Monthly set budgets have suddenly disappeared

Hi— When we set up YNAB we entered our set monthly budgets for things like the mortgage or mobile phone charges, which do not change month to month. This month, most of those categories are shown appear as "budgeted $0.00".

What's more perplexing is that our mobile phone charges, which was paid in full last week is showing 'available' funds, although it should be $0.00.

Does YNAB not use set budgets? Why would some show available funds if we've used up that set budget? 

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  • You have to budget every month.  There are no set budgets.  You can set goals and enter recurring transactions and then use the quick budget feature which will account for this.  I recommend you attend one of the free YNAB classes as this is a fundamental part of using YNAB which you do not understand correctly. 

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  • This is definitely not making any sense to us, and unsure about having to take a class to use some software...

    So, paying one's mortgage is a 'goal' but not a budget?

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      • jenmas
      • jenmas
      • 4 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Orchid Mill why are you against taking a class? YNAB is a methodology and the software is to support the methodology. Most people have never budgeted using a methodology similar to YNAB, so it makes total sense that you need some training. The classes will at least help you get the vocabulary down.

      Budgeted amounts (left column) do not carry over month to month. Positive category available balances (right column) do carry over. Depending on the type of goal you use, that may or may not carry over (I do not use goals at all; they are completely optional).

      Mortgage is a category not a budget. You fund it by allocating some of your TBB to the left column. You could use a goal to help you do it. Or manual entry. Or Quick Budget options.

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      • Bruce
      • Software Engineer
      • Bruce
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Orchid Mill No, paying one's mortgage can be done without the use of a goal.  Some people don't use goals at all, but even if you do, it's mostly just a reminder of how much you want to budget in a given month.

      If your mortgage is due every month (which I think is safe to assume it is)  then each month (before it's due) you need to budget the amount that is due into the category of Mortgage.  Then, when the payment goes through, and the transaction is set as outflow, using the category of Mortgage, the Available column will be reduced, and reflect $0.00.

      Next month, do the same thing, budget for the Mortgage.  Then pay the mortgage.  Same for all categories, but I used Mortgage since that's the specific category you asked about.

      For an example of a category accumulating over time, say you put $50.00 each month into clothing.  This month you spent $20 dollars in clothing, so when next month rolls around it will show that there is $30 available.  Now you put in $50 again, and available will now show $80.00.  You don't purchase clothes that month, and the next month you add another $50.  Now you've got $130 and can afford to pick up those nice new running shoes you've been admiring.

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    • jenmas Thanks for the assistance. While I very much appreciate that YNAB is a distinct methodology, as a software designer myself, I believe that well-designed software should be learnable without formal training. I'm just not finding the way YNAB is designed—as a tool—to be effective in teaching the methodology. I'd argue if one needs to take formal training to understand the software, that's a sign it could use a better design.

      Still trying to learn it though!

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    • Bruce We want to understand where we are against a pre-set budget on any given week, or month for a category.  For instance, we'd like to track how much we've spent for 'video games' in a given month against the maximum we want to spend for 'video games'.

      We like that we can cover any extra spending for 'video games' by moving budget from 'newspapers', but—at least we've thought—that suggests a set budget for these categories, rather than keeping track of spending against the total household budget, which perhaps YNAB is more focused on.

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    • Orchid Mill Can 'goals' be set up to warn us if we're approaching our "video game goal"? 

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      • Bruce
      • Software Engineer
      • Bruce
      • 4 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Orchid Mill The amount available to spend on any given category is in the Available column (right column of budget)  So if you have $20 in  the available column of your video game category, and you want to purchase a $50.00 game, you know right away, before even purchasing it, that you can't afford it.  Wait until next month, when you've added more money.

      However if you desperately need that game, you might think to yourself, "Hmmm...  I don't really need those running shoes, I guess I could pull some money from Clothing to cover the cost of this game" Then move the money, and make the purchase.  Now you see that you have less money available for clothes, and nothing left for video games for the rest of the month.

      And keeping track of how much yo've spent in a category for the month is exactly how it works.  You budget your maximum/average/monthly allowable amount into each category.  Then just looking at the available column, you see where you are for each category.

      If I have a $50.00 electricity bill each month, and it gets paid on the 30th, then I budget $50.00 towards that, and  the available column will show me that I have $50.00 available in that category right up until the 30th, when the check clears, and the $50.00 becomes $0.00 available.

      Same for snacks.  you've got $20 for snacks, you decide to spend $2.00 on a candy bar.  Now,  just by looking at your available column, you see that you have $18 left for snacks this month.

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      • Bruce
      • Software Engineer
      • Bruce
      • 4 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Orchid Mill Goals are used to remind yourself how much you want to budget for a given category.  Or can be used to make a calculation if you want to budget $X.XX by a given date, it will calculate how much you need to budget each month to reach that goal.

      The video game goal could be $30.00 / month.  That means you'd budget $30.00 per month.  Looking at the Available column of your budget will tell you how close you are to approaching the goal...  The closer to 0 the number gets, the closer you are to having spent your limit.

      Like 1
  • Orchid Mill said:
    So, paying one's mortgage is a 'goal' but not a budget?

     Goals can be set on each category in order to plan but I also use them to make my MONTHLY budget meeting super fast. 

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  • Orchid Mill said:
    For instance, we'd like to track how much we've spent for 'video games' in a given month against the maximum we want to spend for 'video games'

     In order to do this you must first budget aka allocate some of the money you have in your accounts to buying video games. If you want to set the same amount every month, you can set a funding goal and then select all categories and then quick budget. 

    I suggested a class because I find that a lot of the written material on here can be overwhelming. Because you don't know what you don't know so its hard to find an answer.  The classes are the quickest (laziest) way to figure this out. And they are FREE.

    YNAB uses a very different philosophy to budgeting than you are familiar with.  And to quote a radio commercial I hear every day "If you could do it yourself, you would have done it already". 

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  • Orchid Mill said:
    I believe that well-designed software should be learnable without formal training.

     Spoken like a software designer (kidding you!).  I am an accountant and YNAB does not function in any way that I would expect money software to work. There are no debits and credits.  So I would recommend you first read the 4 rules.  Because as others have said, YNAB is a philosophy first. The software is a tool.  Let's say you design software for air traffic controllers. The software can be easy and intuitive but if I don't understand that the point is to keep the planes away from each other while simultaneously keeping all the planes moving, the usability of the software is irrelevant.

    I will lay it out here.

    You start with a pile of money. This is all the money you have in all the accounts anywhere (at the beginning most people leave out the investment accounts for simplicity). (In YNAB we don't care if the money is in a saving account or a chequing account. The money and the budget are 2 separate entities.)

    Question - what are you going to use this money for? This is the budget.  And although every month can be very similar, every month is not exactly the same.

    If you are lazy  efficient like me, you will have entered all the recurring transactions in their respective accounts. For things that don't have a specific recurring amount but are probably) the same every single month (like groceries), I use a funding goal.  Lets stop there with the goals for now.

    Once you have that done, you can quick budget everything.  This is where I like to work on the web app because you just click the selection box and all categories are selected. Then on the right is a quick budget option. Select that. Ta Da.  Budget done (sort of). You can do it on the mobile app by clicking the lightning bolt but I don't like doing it that way. Less control.

    At this point the amount in To Be Budgeted (TBB) will be either red or green. 

    I'll start with red (because that is where mine usually is..  That means I have to reduce the amount budgeted to one of the categories. And keep doing this until TBB is $0.  You are done. 

    If the TBB is green, well here you have some choices. Are there categories you haven't set up with goals/recurring transactions? Maybe you realize this month is my birthday and you want to send me a gift (you shouldn't have).  maybe you have a monthly budget amount of $30 for gifts and there is $20 left over from last month. You have $50 available.  But you want to get me a $100 Starbucks card. You can change the budget to $80 and then you have $100 to spend.  Maybe everything is already covered. Great, now we can get a month ahead.  There are a couple of ways to do this but what I do is I have a month ahead category and I drop the amount left in TBB there.  Then next month I zero out that category back to TBB to have my money to budget.

     

    I will just say (as someone who tried YNAB and gave up years ago before giving it another try), if you don't get your head around these basic concepts and stop trying to force YNAB to be what you want it be, then you will struggle and end up hating YNAB and quitting because there are a whole bunch of other unique features of YNAB not even touched on here in this post.  And if you want a recurring "every month the same" budget to keep track of spending, I would say that Excel will do that better than YNAB. But if you want a tool that will help change your financial life, than YNAB is the way to go. But you have to do the work.

    Like 5
  • @mxmom —  Many thanks for the helpful info. I'll keep at it, although I certainly hope home finance is easier than landing a swarm of airplanes! 

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      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 4 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Orchid Mill There may be a learning curve but it’s actually quite simple once you get it. And it’s life-changing, I might add. Well worth the investment.

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  • Orchid Mill said:
    While I very much appreciate that YNAB is a distinct methodology, as a software designer myself, I believe that well-designed software should be learnable without formal training.

     This is an impossible standard. The problem is that people start using the software while bringing in their own expectations, and you just can't defeat those with software alone. If you don't understand the method, you won't be able to use the software effectively. And the method requires education and a bit of mental retraining.

    Like 6
  • While one can cut down a tree with a chainsaw, it works far more efficiently if you start it first and use it properly. Without instruction, you're going to have a rough go of it.

    There's just too much information to put it directly on the user interface, and once you learn it, you wouldn't want it there either cluttering up the screen. So that information goes on the web pages. They work in concert.

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