How often do you work on your budget and reconcile? Daily/Weekly/Monthly?

For those of you who have no problems with reconciling your accounts, do you do it on a daily/weekly basis? The first few months of joining YNAB I was so exited and doing it every week and did not have any problems, then summer hit with vacations and kids home from school and that is when the problems of not being able to reconcile have started.  Over the next year I've only found myself sitting down every 4-6 weeks to categorize all my transaction and budget and assign every dollar a job. Whenever I try to reconcile my accounts that are imported into YNAB with the amounts showing on my actual bank statement and credit card statements, one or more of my them are off and don't reconcile. This has been lengthily and frustrating to print statements from credit card and bank and highlight every transactions as I clear them in YNAB. Sometimes I find what is wrong, sometimes not.  I have restarted a new budget 3 times in the past year to get a fresh start and hopefully fix the problem. Is my problem that I let 4-6 weeks go by and it really needs to be done daily? It's my goal to sit down at least once a week and I'll keep trying and I've started to make myself sit in my car and log the transactions into my phone right after going to the store and hope to make it a habit but with 4 little wiggly little kids this habit has not stuck in the past but I will keep on trying! Would love any tips in making budgeting more of a daily/weekly part of my busy life. Thanks. 

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  • I have found that reconciling daily works best for me and I prefer manual entry as well.  Nothing is on autopilot.  

    Reply Like 5
  • Importing transactions with the bank i do daily while on the train to work. My wife and I do "money" every weekend (what we call it which dates back to MS Money) to ensure we are on same page and on target for the month. We do our full month budget at end of month before next month begins and reconcile (as in balance checkbook) accounts then.

    Reply Like 1
      • mudturtle
      • old man trying to get by
      • Violet_Sound.5
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      RIP_MSMoney I still use MS Money and have since 1995. I like YNAB for budget but Money is the best for keeping up with all my finances. I actually depend on Money to know my actual account balances accurately and up to dat.

      Reply Like
      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 3 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      mudturtle There’s no reason you can’t use YNAB to know your balances and be up to date. I know that because that’s what I do. It’s nice to have one program that can do it all. No need for duplication.

      Reply Like 2
      • mudturtle
      • old man trying to get by
      • Violet_Sound.5
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Superbone Without the Toolkit I cant even see a running balance for my checking account which for me is critical. At the end of the day it doesn't matter what the budget says if I overdraft my bank I am going to pay a penalty.

      Reply Like
      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 3 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      mudturtle But we do have the toolkit and a running balance, right? I've been using YNAB exclusively for 10 years and have never overdrafted my bank account in that time.

      Reply Like 1
      • MXMOM
      • MXMOM
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      mudturtle I used to live in overdraft. But not any more. Technically if you budget in YNAB using only money you have, it is impossible to overdraft. I did have a few issues in the beginning with too many accounts so I could overdraw the one account because the money was in a different account.  I have now eliminated most extra accounts except for an additional high interest account for longer term planned spending like car purchases and university fees. 

      Entering and reconciling are 2 separate activities. Entering should happen “live” throughout the day. My husband now enters a transaction right in the car in the parking lot. If you make it a “thing” by waiting to enter things in a batch, you lose the power that is YNAB. I used quicken for years and that is what I did. Entered things after the fact, trying to figure out where my money went. Now I enter things on the go and technically reconciliation is a non-event. A few things sneak through but for the most part everything is in when it happens. 

      Have you looked into the shortcuts? I have an iPhone and have a shortcut for spending with my main account. I know there are android shortcuts too. And you can use Alexa to create transactions so you don’t even have to enter things manually. 

      Reply Like
  • The problem isn’t reconciling infrequently, it’s dealing with transactions infrequently. 

    Make it a habit to interact with your budget every day. Over coffee, give the kids an extra Paw Patrol, whatever it takes. Do it for at least two weeks, and if you break the chain, start over. You should basically never go more than a day or two without dealing with transactions even if you don’t put them in at POS. 

    I reconcile very infrequently. I open my budget several times a day. 

    Reply Like 17
      • Vibrant
      • No more counting dollars, we'll be counting stars
      • vibrant
      • 3 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      WordTenor seconding all of this.

      Reply Like 1
      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      WordTenor Ditto.

      Reply Like
      • mudturtle
      • old man trying to get by
      • Violet_Sound.5
      • 3 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      WordTenor Thirding of this..if that's a thing:)

      Reply Like 2
  • Hi Isabelle !

    4-6 weeks is a long time to go without categorizing transactions, reconciling or interacting with your budget. YNAB isn't a Set It & Forget It program - the longer you go without interacting with your budget, the harder it will be to get caught up and keep your spending in line with your priorities.

    It takes 21 days to build a routine and we're here to help! Tackling your budget now paves the way for a better financial future well into the new year! :)

    My colleague Jen (who has been using YNAB for a decade now) shared her budgeting workflow in this Five Minute Fix blog post. I thought you would find it helpful, because she'll walk you through what she does every day (in less than five minutes) as well as her weekly and monthly routine. We also have a few tips on how best to create your own budgeting habits and our Your Budget Routine workshop. :)

    Reply Like
      • Isabelle
      • Momof4
      • foodalleriesrock
      • 3 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Faness  this so helpful, thank you so much for sharing!

      Reply Like 1
  • I look at the budget every day.  We try to manually add transactions as they occur but usually within 24 hours.  Credit card accounts are manually reconciled every 7 to 10 days.  The checking and savings accounts I don't have access to online, so those are once a month after the paper bank statement comes.  Tracking accounts are reconciled about once a month as well although again I log transactions more or less as they occur.  

    Reply Like 2
  • Using the app it is so easy to bring in your transactions daily and categorize them. I think you will see greater progress the more you interact with your budget. 

    Reply Like
  • Hi. We mainly buy stuff on the weekend and we do not live on the edge, so I usually connect on Monday or Tuesday (to give the bank the time to get all the transactions in). Then I use the file import into YNAB. I usually reconcile at that time for the accounts with the most usage. I definitely reconcile the CC more often than the other accounts: my other accounts show me a running balance at my bank so it's easy for me to follow from one transaction to the next if there is a mistake. The CC doesn't show a running balance so it's more difficult to track issues. And then I usually connect a second time during the week, but that's mainly to clear transactions and import a few transactions that may have been pending at the start of the week.
    I know I should enter the pending transactions manually but I have little kids like you do and most of the time I really need to be quick dealing with this.
    I would probably spend more time and be more diligent if we had debts to pay off though.

    So I guess one advice could be: try to concentrate your spending on a couple of days per week (except the direct debit stuff but this should be covered by scheduled transactions anyway).
    For daily coffee: we have a "tea lady" at work, I know I will use $0.5 per day for my tea, so I just regularly put aside $5 of cash for this, put it on my desk and spend from it. This means I only have to enter the $5 transaction in my budget every few weeks instead of $0.5 every day. Reducing the number of transactions you enter every day will probably help as well.

    Reply Like 1
  • Depending on the ages of your kids, you could involve them in "games" (responsibilities) related to putting in transactions: 

    - Have them practice counting to see how long it takes you to input. Most of my transactions take about 10 seconds, including opening the app. This could happen in the car directly before you head home. (3-7 yrs, and it's good for the younger ones to hear)

    - Have them compare (keep a log if you trust them with a pencil in the car temporarily) previous transaction input times. They will turn into your cheerleaders and learn that sometimes things take focus and patience. (4-10 yrs)

    - Have them highlight the important info on the receipt while you get the littles settled and be ready to tell you so you can input even faster! The highlighting is so they can tangibly separate the tasks of finding and presenting the data, and so you can easily glance and check. (8-up if separate receipts; likely at least middle school for finding split totals)

    If I'm splitting a receipt, say, from Walmart, inputting the transaction can take 1-5 focused minutes. Possibly consider splitting your purchase at checkout into two/more receipts, one for each category. This can also allow for younger kids to read you totals to input.

    Older kids can be taught to sort onto the conveyor belt, of course with supervision for accuracy. You could even delegate - one kid is in charge of groceries, one is in charge of cleaning/toiletries/house. (6/7- up)

    Younger kids can help point out what you should take from the buggy next. It's kind of like eye spy, and prepares them for the big kid jobs.

    I gave year ranges for the jobs based on my experience as an elementary teacher, but you know what your kids are ready to handle. The goal is supervised independence, but there will be some more hands on involvement from you at the beginning.

    Whatever you do, pick one (or two - if you have both upper/lower elementary ages, do a big kid and a little kid job), and

    1. Teach it hours (the day before?) before you shop.  Give them a brief reason that's age appropriate (we're helping the family make good money choices/make sure we are providing what the family needs/helping Mommy do her job).

    2. Remind them right before you leave to shop that the family is starting a new thing. Ask them what their job is, how it works, and why it's important.

    3. Make sure they're fed/rested/exercised so they can be amicably involved in helping you shop. This really doesn't have to do with YNAB except that it's a good thing to help maintain your sanity, which makes it more likely that you will follow through. 

    4. Especially with the older kids, you could make connections as you shop about which items will be categorized which way so they don't have to figure that out at the register. 

    5. Walk them through their job if need be. 

    6. Keep doing this until it's routine. Kids crave routine. They'll get to where they remind you, too. Let them learn to do that respectfully. :)

    Because of the involvement, they'll have a reason to help as well as concrete, attainable ways to help. Aside from you actually getting transactions in, they'll learn a whole lot (responsibility, running a household, family contributions, varying levels of math application, sorting, patterns, using data, communication, teamwork, encouragement, persistence, financial health, etc). 

    You can do it! Good luck!

    Reply Like 4
    • Also, if your kids are so young that 20 is too big to count to, teach them to count to 10 (or 5) on each finger. Great prep for later math, anyways, and it's tactile.

      If you've got a young one that is bored with counting, but not quite ready to keep a log of your times, have them practice writing the number each time, no worries on the list of numbers. That will come later.

      You can say, "Last time, Mommy took 28 seconds. Do you think this time will be the same or different?" After counting and writing the new number, lead the comparison (while driving) "Last time, Mommy took 28 seconds. Is 16 bigger/smaller than 28. Smaller. So Mommy was faster this time." Soon, you'll be about to go straight to figuring out which is faster (but you'll probably have to be the one to remember the previous time and remind them of it, especially if they're just working on writing numbers).

      Reply Like 4
  • I'm one month in to my YNAB journey. I spend at least 30-45 minutes in my budget every day. I'm not in the US, so it's manual entry for me for every transaction. Have spent a lot of time getting my categories right, setting some goals, monitoring spending, and just generally finally feeling like I'm on the way to getting a handle on my financial situation.

    Best of all? It's fun!! I always resisted budgeting because I thought it was for boring people that counted their money instead of enjoying it. Now I realise it's the opposite. I enjoy my money so much more when I know it's doing it's job.

    Reply Like 5
    • spyral kudos to you for starting your journey! The first 6 months is the trickiest because you're still learning and adapting to your needs, so that 30-45 minutes should creep down fairly quick as you get more comfortable with the budget and what you need to do each time you log in. Devoting that much time in the beginning is fantastic though to make sure that you are staying on top of things! Way to go!

      Reply Like 1
      • spyral
      • Spyral
      • 3 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      farfromtheusual Thanks! It's great to read everyone else's experiences and thoughts on here to get an idea of how people approach different things and how they're going. 

      Reply Like 1
  • My reason for signing up to YNAB was to get control of where I was actually spending money so I reconcile my checking account daily (sometimes twice if it's a slow day at work!).

    My household bills account I reconcile a couple of times a month - they are all fixed expenses and set up in the budget as scheduled transactions so I know they're covered by the account balance and I know when they'll go out. That reconciliation is more housekeeping than anything, just checking that I haven't missed a bill increase.

    My savings account I only reconcile once a month, mainly to pick up the interest in TBB.

    Reply Like 2
  • You just need to make a habit of it. I got up, sat down with coffee and breakfast and went through my budget. Took about 5 minutes to verify my accounts were all up to date. Today is also my pay day, so I took care of giving that money jobs (in my case it was quick because we're a month ahead).

    Reply Like 1
  • I think you've already gotten some awesome perspectives here, and some great advice.

    I spend about 10-30 minutes about 2 or 3 times a week in my budget and reconciling. I enter everything manually because I prefer to keep a really close eye on things (I've caught some issues and errors this way, and also been aware when a bill was missed or not paid due to an issue with the bank because of this). Mondays are always a little longer because we've spent money over the weekend and because of our really tight expenses I sometimes have to adjust categories to keep things covered and balanced. It really shouldn't, and doesn't, take that long when it is a habit.

    I would also say that if you can find a way to incorporate it into your routine with your kids that would be awesome. As a child my parents NEVER discussed money with us, or how to handle it. I learned how to "balance a checkbook" in school, but that didn't really serve me at all in learning how to actually handle money. My parents weren't bad with money, and in fact, we were much better off than I realized, I only gained that perspective after I got out of the house.

    So please do find a way to help show your kids that working with money is a good thing, and it is something that you actively do. If they see how consistent you are with it, and how important it is to you, then they'll take it seriously when they get older, too. You'll be doing them a huge favor in the long run. I've spent most of my adult life struggling with money because I had no one that taught me anything and I had to figure it out on my own, plus having several years of not so great relationships that didn't handle money well either, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

    Reply Like 1
    • farfromtheusual Teaching kids about money is very important, something that should be taught in school - What is a Credit Card, when you should use one, what is a Mortgage for, what is a Pension contribution for... any why all of the above is important.

      My Wife got into a lot of debt when she left school and started working because she was being offered credit cards all over the place. She knew she *should* pay them off, but inevitably ended up paying the minimum then adding to that debt by spending more.

      Reply Like 2
    • Turquoise Major Agreed. I think there should be a money class or portion of class time in every grade. Things need to be tied to the real world for kids, which is why it's so important that parents include stuff for their kids. That's obviously a soap box of mine, so I'll step off now :)

      Reply Like 1
  • I just did a file based import for the first time for an account that has historically struggled with YNAB direct import. OMG so easy!  You download in quicken qfx format. Save to desktop and then drag the file onto YNAB web page. Boom. It magically knows which account and if I’ve already imported the transaction it skips it. You could try doing that. Also minimizing number of accounts may help. Finally the easiest way to minimize the number of transactions is to use cash envelopes. When you take the cash out you enter it by category in YNAB to the applicable category and then spend out of that envelope for that category. One transaction per paycheque rather than 15. Put the receipts in the appropriate envelope in case you want to review later. If you need to steal from one category for another (aka WAM) then write in the envelopes plus/minus eg. Needed extra $20 for clothing which I took from grocery. On grocery envelope write -20 to clothes and on clothes write +20 from grocery. At the end of the month move that money from each category to cover the other  

    Reply Like
  • So I love using YNAB, but I understand where you're coming from Isabelle! I can let my transactions go uncategorized for 3-4 weeks at times!

    The value of YNAB for me is keeping track of savings and how much I've spent each month, I don't use it like an actual budget (sounds similar to you)...

    BUTTT I think I need to start getting back in the habit of every day. I have my accounts "connected" right now, and I think this adds to the problem. It becomes very easy to let things pile up, rather than manually updating every day (which I've done in the past).

    I think the end of the day/early morning will be my sweet spot. Before the kids wake up!

    Reply Like
  • I think the only time I don't work on my budget at least once a day is when I'm on vacation.  Maybe that's the worst time to not deal with budgeting, but I give myself a small break, especially since there's usually gonna be a ton of small transactions.  If I check everything constantly I'm going to end up stressing the whole family out :).  There's usually a little damage control to do when I get back, but then we revise for next time.  

    Reconciling I do for the most used accounts once a month, at statement time.  That helps keep things organized for me so I can see that the locked transactions were in the last period.  It's easy enough for me to see what's cleared and matched during daily check-ins.

    Reply Like
  • Also, I had a friend who would do what the OP did.  And she was too paranoid to link accounts so she would do it all manually at random times, going weeks in between and then making the process so miserable she kept procrastinating longer.  Even with a high dual income, she was never ahead on her paychecks, trying to time CC payments multiple times throughout the month to free up available credit.  It was painful to watch and I tried to help her for two years before eventually giving up.  So do NOT follow that model, it doesn't work.

    Reply Like 1
      • Isabelle
      • Momof4
      • foodalleriesrock
      • 3 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Annieland good point, it doesn't matter how much you make, if the process is too miserable it's too easy to put off and get off track on the budget so I think making it daily and manageable and enjoyable will be key for me!

      Reply Like 1
  • I'm with WordTenor , and the blog post that @faness_ynab mentioned (https://www.youneedabudget.com/budgeting-routine/) is a good simple method pretty similiar to what I do.

    I think about YNAB as my real-life gaming tool.

    1. Daily enter all transactions as they happen (plus any that come through other household members and bills I've scheduled with transactions)

    2. Weekly check the uncleared transactions and fix any so I reconcile with the accounts at the bank.

    3. Monthly review any goals and adjust as needed to meet our current priorities and obligations

    Reply Like
  • I check my budget in the morning, while I have my coffee. It only takes a few minutes each day. Transactions are entered manually when they happen, and I have automatic import which helps to pick up any DH spending.

    For reconciling at month end, I found Nick True's checklist (link below) to be very helpful.

    Reply Like
      • Technicolor Cheetah
      • Not sure when I became a cheetah...but I'll run with it
      • technicolor_cheetah
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Couch Cat 

      TIL - I've never properly finished reconciling in the 6 months I've had YNAB.  How embarrassing.  So that's what the reconcile button in the top right corner of the account screen is for.  Oops!  

      Things I knew.  I love Nick True's YNAB videos.  

      ...off to reconcile properly...

      Reply Like
      • Technicolor Cheetah
      • Not sure when I became a cheetah...but I'll run with it
      • technicolor_cheetah
      • 3 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      And now I've reconciled properly.  Took about 45 minutes to finish reconciling 10 tracking accounts and 10 budget accounts.  I have a lot of accounts.  

      Reply Like 2
      • Isabelle
      • Momof4
      • foodalleriesrock
      • 3 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Couch Cat awesome youtube video thanks!

      Reply Like 1
  • 100% manual entry - no bank account linking

    5 minutes daily, 10 minutes weekly  on Saturdays (my big errands day with lots of split transactions), 15 minutes at month-end to budget the next month and reconcile all my accounts.

    I think that the trick is to ritualize your interaction with your budget. I really look forward to the moment when I'm done my after-supper kitchen clean up, washed the dishes, have my lunch ready to go for the next day, and I can sit down and enjoy my steaming beverage and update YNAB. Even if I don't have anything to enter, I review and enjoy the satisfied feeling of being organized.

    For my Saturday stuff I've got all my usual Saturday errands entered as recurring weekly transactions with the categories for splitting already entered. All I need to do is enter the actual amounts, and I make it my habit to do that as soon as I return home and put all the purchases away. Before I do anything else or go back out again, I update YNAB. It's now ingrained as a ritual.

    YNAB helped me to finally conquer my tendency to procrastinate when it comes to my finances and records.  I'm now trying to transfer this learned YNAB discipline and successful behaviour to more mindful and healthier eating by weekly meal planning and keeping a daily food journal. I'm having quite a bit of success in ritualizing that in small repetitive daily/weekly interactions as well.  

    Reply Like 2
    •  I've also gone to manual entry.  Since doing so I reconcile every morning.  I've noticed that  I spend less since going manual entry, because I don't want to have to enter so many transactions (which was less of a concern when accounts were linked).  It's amazing how small shifts can make a huge difference.

      Reply Like 3
      • Isabelle
      • Momof4
      • foodalleriesrock
      • 3 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      HappyDance I LOVE that phrase: "the trick is to ritualized your interaction with your budget." I LOVE the idea of making it a ritual, kind of like a hot nice bath at the end of the day. Something you do regularly but that you enjoy. 

      Reply Like 1
  • I'm usually Daily.

    I use YNAB to track recurring transactions, both debit and credit, so I like to log in and check to see if there are any about to hit my account. 

    I also use YNAB to tell me if I need to transfer funds to ensure successful payments or if I can transfer to my HISA instead of leaving funds sitting where they don't collect interest.

    I am a manual entry user and I like to enter transactions ASAP so I don't get hit with 20-odd at the same time.  I couldn't ever leave it for 3 or more days because it would just be a hassle.  I'd rather spend 3 minutes a day on entering transactions and reconciling.

    And lastly I review my budget quite a lot to help me stay focussed on goals so I probably log in, via the Web or mobile app, at least three times a day.

    Reply Like 1
  • I spend about 5 minutes every morning reconciling accounts. I use a hybrid manual and linked method in that I enter in all my transactions manually but still have linking turned on in case there are transactions that I've accidently missed (typically stuff like interest payments or that one-off transaction that for some reason I forgot to enter).

    At the beginning of each month I spend about 10 minutes clearing out any categories that I replenish each month and then fund the month.

    Once the habit is formed, it takes almost no time; except for the times that I log on just to admire my budget which can happen multiple time a day (-;

    Reply Like 2
  • sgarelick said:
    Once the habit is formed, it takes almost no time; except for the times that I log on just to admire my budget which can happen multiple time a day (-;

     I do this too, except my budget is always logged in and open on a tab in my browser.  

    Reply Like 1
  • Technicolor Cheetah said:
    And now I've reconciled properly. 

     Oh, yeah?  Any surprises?  (inquiring minds, and all that....)

    Reply Like
      • Technicolor Cheetah
      • Not sure when I became a cheetah...but I'll run with it
      • technicolor_cheetah
      • 3 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      HappyDance 

      One of the credit cards was off 30 cents from a transaction entered incorrectly that I didn't catch the last time I (incompletely) reconciled.  Thankfully it was from a week ago so I only had about half a dozen transactions to go through line by line to find the error. 

      Otherwise, the accounts are as accurate as I care to make them.  I don't link accounts so the tracking accounts for retirement and such are only accurate for the day I last entered increases or decreases in value.  I do those about once a month.  I'm not pulling out money now so I'd rather not obsess over normal or abnormal market fluctuations.

      Next time will be faster since some of the tracking accounts only change once or twice a year - like the house value/CD accounts.  

      Reply Like 1
      • HappyDance
      • YNABing consistently since 2014
      • HappyDance
      • 3 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Technicolor Cheetah 

      Excellent.  It took me a whole year  9 months of using YNAB before I noticed that one of my accounts was off by $200. I had neglected to add a $200 transaction in my first month.  When looking at $1644.23 and $1844.23, I was making sure of the 44.23 and that's all I was pinning in my short-term transactional memory as I flipped from bank screen to YNAB screen.  It was rather embarrassing when I figured it out.  It eventually stuck out when the balance in YNAB started with $2100 and the bank balance started with $1900. That was noticeable!

      Reply Like 2
  • Thank you SO MUCH everyone for all your ideas and support! Love all the daily tips and daily ideas and making it a daily ritual. Thanks!

    Reply Like 2
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