Actively Managing Your Budget
Just like a house needs a solid foundation to be strong and long-lasting, your budget’s accuracy depends on having a strong foundation too. That foundation is correct account balances!
Without correct account balances, your budget can’t be correct, so your active management of them is key—it’s one of the reasons why YNABers are so successful with their budgets. The spending awareness and connection it brings to your finances means actually being able to stick with budgeting.
Account balances are a sum of the transactions in the account, so if any one transaction is incorrect—say your bank accidentally pulled in the incorrect Starting Balance amount—your account balance will be off. So even those YNABers who link their accounts still need to reconcile and actively manage their accounts. Direct Importing transactions is only one component of budget accuracy.
Using the reconcile feature regularly is big part of actively managing your budget. Here’s what you need to do:
Enter transactions yourself on the go with the mobile apps or at home using the web app on your computer.
Import and categorize transactions whenever they come available by linking your accounts (Direct Import) or using File-Based Import. Worried about duplicates? YNAB will automatically match transactions for you!
Roll with the punches to cover overspending and move money as your priorities change.
Reconcile your accounts regularly—correct balances are the foundation of your budget!
Actively managing your balances may be a more hands-on process than you were expecting at first. But it is actually fast, and is absolutely worth it. In fact, taking responsibility for your balances is one of the puzzle pieces that makes the YNAB method so effective.
Completely automated things are convenient, but they often fall short when it comes to changing behavior. There’s a reason YNAB works so well—and it has everything to do with engaging with your budget regularly.
This is where developing your own daily budgeting routine comes into play!
Your Daily Budgeting Routine
You can quick-start your new budget in minutes, and it feels like a great accomplishment (it is!). But maybe this also leaves you with an important question:
I opened my budget—but what am I supposed to do?
A Budgeting Habit
The most important thing you can do now is develop a budgeting habit. While yours may end up looking different in the end, here's a great place to start:
First, pick a time of day, each day, when you're going to look at your budget. Ideally, pick a time when a different habit already exists. Let's say you always make your bed when you get home from work (what, is that weird?). Make that your trigger for spending five minutes with your budget. Make bed, open budget. Make bed, open budget.
Once you have your budget open, run through this quick cycle:
- Enter or import any new transactions.
- Cover any overspending that came from these transactions!
- Check your scheduled transactions to see if anything is coming up.
- Budget any new income until To be Budgeted is zero.
- Finally, just spin through your categories and make any adjustments.
That's it. Once you get the hang of this daily habit, it will really take you only about five minutes. What a small investment to make for total control of your money.