You Need A Budget Catch-all

I'm about 2 weeks overdue on my plans^^

I'm looking to grow my net worth a significant percentage..it'll be through a combination of direct savings (pension contributions, IRA, 529s for kiddos, HSA, etc), and paying down debts (student loans, car, mortgage, etc). I doubt I'll get much help from the stock market this year, but I've got monthly targets and I am going to do quarterly check-ins to keep me on track.

My goals for this year are to keep saving at the same rate (about 13% for retirement), don't take on any new debt, and luckily I am on track for some bonuses that would be about 45% of my salary so I'm hoping to take that and use it as a down payment for a house. Or pay off our 6.5% interest student loans, just depends on when we think we'll be ready to buy.

I just got my bank accounts and credit card accounts imported. I have no idea when I'm doing. The onboarding leaves something to be desired. I might also be in a weird place to start using it, because we have savings, and no more bills for the month.

I'm sure it'll make sense once I start entering bills for next month and get transactions showing up.

They have some pretty good getting started videos on their site if you want to take a look.

Chaz wrote:

I just got my bank accounts and credit card accounts imported. I have no idea when I'm doing. The onboarding leaves something to be desired. I might also be in a weird place to start using it, because we have savings, and no more bills for the month.

I'm sure it'll make sense once I start entering bills for next month and get transactions showing up.

The main thing to remember is that every dollar needs a job. If you have savings that shows up in your "To Be Budgeted" category, just assign that bulk number some longer term goal. If you have more money left after that, and all your immediate bills and things are already covered, start assigning money to next month's bills.

Then just try to keep your spending within those amounts you've assigned. If you go over a little bit, it's cool-- just move some dollars around to cover the overage, and adjust again with your next paycheck.

Also LeapingGnome is right: they have some solid tutorials on the site.

I might just suck at finding them, but none of the "quick start" sections mention that you can/should handle recurring monthly bills by setting up monthly balance targets, which seems pretty fundamental to me. Now that I know about that (and that is one of the first things they say to do in one of the 20 minute seminar videos, but I didn't look there first), I think things make more sense. I just have to figure out what all those are, and how I want to handle stuff like utility bills that's variable throughout the year.

I'm thinking I might have a harder time getting my wife on board with this. I think she already thinks of the money like this for bills, and hasn't quite connected that we should also be setting target budgets for other areas too. Right now, she goes "all the money goes towards bills first, including whatever goes on the credit card, the rest goes to savings". I don't know if she loves the idea of getting granular about what the stuff is that goes on the credit card, but that's really what we need to do.

The first month or so will probably be more about "let's see what we're actually spending money on", and then we can start working on setting budgets for those areas. I hope.

Honestly I rarely use monthly goal targets. For me, at least, recurring bills tend not to fluctuate so I can just move to the next month's tab and under Quick Budget for a particular category, just select "Last Month's Budget." If things fluctuate up or down, I adjust and reassign dollars to cover (or let extra roll over to the next month, if need be).

As for this

The first month or so will probably be more about "let's see what we're actually spending money on", and then we can start working on setting budgets for those areas. I hope.

Good call, and it's important to remain somewhat fluid with your budget, but I would personally recommend doing the inverse: Set what you consider a reasonable budget for categories like personal spending or whatever, and see how far off you are for the first couple of months. Then adjust appropriately.

In my experience, at least, without setting some sort of goal, I would start reconciling the budget and find that my personal spending was absurd. I found it's good for me personally to have a number in mind that I know I need to keep within striking distance, so I don't shrug off that budget entirely and just burn money.

For my bills that are variable like the electric bill I'll set a budget for the month that is roughly what I think it will be (like $150 in the summer and $50 in the winter) and then just adjust the budget when I get the actual bill.

And yeah the whole point of a YNAB-like system is to eliminate the blackboxes of 'whatever is on the credit card'. Have to track every dollar and every dollar has a job.

For variable bills, we average the last 12 months and assign that amount each month, plus a buffer to allow for price increases. There may be “too much” in the power bill fund over summer but it pays for the larger winter bills while keeping the budget predictable.

For myself, I absolutely benefit from having a spending limit that I can work against. I'll certainly be doing it for stuff like buying games, where I'm the only one doing it, it's entirely discretionary, and I probably spend more than I should. Cutting that is a no brainer for me. Where things might get rougher are areas like my wife's vitamins and supplements. I know those cost way more than I think is reasonable, but she considers them necessities.

We have that in our family too and it isn't an argument I win so I approach it more from a perspective ok that is fine and that means we have less for these other things.

I do my budget every month using the Quick Budget buttons in the right column. For fixed, recurring expenses (Internet, mortgage payment, subscriptions, etc), I highlight all the relevant rows and hit the "Budgeted Last Month" button to fill in all those. For more fluctuating expenses, I highlight those rows and hit the "Average Spent" button to fill in those. Then I can tweak them up or down if I know that's necessary.

I also check in on my budget every weekend and shift things here and there where necessary. Usually only takes a few minutes.

It's maybe overkill, but I've also started using the Target Goal savings feature for annual expenses. For example, I pay my auto insurance yearly, so I set up a line item with a target date for when I know that bill will come due. Every month, I use the "Underfunded" button and the appropriate amount for this month is put into that "bucket." For big annual expenses, it helps to even out the lumps. I even have a Christmas Presents fund in there.

The tricky thing I've found is understanding how they handle credit cards when you pay off your cards every month. The best tip I can give it just leave that money alone. Don't touch those lines. And it seems to work out?

I am finally giving up on the online YNAB and moving over to another app like EveryDollar or back to GoodBudget. Their program caused more issues than it solved and was so intuitively obtuse I couldn't take it anymore.

Good luck if you stick with them but it's so UI designed it isn't helpful.

My wife and I sit down every month before it starts or early on and run through our budget, it's pretty much the same every month but we adjust for gymnastics, kid costs, parties, gifts, etc.

Have you both figured out how you're going to work it together? If not I suggest the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover book to really get a solid plan in place. Budgeting takes a few months to get into. Just figuring out your ways so don't get frustrated when it goes to crap a few times. The important thing is you and the wife need to sit down and figure out why you're doing it together. Sometimes the why you're feeling motivated to budget won't jive with your partner. This can take a bit more discussion which is why the book above can help or listen to his podcast together. Great for getting on a budget plan.

I think I've mostly wrapped my head around using the tool at this point. Figuring out credit cards was a little weird, but if you have the account linked and categorize the transactions, and then mark the payment as a transfer instead of a transaction, it seems to work fine.

What's frustrating me right now is that our main checking and savings accounts are through Capital One. Apparently a few months ago, CapOne changed their login rules such that YNAB keeps losing your login status once or twice a day. Next time you log in, you have to get CapOne to send you the text message code and enter that in YNAB to get it to sync again. YNAB says their third party authentication service is working on a change to support it, but for right now, it's really annoying.

I've loved YNAB for years (literally). With the new mac OS update though YNAB4 will stop working on my device. It forced me to finally try the trial version of the subscription based YNAB.

So far I'm really disappointed.

Cons:
- Monthly subscription fee instead of paying once. I paid $40 on steam years ago, never had a problem. I was initially ready to put up with this if necessary and frankly out of appreciation for how much I've used it but I'm not sure anymore.
- Feature lost: there's no column to see check numbers. They apparently still have the check number in their database but you can't see it and you can't search on it. The feature has been apparently asked for a long time and they've said they aren't doing it. My wife freelances and looking to see if check numbers have been deposited is a pretty regular occurrence for us as is small checks to services we use from time to time.
- Feature lost: you can't see more than one month at a time anymore. Again this was a conscious choice by them. Even on a big screen you don't gain columns when you expand. This is annoying both when setting up new budgets but I also use it for a variety of other reasons such as noticing aberrations.
- Reporting: Reporting always was poor in YNAB. I was really expecting more in the new version. Nothing substantially better.
- Migration: The migration worked but was poor especially because they've redone how they handle credit cards. This should flatten out in the next month but it currently looks like I budgeted the cumulative amount of the last few years of credit card expenses in my import month. Just sloppy.
- Slow: it's very slow and gives no UI guidance of if it up to date with the bank or not so if you wait a minute then the transactions show
- Server side: They only show about 93% connection success with a major bank. I haven't had a crash in YNAB4 in years but I've already seen a couple of 'oops we can't connects' in a couple of days.

Pro:
- so the only pros is I can link to my bank and auto import my data. This was never a big enough deal for me in the past to even try the trial so it's not a huge win in my book.

I'm pretty frustrated and yet can't find any solid alternatives

Thanks for posting the comparison. It is pretty disappointing to hear, especially since most of those complaints were the same complaints people had when it launched like 2-3 years ago. The whole way they tried to sell the subscription plan was to be able to make ongoing updates and address complaints like that.

Being slow was always what I feared from it being online. Not being able to view two months side-by-side might be a deal breaker for me, that is my default view and I often make budgets between two months at the same time and adjust things. I even maximize and might see and edit 6+ months at a time sometimes.

The logic that YNAB uses wouldn't be too hard to recreate with just Excel. For me what I would lose though is easily adding entries from our phones, which we do all the time.

yeah I just canceled my 2 year sub with YNAB and tried to make it work. My wife and I hated the experience. Prior we had GoodBudget app which allowed us to log purchases and keep track of spending. Now we're over on Every Dollar to allow for more access to budget categories for free. I tried to give them quality feedback when canceling but I doubt it will make a difference.

I think I may have finally gotten my head around how I should be working with this. Ideally, we like to have a decent-size chunk of liquid cash sitting around in a savings account for emergencies. So I set up a "Savings" bucket, and budgeted that for as much as we had. Then I kind of felt like we were living paycheck to paycheck, and that felt weird.

Then I realized that what I should be doing was pre-budgeting that money toward next month's bills, because budgeting it toward that didn't actually move the money. So if there was an emergency, we'd still have it, I'd just have to pull money back from next month's budget to cover. After doing that, I discovered I was able to keep a $1k buffer in that savings category, and cover most of next month's bills in advance. Now I feel like I'm actually ahead of things, which is great.

The next challenge will be figuring out what the actual budgets should be for the various categories. This month, I took a wild guess at budgeting the categories, and for some, I was right, and others, I wasn't. I also apparently need to create a category for vitamins and herbal supplement stuff.

Man, the account import has gotten real bad. Our main accounts are with Capital One. Ever since I started with YNAB, the import would throw an error every other day or so. All I needed to do was hit resolve, tell it to text me a 2fa code, then copy/paste it into YNAB, and it would import everything. Annoying, but easy enough to deal with. They've listed this as a known issue that their authentication partner has been working on resolving.

A few weeks ago, they switched to a new authentication service. Swell, maybe this would fix things, so I get everything switched over to the new one, and it imports. A few days later, I get the error on my Capital One account again. It's still listed as a known issue. The problem is that now, to resolve it, I have to enter my login an password, then send the 2fa, but it won't let me paste into the field, so I have to manually type it in. Then it always wanted a second 2fa, but after that it would work.

Fast forward to now, and the accounts with Citizen's Bank are also throwing the authentication error. Same routine, but they'd import. But now the Capital One accounts aren't showing an error, but also haven't imported in the last two weeks. There's still the same known issue open. I tried their suggestion of unlinking and relinking, but no change. So now I've got no way to force it to import, and no error to resolve. Great.

I guess I'm going to try another manual import, but the last time I did that, it wound up creating a ton of duplicate entries with ones that had automatically imported before, and it took me a while to reconcile everything. This is rapidly starting to become more trouble than it's worth.