YNAB doesn't carry forward negative balances and this screws up everything

I've been using YNAB since their version 4 Desktop App days, and quite frankly the Desktop App is still my favorite. I have an almost constant problem with the web app version because it will not carry forward negative balances, and this screws up all my tracking.

Yes, yes, I'm well aware of YNABs rules and why they think this is a "feature" but it's not. It's a limitation that doesn't allow one to properly account for reality.

Just about every month, at the end of the month, various bills are due, and when those bills are deducted from the account can vary by a few days, and I don't have any control over this.

Sometimes a bill will be deducted on the 31st but then the next month, it might happen on the 1st. My lease payment is particularly fickle in this regard, but without going into all my personal finances, suffice to say I have a handful of bills for which it is normal for the bill to be withdrawn by autopay either on the last day of the month or the first day of the next.

The problem arises when a bill is taken on the 1st day of the month but then again on last day of the same month. That causes the budget in question to be overdrawn, with a negative balance.

If I don't catch this, YNAB rolls over to the next month, and suddenly none of my numbers make sense. The money listed as available is less than it should be, and....well I this plagued me for months until I realized what was going on, and now I know that after the first of the month I have to go back and change the dates of a hand full of transactions to make this work. This is very frustrating.

There are other realities of life that cause negative balances to occur as well, such as needing food for the weekend, but the months budget is spent, but the weekend is next month, but you have to buy the food today. Again the budget gets into a negative and I have to go manual edit the date to fudge things to balance out.

THIS SHOULD NOT BE NECESSARY. Simply rolling over the negative balance into the balance of the budget in the new month should be normal behavior. This is why we are all a month ahead in our budgets. It allows things to be seamlessly transition from month to month. The desktop app did this correctly. The web app does not and so causes the end of each month to be a constant hassle instead of a seamless transition.

I'm posting here because I have reported this issue multiple times via YNAB support and have been politely ignored by support telling me this lack of functionality is a deliberate feature.

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  • Green Piranha said:
    I just want the money I saved for tires, oil, etc to stay in those categories

    The potential problem is that you used some of that money to fix the bike, and you don't have it at the moment. And yet, you're pretending you do in your plan.

    This error is probably fine if the missing money is a small fraction of total remaining cash. It's a serious problem when that is not true. YNAB chooses to play the conservative card and tries to get you to adjust the plan because not doing so would be a problem for the majority of their target market.

    The truth if the matter is you are not 2 months ahead immediately following a crash. If this doesn't happen a lot, it can be convenient to ignore this. If it does, though, it really is less effort to stop fighting YNAB.

  • Brandon I totally agree. I tried to switch from v4 to "new" YNAB the second time and it simply is not possible. There are two main reasons:

    1) Negative category budget is not possible anymore and it totally kills my import of about 5 years of budgeting. Bad things happen and I want to see, where my negative budgets are and I want to deal with it correctly. That means going on in the next month and eliminate some part of the negative while planning the rest of my categories like they need to. Yes, this is dept, and YNAB was always the best way to deal with it correctly. Paying the one negative category with money from something else is totally wrong in my opinion, because it hides the problems or moves them to another place.
    Not having this possibility anymore and not respecting my way by not taking the budget as is when switching to web-based version ist already a blocking point.

    For me, the "make a fresh start" answer is nothing more like "we screwed it up, so we make our problem yours". 

    2) Web-based YNAB is a pain. It is slow at first, I don't like it. It needs to save my data on nab server, which I don't like, too. Native applications are very much faster than anything running in the browser.
    I tried to get the good old view of a few months side by side, but I couldn't find it.

    Switching some months back and forth ist slow as hell, it kills productivity. 

    It's very sad to have to look for something else, especially because v4 works perfectly for me but there is no support anymore and it is just a matter off time, that somethings brakes with next iOS or macOS updates. Using the 32/64 Bit hack will just move the inevitable a bit forward.

    In the end all I would like to see is a v4 based native 64bit solution with iCloud support to eliminate Dropbox, that's it.

    Like 3
    • Spring Green Pegasus This 100%

  • The reality is YNAB is choosing ideology over more subscribers. I'm not a huge fan of the web based YNAB 5 but I'd subscribe in an instant if negative carryover existed just because YNAB 4 is getting to be more and more of a pain to use. Sadly, like many others in this thread if I'm going to loose 5+ years of budget history and have to completely rework how we use our budget categories I might as well switch to some other company.

      • WordTenor
      • I'm the oldest and the wittiest.
      • WordTenor
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Eric_D nYNAB has tens if not hundreds of times the number of subscribers as YNAB 4. Something to keep in kind any time any of us want to go “They should listen to us or else!” 

      • Eric_D
      • Eric_D
      • 1 mth ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      WordTenor Oh I get that, I'm a software developer as well and we constantly make X vs Y vs available time decisions.

      What bothers me about this thread is that the reason given for not supporting  negative carry-forward is "you're holding it wrong" not "that feature just isn't important enough to justify the cost of implementation". The result is a bunch of people that relied on this feature from YNAB 4 feeling like they are being talked down to or discounted.

      A great answer fro YNAB support wouldn't focus on "You're doing it wrong" because for many of us a negative carry-forward works really well for our financial management approach. It would say "we only support fully reconciled budget categories, I'm sorry if that doesn't work for you."

      Like 2
      • Herman
      • herman
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Eric_D I've tried repeatedly telling people that "yes your method works for you but no, that's not what ynab wants to offer so you should look for something else" and that doesn't seem to change the ad nauseum calls for something different and the neverending explanations of why ynab should change and the empty threats to go elsewhere.

    • Eric_D    You're a software developer? 

      I see a lot of people on here who feel like I do, Create something that we want and we'll ditch YNAB and use yours.  I really like the YNAB interface, just make the negative budget, make funds you'll be receiving for the month available, show a year's worth of budgeting activity summary (like the YNAB4)  I liked looking at that and seeing months where I was more successfull, etc.    It's obvious to me now after going through these that their answer is "education" to doing it their way.  I love that they provide that, teach another method, but seeing that many of us think similarly maybe an option to turn that feature on would be beneficial for us --> the CUSTOMER of a software app, I really don't want to be paying for a "financial class".  I've already done that.

      Like 1
  • TheMadTurtle said:
    We don't simply keep going negative.  We hold ourselves accountable to paying ourselves back.  

    Instead of fluctuating between, say, $200 and -$50, why not make the one-time adjustment so you fluctuate between $250 and $0?

    Like 3
  • TheMadTurtle said:
    I have a fund "rainy day" that I'll take this money from and keep track in Excel of which envelopes took money from there.

    Why not just keep track of this in the notes of your rainy day category? Why the need for an external tool to track this? I'd want it all in one place if I was going to do it this way.

    Like 1
      • Annieland
      • YNABbing every day since 2009!
      • Annieland
      • 1 mth ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Superbone This, definitely. After receiving some inheritance money this summer I beefed up my true and new expenses. I had some left over without a plan, and decided to budget a little from it each month for a vacation, unless something unexpected happened.  And each time something has, I wrote a note. Took $500 out for a medical deposit not covered by insurance. -1700 for vet emergency that went beyond my category savings, -$600 for poor Christmas gift planning.  I’d really like to at least replace that $600 but if I can’t, I can’t. My budget is still accurate. 

      Since the red arrow is basically taking a loan from yourself, is it possible to make an on budget CC account for it? Maybe if CC’s are checking accounts?  I dunno, I’m not good at visualizing this stuff. 

      Like 1
  • dakinemaui said:
    It's also a bit of a faff to record since the Payee field is occupied with the Transfer instructions. However, this is the approach I personally use as well. My spouse, OTOH, prefers the category approach for more "traditional" transaction entry.

    This is the biggest issue I have with this approach and why I can't use nYNAB. I have expenses that expand into the thousands of dollars and cross months, and I have to have awareness of the payee. Losing the Payee information by transferring is a show-stopper, and if I have to manually note each payee, that's the point where I say to myself, "Why am I leaving a perfectly functional YNAB4 behind to jump through silly hoops?" I want to use the new one, I really do. I want to give them my subscription money, I really do (a lil' sarcasm in this one). But, I can't make it work.

    • Pink Piccolo You could use the category approach with an offset category. Works for friends/family, but perhaps not large expenses (e.g., for work).

      You can also use it without funding the category and search for the category to get the pending total.

      I get voting with your wallet, though.

  • Pink Piccolo said:
    Losing the Payee information by transferring is a show-stopper, and if I have to manually note each payee

    Pink Piccolo There is nothing to stop you adding the Payee in the Payee field then adding the transfer as a split transaction, this gives you the best of both worlds.

    • iwaddo Okay, that's interesting. I'm still not completely sure how to handle things when the reimbursement comes in. Do I allot the reimbursement amount to the category in the account where it was actually spent, then transfer the expense back to that account and category as well?

      • iwaddo
      • iwaddo77
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Pink Piccolo I have an Expense Account as a placeholder for the reimbursable expense.  When I incur the expense I add a transfer transaction that the transfers the amount from the account that I paid from, say my credit card, to the Expense Account.

      When I get reimbursed I add a transaction that transfers the amount from the Expense Account back to the account into which the reimbursement is made. This is often my current account.

      No categories involved at all. No impact to my budget. No impact to my reporting.

      If you want to record the Payee then I use a split transaction with the correct Payee and the Transfer as the only line of the split. I do this for both the expense and the reimbursement.

      I hope this helps.

    • iwaddo So the money someone owes you shows up as a POSITIVE balance in the expense account rather than negative, so it will carry forward? I think I'm following and that could work for me. Because I want YNAB to "remember" the reimbursement for me so I don't have to. Some of the other workarounds that require manual effort still require me to remember it!

  • I'm glad to get some ideas to work around the reimburseable expense issue but it would be WAY easier and more clear if we could just carry forward negative balances! It should be a feature you should select for specific line items (ie, reimbursable expenses category). Ugh. 

    • Tomato Colt The side effect is the money you have available in *other* categories is no longer clear.

  • Attention YNAB: Please allow the option to carry over a negative balance in a category! Our state (Alaska) offers a generous reimbursement program for homeschoolers.  However, it often takes a couple weeks and sometimes more for reimbursement requests to be processed and deposited into our bank account. Furthermore, we allow expenses to accumulate before processing a reimbursement request so that we are not always nickle and diming our poor homeschool administrator. Since YNAB zeros the homeschool category each month, our budget does not reflect the accumulated expenses beyond for that month. It may be a few months after an expense that the reimbursement check arrives.

  • Navy Blue Elk said:
    our budget does not reflect the accumulated expenses

    Correct. The budget is the plan for future expenses. 

    Have you looked at the recommended approaches, specifically the offset category (budgeting for the expense up front)? The reality is that money is gone, and if you have enough cash on-budget to implicitly rob categories -- as is the case with a negative balance -- then you have enough to explicitly offset the category (cover the expense).

    OTOH, if cash is too tight to allow you to plan that way, then it would be quite risky to run a negative category (again, missing money). In which case, I'd recommend the temporary debt approach, also described at that link.

    Like 4
  • Wow, this thread! I find it very interesting how different people view YNAB. I've noticed a few points come up that I have to admit I'm a little confused about.

    My husband and I use our credit card for the rewards and the miles. I have a goal set on my credit cards to pay them off monthly. My credit card category shows yellow in every month I don't fund that goal. When I see the yellow, I know that I have a negative balance on that card that has "carried over." If I don't set this goal, it doesn't tell me. You want it to "alert" you, you have to set this goal.

    Next, lots of people mad about negative balances within categories... Haven't you noticed that if you had negative balances from the previous month and no money TBB, that your TBB is in the red the next month? This is if you made those purchases using debit. If you used a credit card, but don't have a goal set to pay it off it looks like that responsibility disappeared.

    With the reimbursement issue, what would happen if you entered that transaction in a future date? Wouldn't it reflect on your budget? I tried it. I added a future transaction for income and in that month the upcoming transactions showed a positive amount. The category did not show yellow because it knows that I will be getting funds for those transactions. Then when the transaction hits, that category will show green and I can leave it there or move it to another spot.

    When I learned that I could input all my scheduled expenses it completely changed how I budgeted. I am now aware of all the yellow spots where I need to fund bills. If I overspent in a previous month, that carries over. It reflects that I will have more to fund in that category that month because I stole from the future. The negative balance doesn't carry over visually the same way because YNAB looks at all your assets combined. If you used a credit card to pay for that reimbursed expense, then you have to make a goal on that credit card to show what you owe. When you get that reimbursement, that money is actually going to your CC payment and not to the original category. Leaving the negative balance doesn't make sense to me if you're using a checking account. If it's paid for then that money came from somewhere and your budget should reflect that movement.

    I used YNAB4 years ago and could not wrap my head around it. Every month showed red because back then we used credit cards to pay for everything and couldn't fund them. In the new version, I appreciate how I can acknowledge my debt without it completely impacting all my categories. With the old version, it looked like I never had any money, ever. I came back to YNAB after the update and everything clicked. I lack the experience to empathize with those that got used to this formatting. So far, I haven't found any issue with the current version that there isn't actually a method for. What's wrong about embracing a new method if it gets you to the same place?

    Like 3
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