YNAB 4 Quick Start Tutorial

Welcome to YNAB! 

We’ll have you up and running in minutes!

YNAB is built around four rules. It’s best if you are familiar with them and how they work in the software. We encourage you to read about the rules before getting started.  For now, we'll get you up and running in five easy steps:

Step 1:  Install YNAB.
To get started, download the free trial and install YNAB. If you’ve already installed YNAB you can skip to step 2.

Step 2: Set Up CloudSync.
Once you open YNAB, you’ll be prompted to set up Cloud Sync.  Just follow the directions and YNAB will walk you through it.

Did you know? YNAB has a built-in, interactive walkthrough that teaches how the software works and helps you set things up.  It covers a lot of the same information posted below.

Go to Help > Walkthroughs > Getting Started with YNAB.

Step 3: Organize your budget categories.
Your budget categories help you get organized and we make it easy to do.   There are lots of creative ways to categorize, but we suggest you keep things simple.

Step 4: Create your accounts.
After your budget is set up, you can start adding accounts. Keep this simple, as well.  You only need to set up accounts in your budget for each of the real-life accounts that you spend from, like checking, credit cards, or savings.

Step 5: Budget your dollars.
Next, budget the money you have--and only the money you have.  By planning with only what you have right now, you’ll be able to focus on what’s most important. 

You only need to answer one question:  “What does this money need to do before I am paid again?” 

In the budget column for the current month, enter how much money you want to assign to each category, until the Available to Budget amount is $0. This is Rule One in action!

As you budget, prioritize what’s most important, especially if you can’t budget for everything you’d like to. Budget what you have to where you need it most, then stop.

Step 6: Record and track your spending.
This requires a big shift in thinking:  Make your spending decisions by checking the budget, not the account balance.  YNAB gives you two views of your money:  Accounts and the Budget.  Accounts show you where your money is, the budget shows you what it’s for.  The budget should guide your spending decisions.

Before you spend money, check the balance column of the category you are spending from and make sure money is assigned to that category.

Was it for groceries? Enter it in the account where the spending occurred and categorize it as groceries.  Your budget will be updated automatically as you record spending.

Step 7:  Repeat!
The next time you receive money repeat the process.  Enter your income, budget that money, and then follow the budget.

If you have any money left over that you didn’t assign anywhere, it will be carried over to next month's “Available to Budget”. 

Your goal, over time, is to carry over enough money that you eventually save up a month’s worth of living expenses. From here you’ll be able to live on the previous month’s income, without touching your current month’s paychecks.  When this happens, you will have saved up what we call the Buffer and arrived at Rule Four!

For additional help see:
Entering Spending
Entering Income