Budget Confusion

I am very confused on how everything is set up overall. I thought I understood GB. But I don’t think I actually do. My bank transactions stopped syncing so I am having to import transactions until it is fixed. I would be importing from my latest statement? But our biweekly paycheck date was 7/4/24. I do not think my biweekly period start date is correct either. So I am to budget biweekly based on the transactions that come out of the most recent check date to current but import transactions that include prior dates? The envelopes wouldn’t be accurate as far as the biweekly transactions from this most recent check if transactions are prior to that. This may all be obvious things, but I am not knowledgable in budgeting or finances at all, I would be below a beginners level. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

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No worries! Part of what makes Goodbudget work for people is that it can be “hacked” and used in lots of different ways.
The way it’s designed is that it mimics a cash envelope budgeting process. That is, at the beginning of your budget period you would take all your money and put it into the envelopes you’ve made for budgeting. In a perfect world, you would have enough available on day 1 to fill them all, but in reality we sometimes need to prioritize those bills that are due first, knowing we’ll receive more money later to fill the rest of the envelopes.
Just because you’re paid biweekly doesn’t mean you have to budget biweekly; if most of your bills are monthly (utilities, rent/mortgage, car payment, etc.) then a monthly budget might be easier to navigate.
It was also designed for the user to enter transactions in real time, jotting down the money they’ve spent along the way. Just recently the bank sync option was introduced which turned that on its head and I think the community is still trying to figure out how best to make that work.
The trouble with importing older transactions after the fact is that, as you’ve experienced, that money has been spent but not accounted for in your ledger. When you DO add them in, you find that the money you have left over is far less than you thought because you hadn’t accounted for those purchases when you filled your envelopes. If you try to envision the whole process as if everything were done with cash it makes a bit more sense, although I guess the old transactions would be more like an IOU!
Personally, I think the easiest way to make it work is to budget monthly, starting by putting all the money you have available to spend into your envelopes. If you have savings reflected in your Accounts, be sure there’s an envelope for that too so it isn’t sitting in the Available envelope and possibly getting spent! When you get paid, drop that in Available (or another “holding” envelope if you prefer) because you’ll need it to fill the envelopes at the beginning of the next month. (If some of your envelopes weren’t filled because you didn’t have enough for the whole month, fill those first and set the rest aside for next month)
If you don’t like doing transaction entry in real time, another option is to import transactions directly but you need to do this basically every day in order to keep up. Many banks offer the option to filter your transactions by date and export the results to a .csv or .qfx file, which can be imported to Goodbudget.
That’s too much for me too, so personally I have all my banks set to send me a notification whenever a transaction goes through. Then I just compare my notifications (I have an iPhone) to my Goodbudget entries and I don’t swipe them away until they’ve been recorded. I think that’s the easiest way, but bear in mind that if you DO go that route and then start syncing again, you’ll have a lot of duplicates.
To go back to the budgeting question–there are two kinds of budgeting (I’m oversimplifying here); budgets that only allocate what you have, and those that include your upcoming income in the planning. As an envelope model, Goodbudget only works with money you already have and any further income goes toward future needs. The goal is really just to make sure that the way you spend money is aligned with the amount you have to spend, so you’re not going into debt in order to prioritize luxuries over needs.
I’m sorry for that wall of text! But I hope it helps even a little?

Is that so? :smirk:

Lol, well, that’s what I meant when I said it can be hacked—had you in mind for sure :smile:

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Sorry for my delayed response. Your message had a lot of great information and I was digesting little bits at a time to try and figure out which worked best for me. Thanks to GB, I have eliminated 3 of my bank checking/savings accounts and I am now down to only 1 bill pay account and 1 unallocated account. But you mentioned doing an envelope for savings, I have done that and the amount set for the budget is the exact amount that is in the bank savings account which is being synced with GB (should I remove the sync for that account?). I also have an envelope for the income bank savings account I have (account strictly for our direct deposits) same set up, the budget amount for the env matches exactly what is in the actual bank account (that is also synced with GB) I do not mind the syncing, it is helpful for true transactions, however, I still do a lot of transfers when I am transferring specific amounts for each of our bills as well as transferring to unallocated and my husbands account. With that being said I would have to import those transfers I assume and probably best to not sync my bank with GB for those accounts. Or is there an easier way to do this? I did try it the way of not having the paycheck money in an envelope, but I cant get a handle doing it that way. The other downfall, for all of the transfers, I am having to adjust the budget balance for the envelope with the paycheck very often. This is such a complicated way that I have it, but it seems to be the only one that has made the most sense so far.

First thing I would do is eliminate the “income” envelope. All it is doing is forcing you to do more transfers. When income is deposited in your account, just let it add to your “Available” pseudo-envelope automatically. You can easily do a Fill from Available to spread it out to all other envelopes in one transaction. By putting it all into a dedicated envelope, now you have to transfer it bit by bit to each of your expense envelopes.

If you find yourself constantly changing the size of an envelope, it’s probably a sign you’re doing GB “wrong” :slight_smile: I’ve used to do it myself until the hassle prompted me to change my method.

Most of my bills are the same every month. The one that varies the most is the city utilities. Some months are much higher than others because I refilled the pool or had a bad sprinkler leak. I just took an average of the past couple of years, rounded up to nearest $10 and made that my budget amount. Some months I end up going over, others I come in under, but at least I don’t have to fiddle with the envelope size every month.

My other main variable envelope is “Other”. I use this for one-off, irregular, or otherwise infrequent expenses, e.g. birthday gifts, fireworks for July 4, special occasions, etc. I actually have this envelope set to zero in the budget and just fill it as full as necessary for a month and then zero it out at the end of the month.

I had a feeling i wasnt doing it right. I know ive seen the “theres no difference between the envelopes and accounts, its just a different view of the money” i just dont think im understanding how all of the accounts work and i especially dont understand the red/green, how adding/setting works. Ill go in and think ive figured out how to do fills and ill go to either add or set, whichever applies, and it just does exactly what i do not want it to do with the envelope balance. Its so confusing.

For a quick (?) overview, Accounts represent your real-life bank accounts, credit cards, and loans along with their balances. They’re just there to make sure your Goodbudget amounts are true to your actual real-life balances.
All that money is then aggregated and put into an Available envelope. The assumption is that it’s all there for you to spend, so it’s up to you to put it into envelopes to designate how you’ll use it.
Initially you’ll develop a budget which is just a target for how you THINK you’ll spend the money. Very rarely will this be spot-on, even if you’ve been budgeting for a long time! That’s ok, because the more data you collect the more you can fine-tune the budget, but it will never be exactly correct because life happens.
Once you’ve estimated how you’ll spend the money, you’ll have a bunch of empty envelopes with target amounts and one big fat Available pseudo-envelope (I like that term so I’m stealing it!). You’ll do a “Fill from Available” transaction which basically just transfers money from there to multiple envelopes all at once. Choosing “Add” will put exactly as much as you designate in the box into the envelope (which might be 0) and clicking Set will just add or subtract as much as necessary to make the envelope balance match the noted amount.
Now as you spend money, each transaction will be assigned to an envelope and the envelope balance will go down. The account balance will also decrease accordingly but you shouldn’t need to worry about that until you do a reconciliation. If you find that you’ve overspent an envelope (so the bar turns red), try to move money from another one to offset it before you take from your Savings envelope. Don’t worry about changing the budget just yet—just be sure you don’t spend money you don’t have by keeping money in each envelope (no red bars and Available positive or 0).
When you get income, let it go into the Available slot until you refill your budget, if you can. If there are envelopes in the red, or bills coming due and not enough in their envelopes to pay them, you may need to use some Available funds—but keep in mind you’re basically borrowing from your next budget cycle to do that.
Long term, you can look back at your spending and decide whether your budget needs adjustment. If you always dip into the red in Entertainment but consistently have some money left over in Dining Out, adjust the budget a little in each envelope to better reflect your spending without changing the overall amount of money you have to start with. The total of your budget envelopes needs to be equal to or less than your total income, minus a little cushion for savings and emergencies.
At the start of the next budget cycle, you’ll use the income you’ve accumulated in Available to fill your envelopes again. You can automate this process by having a recurring Fill at regular intervals (you can have multiple Fills queued up). Choose Set for those envelopes that should start over every month (like luxury spend or groceries) and Add for things that may come along sporadically (eg car maintenance) or bills that vary from month to month.
Although you may be moving money between envelopes frequently, you should only adjust the underlying budget every quarter or so, or when you add a new bill/obligation, to better align with your spending.
A note about account transfers—any money you transfer between accounts has no bearing on your Goodbudget envelope totals. Since all that money is aggregated in Envelopes, you won’t see any changes in your daily budgeting when you do account transfers if both accounts are tracked in the app.
And that’s budgeting with Goodbudget in a very large nutshell!


So would the easiest way to start fixing all of the transfers and things coming out of that income envelope be just to delete the income envelope? All of the money in there would just go into available? But what would happen with all of the transfers from that envelope to my bill accounts that were considered the “fills” would that also go back into available? I have restarted so many times with GB and at this point I just want to slowly fix it because it is almost gotten to where I want to give up on it, I have put a lot of time thus far and I really don’t want to give up but it seems I just cant get it working right for me. The main reason I wanted to do it is to pinpoint exactly what and where we can put towards our debts.

IMO yes.


Old transactions remain where they are, they are just tied to an envelope that doesn’t exist anymore. You will still see them in your transaction history, but the envelope will be named something like “DELETED: Envelope Name”

I understand. Our first few years of using GB I restarted several times. It’s been kind of a dance as I tweak it to more closely work how I work, but also as I tweak my processes to more closely work how it works. I used to manage several dozens of envelopes to have a very fine-grained view of my budget. I have also developed some advanced trickery that we won’t get into here because it will just complicate things.

Always keep the “Cash and Envelopes” model in mind. Imagine all your money is a pile of cash, and your budget is a collection of envelopes. At the start of your budget all your cash is Available and all your envelopes are empty. Then you start stuffing money into envelopes to reserve it for various purposes. Anything not reserved in an envelope remains Available. When you pay for something, you take the money out of the relevant envelope and spend it. When you receive cash, it goes in your pile until you stuff it in envelopes. Every dollar you possess is either allocated to an envelope or not allocated to any envelope (i.e. ‘Available’ used to be called ‘Unallocated’).

From there, it’s just a matter of treating your “pile of cash” as a virtual pile made up of all the places you keep your money. These are your accounts. I have: Savings, Checking, PayPal, Wallet Cash and Safe Cash. That’s everywhere I have money tucked away that can be spent day to day.

FWIW I stopped using debt accounts a long time ago even though I still have a few debts. I didn’t like the complication they add to the system. I just keep track of my debt balances on a spreadsheet and treat the payments as regular monthly expenses.

If you’ve ever taken any kind of Accounting class, recall the fundamental accounting equation:

Assets = Liabilities + Equity

In GB terms, this is:

Accounts = Envelopes + Available

Everything you do in GB affects accounts and envelopes in such a way as to keep this equation true. Income adds the same amount to Accounts and Available. Expenses subtract the same amount from Accounts and Envelopes. Fills subtract from Available and add to Envelopes. Transfers just move money around within Accounts or within Envelopes. GB assists with the accounting by automatically adjusting Available for you so you can never cause the equation to become unequal. It also provides certain combinations of actions, such as combining an Income with a Fill.

Envelopes and Available are just your plan for how to use your money, and you can do something nuts like Fill an envelope with a million dollars. GB won’t care and will simply make your Available negative million to keep everything balanced. This is why Accounts are there, they represent reality. How much money you actually have and where it is sitting, regardless of what you plan to spend or where you plan to spend it.


Here’s my two cents… hang in there! All the struggles you’re going through to figure out GB and budgeting will better help you manage your finances in the long run. Try to understand the principles of budgeting and GB (the envelope system) which has been explained very well in this thread. When you understand the principles you’ll be able to “tweak” GB to fit what makes the most sense to you. From being on this forum for years, along with Tiffany and kschedler, I can tell you all three of us do not use GB in the exact same way, but we all are managing our funds in such a way that we know where we stand, we are on top of paying our bills, and saving for our future.

So don’t feel like you HAVE to do exactly what another is doing, but understand the principles and then give yourself the freedom to use GB in a way that best fits you.



I think you are dealing with some confusion regarding your budgeting process. When importing transactions it is best to import from your latest statement to ensure you have the most recent data. For your biweekly budget you should start from the most recent paycheck date (7/4/24) and track transactions going forward. If you import transactions that include dates before 7/4/24 it might mix old and new expenses making your envelopes inaccurate. Focus on syncing your budget with your latest paycheck and regularly updating it to maintain accuracy.


This right here is a perfect description of what I was aiming for all along with the debt tracker as a bonus.

I do not want to track my overall spending, I want to know what we have left after each paycheck. Specifically to see what I can put towards our debts. So if I get my budget correct down to the penny from the money we already have in accounts plus the paycheck from today (we actually got paid today) lets say I have $500 left total until the next check. I want to split that up accordingly between savings, debt payoff, and spending. But because of transactions prior it is throwing my whole idea off, I have no idea how to get it coordinated correctly. If I were to start tracking money from the check from today, and only those transactions, it wouldn’t be accurate because there was money in the accounts when the check hit the account.

Ok, if I was going to restart everything from today, here is what I would do.

Go into my bank accounts and get the account balances after the last transaction that posted yesterday. Ignore any pending transactions/holds.

Edit my accounts in GB to match the bank. This is the “money in the accounts” you refer to.

Allocate anything in Available to envelopes until Available is zero.

Now your GB balances are in alignment with your bank balances, and all your money is allocated to envelopes.

Now create a Fill using today’s income and spread it around to your envelopes as you desire.

Now enter today’s expenses, including any pending transactions/holds at the bank which have not posted yet. When they post they will subtract from today’s starting balance, even if you spent the money a couple of days ago.

Don’t forget to include anything you’ve spent that hasn’t hit the bank yet, like credit card payments or online bills that WILL come to your bank but haven’t yet. They should all be treated like Pending transactions if you do it this way.