New user- enter all backlogged transactions?

I am a new (/returning) user to ynab. I used it way back when it was downloadable software, but it's been a while. I got it all set up with my accounts attached, but I really would like a clear picture of my family's spending since the beginning of this year. How confusing would it be to go back and manually enter all the transactions from Jan 1 to when I set it all up? Has anyone done this?

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  • I started with YNAB at about this time last year (also after having used the downloadable version many years ago). Went back and entered everything as of Jan 1. It wasn't too difficult. I didn't link any of my accounts, just went and looked up balances as of Jan 1, and then I downloaded the past transactions, at least for my credit cards - I forget what that process was, but it wasn't too hard. Maybe the bank transactions were few enough that I did it by hand - can't remember. Then I went through and categorized everything. It wasn't too terrible, especially if you get the gist of the software and the method and have your categories set up already. I'm really glad to have the whole calendar year for 2020.

    ETA: You download transactions from your bank/credit cards and then go through the "Import" menu in your YNAB accounts - the instructions there tell you what formats work well.

  • The confusion usually comes from not understanding how the YNAB method works. If you are used to budgeting for your transactions and using the budget for spending guidance,  it shouldn’t be too difficult. 

    That being said, I often find this question is its own litmus test. If you have to ask if you should do it or how, you probably shouldn’t do it. The transaction record is a side effect of using the budget; it’s not the purpose. If your budget starts from today, it will still be a great budget. 

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  • RoseMeg451 Welcome back! I'll echo WordTenor here that a budget starting from today will still be a great budget. And your spending trends will become clear pretty quickly! So my top recommendation is to start from today 👍🏻

    That said, if you decide to import past transactions, you can change the date and amount of the starting balance transaction. Direct Import will only provide historical transactions from about 31 days in the past, so to get the rest of that transaction history, you'll want to use our File-Based Importing option.

    I hope this helps - feel free to thread any other questions! 

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