Having Troubles Getting Started

OK, so a number of questions that I can likely find answers to in all of the helpful one-pagers...but am just feeling confused and overwhelmed. Do folks know the answer to any of these?

- Every time that I sign in, I have to re-enter my checking account balance to "reconcile my account." It's also not tracking any of my past or current spending - so as an example, I sent my roommate money via venmo for groceries, and I'd like that to show up so that I can a) categorize it as groceries and b) have it display under "activity" in my groceries category.  Thoughts on how I get it to automatically track?

- Is it safe to assume, that until I'm out of living "paycheck to paycheck" that the box at the top of my budget page will always appear in red? 

- Do I need to create a transaction for my inflow, i.e. my paycheck? I see this line that says "inflow: to be budgeted" but an not sure what to do with that line.

- Has anyone had a one-on-one with someone on the YNAB team via phone? I feel like I need individual coaching, rather than a group webinar, where someone has access to my account and can walk through it with me.

Thanks in advance for your help answering questions!


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  • Welcome! I'll answer briefly and others can chime in with more details and help. And keep asking questions! I get feeling like individual coaching would help, but I would really suggest to at least watch the "getting starting" class. (there's one starting in 45 min from this post! and they happen often).

    Here's the basics that cover some of your questions.

    • Once you've entered a starting balance you really shouldn't have to do it again. YNAB will not import old transactions, just start from your balance today. 
    • As you spend you should enter that as an outflow in the proper account. In a perfect world you enter that in real time, like I sometimes enter a transaction using the mobile app in the store.
    • If you set up direct import, use that to catch things you missed and match with transactions you entered. 
    • I also set up recurring transactions...like bills. You will need to enter your income/paycheck as you receive them. 
    • You should always only have zero in your To Be Budgeted (that big box that is green or red). YNAB is a zero based budgeting system...you shouldn't assign dollars to the budget that you don't have. Instead, look at the categories you've set up and assign dollars based on what you need money to spend on before your next paycheck.
    • Every week/month (your call) you should reconcile your accounts with your bank statements.

    That's really a basic version of where to start. Others will help with more. It took be a couple of time before I really got into YNAB. And once I was consistent using it it took about 3 months to understand exactly how to make it work for me and probably a year and half to get all my categories and budget close to perfect (even though I'm always tweaking). Good luck! It's great that you've started and will be well worth the effort!

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    • ChicagoFlyer Thank you so much! This is really helpful. I'm glad to hear I'm not alone in the learning curve - hoping it will start to make sense as I play around with it more. :) 

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  • Hi Colleen Clark !

    Sorry for the delay on getting to this! I'm happy someone was able to point you in the right direction to get started! I'm going to try to tackle your questions in order like  ChicagoFlyer .

    - It sounds like you may be reconciling too often. Direct Import won't import transactions from before your last reconciliation. So, if you have a missing transactions and then reconcile, YNAB won't import that transaction in order to prevent it from throwing off your reconciliation going forward. Individual transactions should import within 12 hours of clearing your bank account.

    - You should only budget the funds you currently have available, and then wait for more funds before budgeting for more expenses. This keeps you in the green and tells you accurately just how far the funds you currently have can stretch.

    - Yes. When you receive your paycheck, you should enter it (it should also import if you're using Direct Import) and you'll want to categorize it as Inflow: To Be Budgeted in order for those funds to be included in your budget.

    - We actually don't offer phone support at the time being. However, you can reach out to us via email ( [email protected] ) or chat (in your mobile app, tap Settings then Get Help and send us a message) and we can take a look at your budget (once you give us permission) and walk you through things if you still have questions! :)

    If I missed anything, please @mention me in a comment and I'll get back to you!

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