Amazon and Budgeting

I've been using YNAB since March. What I'm really struggling with, more than anything, is Amazon (other retailers too, but Amazon is the frequent offender) is how they slice up your order into different transactions and wait until the order ships. It never aligns. Every time I'm having to dig into our order history to figure out what budget category is what. 

We use it randomly enough that an "Amazon" category is meaningless and hard to predict. A book one week and hard to find food the next. With the covid interruptions one package out of 3 from an order can take 3 weeks sometimes before it hits our account.  

Any ideas or suggestions? I like to input the transactions after we make them, to make sure we don't overspend. It is far too easy to forget about a purchase when it takes this long to bill, so waiting for it to post is out. Or is it my luck to have started YNAB'ing during a pandemic with longer ship times?

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  • It sounds like you are making purchases using a credit card. Amazon is pretty random with that.

    What other payment options do you have?

    Over here we use something called iDeal, which means that Amazon has to charge your account immediately. Using that I have no trouble entering the proper transaction into YNAB.

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  • I don't have an Amazon category personally. I categorize my Amazon transactions throughout my budget by what sort of product I bought (like House supplies, Groceries, or Books). Lately since the transactions have taken longer to sync, I have been manually entering them first one by one, and under the Memo field, I'll type in what product I bought so I can remember later. If you input the right payee, YNAB should match up the transactions next time they import. You might still have to double-check in case there are duplicates.

    If you want to track your Amazon spending over time in your budget, you could try creating an Amazon category group, and then assigning categories under that like Books, Food, etc. Hope this helps!

    Like 1
  • Spring Green Lobster said:
    We use it randomly enough that an "Amazon" category is meaningless

    "Amazon" is a store, which isn't a great category in which to plan spending. Categories should map to what you're buying. For example, Groceries, Electronics, Household Goods, Hobbies, Personal/Beauty, etc.

    Like 3
    • dakinemaui I've heard that is how some people handle it. Doesn't work for me though!

      My issue is that Amazon isn't transparent in how they will break down the order, and with covid it is getting worse. Makes it hard to actually budget. 

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  • As far as dealing with the multiple transactions per order, I sidestep the issue by using my gift balance. More details here:

    Easiest Way To Consolidate Amazon Transactions - Tips & Tricks - YNAB Support Forum

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  • Spring Green Lobster said:
    Makes it hard to actually budget.

    It shouldn't impact budgeting whatsoever. It does, however, complicate the transactions.

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    • dakinemaui Yes it does. If I have $100 to spend, spend $25 of but it takes 2-3 weeks to hit my account, I may have forgotten I spent the money in the mean time and spent it again before it shows up as a imported transaction.  If I'm proactive and create the transaction immediately, Amazon's splitting won't reconcile and I'm stuck going back 2-3 weeks to align. Rock and a hard place. 

      I could purchase things individually by budget category, Sounds like the gift card thing is an idea, may look into to that.

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      • nolesrule
      • YNAB4 Evangelist
      • nolesrule
      • 3 mths ago
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      Spring Green Lobster Manually enter the transaction at the time of purchase. Then adjust it as the charges post. Or you the gift card method.

      That's why it doesn't matter to your budget.

      Like 4
    • nolesrule My husband makes most of the purchases and doesn't tell me. If it's his budget category, like clothing, he shouldn't need to clear it with me. The account is in his name so I get no emails, just chargers I need to figure out.

      Trying to work out options. 

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      • nolesrule
      • YNAB4 Evangelist
      • nolesrule
      • 3 mths ago
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      Spring Green Lobster He can either tell you what he got or he can enter it himself. It's especially important when there can be a delay between the authorization and the capture to enter the spending at the time of purchase.

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      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 3 mths ago
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      Spring Green Lobster said:
      If I'm proactive and create the transaction immediately, Amazon's splitting won't reconcile

      The link I gave above fixes this problem.

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  • Spring Green Lobster said:
    it takes 2-3 weeks to hit my account

    That's why manual entry is the recommended entry method and Import is supposed to be a backup. It's a communication issue, really. Either husband enters it when that money is committed (i.e., click Buy in the cart), or forwards the email confirmation to you or just tells you about it or texts you or whatever.

    Sure, if it's his category, there's no need for you to deal with it, but it sounds like that's not always the case. I would think he would want it entered immediately even then, though, since HE could forget about it and make another purchase thinking money was available that really wasn't.

    Most email clients have a feature where you can define "rules". He could make one that just forwards all amazon order confirmations to you. Nothing extra for him to do -- or remember.

    Like 2
  • I have the exact same issue. I'm not willing to use a prepaid card, or keep an "Amazon" category as it's too haphazard- we buy everything from tech to home goods to food on Amazon. I want to know the exact charge, when it posts and what exact item(s) that charge is tied to, so that I can attribute it to the right category in YNAB. To be clear, this is an Amazon transparency issue when they bundle charges, not a bank or YNAB issue.

    As far as I'm concerned because Amazon will post charges based on ship date, I want to make that expense happen in the month the payment posts at my bank to keep everything organized, as compared to when I actually order it. Looking at my bank statement (and therefore line-item in YNAB), logic would tell me that the ID# in the actual bank statement posted by Amazon would be available in an Amazon search, or at least by a data export- it isn't. This alphanumeric # in the bank statement/YNAB is called the Amazon Charge ID.

    I've been trying to work out a solution to see what the specific Charge ID is from Amazon (that's the 9 digits that come after the asterisk on the bank statement) and after chatting with a customer service agent, there's NO WAY to search for it in Amazon. You must call (888) 280-4331, talk to a customer service rep, and read off those digits to them to determine what exact item it was that posted on this day.

    If we want to make this more visible, ask Amazon to make their Charge ID searchable in the system, that we don't have to go through a customer service agent to find it. Thinking ahead, YNAB could even enable permission credentials through Amazon and write an API to pull it in automatically if this were the case.

    For now, if charges are bundled and I can't track down the combination of expenses on my own, I'll just have to call their toll free number as if it's 1988

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  • michaelnecker said:
    I'm not willing to use a prepaid card

    You might reconsider this stance, as that takes the easy approach off the table. It takes 30 seconds to copy the total from the cart, add that much to your Amazon Gift Card Balance, and then use the gift card for the cart order. A single transaction hits your CC; split that as desired. I doubt you can even get past the automated phone messages in 30 seconds.

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