Use this 14-day experiment to finally find your budgeting groove.


If you’re new to YNAB, or not-so-new-but-still-not-comfortable, this post is for you.

I’ve had a few of my coaching clients ask me how often they should be entering transactions and reconciling their accounts.

I give the same answer every time:

If possible, enter your transactions on your phone at the point of sale.

Spend two to four minutes (yes, that’s all it takes) every day – or every other day – manually entering transactions you forgot to enter on your phone. During those same two to four minutes you’ll make sure your ‘Budget Account’ balances match up with your online account balances.

After catching your transactions up and reconciling your accounts, spend an additional minute or two (yes, that’s all it takes) on your budget screen, checking your category balances.

In those three to six minutes you’re avoiding the problems that ruin so many would-be YNABers’ budgeting habit:

1. Falling behind on transaction entry, then trying to import a bunch of transactions at once and making a mess of things. Import shmimport, I always say.

2. Spending with no awareness of your category balances, which causes overspending, frustration, and unnecessary guilt.

Best of all, daily check-ins with your budget will develop familiarity with the software and your own personal workflow. It builds your budgeting muscle memory.

I understand there are YNABers who do just fine with infrequent transaction imports. Jesse has admitted to occasionally procrastinating his budget session until the second or third (!) week of the month.

You and I have permission to take a similarly relaxed approach once we meet a few conditions:

1. A nine-year budgeting habit.
2. A multi-month emergency fund.
3. No debt.
4. An unusually high retirement savings rate.

Until then, let’s let YNAB work its magic in our finances by checking in daily.

Take this challenge: for the next 14 days, have a daily YNAB session where you catch up your transactions, reconcile your accounts, and glance at your category balances.

After 14 days, if you haven’t had a significant breakthrough in the form of reduced stress and/or increased confidence, I’ll send you a YNAB t-shirt.

It’s a safe bet for me, though. After 14 days of daily YNAB check-ins, you’ll be able to buy a box of YNAB tees with all the cash you’ll have laying around.