YNAB Tips & Tricks

First of all, if you are not familiar with YNAB (aka. You Need A Budget), please see my previous posting from Nov 2018: You Need A Budget (YNAB). If you are not already a YNAB user, take a look at that post and consider signing up today for a free 34-day trial. If you are already a YNAB user, then this article is for you.

I’ve been using YNAB since 2013 when it was still a desktop application. I was hesitant to switch over to their new cloud platform a few years ago due the required subscription and the fact that I like to keep my data under my control (I.e., at least a usable copy of my data locally available as was the case with YNAB 4 when used with Dropbox for synchronization). But with the new cloud YNAB app, you do not have a local copy of your data anywhere. It is only stored in YNAB’s servers and accessible via a web browser based app or their mobile apps.

However, I did finally switch and have been very happy with the cloud based version of YNAB. It has been great, including the ability to link with my bank accounts to automatically import transactions, which makes regular reconciling of my accounts so much easier, as well as getting up-to-date if I fall behind on entering transactions.

Tip #1: Toolkit for YNAB

Since using the cloud based YNAB app, I have discovered a nifty tool called Toolkit for YNAB. This is a browser extension (available for Firefox and Chrome) which is highly customizable to allow you to tweak YNAB’s appearance and functionality to help you budget better. Here is just a brief list of some of my favorite features:

  • Interface Font (Select a font from Google’s font library to use in the YNAB interface)
  • Square Negative Mode (Replace the circular highlight around negative numbers with a square highlight. This causes these numbers to be an eyesore to motivate you to get them fixed. It also helps these numbers standout.)
  • Hide Referral Banner (Removes the referral link from the bottom of the navigation bar)
  • Toolkit Reports (Adds some additional reports created by the Toolkit)
  • Change Behavior Of Enter Key When Adding Transactions (Default behavior is Save and Add Another. When enabled, this option changes the behavior to Save only.)
  • Color Master Category Row (Adds color to the master/parent category on the budget tab to help them stand out from the sub categories)
  • And many, many more options to help you with your budgeting needs or customize the default layout of the YNAB interface.

To try out the Tookit for YNAB, you can obtain the extension from the Chrome Web Store or the Firefox Add-on Repository. The source code is also hosted on Github if building from source or making contributions is more your thing.

NOTE #1: After making any customizations, be sure to Save your changes in the toolkit so that they will be applied and then refresh any already open YNAB tabs for the changes to take effect.

NOTE #2: These settings are not synchronized anywhere and are only stored in the browser’s local storage, so you may want to export the settings to a file so you can restore them on another machine or after recovering from a backup. To do this:

  1. Open the toolkit settings
  2. Click the Import/Export Settings button at the bottom of the left side navigation pane. This will open a popup screen with a textbox that contains all of your custom settings.
  3. Click inside the text box and then press CTRL + A (selects all text in the box) then press CTRL + C (copies all selected text).
  4. Now open a text editor (i.e. Notepad, Notepad++, etc.) and press CTRL + V (Pastes contents from the clipboard).
  5. Save this text file somewhere safe.

Whenever you need to restore your settings, or if you want to copy the same settings to another machine, you will use the same Import/Export Settings button and simply copy and paste your custom settings from the saved text file into the text box and then click Apply to update your custom settings.

Tip #2: Use YNAB like a “standalone” app (Chrome only?)

If you are like me, you like to run your applications as applications and not inside of a browser window. This is especially important for using YNAB as I like to have my various financial accounts open as tabs in a browser and then ALT+TAB back and forth between my YNAB application and Chrome. I also like to have as much space available as possible (i.e. no toolbars/menus/buttons) and prefer to have a taskbar/desktop/start menu icon to launch the app directly.

Well, YNAB doesn’t provide this capability directly, but Chrome does offer a similar function with Shortcuts. And as a bonus, this also allows the Toolkit for YNAB extension to continue to do its magic.

To set up a YNAB app icon from Chrome:

  1. Open Chrome and navigate to https://app.youneedabudget.com/
  2. Login if you are not already logged in.
  3. Once your budge is loaded, click the Chrome menu icon (three stacked dots in top right corner)
  4. Go to More Tools -> Create Shortcut…
  5. Enter the display name you would like to use for the App (i.e. YNAB)
  6. Check the box “Open new window”
  7. Click OK.

After completing the above steps, you will see a new YNAB icon in your list of Chrome Apps. You will also see a new YNAB icon in the Chrome Apps folder in your Start Menu or by searching your start menu for YNAB. Click on the app to launch it and then you can right click the YNAB icon in your task bar and select Pin to Taskbar to make this easily accessible anytime.

I hope you find these tips useful. If so, please share this post with other YNAB users or feel free to leave some comments below. Thanks for reading!

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