ISO personal YNAB tutor
February 12, 2020 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I've been using YNAB for a year and there is still so much that I find confusing. Asking questions on the forums only makes me confuseder. What I really want is for someone who knows what they're doing to walk me through the specific things I need it to do. My finances are actually very simple--no debt, and I run everything through a credit card that I pay off weekly. Does such a thing exist? Where?
posted by HotToddy to Work & Money (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure I have enough information to help completely, but here's what I'd do: create a credit card account and a checking account in YNAB. Put transactions under credit card (since that's where they're going), and then create payment transactions ("Transfer to: credit card") from the checking account each time you pay it off. I know it's somewhat confusing because YNAB has that separate category for credit cards in the budgeting window, but the biggest thing to remember is that if you're paying off the credit card every month, you don't need to budget any money into the credit card on your budgeting page. YNAB will understand that you're paying it off through the transfers from checking to credit, so you can just completely ignore the credit card line on your budget page. Just budget into the budget page as normal, ignoring the credit card budget line, and it should work for you.

I've been using YNAB for over 7 years, and put all my transactions on a credit card for points, which I then pay off every month. So, similar position, although I have other debts that I do allocate for (but never credit card debt).
posted by flipmodemedian at 12:52 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]

Nick True is hands-down the best YNAB resource I have ever come across; he made it click for me instantly after I'd bombed out of it three times previously. His YouTube videos are amazingly helpful but he also offers one-one-on coaching.
posted by anderjen at 1:28 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]

Came here to recommend Nick’s videos. I bailed on YNAB, got sucked into one of his vids and decided to try it again. Total game changer!
posted by iamkimiam at 2:11 PM on February 12

As it happens, I'm actually here at a ski lodge with Nick True, YNAB expert. If you can be more specific about your questions -- and I can remember to check this when he gets back from skiing this afternoon -- maybe we can provide some answers? Or, if you send me MeMail, I can forward your questions to him directly. Not kidding.
posted by jdroth at 2:12 PM on February 12 [16 favorites]

What?! We need a word for this freaky Metafilter magic! Incredible. Thank you!

My most pressing issue at the moment is this: My paycheck is direct deposited into my checking account. I charge everything that I don’t write a paper check for (virtually everything) on my credit card, then I pay it off from my checking account. All this past year I have ignored this reality in YNAB because I don’t understand how to deal with it. Instead I have a fictitious “account” in YNAB where I manually record all of my expenditures and then that’s the end of it.

This works fine, actually. In terms of knowing how much money I have and saving for various goals, I’m good. But I’m sick of entering everything manually and want to move to direct import of my data from the credit card account. Two questions: 1) I get the impression from comments on YNAB (and by YNAB) that the direct import function is really buggy. Is it? Should I just stick with manual entry? And 2) how do I now set up direct import without screwing up all my existing records? I am really easily confused by YNAB!

Also am I understanding correctly that if I overspend in a category one month, that money is automatically subtracted from my To Be Budgeted the next month? I have been baffled for ages about why I can’t carry forward a deficit in a particular category but I think this must be the explanation.

Thanks so much! I actually have a million more questions but answers to these would at least get me unstuck!
posted by HotToddy at 3:47 PM on February 12

Okay. I recruited help...

Nick True here

Let me see if I can help clarify a few points.

0) When it comes to setting up accounts in YNAB, I highly recommend not using "fake" accounts. Only setup accounts in YNAB if you have a real life account to back it up.

Specifically when it comes to credit cards, let me walk you through a brief example (then I recommend checking out some YNAB + CC videos). You'll need to choose the account type "credit card" for the following to work.

a) You go to the grocery store and buy $100 of groceries with a debit card. Your bank balance is now lower by $100 and the category for groceries is lowered by $100 as well (remember, the "available" column in YNAB represents money that you have in your bank account that is earmarked for that specific job ie. groceries).

b) You go to the grocery store and buy $100 of groceries with a CREDIT card. Your bank balance stays the same. But your credit card balance went up by $100. Think about this - you didn't buy groceries. The credit card company bought your groceries for you. You took out a loan for your groceries. You didn't use your grocery money to buy groceries. The money is still in your bank account. Instead, the credit card company bought groceries and you need to use that money to pay them back. So YNAB moves the dollars from the groceries category up to your credit card payment category.

Okay, enough credit card talk, let me answer your other questions.

1) Direct Import

When it comes to bugginess, it all depends on your bank. Go check out for a complete list of struggling connections. Personally, I use Ally Bank and Discover It and have no issues. However, I also use Capital One Spark and because it has two-factor authentication, I have to get a text message and update my account every time. It's annoying. Bottom line - import is ok, just depends on your bank.

2) Direct Import with Previous Data
Good news! You can link and unlink accounts at anytime without screwing up past data. In fact, you can link your accounts and also do manual entry (I do this). YNAB is really smart about recognizing transactions and just overwriting them instead of duplicating them. All you need to do is right-click on the account name and then select link. Then YNAB will start importing transactions from that moment going forward (I do recommend reconciling accounts before doing this.) Lastly, if you decide you hate it, you can always right-click on the account and unlink the account and just do manual entry. It's very easy to go back and forth.

3) Overspending
It is true that if you overspend on a checking account (or in cash) YNAB will take it from next month's To Be Budgeted. But this doesn't work if you overspend on a credit card account. If you overspend on a credit card, you'll need to either cover that overspending OR budget money directly to the credit card category sometime in the future. Basically, if you overspend on a credit card YNAB assumes you're racking up your debt. So you'll just need to budget for that and pay it down at some point down the road. YNAB is big on not going into debt or carrying a deficit. So it builds in features that make it impossible to do that. It's just their philosophy.

Hope all this helps!

Reach out anytime if there's ever anything more I can do to help: nick(at)mappedoutmoney(dot)com
posted by jdroth at 6:29 PM on February 12 [16 favorites]

Amazing! Exactly the information I need. Thank you!!!
posted by HotToddy at 7:27 PM on February 12

If any further questions arise we could also do a Skype session some time - just shoot me a memail...
posted by mathiu at 12:40 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]

posted by stevedawg at 11:35 AM on February 20

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