Transitioning from YNAB, how to use envelope method / smooth transition

I’ve been using YNAB for years and recently found tiller, trying to get started and running into some difficulty. I’ve created a Google sheet with the tiller budget. Sorry in advance, quite a few questions, but I am deeply confused.

Say I have $10k in net assets that I’d like to assign into budgeting envelopes. The money available to budget seems to come from transactions categorized as income, which is fine, but not sure how to allocate for the money I already have before the income transaction occurred. How do I account for the assets in bank account balances prior to transaction import dates?

Where am I supposed to be entering the budgeted amounts for each category? I see that I can make adjustments using a whole value or relative value with the b+/b- syntax, but is that the appropriate place to input the initial category budget for each month, or only adjustments?

It appears that the spreadsheet will update with each new period/month. How do I budget for next month before the 1st of the month?
Edit: I just found the budget history sheet, I think this problem is solved.

I’d like to live off last month’s income. To do this in YNAB, I would categorize income from, for instance, November as “Income” category. Then I would make a negative budgeted value for November’s income in the month of December to make it available for budgeting in December. How would I do that with tiller’s spreadsheet?

Hi Brett:

I’m not familiar with YNAB but I think I can answer at least part of your questions.

The existing amounts for your categories (envelopes) is called the rollover. You can set the rollover in that green Adjust field by typing r=1.00. You can also adjust using the r+/r- syntax if you make an error or whatever.

For setting your budget amounts, using the b+/b- syntax is perfectly fine. Actually you don’t even need to use the symbols… if you just type an amount in there it will effectively default to b=, and set the budget to that amount.

However, this is not what I do, at least not initially. I create next month’s budget a few days before the end of the current month. In the Budgets History sheet, I insert a row above #3. Then I copy #4 (what was previously #3) into the new blank #3, and change the dates. This will also copy over all of last month’s budget amounts to the new budget. If you budget like I do, most of these rarely change. Then you can go in and adjust them in the Monthly Budget sheet or manually here in the Budgets History sheet. Be sure to run the Analyze Budgets History function after you create your new budget, and that will create the rest of the necessary rows.

I also live off last month’s income, (or something roughly similar.) Accounting for that is pretty easy to do with this sheet. For your first month’s budget, enter last months income (what you’re spending this month) as rollover. Then set your budget to those same amounts. Voila, that’s it. As income comes in categorize it as such and it will build up in the “Available” column where it can be safely ignored. This month’s Available becomes next month’s Rollover, so when you start your new budget for the next month you’ll see it there, and you can just set your Budget amounts to match again.

Be sure to set your “Rollover To” columns on your Categories sheet, including for your income categories, and it should all work pretty smoothly.

@randy @heather I have the same exact question! Wondering if you’d be able to weigh in on this? Is this at all possible with the Savings Budget? Is there some way to manually add in starting money into the budget?

@brett @goodmanjosephd I don’t know if you have tried it yet, but the Savings Budget sheet is an enhanced version of the original Envelope template that is compatible with Foundation template solutions. One key ability is to be able to individually set categories on the Categories sheet as Savings under the Track column. This will allow any unspent or overspent dollars in that category to roll over to the next period. There is a drop-down on the Savings Budget sheet in G6 that you can toggle the adjust column to add to Savings, rather than budget. Note that you may need to set the current period budget to $0 for it to show on the sheet. Savings adjustments are logged on the Budget Journal sheet. As a word of caution, unlike budget allocation, there is no error checking to ensure savings adjustments are using dollars that are actually available. This flexibility, however, is what allows you to be able to seed a savings goal that is already in progress prior to the starting period on your sheet.

I highly recommend trying out the Savings Budget sheet and see if it can meet your needs. There is a migration tool you can use to migrate your data from the Envelope Budget template outlined on the page I linked above.

Yes, I’m currently using the Savings Budget Sheet! But it still doesn’t add in what’s in you already have in your bank account. For instance, I have some money currently in my Emergency savings account, and I regularly contribute to it. On the Savings Budget, I have an Emergency Savings category, and I can only add in my current & future contributions, it doesn’t show me what I already have saved.

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So if you are coming from YNAB you are going to struggle with the current sheets as they dont do true envelope budgeting. But thanks to Tiller being built on spreadsheets, we can build our own.

Here is the sheet I built to meet the needs I had. I came from Mvelopes and YNAB.

Let me know if you have any questions


That’s correct, savings in the Savings Budget are not balance-driven, but rollover driven. You will need to seed your Emergency Savings category with the initial savings balance in the Adjustments column G while G6 is set to Savings. This will combine with any future contributions/withdrawals you make and track savings as expected. You can further make use of the Savings & Debt (Prototype) sheet to track your goal progress and set your savings goal threshold, target funding date, and estimated monthly contributions to reach your goal, as well as validate whether the account balance will cover the goal amount.

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Awesome, thank you! I’ll look into both of those!

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I’ll give this a try, thank you so much!

Hello. I am also coming from YNAB, and struggling with the same questions. @goodmanjosephd have you found anything that works for you?

I adored the old desktop version of YNAB, but find the web-based YNAB frustrating. Was hoping Tiller might be like the old YNAB.

Here’s my experience with Tiller so far: I started with the Foundation Template, spent some time building and testing in there. Then realized I should be using the Envelope Budget Add-on, which does not use the Foundation Template. Started over with a new workbook following the Envelope Budget instructions, and spent time carefully pasting in the categories and transaction categorizing I had already done (later on I saw that there’s a migration tool, but it was too late). Couldn’t figure out how to allocate existing assets there. In searching for the solution, came across the Savings Budget, which appears to be a better platform than the Envelope Budget for a new user, since it will be more robustly backed by Tiller. Ooof. Wish I knew about that several hours ago. Went back to my Foundation Template version, and added the Savings Budget. Found a great thread here from Oct 2020 with @randy walking through the creation of the Budget Health section of the Savings Budget, which seems like just the thing to address my questions (both about how to allocate existing balances, and how to ensure that errors get caught/I don’t budget more than I have). I tried so many different ways to get the Budget Health section to zero out. Can not figure out how to do it.

@randy and @heather - I’m super excited to be on Tiller and motivated to make it work for me. I love love love working in spreadsheets and have a lot of energy to put into this type of project. I’ve watched several of your demos and found them super helpful and enjoyable. You guys are great! But… I’ve been at this for hours and feel like I’m going in circles. I’m losing steam! Anything else I can try before I throw in the towel and go back to YNAB? Bah. I hope you can point me in the right direction.

@richl I briefly looked at your sheet, which looks like it might be just what I need! But I’m hesitant to depend on something that isn’t supported by Tiller.

I’m historically a lurker on community boards and have no experience posting myself. Please advise if I’ve committed any faux pas here, or done this incorrectly. Would like to be a good community member! Thanks.

Hey Jessica! I’m currently using the Savings Budget too. I’ve sort of became okay with knowing that it isn’t the same as YNAB, and that I have to use it with a different mentality. I do wish that I could figure out something to make it to behave more based on giving every dollar a budget, versus planning out how much I’m going to be making that month and having everything be speculative.

Hoping that we can figure something out though

Hi Jessica, I can tell you that I use my envelope system sheet every day and it works for me as the best replacement for mvelopes and has the features I need compared to ynab. But as you stated my sheet isn’t supported by Tiller. I am more than willing to help you get my sheet setup but if you want a Tiller supported sheet than the savings sheet is your best best. I have only looked at it at a high level so J cannot tell you how it compares. That being said my sheet also used the foundation sheet so you could try both.


@goodmanjosephd Thanks for your reply. Glad to know it is working for someone with a similar background experience.

A big part of what I loved about the old YNAB was how grounded and concrete it was. I really like waiting until the money is in the bank to put it in an envelope. It was hard to adjust to when I first started! But now it’s second nature and I find it very strange to be budgeting with money I haven’t earned yet.

I am grateful that at this point I do have enough cushion that I could approach budgeting with a looser mentality. I think the biggest sticking point for me is concern that I don’t understand how to catch errors. I see that the Budget Health section is designed to help with this, but I can’t seem to get it to zero out. I keep thinking that if I can figure out how to establish a stable starting place (where the Budget Health section is zeroed out), I’ll be able to make this work going forward.

@randy @heather Just had an idea as I was typing this. If I’m starting on 1/1/21, could I delete the 2020 transactions that were automatically downloaded, then record my existing balances as 1/1/21 income, and go from there? If I do so, when I refresh my bank activity, will the 2020 transactions return?

Which reminds me that I’ve been wondering how to reconcile account statements. Just did a quick search and it looks like this is the place to start for a Tiller Labs solution, and that Tiller Feeds does not offer support for reconciling. Is that correct @randy @heather?

Thank you all so much!

@richl Thank you for sharing your tool and for your incredibly generous offer to help me get it set up! So kind of you. I’m new here, and so excited to see the way this community works together. It’s heartening.

Great to know that your tool is also based on the foundation sheet! I’m going to focus on getting the Savings Budget working for me first, in hopes that I can have a tool supported by Tiller. Once that calms down, I’d love a chance to experiment with your tool as well. Thank you!!

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You can definitely delete those transactions and they won’t come back in that existing sheet on a subsequent updates, but they would fill into future sheets.

The balances and transactions are separate though so I’m not sure if you mean recording your balance as of 1/1/2021 as a transaction in order to simulate savings in the budget dashboard? I’m not sure how that would work. Maybe @randy has an idea. I know YNAB does some starting balance transaction thing we don’t really factor into anything.

I “spend last month’s income” using the Savings Budget sheet with no problem.

When you’re working with your budget your previous income that hasn’t been assigned to any category will be shown in the “Savings” column. If you set your budget to that amount, then assign those dollars to expense categories to match, then you’ve effectively spent last month’s income. Any new income will show up in “Actual” and “Available” and can be ignored until the next month when it moves to “Savings” and you repeat.