You Need A Budget Starting Guide

Two posts ago I told you a bit about my job. The job is at a petrol station, it’s pretty easy, the people are nice, the hours are flexible, and most importantly: I make money by doing it.

Now money is a touchy subject for a lot of people. If you have too little, you don’t want to admit it and if you have too much you don’t want to spend it. People certainly hesistate to talk about it. I often have too little but all of that’s changing. It’s changing because I’ve started budgetting again. If you budget you see where your money is going and you can make better decisions in life. In Dutch we have the saying “Een gewaarschuwd mens telt voor twee” which means that if you know what could go wrong, you could do a lot to prevent it. If you at least know your bad habits (mine is smoking) you can change them. “Know thyself”, as the old Greek saying goes.

Now there are a couple of ways to budget. I use You Need A Budget, which is free for the first 34 days. After that it costs $6.99 a month (yearly subscription via creditcard or iTunes store). $6.99 a month might sound pricey, but it’s not much if you look at how much you’re able to save by budgetting. It’s only two cups of coffee! Plus they also have a smartphone app so you can budget on the go, which really comes in handy. If you really don’t want to pay for a budget, there is also Dave Ramsey‘s EveryDollar Budget Tool, which has a free and a paid plan. I have not tried the Dave Ramsey method but from what I see of him on YouTube and Instagram the guy really knows how to handle money. Since I use YNAB I’m not inclined to try his tool. You could also make an Excel sheet, but that seems too time-consuming for me. I actually don’t know how to use Excel at all (whoops).

So, this is my short guide to You Need A Budget. It’s not all-inclusive, but it covers the basics of budgetting with the program Jesse Mecham has made. They also have a Method, which might be good as an introductory course. This blog is specifically tailored towards people who are new to YNAB and need help getting started.

1. Starting YNAB

At first, you have to create an account for YNAB. You can do this on the site. The sign-up button is in the top-right corner. If you already have an account, log in. You’ll be taken to the YNAB web app if you’re using desktop. If you have an iPhone or Android, you can download You Need A Budget from the App Store or Google Play store. It’s all fairly intuitive, so don’t worry! Just make sure you read the official guide on the site too. The desktop web app syncs with your smartphone. Once you open the app for the first time, there’ll be a walkthrough in-screen.

2. Creating Accounts

Now that you have the app open, it’s time to add your bank accounts. To do so, click on ‘+ Add Account’ in the left sidebar. You can link a bank account so that it syncs real-time with your bank account, but since I have a Dutch bank account, I select ‘unlinked’. This requires me to add all data manually, but over time, I started to begin finding that fun to do. It also doesn’t take that long. You’ll then be taken to another pop-up window which requires you to select the kind of account it is (checking, savings, cash, credit card, line of credit, asset or liability), to give the account a nickname and to fill in the current account balance. Click on ‘Next’ to finish.

3. Budgetting The Money You Have Now

If you now click on ‘Budget’ in the left sidebar, you will notice that you have an amount that’s ‘To be Budgeted’ (top bar, next to the month). This is the amount of money that you need to assign jobs. Now, YNAB already has already made some categories for you, but feel free to add your own and delete those that you don’t need. If you hover over a category group (it’s the blue bar with the arrows in it) it shows a ‘+’ sign. If you click on that you can add a category. The goal is to budget all the amount of money that you have; no euro (or dollar) is left without a category. If you don’t know how much to fill in, don’t worry, you can adjust on the go if you overspend.

4. Adding Transactions

So far, you’ve been able to open up YNAB, add accounts, and budget the money that you have. How do you keep track of what you spend in each category? The way to do that is to click on the account nickname that you’ve spent money from (or are getting paid on). It opens up a list with all of your transactions. You then click on ‘+ Add Transaction’ and the rest speaks for itself: You add the date, the payee, you select the category on which you’ve spent money (or select To Be Budgeted if you get paid), you add a note with what you’ve bought and add the amount of money you’ve spent under OUTFLOW or under INFLOW if you get paid. Then click ‘Save’, or click ‘Save and add another’ if you have another transaction that you’d like to add. You’re done.

5. Going With The Flow (or: How To Make Better Decisions)

Now click on ‘Budget’ again. You’ll see that there’s been money deducted from the categories that you’ve spent money on. If you overspend (and the button turns from green to red), just click on the red button with the amount of money in it and select the category with which you want to cover the overspending. After this, YNAB will move the money around so that the previously overspent category is balanced to zero. You’ll find, with time, that if you look at your budget before you buy something, that you’ll need to do this less often and often.


These are the bare basics. There is a lot of stuff you can play around with in YNAB: You can look at reports, set financial goals and budget for future months. There is also a Facebook group that a lot of people who are willing to help you are a member of. Or take a look at the YNAB website, which has free seminars, podcasts about budgetting and blog posts.

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