Frustrated & Lost

At the risk of being repetitive, I'm almost done with my 34-day free trial, and I still don't get it. Is there somewhere/someone I could just show my budget to & they tell me what I'm doing wrong? Ideally a local YNAB group would be awesome, but I have't found one (nor do I know if that's even a thing). So far all YNAB has helped me do is be uber-conscious of our spending. I've got money left, but I have no idea how to do this. I've created & re-created a budget 4 times. The 4th time I thought I really got it but as I started adding transactions, and accounts, I got lost again. Every time this happens I erase everything and start all over again but I always end up in the same spot. I literally have no idea what I'm doing. And to spend $84 for a year for a program I don't even know how to use  seems counter intuitive to me. Help? Guidance? 

EDIT: I just went back and deleted all of July. Maybe if I start at the 1st of the month? I don't even know. 

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  • Have you read this material over a few times?

    https://www.youneedabudget.com/ultimate-get-started-guide/

    Starting at the 1st of the month isn't going to help. It's always best to start with now, not the past. Follow the first 3 rules carefully. If you read the getting started guide a few times and you're still confused, send me PM. I might be able to help you.

    Like 2
  • Have you taken any of the free training courses? You can watch recordings of the classes, but if you actually take them live, you can ask questions? You can browse the classes here. Tomorrow at 6:30pm Eastern Time they are offering a class "Set Up Your Budget"

    Like 3
    • jenmas just signed up for a few workshops on 8/4 including the Q&A. Thanks!

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  • I have watched the videos, and I've even sat in on the live video courses & asked questions. I've also watched Nick True a few times.  What I just realized is that I understand how to set it up, but what trips me up is when I have to pay stuff.  I understand that the green bubbles in each category means I assigned that amount from whatever money I had come in. So I can get that far. Set up the categories & fund them with our paychecks. After that, I get lost.  So for example: We received our income tax refund. $2500 was going to our EF w/Ally. $785 of it was to pay state taxes. Well, now I have to create a state tax budget, and go through the steps necessary to move it so everything balances & I'm getting lost. Not to mention, I had an unexpected $27.63 expense at Walmart the other day and that along with the "non-round" numbers only further add to my confusion. I know it sounds lame. I really want to understand it, but I'm an EXTREMELY concrete person. I have a very hard time grasping abstract concepts. Like physical envelopes with concrete money in them I totally get. "Virtual" envelopes, not so much. 

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      • jenmas
      • jenmas
      • 4 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Powder Blue Case why do you have to create a new budget for you state tax payment? Do you mean a new category?

      When you receive your tax refund, you treat it exactly like any other income event (and tax refunds are really just delayed income when you think about it - too much money came out of your paycheck, and now you're getting it back): enter it as a transaction in your checking account and use the category Income: To Be Budgeted. Then on your budget screen you allocate $2,500 to your EF category. Then you allocate $785 to your state tax payment category. Whether or not you transfer $2,500 from your checking account to your savings account is completely irrelevant to the budget.

      Accounts are where you store you money and categories are the purpose of your money. Making a category balance match an account balance is just extra work. I have about 67 categories in my budget and my on budget accounts include 3 checking, 3 savings, 4 CDs, I Bonds, 2 cash accounts (one that represents my wallet and the other the emergency bug out cash I keep in my home), 1 gift card account (that contains gift cards from 3 stores), and 8 credit cards. None of the balances on those accounts corresponds to any particular category or group of categories. I have an Income Replacement category with an available balance that will cover me for 6-8 months and I literally could not tell which account holds that money.

      Like 1
    • jenmas yes, sorry. I meant to say a new "category" for the state taxes. I also have $65 debited every other Friday by our financial planner for our retirement account. And I've set up $50 to come out every other Friday to go into our EF at Ally until we meet our 6 month goal. I'm not sure how to categorize those. Electric/water also throw me. This month we have to pay $224.55 but beginning next month I signed up for equal payments to make the budgeting easier & that will be $345. If I set up the goal in Sept. it automatically applies it to Aug. so that's also confusing me. I think I'm over thinking this. 

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  • Powder Blue Case said:
    And I've set up $50 to come out every other Friday to go into our EF at Ally until we meet our 6 month goal.

     You save for your EF by putting money in the EF category, not by moving it to another account.

    I think you are getting tripped up by accounts vs. categories.

    Accounts are just places told hold your money. Categories tell you what your money is for. The relationship between the two is only that the money in your categories and in To Be Budgeted equals the same amount as the money in your accounts.

    Like 1
  • I would suggest not using goals until you have the basics of making a category, budgeting money to it, and then charging transactions to it -- down cold. Personally I think it's difficult to know what to set your goals to, when you don't know yet what your budget categories are. I'd just fund the electric bill the proper amount this month, and then the proper amount next month and the months thereafter, but not put a goal on it at all.

    Why not categorize the $50 to "Emergency Fund" if that's where it's going? 

    Like 1
    • Ivory Storm that makes sense. I had set up a "target savings balance" for the EF and based on my target amount, YNAB was telling me I need to budget $1200/mo and I can't do that right now. I may be able to put more on some months, but automatically, no matter what, I've got $100/mo going there.  If it was straight checking and savings I think I might be ok, but the movement of $ between multiple accounts is throwing me for a loop. Here's what had for July with a snapshot of the accounts. 

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      • Ivory Storm
      • Ivory_Storm.3
      • 4 mths ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      Powder Blue Case I would delete the "Savings at Ally" category group. That is just going to get you into trouble with a capital T. (see what norules says above about categories v. accounts). 

      I would group the categories you currently have under "Savings at Ally," into other category groups, then delete the category group "Savings at Ally." Don't try to make the account balance, match the sum of relevant category balances. Just don't do it. Instead, make sure you have enough in your checking account to cover bills that are coming in, and leave it at that.

      In real life, you can transfer money between accounts all you want, without ever touching your budget.  You'd mark the transfer, but it would affect nothing about how your dollars are allocated. But right now, whenever you move stuff between categories, you have to move money between accounts -- super, super confusing. 

      In my second month I consolidated all of my money into 3 accounts because it made it so much easier to track (checking & 2 different savings accounts). It felt like jumping into a cold swimming pool but it really helped me get the hang of things and learn to trust and lean on my budget.

      Like 4
      • Ivory Storm
      • Ivory_Storm.3
      • 4 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Powder Blue Case I find the target savings balance depressing for a few of my categories. So I deleted it. Every month, to those categories, I just allocate what I can/want to. Honestly I'd delete all goals until you really understand the basics of recording transactions and assigning your dollars and structuring your categories. That is the backbone of the system. Maybe practice that for a few months, and then try again with some goals.

      Also, my first three months, I told myself that it was a 'win' to just be able to observe what was happening. I didn't need to 'change' anything. I gave myself permission to overspend, and everything/anything else that is wildly financially irrational, that I'd previously been doing. My priority was on learning ynab and getting a good, neutral, open-ended look at what I actually was doing with my money. In point of fact, just the fact of watching meant that I made a ton of different choices. But I didn't "make" myself do things differently if that makes sense. 

      It takes a lot of work to learn this system, and I think it's okay to prioritize that. 

      (About 3 months ago norules gave me advice on retirement and I was very resistant to it, and that was fine, and now 3 months later I get it and I'm doing everything he said. It's ok to take time to learn one set of principles before stepping into the next. )

      Like 1
    • Ivory Storm Should I rename "Ally Savings" to Sinking funds?    The only reason I even have out Edward Jones listed is because they debit our account after our paychecks go in and I felt I needed it to track the biweekly outflows.  Same thing for our Ally savings. And I have an Ally checking because the rep suggested I get one since it comes with a debit card and if I had an "emergency" I could just transfer funds from our EF to the checking & use the debit card. But our main checking is locally at our credit union (there's something reassuring about a brick & mortar location for a bank). 

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    • Powder Blue Case I would rename "Savings at Ally" (the category group, not the actual account) -- I'd rename it to "Savings."

      Then I would rename "Edward Jones" (the category) to "IRA."

      Then I'd move the "IRA" category into the "Savings" group. (I also keep a separate IRA category, because I want to track how much I'm putting into that special tax-advantaged savings. You can add money to the IRA category in YNAB, without transferring it into your actual IRA account. What I've been doing is adding money to my IRA category, and then every few months, I transfer that amount into the actual IRA account. But if you have an automatic transfer then that will happen automatically.)

      Then I'd delete the now-empty "IRA Contributions" category group, since it only has one category in it anyways . . 

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  • Also, I got super confused when I started too, and I think I had 4 budgets that got deleted and a fresh start as well. It's such a different way of thinking about money. But now I am 6 months in and it's transformational, and almost too easy . . I think there really is a hump to get over in terms of brain processing this way of thinking about $$ . . .  

    Like 1
  • Powder Blue Case said:
    I literally have no idea what I'm doing. And to spend $84 for a year for a program I don't even know how to use  seems counter intuitive to me.

    One other thing to consider, before giving up hope that it's pointless to learn before you have to pay for it...  I think if you ask customer service they'll extend your free trial a bit longer, to help you get your bearings before deciding that it's a waste of money.  I've heard of other's in a similar situation being granted more time on their trial.

    It's worth a try.  And keep asking questions.  people on this forum are super helpful, and want to see you succeed.  I honestly don't really have anything else to add, I just don't want to see you give up hope simply because the trial was over, and you didn't think you'd understand, so you gave up.

    stick to it, and when it finally makes sense your money habits will be transformed.

    Like 2
  • Powder Blue Case said:
    but the movement of $ between multiple accounts is throwing me for a loop. Here's what had for July with a snapshot of the accounts. 

    Your transfers every other Friday are completely irrelevant to the budget. I mean that completely seriously. If you get paid on Tuesday and allocate everything in your TBB down to zero, including assigning $50 to your EF, there is no budgetary need to transfer any money to your Ally Savings account. The money was "saved" the moment you put it in the category, not when you transferred funds to the savings account.

    Yes, financially it can be good to keep your checking account lean and your savings account plump so as to maximize interest. Which is what I do. I make sure that on the first of the month, my checking account has $X in it (the average outgoing from my checking account plus an extra $2000). Any other penny that comes in during the month gets transferred to a savings account. With absolutely no adjustments made on the budget screen.

    Why don't you try not transferring any money to your savings account for a few months? As income arrives, you still assign it to your EF or your vacation category or Family Room Furniture or whatever, but it all just lives in your checking account. And then when the balance in the checking account just seems crazy high to you, transfer the excess to your savings account. With no impact on your budget screen. Because accounts and categories operate independently from each other. That linked article should be required reading for every YNABer.

    Like 1
  • Powder Blue Case said:
    I had set up a "target savings balance" for the EF and based on my target amount, YNAB was telling me I need to budget $1200/mo and I can't do that right now. I may be able to put more on some months, but automatically, no matter what, I've got $100/mo going there. 

     There are 2 things going on there. First the goal, if you can't put $1200/mo into the category every month, you can either:

    • change the target date
    • accept the goal will stay orange some of the months. Orange isn't bad. It's just the category saying: "Look at me, I could use some more funds if you have any"

    The second is the $100/mo transfer. It doesn't go to your Emergency Fund, it goes to your Ally Savings account. But that doesn't give a purpose to your money, you could use this $100 for vacation, a computer, furniture, Christmas or whatever. What gives the purpose of "Emergency Fund" to your money is to budget it to the EF category. That's what everybody else said about the difference between accounts and categories. From what you said you were budgeting by account previously or thinking along those lines, you have to let go of this thinking and now budget by category.

    If your goal is to increase your EF by at least $100/mo, you can put this in the category name. Or you can put a Monthly Savings Builder of $100 for your EF category and put your target balance in the category name, in the notes. 

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    • Ceeses Understood. I did what Ivory Storm suggested and deleted the goals altogether, just until I get a handle on this. So are you saying create an "Emergency Fund" category group and put the other "sinking funds under some other category group? 

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      • Ceeses
      • Ceeses
      • 4 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Powder Blue Case I was not at all talking about the way your categories are organised. Getting rid of the "Ally Savings" category group, at least changing the naming would be good. What the naming becomes or if you need to reorganise the categories underneath is unimportant. The groupings of your categories isn't important, what's important is you have the categories you need to guide your spending. Where they are, their exact name etc. comes later. Except you shouldn't have groups or categories called the same as your accounts as that creates the wrong mindset.

      Like 2
  • One more thing. Automatic recurring transfers can be a pain to deal with in YNAB. I think the best way to budget for those is to use recurring transactions. Put those transfers as recurring in your account register in YNAB with the proper frequency. Then look at the inspector to see how much you need to budget this month to cover those transactions. This is especially true of fortnightly payments or weekly payments as some months will have 3 or 5 transfers instead of 2 or 4 usually. 

    If you can't budget for all at the start of the month, it's fine to add money when receiving each paycheck. 

    Like 2
  • Powder Blue Case Just wanted to add, in addition to the great community advice here, feel free to get in touch with support directly (using the question mark in the lower-right corner of your budget) and we'll be happy to help you one-on-one. It sounds like your budget is coming along nicely, though.

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