Share your budget without using Dropbox

This article describes how you can share your YNAB 4 budget with other desktop installations of YNAB 4 and enjoy the same auto-updating features we've built in for Cloud Sync. However,  this approach WILL NOT automatically update your mobile YNAB app on iPhone or Android regardless of what service you use and/or if your phone has that service as well.

In other words, if you follow the steps below to get several desktop installations of YNAB 4 to sync automatically it will not work with your phone any longer and you will have to resort to WiFi sync only for your phones.

YNAB 3 Users please take note:The steps below WILL NOT work with YNAB 3 as the underlying file system and difference comparison architecture that is built into YNAB 4 isn't present in YNAB 3. You can still share your files via the method of your choice but it just won't automatically update.

Why does YNAB 4 only use Dropbox for Cloud Sync?

When we made the decision to implement cloud sync, (and developed an algorithm that would let us do it), we needed to pick a service provider that was:
  • Ubiquitous (lots of people already use it)
  • Free (2GB of storage which is more than enough for even the largest budgets)
  • Well known (They save over 1 billion files every 24 hours • Over 175 million people trust Dropbox with their data • It's installed on 500 million devices)
  • It must be Secure.
  • Easy to work with as programmers from the desktops and the mobile devices
  • Easy to work with for our users (YNAB 4 will walk you right through it)
  • Great in many other boring technical ways

Dropbox was the obvious choice.

If we were to build out support for [insert name of service] as well it would have been complicated. Not to mention that it's expensive in terms of time/support. On the desktop, it's pretty easy for us to support another file sync service, but the mobile apps have to know how to talk directly to the sync service, and every sync service has a different "API," or language they speak. It's complicated enough getting one of them right.

What if I don't want to switch my file sharing to Dropbox from the service I already use?

If you already use and love a service that syncs your files then you don't have to switch that task to Dropbox at all. Just set up YNAB with Cloud Sync and your budget will sync via Dropbox without interfering with your other service in any way.

If that's the case then you can stop right here and go off and enable Cloud Sync on your budgets.

How do the steps below differ from Cloud Sync?

With Cloud Sync enabled you can rest assured that what you're typing into your budget will not be overwritten by something your spouse may be typing at that very same moment or that you tapped into your phone while on the go.

The key takeway here is the mobile connection. The only way that this magical automatic updating will happen from or to your YNAB mobile app is when you have Cloud Sync enabled. If not then only your connected desktops will enjoy the sync and you'll have to resort to Wi-Fi sync to keep your phones up to date.

So if what you're describing isn't Cloud Sync then what is it?

In the software its simply referred to as "Local" and any budget you have setup that way will show a small file folder icon (instead of the cloud) next to the name when you see it in YNAB. The magic is that your desktop-to-desktop installations of YNAB that share the same budget files will update automatically without any fear of overwriting work someone else may be doing on the same budget at the same time.

This is completely different than sharing a budget using YNAB 3 in which the budget data will never actually synchronize but just save a conflicted copy (depending upon the service used) or overwrite the other person's changes completely.

Will I have to buy another license for my second installation?

Nope, not at all. Our More than one policy allows you to install it on as many computers and operating systems that you need for your personal use for the price of just one license.

Okay, so what do I have to do to make this work?

When setting up your budget make it a Local budget when prompted. YNAB will save the budget that you create in your 'Documents' folder inside a folder named "YNAB". All you need to do is to share the budget within that folder with whatever sharing service you'd like to use in order to allow your other installations to see and use the same budget. 

What if I've already setup my budget as Cloud Sync?

Click File > Budget Properties in the menu (or click on the small cloud in the bottom left corner of the YNAB window), choose No, make it local and save the changes. YNAB will move that budget over to your Documents folder and place it inside a YNAB folder there where you can share it via the method you've chosen.

To set exactly where you want the Local budget to save to go to File>YNAB Preferences.

Will it work on [name of service]?

Odds are yes. The desktop software simply looks for changes in the files where you're saving your budget to work its magic so the automatic updating that you'll see with Cloud Sync will work from desktop-to-desktop. Remember, this will not work on your phone.

How do I share the budget with [name of service]?

Due to the vast number of different services available to share your file as well as the complexities involved with setting up a shared network drive we simply cannnot help you with this step.

It's likely that the service that you use has guides that can step you through sharing files so we suggest that you start there. If that doesn't help you can always visit the YNAB Forums to see if anyone else has the same service and can step you through it.