small item or planned, only for >$100 or so purchases to ensure the money's where I need it.
      • I do all the regular budgeting, as I always have, and my husband and I semi-regularly discuss what to do with extra money or how to handle shortfalls in specific categories as they happen.
      • I keep a physical list of my long-term priorities with my finances (for me, it's giving—including acts of kindness, retirement, and building up True Expenses to a point where I don't need a monthly pay-in except after they've been used to buy something), as well as a physical list for a Wish Farm, and make sure YNAB is getting me closer to those things.
      • My husband and I both closed our personal checking accounts and have personal category groups instead. (We are big fans of granularity and have well over 100 categories in our total budget. It works for us.)
      • I added my business checking account and expenses to our main budget as a category group, since I don't have a lot of overhead. I don't pay  myself regularly (I run my business with cash accounting, not a salary and separate expenses). I just look at our checking account balance and move money from business checking when I need to, making sure my business account never has less than about a $300 buffer more than the total money in my business category group.
      • On a mindset note, I've had to teach myself to be comfortable spending money, and YNAB has helped me appreciate that those dollars exist so I can spend them.

      I can't imagine much of the above being true without YNAB, and I find it even more helpful (and less stressful) than it was to me in the very beginning.

      Like 1
  • Pink Pegasus I thought I might chime in since I started this thread a while back and have since tried a few things out for some extended periods.

    We use credit cards exclusively for our household spending, so some of this may not be helpful if you don't. The two biggest friction points for me when we started were reconciling endless transactions and trying to categorize everything appropriately. 

    First, I tried what you were mentioning and only having a few categories. This actually made things more difficult because we would get lazy and then miss entering the bulk of transactions, and it's also much more difficult to monitor spending. We are all using YNAB for a reason after all.  

    The first thing we did was dedicate one specific credit card for utilities and recurring bills. I just entered the credit card payment for that card as Utilities. This allows us to remove about 6 transactions per month, but still keep an eye on it since the payment is very consistent. It doesn't seem like it's that difficult to enter those transactions as repeating and so on, but as you mentioned, clearing and reconciling these things does add to the load.

    In a similar strategy, I removed the spending categories for my wife and I. Instead we both have our own debit cards and checking accounts that I transfer the set amount to each month. For us, this was huge. We use this money for all of the small things that we each want without consulting each other, so this can be as many as 50 transactions some months. Now I don't have to enter a transaction every time I buy a soda at 7-11, or hit up the snack machine.

    Finally, as you saw above, I removed half of our categories. Anything recurring goes in one section that I can auto-budget with goals at the beginning of the month, and then that leaves 6 spending categories and 2 savings categories that I budget manually. For your particular situation, I would even recommend that you just pick an affordable amount to pay to the loans and set that payment. There will be very little difference between paying an extra $35 a month, or $400 at the end of the year.  This is also how I invest our extra; when I feel like it, I'll just take a lump sum and put it away, the rest of the time it sits causing no stress at all.

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