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How to Teach YNAB: The Setup

Help a Friend Gain Total Control of Their Money: Part 1

You love YNAB, you sing it from the rooftops. At some point, a friend or family member will hear your tune and will want to start singing too. Or maybe they just noticed the student loan debt you charged through, the casual mention of your exact grocery spending from last month, or it’s just that extra spring in your step that comes from a well-tended financial life.

Whatever the catalyst, at some point you may have the chance to earn your budgeting wings and teach a friend or family member how to use YNAB.

Hurrah! The budgeting love is catching fire! Just one don’t actually know where to even start in teaching it!

Well, let us help you along in your noble calling. 

This is part of a three-part series on teaching a friend how to budget in YNAB:

 1. Encourage Opportunity to Knock

Money is a squirmy wormy topic for many people. But that freeing feeling you have around money? Your friends and family deserve to have that too.

Some people may come to you unprompted—especially if you’re a vocal supporter of all things budgeting.

If you want to take a more proactive approach, here are some ways to coax folks into budgeting bliss:

  • A text to close friends: “Hey guys, you know I live and breathe my budgeting app because it has given us so much more control over our finances. If anyone wants to learn about it or bounce around ideas about your own situation, know that I’m an open door and happy to be a sounding board.”
  • An email to an organization or church you’re part of: “If someone is trying to get their money in order, I’d be happy to coach folks 1:1 with budgeting. If you know of any, feel free to send them my way. I’m happy to help.”
  • If a friend or family member mentions a financial pain point that budgeting could help solve: “Can I show you my budget and see if something like this might work for you?”

There’s no one template, but just don’t be afraid to speak up when opportunity arises. You might not get a response right away, but people will store this little nugget away and think of you when the iron is hot.

2. Reach Out With Reassurance

When someone reaches out, be sure to affirm them.

No clue what to say? We’ve noodled long and hard over this. Here’s a sample email. Copy/paste to your heart’s content:

Hi awesome friend/human,

Thanks for reaching out! I’d love to help. Let’s schedule a time to talk and get you set up with a budget. 

I’m happy to be here for you now and on an ongoing basis as you get comfortable and build your budgeting chops. Just know that if you don't like it or you don't want to talk about it ever again, it makes no difference in our relationship. We don't like the same ice cream flavors either, but that has no meaning when it comes to being friends.

Ready to do this? I’ve got two questions for you:

  1. What isn’t working for you in your current setup?
  2. What’s a good time to meet? 

Wishing you all the best and budget-est,

-<Your name here>

3. Schedule a Time to Meet

Once you find out a good time to meet, here are some logistics: 

  • You can meet in-person or over a video call (just make sure you can screen share)
  • Plan two hours for this meeting (you’ll be helping them set up a budget template)

What they’ll need:

  • Laptop or computer
  • Access to their credit card and/or checking account statement from last month
  • Access to their bank accounts (they won’t share that with you, but they’ll need to look stuff up as they build their budget)
  • An idea of their goals/dreams/aspirations for what they want their money to do, and possibly a significant other’s goals if they’ll be budgeting as a couple

What you need to do:

  • Create a Sandbox Budget: make a Fresh Start on your own budget.
  • This will create a duplicate of your current budget and keep goals and categories intact.
  • Rename it! (Sandbox Budget, Sharing YNAB, Sample Budget). Your other budget will also have the word “Archive” in the title when you Fresh Start, so just change it back to its other name. 
  • Adjust account balances if you don’t want to share actual numbers
  • Adjust any goals or categories as needed for sharing
  • Review this list of frequently-asked questions
  • Review the Four Rules

If you’re waffling between sharing your numbers or not, there are arguments for both sides:

For sharing: sharing your numbers can be a way to even the playing field and make your friend feel more comfortable. It can be really useful to glimpse into a healthy functioning budget.

Against sharing: if you are in wildly different financial situations, it might add an uncomfortable dynamic of one person having a lot less or a lot more. 

You’ll know what’s best in your case!

4. Set Your Own Expectations

Hurrah! You’re going to help someone budget! Best thing ever! But you know what, there are some things to keep in mind on your end too:

They Might Not End Up Using YNAB

Your friend might meet with you and then fall off the budgeting bandwagon. And that’s ok. It’s not a failing on your part. A colleague here at YNAB taught her friend every week before their women’s group met, and the friend didn’t end up using YNAB. Another woman, however, overheard they were doing this, signed up for YNAB on her own, and uses it to this day! You just never know the ripple effect.

You Might Walk Through Hard Realities With Your Friend

You might be walking with someone through chronic overspending, huge debt, being broke, or navigating the dynamics in a relationship if you’re helping a couple budget (it might turn into half marriage counseling/half budgeting). It might be hard, but it also might be a really powerful thing for your relationship.

They Might Be Feeling All The Things

Your friend might be handling the reality of their financial situation for the first time. They might be feeling stress, guilt, worry, embarrassment, relief, discouragement, the list goes on. Don’t forget to give a little extra space for that inevitable emotional side of money.

You’ll Be the First Call (or Text)

You’ll probably get random calls and texts for help from your friend. It’s an ongoing process to untangle an old way of managing money and learn a new software at the same time. You know a lot!

However, remember you don’t need to know everything—our friendly support team is just a simple chat away and they can troubleshoot anything (, or use the help beacon in the app to start a chat). 

The fact that someone is willing to trust you to talk about finances says something very wonderful about who you are: you’re safe and trustworthy to your friend, and you can help lead them through the tangled knot of their finances. We just wanted to say thanks on our end for who you are, and what you’re doing.

Part 2: The Meetup

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How to Teach YNAB: The Setup