Manual Entry - Will I get tired of it?

Still new to YNAB, and I really like how it works. I haven't (yet) purchased a subscription, because I want to see how the month transition works for me.

I chose to keep my accounts unlinked and to do manual entry (or at least manual import) for a couple of reasons. Primarily, I don't like the idea of giving any login credentials to a third party. Despite the assurances from Plaid, YNAB, and others that they really care about security, I find it hard to trust them to store my account login credentials, especially considering what they could do with them. I also hate that there's only one level of access -- my account login for my bank, for instance, allows me to make payments to third parties, wire money, etc. I feel very uncomfortable giving out the password that I use to perform those actions.

Anyway, as a result of my discomfort, I have been doing manual entry/import of all transactions, and I have to say...I don't really mind it. I'm forced to pay attention to what my spending is, which makes tracking that spending a breeze. If anything, I'm becoming obsessed, and check for new transactions every few days, just to keep my budget up to date.

The question is - will I get tired of it? YNAB's approach to resource allocation (the "budget") really only works with accurate information about spending. As I see it, the only way to get that accurate information is through obsessive attentiveness. Even with a connected account, I would need to correctly categorize transactions and adjust the budget as the spending rolls in. At the moment, I'm enjoying the process, but I worry that I'll start to get tired of it.

How many of the old-timers on this forum continue to enter spending manually vs using connected accounts? And do you ever tire of paying such close attention to your (and your family's) spending?

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  • I don't think you will get tired of it.  Prior versions of ynab, this was the only way.   I still do manual entry although I let direct import help with speeding up reconciliation because I don't have the same security concerns you do. 

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  • Manual entry is still recommended as the primary entry method, leaving import as an aid to reconciliation. By checking balances before spending -- and having up-to-date balances to facilitate that -- you will be more engaged with your finances and get caught short (i.e., overspending) less often.

    I would venture that the majority of the "old-timers" enter manually, because they likely started before direct import was even a thing. They recognize the advantages and feel the effort is well worth it. (Import was added only about 4.5 years ago when the latest product was released.)

    An additional advantage: cash flow decisions (where to store your money) are rendered trivial with manual entry via scheduled transactions. Those who enter solely via import are very likely losing out on interest.

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  • I've been doing manual entry for 6 years. Before that I did manual entry in MS Money for 16 years.

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  • dakinemaui said:
    cash flow decisions (where to store your money) are rendered trivial with manual entry via scheduled transactions. Those who enter solely via import are very likely losing out on interest

    Tell me more about that. Do you mean that you'd keep only enough in the "outflow" cash account to cover known, scheduled transactions, e.g. for credit card payments, mortgage/rent, etc, and stash the rest in a savings account with a better interest rate? If so, why would manual transaction entry make that more or less feasible? 

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      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
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      Walrus 44 yes, that's the idea. A glance at the running balance including future transactions tells you if there's excess (which can be moved to a higher rate account) or a shortage.

      Trying to figure out how much to leave in checking via the budget will always be suboptimal because it doesn't care about where funds are located. One has to decide which categories are short-term, which is always changing. Furthermore, a portion of the short-term category money is usually not due all at once and can therefore can earn more interest. 

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  • nolesrule said:
    Before that I did manual entry in MS Money for 16 years

    Funny. I've been using MS Money for as long as I can remember, since Money 98, all the way through the sunset edition, which I still use. While I used manual entry for my cash accounts, I stopped doing it for the CC accounts, mostly because categorizing transactions was such a pain. It meant that most of my spending was a monthly blob of "Visa payment" that varied greatly each month.

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  • With 9 months I can’t be called an old timer, but still: I don’t mind manual entry in the least.

    to be honest: the past months it has been just my transactions. We’re in the process of joining accounts, so we’ll see how things are from here. Though I’m very sure I will not mind entering transactions. Only deciding what category to put them in might be hard. Would be the same with direct import though...

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  • 100% manual entry since July 2014. I make heavy use of scheduled transactions, even if the amount is unknown. My gas and electric bills are in as scheduled transaction sat $0 and I just edit it when the billing cycle closes. All my credit cards are on autopay and I use scheduled transactions for those transfers as well. When I get the statement I just update the amount and use the memo field to tell me what date that amount is for (ie if the scheduled transaction for Jun 7 says May 7 in the memo field, I know that I haven't updated with the amount due on Jun 7). And generally, as a single person, budgeting only for myself, I just don't have that many transactions. Many days there are 0 transactions that need to be entered manually.

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  • I definitely meet the old-timer definition since I first bought YNAB in July, 2008. However, I have been on the forefront of direct import as I was using PocketSense in the early days of YNAB 4 which didn’t have direct import but PocketSense allowed me to import all budget accounts with the click of a button.

    Having said that, the rest of my setup is exactly as jenmas described where the majority of my transactions are scheduled transactions which act the same as manual entry. As somebody lucky enough to budget with an abundance (it wasn’t always that way; thank you YNAB!), I sometimes manually enter the gaps and sometimes don’t and allow direct import to fill in those gaps.

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  • I've been using YNAB for two years and for me manual entry is part of the discipline.  So for example looking at a supermarket bill and realising it's not all 'Food'.

    I put my receipts in daily (on the train in normal times). I reconcile on a Sunday.  Like the others I use recurring transactions for everything I can predict, with an estimated figure which I just tweak if they are a bit off.  For me using the app on my phone makes the daily input very quick and easy.

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  • Good Intentions said:
    using the app on my phone makes the daily input very quick and easy.

    +1. I have everything filled out but the amount while waiting in line. I get the amount entered by the time the cashier hands over the receipt.

    Splits I will edit later at home.

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  • OK, I guess you've all forced me to reevaluate my idea of obsessed. 🙂 It sounds like manual entry is alive and well, and if I continue to go that route, I won't be outside the YNAB norm. 

    Maybe I'll reevaluate connected accounts once the big financial entities out there figure out safe ways of sharing information with services like Plaid, but as long as they're going to ask for my passwords, I'm going to continue to go the manual route.

    Oh, and I'll definitely explore using scheduled transactions more. Sounds like that's a win in a number of ways.

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  • I use manual entry, including scheduled transactions for my bills, combined with direct import for easier reconciliation (and to check my manual entry).  I enter transactions manually because I need to check that I don't overspend a category, or to WAM if necessary (whack a mole, rule 3, rolling with the punches, ie, moving money if you overspend a category) as I enter the transactions or things could get out of hand quickly, especially now when I'm on a tight budget to get out of debt and save my emergency fund.

    However, I will warn you of something.  I used YNAB3 combined with Dave Ramsey's baby steps to get myself out of debt in 2011, but then I got too lazy about budgeting and never saved an emergency fund and ended up back in debt when Murphy (well, the results of my own stupid choices, really, but that's a long story) came calling, so now I'm determined to stick with my budget for the long haul.  Once I'm out of debt, I want to make my budget as easy to stick with as possible while still making progress, so I'm going to simplify, simplify, simplify my processes until I know I can stick with it and not feel like it's too much work when life gets crazy, as it tends to do.

    I think part of why I stopped budgeting back then was that it was that the old YNAB3 program and app were not a seamless and easy to use as nYNAB.  I never tried YNAB4, maybe it was much better.  Anyways, the point of this long ramble is that, what really matters to whether YNAB will help you in the long run is if you stick with it, at least that's what I think after realizing I would be in so much better shape if I had budgeted since 2011 instead of dropping it for 9 years.  So whatever you need to do to make it something that will stay part of your routine, do that.  If security reasons make you want to use manual entry, that's fine, maybe simplify elsewhere, but just be aware of how much work maintaining your budget and ask yourself if you're willing to put that much effort in for the next 5, 10, 20, or more years.

    However, the app is so darn smart that at the main places I spend money all I have to enter is the amount and it fills in the location and my main credit card for the account.  It's pretty sweet!  Hopefully you aren't opposed to it using your phone's GPS to help you make manual entry easier, because it's pretty amazing.

    Speaking of which, I found this blog post helpful and maybe you will too. 

    https://www.youneedabudget.com/budgeting-routine/

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  • Walrus 44 said:
    Maybe I'll reevaluate connected accounts once the big financial entities out there figure out safe ways of sharing information

    I'm not about to give my passwords out either. However, I find File-Based Import to be quite valuable to speed up reconciliation of our high-traffic account. It obviously doesn't violate any bank terms & conditions about password sharing, either.

    My spouse sometimes neglects to enter transactions in that account, so having the import enter most of it is a time saver.

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      • Walrus 44
      • Getting the Hang of it
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      dakinemaui I have no objections to file-based imports, and I’m thankful that it works as well in YNAB as it does.

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      • dakinemaui
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      Walrus 44 Good deal. I just wanted to throw that out in case you thought import was strictly the Direct ("here's my password, I'll cross my fingers now") variety. 😉 I'm actually surprised at the number of people who don't realize FBI is a thing.

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  • Old timer here, using since 2013.  I prefer manual entry.  I tried auto import for a few days and hated it, it felt too much like Mint.  For me a manual hands on approach facilitates more attention to the registers and budgeting, also logging in to each account daily allows me to see any pending transactions.  The one thing that helps in using manual entry 100% is trying to simplifying the number of accounts you have.   A lot of people before they come to YNAB have gotten into the habit of using multiple savings accounts to save for specific goals (vacation account, new car account...).  Using YNAB usually is an eye opener for using the budget categories instead of accounts to manage your money.  

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  • ynaber2613 said:
    The one thing that helps in using manual entry 100% is trying to simplifying the number of accounts you have.

    That makes sense. Currently, I have only the one checking and one savings. My investments are off-budget. I do, however, have a number of credit cards from different banks. I am reluctant to close them because of the effect it would have on my credit score.

    I have worked hard over the past few years to increase my FICO score to the upper reaches. Closing lines of credit has the effect of reducing my "available credit" which pushes my credit utilization higher, especially if I continue to use my primary card for most daily and recurring expenses. At the moment, I have enough available credit to make me weep, if I were ever to be in a maxed out condition. I like to keep my utilization low, in the 5% range, which is enough to cover my typical monthly expenses.

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      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
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      Walrus 44 You don’t have to close them. You could just pay them off and quit using them and then “close” them in YNAB. I have CCs like that. When you close them in YNAB, it just adds them to the closed list at the bottom left. You can always reopen them at any time. I have an embarrassing amount of available credit that always keeps me in the 1-3% range of credit utilization.

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      • Walrus 44
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      Superbone I have had the unpleasant surprise of having credit cards that I stopped using for a while get closed without warning for lack of use. One was the first account I ever opened, back in my college days, and after a quiet year, boom: closed after 25 years. I wasn't emotionally attached to it, but there's value in keeping old accounts open, again from a credit history perspective.

      Most of my credit accounts are not in regular use, but I like to blow the dust off of them every few months just to make sure they're still reporting me as an active account holder. 

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      • PhysicsGal
      • Nerdy female homo sapien
      • physicsgal
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      Walrus 44 That's happened to me too.  I would recommend using one or maybe two cards for most of your spending and then just setting up one bill on autopay and having the balance on autopay so you can make sure they don't miss a payment, and the card won't get closed.  But then you only really have to reconcile one card because the other ones only have one charge per month, so reconciling them is easy.

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      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
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      Walrus 44 Yeah, I'm past the point of caring. I don't have any debt other than my mortgage that I just refinanced and this will most likely be my final mortgage. Heck, it will probably be my last debt of any kind in my lifetime. I pay cash for my cars. I don't need to worry about retaining my 830 credit score. Anything over 760 is gravy.

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      • Walrus 44
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      • walrus44
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      Superbone I started watching it more attentively when I attempted my last refinance and there was an erroneous report on it, dragging me down into the mid-600s. Since then, I became more actively engaged with my credit score.

      I should probably be closer to the "so what" perspective like you. I just paid off my mortgage, and have literally zero debt, other than the monthly float from my CCs, which I pay in full. I doubt I'll be in a "pay cash for my cars" situation until my kids finish college, though I might keep driving old cars until then.

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    • Walrus 44 zero debt, but no cars in cash? Does that mean no car? I assume it means a car payment. That is debt.... But still you’re situation sounds very comfortable. Well done.

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  • Another manual entry fan here. I've tried using the Import feature, but I really don't like it. I don't get tired of manual entry, I really like it.

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  • Powder Blue Pony said:
    zero debt, but no cars in cash? Does that mean no car? I assume it means a car payment.

     No, it means an old car and no plans to buy a new one. That's probably the easiest way to avoid car payments -- don't buy new cars.

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    • Walrus 44 yep, then you're right of course. While still marvelling about the normalcy of car payments in the US I seem to have taken them for granted myself! 

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  • We're also manual-entry-only from around 2012 (when it wasn't an option). I tried the import thing for about five minutes, didn't like it at all, and disconnected everything and went right back to manual-entry. I've never gotten tired of entering things that way because it keeps me hyperaware of everything that's happening with our money. I love it, actually. Granted, we have only a handful of accounts to manage - that certainly makes a difference. 

    The key for me is to monitor transactions and reconcile very, very often. I reconcile pretty much daily, except maybe on the occasional weekend when I don't feel like it, and it takes only a few minutes. There was a period of time when we would let it go for weeks at a time, and entering weeks of transactions manually and trying to get it all to line up right is...not fun. The opposite of fun. But once we got the hang of not letting it get away from us like that, it's been a breeze.

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  • Well, I have had it since last August and have always manually tracked.  I will say that I only got tried of it once.  I was also obsessed with it in the beginning and that still happened.   I think that has come from bad habits of not tracking my expenses long term.  When I did get tried of it that, one time, it only lasted about a week.  That was a month into it. Now it is a habit and a joy to track my budget.  So, I will say maybe you will get tries of it but I doubt it will last long or often. 

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