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Put the four rules into action!

So you’ve learned the four rules and you’re ready to get started. Start YNAB with a free 34-day trial.

Swirling dollarsAn illustrated version of the YNAB app on a mobile device

Need some help setting up? Start here!

If you need a refresh on the rules...

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Let's make your money matter!

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What will you accomplish with YNAB?

I want to pay off 

Get inspired to make a sustainable plan to demolish your debt (and stay out for good!)

I want to stop arguing about money.

Get on the same financial page once and for all by committing to shared goals and making a plan to get there with your partner.

I want to know where my money is going.

Quit doing mental math at the cash register and let go of the anxiety you feel every time you open your bank’s mobile app.

Got questions?

Yes. At YNAB, your data is yours. We work hard to make sure your financial information is secure and protected.

We do not use your financial data at all (not even anonymously), and we certainly don’t sell it. When we want to learn more about our users’ financial situations to improve the app and our content, we ask them for it through surveys.

We do collect usage data to help us improve the app. For instance, it’s helpful for us to know how many users set targets, connect YNAB to their bank accounts, etc. However, we do not collect any financial data (i.e. your checking account balance, your transactions, etc.).

If you write into our support team for help with YNAB, a support team member may ask for temporary permission to view your information to better help you. However, that viewing ability is only temporary, and you always have the option to say no.

You can hear our founder talk more about this here, and you can read all the details in our privacy policy at

Yes! If you apply the four rules, you can get all the benefits of a credit card without paying a penny in interest. With YNAB, credit card spending is just like any other spending: you make your decisions based on your spending plan, not your credit limit.

You can learn more about how to make credit cards work in YNAB in our video tutorial.

Investing is just another job your dollars can do. You can create categories for any investment contributions you want to make in your spending plan. (Don’t include payroll deductions, like a 401k or HSA, since those happen before you get paid.)

Want to dive deeper into the world of investing? Check out our blog posts on the topic!

Exactly the same as everybody else. This is one of the truly unique things about the YNAB Method: because you only assign dollars you have right now, it doesn’t actually matter when you get paid. Your spending plan will always tell you what dollars you have available at this moment.

When you get new dollars to assign, you’re asking: What does this money need to do before I get paid again? You may not be sure when more money will come, but you’ll probably have a good idea what you’ll need to cover in the meantime. And if things don’t go the way you expect, you can always change your plan to reflect your new situation.

Want to dive deeper into this topic? Check out our Unpredictable Income Guide.

Put those savings dollars in your spending plan and give them jobs, just like any other dollar. If you’re not sure what jobs to give them, just ask yourself: What am I saving for?

If you’re saving for home repairs, create a home repairs category in your spending plan, and assign savings dollars there. Because you’ve clearly marked them as home repair dollars, you’re not going to spend them on pizza unless you’re deliberately changing your plan to do that.

Including your savings account in your spending plan gives you a clearer picture of your whole financial situation, which means more clarity, more control, and more confidence.

Some true expenses have clear amounts, like an annual subscription. Others have numbers you can orient around, like a deductible. But if you have a brand new car, your auto maintenance category is probably going to look way different than someone driving a 30-year-old RV.

So here’s the key question: What will help you sleep better at night?

You know your life better than any money expert, and your gut is a pretty good indicator of what you need.

And remember: nothing is permanent. You can always change your plan if you need to.

Look at your spending plan and ask yourself, “What is less important to me than ______________?” Once you’ve identified that category (or categories), move that money into the category that needs it. Your plan is back on track!

Need help figuring out which category to pull from? Check out this video!

Because you’ve given all your dollars jobs, and you’ve only assigned dollars you actually have. When you move money in your plan, you know exactly where that money is coming from and where it’s not coming from. And you also know that the $100 you’re pulling from Clothing is actually there, ready to be moved. By choosing the trade-off you want to make, you’re ensuring that you can still trust your spending plan and all your priorities are accounted for.

If you find yourself consistently spending more than you planned in a particular category, consider that you might actually just be underfunding it. Maybe your spending is realistic, and it’s your plan that needs tweaking.

Remember that changing your plan when your priorities change is actually more responsible than sticking to a plan that has become obsolete. If you made plans to go see a friend, and then you got sick, you wouldn’t be a bad person for canceling on your friend. You’d be making a tradeoff based on your priorities. That’s responsible!

At the end of the day, it all comes down to this question: What matters to me less than ______ right now? That’s where you want to pull money from.

Your priorities exist on a spectrum. On one side, you have non-negotiables (housing, food). On the other side, you have things that are nice to have (hobbies, sushi take-out). And some stuff is going to fall in the middle (clothing, gifts).

Most of the time, you want to start by pulling from your nice-to-haves. If you exhaust those, you start moving to your in-betweens. (And remember, you don’t have to pull everything from one category!)

First, follow the other three rules.

Rule One gives you more control over your spending. Once you see how your spending impacts your priorities, you’re going to waste less. Rule Two ensures more of your money stays in your bank account for those non-monthly expenses. Rule Three allows you to change the plan when you need to (which helps you actually stick with it).

Windfalls like tax refunds, gift money, bonuses, and raises are great opportunities to give your plan a boost. You can also try shaving small amounts from this month’s categories (i.e. $20 from groceries) to put toward next month’s expenses.

You can track this in your spending plan one of two ways. The simplest way is to create a category called “Next Month” and put every dollar you want going toward next month there. The other way is to assign dollars directly to next month’s spending plan when you get paid. Use whichever method feels more intuitive and motivating for you.

Finally, be patient with yourself. It might take a while to get there (it takes most YNABers four to six months to pull it off), but it’s totally worth it!

For more ideas on how to get a month ahead, check out this video!