Is manual entry worth it?

Currently we never reconcile our accounts. We link our bank account and accept transactions when they come through as cleared. If our YNAB balance doesn't match our actual accounts we know something is wrong (rare occurrence). 

Manual entry seems far more complicated. You have the potential of entering something wrong on the manual entry side, have to take time to enter things in while on the run, and have to reconcile your account (marking things as cleared or not cleared and searching for why things might be off). 

Automatic import is usually only a few days behind and so it doesn't seem to matter that ones budget is to-the-day-accurate, unless you use the same category within a couple of days, forget you just spent money in that category, and don't have money left in that category (non-frequent scenario). 

However, I can see a two benefits to manual entry:

1. You see that budget category go down each time you make a purchase. I imagine that makes you more accountable. 

2. If you are budgeting with someone else, you don't have to ask what transactions are and it is easier to categorize or split transactions since you are doing it in the moment instead of reflecting a few days later. 

Is it worth it? Are there other benefits to manual entry I'm missing? Anyone experienced in using both methods and has decided on one?

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  • It varies by person, but I've been doing 100% manual entry since 2014 and it just isn't a big deal. This includes a cash account that I track down to the penny. I don't spend more than 5 minutes a day entering transactions.

    Like 3
    • jenmas Same for me, since 2014. I love manual entry. Muscle memory by now. 

      Like 1
  • Manual entry since 11/2012.  Worth it? Subjective.  For me, it has been worth it.  I would rather do that than worry about all the baggage that comes with “automatic” import.

    Like 1
    • a_different_joel Thanks Joel, can you explain a bit? What is the baggage that comes with automatic import? How come automatic is in quotes? 

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      • a_different_joel
      • YNAB 4 is objectively better.
      • A_different_joel
      • 2 mths ago
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      Maroon Keyboard while it does seem like things have gotten better over the years, I am just referring to the many threads on the forum discussing issues with automatic imports being flaking, stops working, double imported, taking a long time , being positive or negative when it should be the other, authentication issues, etc.

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      • Yes I can
      • yesican2020
      • 1 mth ago
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      a_different_joel Maroon Keyboard I have similar thoughts.  I've only ever used manual imports and have seen lots of different threads over the years (this is my third time using YNAB in a committed way) about people spending time working it out. 

      I'm a pragmatist and want to spend my time on managing my spending and budgeting against priorities, not on busy system work or reentering passwords.

      Once I'd set up the relevant scheduled transactions, I don't find it time consuming at all.  5 mins most morning to update cleared/amounts for variable scheduled bills and approve transactions. 5 mins when I purchase something not on schedule.  30 mins when income comes in and I pay bills that aren't scheduled or on direct debit. 

      Like a_different_joel says I wonder if I'd find it more time consuming to do the imports - but clearly lots of people don't find annoying as its a key feature of YNAB.

      NB: I'm in Australia, so direct import requires an additional subscription through a third party.  

      Like 1
  • I do occasional manual entry but for the most part I don’t. Many of my transactions are set up as repeating transactions but I don’t think of that as manual. I pay for everything I can on credit cards and then pay the total statement due amount on their due dates. Those are set up as repeating transactions.

    However, whether you do or don’t, I recommend reconciliation every now and then. It’s good to know when things are locked down and known to match your statement. I don’t go more than a month without reconciling. Often more frequently. Then on the occasional times when things are off, they’re very easy to track down.

    Like 3
      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 2 mths ago
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      One other thing to add to the topic is that the tighter your situation is, the more helpful manual entry is.  And of course, the reverse is true as well.

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    • nolesrule
    • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
    • nolesrule
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    I definitely would recommend manual entry at the very least for the flexible spending categories. Having to wait 2-3 days for the category balance to update to be correct means you are relying on outdated info to make spending decisions.

    Most other categories will be backed up by a scheduled transaction, so the entry work is mostly set it and forget it.

    Like 4
      • pgauntlett
      • pgauntlett
      • 2 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      nolesrule totally agree.

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  • Maroon Keyboard said:
    If our YNAB balance doesn't match our actual accounts we know something is wrong (rare occurrence). 

     Just pointing out, you do reconcile your accounts. You just don't push the reconcile button when you do so. Reconciling is simply the act of making sure YNAB matches your bank.

    I use manual entry because how YNAB handles pending transactions annoyed me. The only account I have on auto import is the one I literally never use. YNAB is happy to check it more often than I am, so will catch any fraudulent activity before I do. (It just won't know it's fraudulent.)

    Like 3
  • I use manual entry in conjunction with import. It gives me the best of both worlds. I enter in real time so I can see what the balance is. My husband does that as well so we both have visibility. However, there are times when we forget or are lazy. So, automatic import helps to catch those things that are forgotten. Transactions that are manually entered are matched based on specific criteria (vendor, amount, date I think). If they match, there is an icon (paperclip look) beside them so I know. Sometimes they will not match but then I can manually match them. Maybe I entered the wrong amount (fat fingers or transposed numbers) or for some credit cards, there is the tip that is added after. I reconcile frequently. Minimum weekly for our chequing and savings. Every two weeks for our shared credit card account that I cannot get to link properly. Anyway, I find that this gives me all of the advantages.

    And yes, reconciling and hitting the button to reconcile that puts the lock on the transactions really helps when you are trying to find a problem.

    Like 3
  • same as @maddog.  Manual entry at time of transaction. Import matches the manual transaction. This way I catch any missed entries or different amounts. Manual entry allows for memos which can be helpful depending on what it is. Manual entry on phone literally takes 2 clicks once for places you shop regularly you have started using it as YNAB "remembers" the category and the payment method so it is literally seconds.  This also catches any payments that are not processed since they do not clear. 

    Like 4
  • When I was pinching pennies and super concerned about things, I used manual entry religiously. Now that there is more wiggle room in our budget, I do when I remember, but am more likely to use auto import and reconcile my accounts. This has led to me being less cautious with what I spend and where I take it from, but right now "learn that it's okay to spend money sometimes" is more important to where I'm at than "save as much money as I possibly can."

    So basically, manual entry makes you far more aware of where your money goes. Whether this is useful information to you or not depends on where you're at financially as well as where you want to be.

    Like 4
  • Manual entry was a game-changer for me.  Puts me closer and more in touch with my money.  Transactions whenever possible are entered in real time in the app.  I reconcile the banking and credit card accounts daily and catch any that slipped through.  Weekly, I do a larger reconciliation that includes my tracking accounts.  Doing it more frequently actually lessens the pain of reconciliation in my opinion, as you are never more than a day off.  It also gives me peace of mind to catch a fraudulent transaction more quickly.

    Like 3
  • I'm 100% manual entry. I would rather not fuss with automatic import if it's not going to be exact. I rarely have issues with something not matching, and since I reconcile about 3 times a week it doesn't take long to find the error whenever there is one.

    I manage my personal budget, my boyfriend's budget, and my business budget, and it takes me about 15 minutes 3x week to catch up on all the happenings. Accounts we don't use frequently I will double check about once a month to just be sure nothing escaped my notice (like my BF sneaking a purchase in somewhere I wasn't expecting).

    I like manual entry because I know what's happening at all times, and I know I'm up to date and clear on things. I do sometimes use the app to enter things while I'm out, but it depends on what it is if I do it or not (I have a couple stores that I have a bad habit of forgetting to check the accounts, so I do manual entry while I'm there). I like to do it on the desktop browser so that I can see everything, and it's easier to open two windows side by side if I can't figure out why there is a discrepancy if there is one.

    Like 2
  • One of my main credit cards doesn't connect, so for that one I try to always enter my transactions when I'm spending.  In general, at least for categories that are spent on ~daily I try to enter manually, but for transactions that I don't need to worry about the category I often let the budget import them or I just have a scheduled transaction, depending on if it's a repeated transaction.

    Depending on your situation and priorities, manual entry can be totally worth it or not.

    Like 1
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