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My YNAB Workflow

A buddy of mine asked me about how I use YNAB so I wanted to throw up this quick post talking about my YNAB workflow. I’ll include pictures to better demonstrate this. If you don’t already use YNAB then you are missing out, it is perhaps the most effective way to get a handle on your budget.

The Web App And The Phone App

I use the phone app on occasion, but frankly it’s not necessary since I am on my laptop so much. The phone app is helpful, however, when you are first trying to get a handle on your spending.

Using the app, before you make a purchase, the point is for you to look at the particular category that you are about to spend in and see how much you have available.

Right now I’m sitting and having a cup of coffee at my fave cafe, it’s only the first part of February so let’s look at my phone:

Looking at my Dining Out/Coffee budget, I have $68.39 left for the whole month. So, if I wanted to get a $6 sandwich on top of my coffee then I could guesstimate how much I would have left for the rest of the month.

I can click on the particular category to see more detail:

I didn’t spend my entire budget for January, which is why you see a carryover of $32.84. Therefore, I only budgeted $80 for February. And yes, my ass as has already eaten out worth $44.45 for the month of February – leaving me $68.39.

How Often I Work On YNAB

I do a lot of work on my laptop and I sort of have a routine of checking email, writing in my journal, clicking on my calendar and clicking on the YNAB bookmark to import transactions.

I am focused on my financial goals, so when transactions come in, I usually try to right away assign tasks to any income dollars and categorize any outgoing dollars.

So, I spend about 1-2 minutes per day importing my transactions on YNAB and I spend about 5 minutes every paycheck-day to assign tasks to the incoming dollars (my favorite part).

Importing Transactions

YNAB recently went from a standalone software to being on web, they are still working out a few kinks, but I would say 98% of the time the import function works just fine – on occasion it’ll hit a snag which the team fixes within a few hours.

So here is what my YNAB screen looks like:

In order to import my transactions I click on the account (BOFA Personal) from which I would like to import transactions, then I click on import:

Assigning Transactions To Budget Categories

I constantly work on my budget categories, I add some, I remove some and I consolidate or rename some.

The current iteration is as follows:

It’s helpful to create a lot of categories when you first start. Not too many that it drives you nuts, but certainly having more is beneficial because it will help you isolate where your spending could use some tightening, what you want to improve on.

Later, you can consolidate certain categories. Let’s use an example, I may want to consolidate my Dining out/Coffee and Entertainment to one category called Elective Spending. 

I would do so by clicking on the Entertainment category and click delete:

Once you click on delete the program will let you know that you have multiple transaction which need to be reassigned (these are transactions from ever since you’ve been on YNAB). A drop down menu will let you know which category you want to assign them to. In this example, you’d assign all of them to Dining Out/Coffee:

Finally, you rename the category Dining Out/Coffee to Elective Spending and you are done! I know it seems tedious but works out really easily.

So, it’s better to start out with more categories and later group them together. That way, when you look back on your expenses in the future or create “Reports” (another awesome function of YNAB) you’ll be able to see what you spent on even if you deleted the previous category name.

Quick Tip About Categories And Spending

Don’t think that just because you spent money on Uber that it’s automatically transportation. Sometimes, you might spend on Uber for entertainment, sometimes for work reasons. Sometimes you’re too drunk to get home and sometimes your ass is late so you gotta leave the pink folding bike behind.

So try to always think of the dollars, not the company or service you spent it on, and then assign it to the right category.


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