For those of you that are feeling overwhelmed.


If I’m 30 pounds overweight, would it be better for me to look back and analyze all I’ve eaten that caused the 30 pounds of weight gain? Or would I be better off planning what to eat going forward?

When it comes to managing money, getting out of debt, “finally doing things right”…people are so overwhelmed at the thought of getting started.

If you’re just hearing about YNAB, or just now thinking that maybe we’re right, and maybe you do need a budget, you’re probably incorrectly thinking that the whole task of starting requires something like:

  • an analysis of your spending during the past n months.
  • importing mountains of historical data and laboriously categorizing it to a level of granularity that would make even the snootiest of accountants raise their eyebrows your direction.
  • a knowledge of exactly what you’re going to spend, so you can budget accordingly. (Um, if you knew what you were going to spend…why are you budgeting? :))

It’s no wonder you think this process is going to take hours. I propose starting by doing the following:

  1. Look at your bank balance online. Add your account to YNAB and make that balance your starting balance.
  2. Click over to the Budget and adjust the default categories to your liking. You have six minutes to make your adjustments. Any more than that and you’re thinking too hard about it. Plus, you can always change everything later.
  3. Budget what you have Available. Your starting bank balance is what you’ll have available. Just ask yourself one question, “What does this money need to do before I’m paid again?”
That will take you 20 minutes. And you’ll feel like a million bucks.

Jesse, I have way more than just a single checking account.

Okay. Repeat steps #1 and #3 from above. (You don’t need to do step #2 each time obviously.) Or, if you really are feeling pretty overwhelmed, just use your “main” or “most popular” account.

Jesse, I have 10 years of Quicken data, and three children. The children are optional, but I’d really like to keep my Quicken data.

Okay. Just don’t import it into YNAB. Just know that you have that Quicken data if you ever need it. (You won’t need it.)

Jesse, we stopped using YNAB for three months, but want to start again. Should we “catch up” then move forward?

Will catching up take more than 30 minutes? If yes, then just do the old and reliable File -> Fresh Start option. It’ll keep your categories around. The adjust your balances to be current as of today, and move forward.

Jesse, my spouse doesn’t want to budget.

They’re probably feeling overwhelmed, and they may not get as excited about 10 years of Quicken data as you do. Maybe consider starting by just using YNAB for one account, then slowly add things as they get used to the idea (and realize that, “Hey, this isn’t nearly as bad as I thought!”).

Jesse, you talk about living on last month’s income, but we will NEVER get there.

On average, it takes YNABers four months to live on last month’s income. Our lead teacher needed a year to get there. Everyone’s different, but it is possible. Tens of thousands of people have proved that. And they were in worse shape than you 🙂