Tutorial for: YNAB Suggested skill level: intermediate
- Part 1: Toolkit for YNAB -General Settings walkthrough
- Part 2: Toolkit for YNAB – Account Screen Settings
- Part 3: Toolkit for YNAB – Budget Screen Settings
- Part 4: Toolkit for YNAB – Report Screen Settings
One of the few advantages to the new web-based YNAB (from my personal perspective, of course), is being able to customize your budget with little tweaks here and there. This is accomplished with the help of a handy browser plugin called Toolkit for YNAB. The plugin is available for both Google Chrome and Firefox. It is not available for Safari.
Miss the Buffer? Hate the Age of Money display? Like the goals but want a little more functionality or transparency? Those features and many, many more area addressed in the Budget Screen Settings in the Toolkit.
Watch a full video tutorial here:
The above video is long as I do my best to be thorough and clear. If you access the video directly on YouTube, you’ll find Chapter links that will take you directly to the starting point of each individual setting.
Prefer a text-and-screenshots tutorial? Keep reading below….
Toolkit for YNAB – Budget Screen Settings
- Add “Enter” Shortcut to the Move Popup
- Add Copy Transactions button to the Category Popup
- Add Goals Indication
- Allow Resizing of Inspector
- Credit Card Emoji
- Current Month Indicator
- Days of Buffering Metric
- Display Total Monthly Goals
- Enable Categories Filter
- Goal Indicator Warning Color
- Hide Age of Money Calculation
- Hide Total Available
- Highlight all Negative Category Balances Red
- Link to Inflows
- Make the Categories Dropdown Larger
- Paid in Full Credit Card Assist
- Remove Zero and Negative Categories When Covering Over-Budgeting
- Seamless Budget Header
- Show Upcoming Transaction Total
- Stealing From Future Alert
- To Be Budgeted Warning
- Toggle All Master Categories Open/Close
- Unhighlight all Positive Category Balances
- Warn When Clicking a Quick Budget Option
- Warn When Target Balance is Not Reached
- Add Pacing to the Budget
- Budget Rows Progress Bars
- Days of Buffering History Lookup
- Display Target Goal Amount And Overbudget Warning
- Height of Budget Rows
- Income From Last Month
- Width of Category Popup
- Width of Monthly Notes Popup
Add “Enter” Shortcut to the Move Popup
When you need to adjust budget allocations, clicking on the green Available bubble pops up a Move menu.
By default, the enter/return key on your keyboard has no effect in the Move menu. But if you turn on the Add “Enter” Shortcut to the Move Popup setting in the Toolkit for YNAB, the return/enter key is the same as clicking on the OK button (see below).
Note: This setting is redundant. The “enter” key shortcut already exists in YNAB.
Add Copy Transactions button to the Category Popup
The Toolkit’s Add Copy Transactions button to the Category Popup setting adds some key functionality to the transaction activity popup window.
By default, if you click on any number in the Activity column, a window pops up with a list of all transactions assigned to that category in that month.
If you turn this setting on, a new “Copy Transactions” button appears at the bottom of the popup window. You can click on the button and all of the listed transactions will be copied to your clipboard. You can then paste those transactions into any text document or spreadsheet application.
Add Goals Indication
The Add Goals Indication setting adds a new column between the category names and the Budgeted column. If the category has a goal, a letter indicates which type of goal has been set.
The key for this setting is:
- M for monthly goals,
- D for target by date goals,
- T if it’s a target goal without a date (amount target only),and
- U if the category has upcoming scheduled transaction(s).
Allow Resizing of Inspector
YNAB’s right Inspector pane is set to a fixed width of 33% (effectively one-third of your screen/window).
The Toolkit for YNAB Allow Resizing of Inspector setting allows you to choose from four additional preset widths: 25%, 20%, 15%, and 0%.
Credit Card Emoji
The one category group name you cannot edit is “Credit Card Payments.”
This Toolkit setting adds a little Credit Card Emoji in front of the title name for a little extra visual oomph.
Current Month Indicator
YNAB, by default, give you no visual cues as to which month you’re currently viewing. So it’s quite possible to be adjusting numbers in the wrong month.
The Current Month Indicator setting in the Toolkit for YNAB offers a solution by changing the background color of the current month to a lighter blue (below, right). All other (non-current) months are YNAB’s default dark blue (below, left).
Days of Buffering Metric
With the move to the web-based version of their software, the YNAB folk shook up their core 4 Rules and replaced “Live on Last Month’s Income” (aka The Buffer) with the Age Of Money [AOM] metric. The AOM looks backward in time offering a general view of how long a dollar sits in your budget before it gets spent.
With the Days of Buffering Metric [DOB] setting, the Toolkit for YNAB developers have attempted to bring back some of the missing emphasis on building a buffer. The DOB metric is meant to calculate, roughly, how long your existing funds would last at your current daily average spending rate.
As you can see in my screenshots below, it’s possible to have a negative buffer if you’re in debt (below, left). [My demo budget is a bunch of randomly made up numbers and backdated transactions so the AOM and DOB numbers aren’t necessarily representative of a real-life situation.]
This setting can be used in combination with the Days of Buffering History Lookup setting also in the Budget Screen Settings of the Toolkit for YNAB.
Display Total Monthly Goals
If you like using the monthly goal options to motivate you or keep you on track, the Display Total Monthly Goals setting might prove useful.
By default, YNAB displays Total Budgeted, Total Activity, Total Available, and Total Inflows. This Toolkit setting adds a 5th total: Total Monthly Goals.
Enable Categories Filter
Ever wish you could narrow down or search for a category within the budget screen? Well, the Toolkit makes it possible.
The Enable Categories Filter setting adds a little search box to the toolbar. If you start typing in just a letter or two, categories are automatically filtered to match your search term.
Goal Indicator Warning Color
YNAB uses the color orange to convey several different messages including credit card overspending, a category insufficiently funded for a scheduled transaction, and a goal not yet met.
With the Goal Indicator Warning Color setting in the Toolkit for YNAB, you can now choose to opt out of the use of orange highlighting as a warning for upcoming trouble and leave it to only indicate actual unfunded spending (cash and credit-card funded). Goals not yet met and categories without sufficient funding to cover upcoming transactions now have blue highlighting instead.
Note: If you have a category with an underfunded goal and insufficiently funded an upcoming transaction, the Goal warning overrides the insufficient funding warning. In other words, the category warning color will be blue even though the category is in danger of being overspent as soon as the scheduled transaction date arrives.
Hide Age of Money Calculation
Ever wish you could hide the Age of Money display?
The Toolkit for YNAB developers understand. They added the Hide Age of Money Calculation setting just for you.
Hide Total Available
The upper portion of the righthand Inspector pane contains four numbers: Total Budgeted, Total Activity, Total Available, and Total Inflows.
If you find the overall Total Available number distracting, the Toolkit offers the Hide Total Available setting.
Highlight all Negative Category Balances Red
By default, YNAB add red highlights to only one type of Available bubble: those with actual overspent balances.
In other situations, the category is highlighted with an orange bubble. This includes categories with scheduled transactions that lack the funding to cover the transaction total. Also highlighted with orange are categories with credit card spending that isn’t funded. [This not advisable but still allowed because sometimes there’s no other option but add debt to a credit card.]
The Highlight all Negative Category Balances Red setting changes this default behavior. Any category with overspending, no matter the funding source (cash, credit card, future), is highlighted red.
Link to Inflows
Miss the ability to see the transactions that make up a month’s Total Inflows? I’m with you all the way!
The Link to Inflows setting makes the Total Inflows section in the Inspector Pane a clickable link. Clicking on that link results in a search page displaying all inflows dated during the month in which you clicked.
Make the Categories Dropdown Larger
Once again, the Toolkit offers a fix for YNAB’s inefficient use of space. By default, the Categories dropdown list in the Available column shows only 4-7 categories at once.
With the Make the Categories Dropdown Larger setting turned on, however, the dropdown list displays 8-10 categories. You can combine this setting with the Remove Zero and Negative Categories setting for maximum space efficiency.
Paid in Full Credit Card Assist
The idea behind the Paid in Full Credit Card Assist setting is straightforward. It adds a button in the Inspector Pane that, when clicked, automatically enters the difference between the balance due on your credit card and the Available for Payment “envelope.”
In effect, the Toolkit is calculating the difference between you credit card’s current account balance and how much you have allocated to pay to your credit card. Then, if you click the “Rectify Difference” button, that number is automatically budgeted to the credit card payment category.
This setting is not capable of any sort of subtlety. It does not and cannot differentiate between a Paid-in-Full card (statement balance) and a $0 balance (account balance).
Remove Zero and Negative Categories When Covering Over-Budgeting
In YNAB, if you click on a red Available bubble to cover overspending, the dropdown menu shows your entire list of categories whether or not the category has a positive balance. In effect, the list is cluttered with every single category instead of just the categories that you can actually choose from.
The Remove Zero and Negative Categories When Covering Over-Budgeting may be poorly named (you’re actually covering over-spending, not over-budgeting) but it offers a convenient fix. With this setting turned on in the Toolkit for YNAB, the dropdown menu will include only categories with positive balances. From this pre-filtered list, it’s now up to you to decide which category will lose its funding to cover your overspending.
This setting combines nicely with the Make the Categories Dropdown Larger setting for maximum efficiency.
Seamless Budget Header
Not a fan of the vertical dividing lines in the header?
The Toolkit for YNAB Seamless Budget Header setting will get rid of those for you.
Show Upcoming Transaction Total
In YNAB, upcoming transactions aren’t included in the Activity column until the date of the transaction. This is a significant programmatic departure from YNAB4 which included future dated transactions in the Activity calculations.
The Toolkit for YNAB doesn’t replace that lost functionality but does offer the Show Upcoming Transaction Total setting. This setting adds a column that displays the total of all scheduled transactions for each category, if any exist.
Stealing From Future Alert
The new web-based YNAB lacks “walled” months — the ability to see very clearly if you budgeted more money than you’ve earned. As such, it is possible to “steal from the future” or budget more than you have available at the moment.
This stealing from the future happens without your knowledge because the current month’s To Be Budgeted [TBB] amount is $0. The big red TBB over-budget number doesn’t appear unless you scroll forward to look at next month’s budget.
The Toolkit‘s setting, Stealing From Future Alert, makes a few changes in the budget header designed to alert you when your budgeting causes a future month to be budgeted into negative numbers.
To Be Budgeted Warning
Typically, the background color of the To Be Budgeted [TBB] total is green unless you’re over-budget in which case the background color is red.
However, since the goal of budgeting in YNAB is to give every dollar a job, having a positive TBB value is not desired. The Toolkit developers offer the To Be Budgeted Warning setting which causes the TBB background color to be displayed as orange if the TBB number is a positive value.
Toggle All Master Categories Open/Close
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to quickly collapse or expand (open or close) all of the master category groups at the same time?
The Toolkit developers agree. The Toggle All Master Categories Open/Close setting adds a little vertical double-ended arrow icon to the toolbar. Click once to close all category groups, click again to expand them all.
Unhighlight all Positive Category Balances
The Unhighlight all Positive Category Balances setting the highlighting color of all Available balances with a positive or $0 balance.
Positive balances: the green background is white and the positive number is green. Zero balances: the gray background is white and then number is gray. Red negatives and orange insufficiently funded or credit card spending balances are unchanged.
Warn When Clicking a Quick Budget Option
Have you ever clicked a button and then panicked thinking, wait, what just happened? What did that change?
The Warn When Clicking a Quick Budget Option setting is, in theory, a great fix. Unfortunately, it’s poorly executed. Don’t depend on it too heavily.
This setting says enforces a 2-step process any time you use a Quick Budget option to that will change a number. If no number has already been entered, the confirmation process isn’t required.
But the warning works only if you’re using a Quick Budget option on a single category.
If you have more than one category selected or if you click on a Quick Budget option without having a category selected (effectively performing a Quick Budget function on your entire list of categories), this setting does not work and you will not receive a warning. All of your budgeted numbers will be changed without warning.
Warn When Target Balance is Not Reached
YNAB offers three types of goals: Target Category Balance, Target Category Balance by Date, and Monthly Funding Goal. By default, YNAB constantly monitors and warns about the status of only the two latter types. The first type, Target Category Balance, never triggers a warning because it’s an open-ended goal (effectively, “I want to save $X but not according any schedule”).
The Warn When Target Balance is Not Reached setting triggers a warning any time the balance on a category falls below the targeted balance.
This is a great option when you want to maintain a funding level and add new money only when the balance dips below your goal.
Add Pacing to the Budget
The Toolkit for YNAB‘s Add Pacing to the Budget is an interesting setting. It adds a new column to the right of the Available column. In addition to the default (off) option, you can choose to display the pacing in full dollar amounts, a simple icon indicator, or in the number of days you’re ahead or behind.
What the “pacing” feature is measuring is “how much money you’ve spent based on how far you are through the month.” In other words, your rate of spending in a category relative to where today’s date falls in the month.
No matter which of the three units of measurement you choose, you can click on any displayed value to toggle on or off the emphasis for that category (color or gray) (see screenshots below).
Budget Rows Progress Bars
The Budget Rows Progress Bars Toolkit for YNAB setting offers three different graphical views of your data in respect to your goals and your spending progress/pacing through the month.
If you’re an intensely graphical person, this might be the setting you’ve been yearning for. If not (or maybe even in spite of that), this setting might be visually and logically overwhelming.
There are three dropdown choices: Goals progress, Pacing progress, and Pacing on name column and goals on budgeted column.
Goals progress uses the full width of the center pane to represent the percentage of goal met (full width is 100%) and displays a green horizontal bar to indicate each category’s goal progress.
Pacing progress measures the pace of your spending. It displays a vertical gray line indicating the day’s date in relation the whole month (on the 15th of the month, the line will be in or near the middle of the center pane). Blue horizontal bars indicate how much of the month’s budgeting allocation has been spent so far. For once-a-month payments like rent, this is uninformative. But for categories with spending spread throughout the month, e.g. groceries or gas, the pacing bars in context with the pacing line might be informative.
Pacing on name column and goals on budgeted column combines the two types of graphical info into a single view. Goals progress is displayed overlaying the Budgeted column and pacing progress overlays the Categorycolumn.
Days of Buffering History Lookup
If you’re using the Days of Buffering Metric setting above, this Days of Buffering History Lookup setting allows you to make adjustments to how your DOB is calculated. It’s a way to refine the DOB metric but it’s not a stand-alone setting. If you don’t have the DOB metric setting turned on, this setting has no effect.
If the DOB Metric is turned on, the default scope of transactions used to calculate your days of bufferdom is All — the entire history of transactions in your budget file. In the first screenshot* below (top left), you can see that if my entire 6+ years’ worth of transaction history is considered, based on my average daily spending, my days of buffering is 688.
However, if the history lookup is set to one year, my DOB goes up to 759 days (below, top right). That means that my average daily spending over the last year was lower than my average daily spending over the last six years. But if I change the history lookup setting to six months (below, 2nd row, left), my DOB drops to 709 days. While my spending in the last year is lower than over six years, my spending in the last six months has been higher than the six months before that.
If I narrow my DOB Metric to the last three months of history (below, 2nd row, right), DOB drops all the way to 579 days. Clearly the last three months have been more expensive than average (and with estimated tax payments and investment account contributions, that is indeed the case — our outflows have been exceptionally high lately). And yet, if I narrow the history lookup to only the past month (below, bottom row, left), my DOB bounces back up to 787 — higher than any of the other history metrics.
*The following screenshots were taken of my personal budget file rather than my fictional Demo Budget file in order to accurately demonstrate the subtleties in the DOB history lookup calculation adjustments.
Display Target Goal Amount And Overbudget Warning
The Display Target Goal Amount and Overbudget Warning setting adds some extra usability/visibility to your goals.
First, this setting adds a new column labeled Goals and displays your set target goal amount.
Additionally you can choose whether to have the text formatted to warn you if your Budgeted amount exceeds your goal target.
The three formatting options are:
- unformatted (text color unchanged)
- green formatting (green indicates you’re ahead on meeting your goals)
- red formatting (red indicates you’ve exceeded your goal and might want to allocate those extra funds elsewhere)
Which formatting option you choose will depend on your own intention when setting your goals and whether exceeding goals is desirable. Or not.
Height of Budget Rows
The Toolkit developers have done a thorough job of offering settings for adjusting the height of rows all throughout YNAB’s screens. With the Height of Budget Rows, you can choose from three options in addition to YNAB’s default height.
The setting options are: Compact, Slim, and Slim with Smaller Font.
Income From Last Month
If you’ve been using YNAB for a while, you might be missing a core concept: “Live on Last Month’s Income” aka, The Buffer.
The Toolkit developers have taken a stab at bringing back some element of that philosphy with their Income From Last Month setting.
This setting offers four new options beyond YNAB’s current default of simply budgeting your current month’s income.
You can choose from Use previous month, Use month before last, Use two months before last, or Use three months before last.
The Toolkit doesn’t add any real buffering functionality with this setting — it merely adds a line of text in the main header listing the income earned in the month in question. With this information in hand, you can budget appropriately — in both the current month and in future months according to what your financial situation allows and the Toolkit setting you choose.
Width of Category Popup
Clicking on any number in the Activity column pops up a window listing all of the transactions in that category in the current month. Don’t you wish that window weren’t so small and cramped?
The Width of Category Popup setting in the Toolkit of YNAB offers two additional width options: Medium and Large.
Width of Monthly Notes Popup
YNAB’s monthly notes function is handy. But the popup box is just another example poor use of space.
With the Width of Monthly Notes Popup setting, you can choose to make the notes area wider — either Medium width or Larger.
I don’t know about you but I spend the majority of my YNAB time in the Budget Screen. Toolkit for YNAB Budget Screen Settings options helpful, others add a great deal of value to my YNAB budgeting experience.
I generally consider gamification of my budget to be counter-productive but I’m learning to use some of the Toolkit’s goals adjustments to provide clarity and motivation without losing focus the reasons behind the goals. Being able to copy a list of Activity transactions is handy. But, as our income is highly variable and comes from many, many sources, the setting that makes me deliriously happy is the ability to link to inflows.
Which Toolkit settings do you use and why? I hope you’ll let me know in the comments.