Merging categories

What's the easiest way to merge categories? YNAB's "help" notes has a section on "delete/merge categories", but it doesn't say anything about merging. This suggests to me that the only way to do it is (if, e.g., merging two categories) to rename one of the categories to a combined one and delete the other, which seems clumsy to me.

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  • I believe if you ask to delete a category that has transactions in it, you'll be asked to choose another category to assign those transactions to. If there are no transactions in a given category, the category will be deleted. Hence, the "delete/merge categories" is essentially one action.

    Like 5
  • Thanks. I've just tried it, and that's exactly what happens. Perhaps the "help" authors could add this to the appropriate section?

  • Hey, I've done this, but suddenly the merged category is in minus and TBB is increased by some amount. How I'm supposed to continue with this?

    • Tom Sharky 

      When you delete a category that has previous information in it, two things happen:

      1) You are asked to choose a new category for the existing transactions (Uncategorized is an option).
      2) Any money budgeted to the deleted category (in all months) is sent back to To be Budgeted. 

      Just a little side note here - if you're finding your To Be Budgeted balance doesn't seem to reflect the amount that had been budgeted towards the deleted category, check for red overspending alerts in previous months. That can impact the To Be Budgeted, making it reflect a balance you weren't quite expecting.

      To clean up your budget after the deletion, go back and budget money to the new category you assigned in Step 1 above. That will keep everything in line!

    • Faness Thanks, this works like a charm. However, there are overspend numbers in that category in the past budget months, but for some reason it doesn't influence current TBB (hopefully :) ) Any idea how to solve it in past? It shows since Sept.

    • Hi Tom Sharky !

      I hope you don't mind me stepping in for Faness here. 😄

      As you mentioned, your To be Budgeted in the current month has increased. The funds you had previously allocated to the deleted category were sent to To be Budgeted when the category was deleted.

      You'll want to budget that money to the new category you created in September, to cover the overspending.

      Go through each month starting in September, and re-assign those To be Budgeted dollars to the new category that you created. When you get to the current month, your To be Budgeted should be back to $0.00.

  • If deleting a category moves all transactions to another category wouldn't it make sense to move all budgeted money to that category as well instead of moving it to TBB? If I move all transactions from a deleted budget to Uncategorized, then sure, moving the previously budgeted money to TBB would make sense but not if all those transactions are being moved to a specific category. Or am I missing something?

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      • Rhubarb314159
      • YNAB-enthusiast
      • rhubarb314159
      • 1 yr ago
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      • Reported - view

      Jesse Novotny Exactly! This point is being raised all over the forums. There needs to be a "Merge" feature that merges budgeted funds into the no category as well as the transactions. Faness and Nicole keep missing this point for some reason, here and elsewhere on the forums. Don't understand why.

      Like 2
    • Jesse Novotny Sorry for the delayed response here! You can submit a Feature Request to let our Product Know how you'd like to see this function behave. :)

  • I was also looking for the merge category / combine categories feature and surprised it doesn't exist... Seems like it would be a common feature just like the merge payee feature.

    What I'd like to do is combine groceries and dining out into one category named "food", since about the only time my wife and I pickup, order delivery or go to a restaurant is in lieu of eating in with groceries.

    It might be useful to do it as well for shelter, transportation, etc.

    So, if I'm understanding this correctly, what I'd need to do currently is create a category named food, then delete the one named groceries and assign those to food, then delete dining out and assign to food correct?

    • Silver Inspector That's correct for the transactions. The problem is the budget will be messed up in past months. The money in the deleted category is moved to TBB instead of the destination/merged category, resulting in overspending.

      At a minimum, make TBB $0 and take note of the CC Payment categories before the merge. Adjust payment category budget values to restore those afterward, and put anything left in TBB into the destination category. The budget will be correct moving forward, but there will still be overspending throughout the past. (It can be ignored.)

      Alternatively, you can spend a lot more time manually reallocating funds between old and new categories in all past months before merging transactions. The CC Payment categories will take care of themselves.

      Then write a Feature Request to YNAB telling them YNAB should do this reallocation. It makes absolutely zero sense to merge in the accounts without merging in the budget.

      Like 3
  • My municipality has combined the water (previously every other month)  and electric bills into one monthly bill.  I thought it would be simple to merge the categories, but apparently NOT.  No way am I going to go back months and try to patch together the budget havoc that deleting a category apparently creates.  Since the Payee is new, I'm going to enter the transaction as a split and just move on.  Only happens once a month, so sounds like a lot less work.  Hopefully the developers will put this feature in an update soon.

    Like 1
  • If you would like to advocate for a "Merge Categories" function (as I would). Please submit a Feature Request for one. I just did myself.


    To sum up this thread so far: YNAB users are trying to "Merge categories", but all we have is a "Delete Category" option, that 1/2 deletes and 1/2 merges. "Delete Category" deletes budgeting history for a category (returning budgeted funds to TBB), but merges transactions with another category that the user selects. 

    Work-arounds to this issue require reports to be less representative of past spending trends (hiding the category), or a lot of work adjusting past month's budgets one a time (I like keeping my budget history available and accurate, and it is 36 months long).

    Thanks everyone!

    Like 4
    • Orange Saxophone nailed it. It’s such an obvious design flaw, I’d actually characterize it as a bug which makes deleting a category useless if it has a decent transaction history

      Like 4
  • Is the option to move things to another category on deletion only works on web app? Or does iOS app work too?

    • Quang On iOS, when you choose to delete a category, all transactions in that category will become uncategorized, and all budgeted funds will return to To be Budgeted.

      In most cases, we recommend hiding categories rather than deleting them! That said, if you want to go ahead with deletion, I'd recommend doing so in the web app, where you'll be prompted to re-categorize those transactions. Let me know if you have other questions about this! 

      Like 1
  • It's been a while since this question was posted.
    I wanted to cleanup my budget and merge some categories together.

    It looks to me like YNAB did a nice job and we can now merge two categories by deleting a category and selecting the new category.
    It will move all existing transactions to the new category and also move the budgeted amount for past and future budgets. Just like you would expect. It worked perfectly for me.


    I've done it from the browser app and it worked flawlessly.

    Like 2
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