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going into all my personal finances, suffice to say I have a handful of bills for which it is normal for the bill to be withdrawn by autopay either on the last day of the month or the first day of the next.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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  • dakinemaui said:
    even when those priorities change.

     So assume my priorities dont change.  Also assume your spend per month is jagged (most spend is).  Say that I dont want to spend more than 1,200 per year

    So back to my original question, I spent 150 for the month.  I'm required by the software to cover the 50 to keep it happy so I do.  What's the best approach to ensure one only spends 1,200 for the year?

    Like
      • Herman
      • herman
      • 3 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      mjrudolphi if you are budgeting for the year at the beginning as you previously stated then put $1200 in January and you don't have to adjust every month. 

      Like 2
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view
      mjrudolphi said:
      What's the best approach to ensure one only spends 1,200 for the year?

      You could set a Spend By Date goal, targeting 12 months out. Set this after you offset the category. Respect the suggested budget entries and "repay" any overspending by spending less moving forward. That was your original plan, right? I don't think that's a great approach (or frankly even very feasible), but again, it's your budget.

      Alternatively, just look at the monthly Average when you budget. If that's under $100, you know you're on track to success as far as that goes.

      Again, I would strongly suggest that you consider that your guess of $1200 you made months prior is very likely to be in error. You just didn't know then what you know today and one of the reasons Rule 3 exists. 

      Like
  • dakinemaui said:
    <sigh> Debt to yourself...

     Isnt yourself better than a bank?  why the sigh?

    Like
  • dakinemaui said:
    Instead of running Restaurants between $200 and -$100 (for example), you would budget an extra $100 (taken from your ample reserves) to the category so the category ranges from $300 to $0. $100 is your new "zero" -- put it in the category name for reference -- and anything less than $100 means you're "behind". When $100 isn't enough to cover things, just reallocate another $100 from reserves to Restaurants, updating the "zero" value in the category name to $200.

     That seems like a lot of work.  What if you have many categories that are jagged (basically all of mine are except for mortgage)? Would I have to do it that way for all of them?   Is there anything else I could be doing that doesnt require renaming categories and the like?  Plus I'm still confused on your process here.  How do I not over spend on a category - is it somehow linked to the changing the categories name or something?

    Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 3 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      mjrudolphi Are you really running negatives in a slew of categories that this would be onerous?? At some point, why not just own up to the fact the guesses you made way back when were simply wrong?

      mjrudolphi said:
      Is there anything else I could be doing that doesnt require renaming categories and the like?

      Off the top of my head... Stop trying to carry negatives in a tool that is explicitly designed to stop that practice? Adopt a tool that supports kicking the can down the road like that?

      Like 2
  • mjrudolphi said:
    How do I not over spend on a category

    It's all in your interpretation: you "overspend" by going below the offset amount you dialed in. However, the category is still positive, so YNAB will leave the category alone. 

    Like
  • mjrudolphi said:
    So assume my priorities dont change.  Also assume your spend per month is jagged (most spend is).  Say that I dont want to spend more than 1,200 per year

    The fact you need to spend more than you originally guessed is SYNONYMOUS with a change of priorities. That's what we keep trying to convince you of.

    Like
  • Herman said:
    it's a trivial effort to put fake money in your budget.  If you have 10 categories and you want to be able to go over by up to $100 8n a month without having to mess with your budget, you can add an unlinked account and put $1000 in it.  You don't have to actually take the money from anywhere, it is made up.  Now you allocate $100 to each of those categories and there you go. 

     Interesting.  Not sure I follow 100% so let me see if I understand.  I add a cash account and put money in there - say $1000 like you said.  Now I budget those dollars to the categories to keep from going over each month.  Is that right?

    Like
      • Herman
      • herman
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      mjrudolphi just an idea.  Have never done it myself but it would be easy to do.  Now you only have to worry if you go over $100

      Like
      • mjrudolphi
      • mjrudolphi
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Herman Wouldnt letting the TBB go negative be the same approach?

      Like
      • Herman
      • herman
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      mjrudolphi sure but then you have to deal with the combined issue of is tbb negative because of my spending or I made a mistake moving money etc.

      Like
  • mjrudolphi said:
    Isnt yourself better than a bank?

    Isn't no debt better than debt to yourself?

    Like 1
  • dakinemaui said:
    Isn't no debt better than debt to yourself?

     But debt to yourself is really no debt.

    Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      mjrudolphi It's pretending that you have something you don't. Not much difference in my view. Exactly the same as using a fake account.

      Like
  • mjrudolphi said:
    I only allow debt with myself.  Unfortunately I find that hard to implement with YNAB. 
    Any suggestions?

    Charge yourself high interest. That should do it.

    You've got to change the bad behavior first and foremost. YNAB discourages it and builds it into their software. They've got their work cut out with you. 😉

    Like
  • Just want to point out that, if the ultimate goal is to force you to cover any overspend, the negative balance needs to remain negative indefinitely, until such time you put funds towards it at some point in the future.  It needs to be itemized to give you information on where you need to adjust your plans. Carrying forward a positive balance while zeroing out a negative balance only serves to overstate your surplus by the overspend.

    This is especially the case when one has a net surplus at the end of the month. The overspend in one category is buried in the +0.00 overspend for the month. I can't make an informed decision on that information, or I have to dig through months of transaction history. I budget at least 12 months ahead and don't adjust unless there's a consistent pattern evidencing a need to do so. Negative balance rollover + a n itemized Budget vs. Actuals/Variance time series report gives me the information I need. If I have money piling up in one category while a different category is in constant deficit, I know to adjust. I won't rejig 2 years of budgeting for a one-off month. That's counterproductive.

    What's so wrong with providing the user with that information beyond the period in which the spending was incurred? If the idea was to force rebalancing, the transaction needs to be hard-stopped at the point of entry. Such hard stops would be a dealbreaker for me though TBH and would simply fall apart since your iPhone doesn't wait for your paycheck to clear to die.

    One more thing - budgeting is by definition forward-looking, and all entities that engage in this activity forecast both sides of their income statements. Forcing users to budget on cash on hand only distorts the information the tool gives them, and goes directly contrary to the whole point of budgeting in the first place.

    Like
      • Herman
      • herman
      • 3 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Maroon Saxophone Nothing wrong with the way you want to budget but you are using the wrong tool for the type of budgeting you want to do.  

      Like 2
  • Maroon Saxophone said:
    if the ultimate goal is to force you to cover any overspend, the negative balance needs to remain negative indefinitely,

    Not sure how you conclude that; a forever-negative balance is clearly not forcing anything. Did you miss the part where it was taken out of next month's TBB, leading to smaller budget entries next month? "Forced" might be too strong of a word, but it's a pretty effective way to get it done without kicking the can down the road indefinitely. That assumes you don't let next month's TBB go negative. (Not sure that's the case if you're budgeting 12 months ahead, but perhaps you have that much cash on hand.)

    Maroon Saxophone said:
    Forcing users to budget on cash on hand only distorts the information the tool gives them

    Can't agree with that. When my category says $200 Available, it means exactly that as long as there are no red categories (or TBB) hanging around. It's the presence of that negative balance that distorts the amount of cash that's actually available. 

    Certainly one plans with estimates of both future income and expenses, but I don't need to scatter copies of the same numbers throughout the next 12 months. Just from an efficiency viewpoint, editing a bunch of numbers on a bunch of screens when amounts/priorities change is wasted effort when I can fill in the appropriate value shortly before each month arrives.

    Maroon Saxophone said:
    Negative balance rollover + a n itemized Budget vs. Actuals/Variance time series report gives me the information I need.

    Sounds like you need a different tool. Or alternatively, a trial using the recommended practices with YNAB. They are definitely different than what your experience seems to be, but can you honestly say they are less effective if you haven't actually tried them?

    Like 2
  • Lavender Piranha said:
    The red negatives really kept me focused on weak areas.  

    Dwelling on the past doesn't do it for me. My preference is to focus on making do with less elsewhere, which is exactly what covering that overspending will promote. Make a priority-based assessment to identify where to cut back, and take steps to improve the situation. Business/personal is no different in my view.

    Like
    • dakinemaui IDK, is it dwelling on the past?  One specific example  (I can provide more if you'd like) was a vitamin line we had.  The red arrow identified a hole for me, we spent $10k to get them in, I saw sales and thought ok it's working... after a year that $10k started to get bigger, I didn't understand that.  If the budget just zeroed it out I don't think I would have identified the problem and just would have let it coast not knowing there was a problem there.  With time I realized I needed to narrow my selection down to best sellers and not necessarily try to keep a complete line thinking that's what people needed, more choices as things expired, and got replaced it offset the profits.  Instead, we focussed on the best sellers, made a smaller area, and added other products.    Are there other tools that could have helped me with this?   Yes, however, just ONE tool was working well for me for multiple things.  Eventually that $10k was no longer red and I could see how profitable it was.  When I got to $5K of surplus I quite building that category and used the left over to support other areas of the business as that $5k "envelope" now covered any large expense I'd have associated with vitamins whether that was a better display or cashing in on a special offered by the supplier, etc.

      I liked how it worked for me.   I'll continue to use ynab, I just don't like it as much as I used to.  I was really hoping with a thread like this they'd just add a setting for individuals, and I see now that won't happen, I no longer care about what reasons, I usually try to ignore this, but as emails show up and I read them I regretable respond sometimes.  For now it works, as well I'm working on my own app development and I'll leave ynab, at least this discussion thread anyways so I'm never tempted to respond and have some english teacher not understand what I say and try to rip on me.   Glad you look to the future.  My moto?  Remember the past and learn from it, Live life to the fullest, and plan for the future.  The red carryovers helped me to remember the past and learn to make better decisions in the present and plan on building a budget for the future.

      Like
      • Ceeses
      • Ceeses
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Lavender Piranha The other way to do it is to say you spent $10k at the start. Put a goal to recover this $10k in X months starting from $0 Available. If the goal is constantly not met, you know you have an issue. If the category is constantly $0 especially at the start of the month, you don't make any profit. Probably losing money. If the category is growing but less quickly than the goal would like, your profit is less than expected.

      The other thing to realise: one remembers quite well the categories they have to move money into frequently. Even if it's not showing red.

      Like
  • dakinemaui said:
    Can't agree with that. When my category says $200 Available, it means exactly that as long as there are no red categories (or TBB) hanging around. It's the presence of that negative balance that distorts the amount of cash that's actually available. 

     And clearing out the negative balance without an obvious trace to a transaction and dumping it into a fairly useless "TBB" bucket, unitemized, somehow provides richer information? The key here is traceability. There is no acceptable justification in my mind for providing less of it in a piece of software designed to trace your spending.

    Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 3 mths ago
      • 7
      • Reported - view

      Maroon Saxophone The primary function of YNAB is to *plan future spending*. Again, "traceability" is focusing on the past. That money is GONE, and the cause of that really doesn't matter. How you react and move forward is what is important. My opinion, of course.

      If pretending you have money you don't is your thing -- because you didn't reduce some category to cover overspending elsewhere or you budget To Be Budgeted until it's negative -- I wish you the best of luck. I also urge you to use a tool better suited to your viewpoint.

      Like 7
  • Brandon, I hear you!!!!! I have tried and tried and tried to like this new YNAB but this feature really sucks. I'm back using my desktop. I sure hope that someday they make this a choice again.  I purchase things for school (PTA) and the reimbursement practically never comes the same month. It is very confusing, adding extra steps, reminders, yadda, yadda. PLEASE YNAB.......make this a choice again!

    Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Hot Pink Motherboard Following the #1 recommended practice, the only on-going effort for reimbursements is to record the transactions. Even if you follow the #2 recommendation, YNAB gives a very clear indication you need to move funds and exactly how much (the category turns green). It's cool you're happy with YNAB4, but for the record (and other readers faced with the transition), this shouldn't have been a show-stopper.

      Like
      • Gozitan
      • YNAB Member
      • Beige_Yeti.3
      • 2 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Hot Pink Motherboard You can create a debt account as budgetable and move you funds there where you can track. Problem solved. 

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Gozitan Losing the Payee field and managing yet another payment category? No argument it works, but in my view, not nearly as well as the recommended practices.

      Like
  • So, I've personally moved past the red arrow arguments a long time ago, but was under the misunderstanding that nYNAB took all overspending from the "To Be Budgeted" for the next month. Discovering that is NOT the case from my current situation and this thread has thrown me for quite a loop, so I just want to understand how, in practice, it would actually work - as it is currently implemented. 

    As an example, If I overspend a category by $50 in August using a credit card, and it is now September 1st (let's assume I incorrectly thought that it would be taken out of TBB):

    1. August still shows an orange overage, if I were to go back and view August. This appears to be the only way to see what was done "wrong" 
    2. YNAB does NOT cover the overage from September's To Be Budgeted, as it would for a purchase on a cash account
    3. YNAB does NOT show -$50 as "Overspent in Aug", as it would for a purchase on a cash account
    4. September's budget view shows no indication that I did anything "wrong", other than the credit card balance in the left sidebar is now off from the credit card "payment" amount - IF I were to compare the two amounts and notice the discrepancy.

    Assuming I did not knowingly set up this odd discrepancy, to reconcile and correct the issue, I would do the following:

    1. I would eventually wonder why after I paid the credit card amount shown in the credit card payment, my credit card balance was not zero.
    2. I would make an "extra" payment, above what YNAB is saying I should do, since I know I should be able to pay off the full amount.
    3. This extra payment to the credit card balance would then turn my credit card "payment" category red for the $50 overage from August.
    4. I would have to cover the "payment" category using another category from September

    Is that the "correct" procedure as nYNAB has implemented it? If so, then a couple of oddities from the past make sense now, at least a little.

    I think there should be at minimum a warning similar to "Overspent from Aug" that should be something like "Debt from August" or "Debt being carried". For that matter, why couldn't a new category pop up similar to the credit card payment category that is "debt payment"

    But mainly, I want to understand how YNAB is intending for this to occur, so I can at least look for the behavior appropriately, to possibly catch mistakes - is the above correct?

    Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Spring Green Tiger You have the gist of it. If you were more observant 🙄, you would see the category did not cover the account balance ahead of time while checking over the budget, reconciling, etc. Failing that, you should be looking at the category before the payment (as with any outflow), would see the shortage, and would move funds in advance of the payment.

      Alternatively, you may have installed the 3rd party Toolkit Extension which adds a warning when the Payment category and account are not matched.

      Edit: Most people make it a habit to look at the previous month around the 3rd or 4th (after all transactions have imported) to correct overspending.

      Edit: After that, your description applies, resulting in an overspent Payment category.

      You may have submitted a feature request to add a summary of both cash and credit overspending in the current month so you have an indication to go looking for it under collapsed categories.

      And lastly, having gotten feed up with the entire situation, you switched to using a checking account to represent your paid in full credit card. This keeps enough to pay the full amount balance reserved behind the scenes at all times. If you by chance miss any late posting transactions that cause overspending (impacting last month), it will be taken out of this month's TBB, where it effectively self corrects... (or is at least more visible...) exactly as you originally desired. 😎

      Like 1
  • Spring Green Tiger said:
    why couldn't a new category pop up similar to the credit card payment category that is "debt payment"

    Because that is already what the CC Payment category represents -- debt payment.

    Like
  • Just one more vote to please allow roll-over of negatives.  I do it manually every month and it's a PITA.  When I do something like pay the annual property tax bill in January or book all my travel for the year in February, I want to keep track of whether I'm holding true to my full-year budget goals.  I don't see why this can't be an *option* for those who don't have a problem with cash flow management but are just trying to keep an eye on overall spending by category.

    Like
    • Navy Blue Yearling  If you're just starting YNAB in January and your $1,200 property tax bill is due in January you budget $1,200 in January. (Cash flow isn't a problem, right?) Then you allocate $100 a month until it's due next year and it's like magic - all the money you need is right there!

      I had a hefty "Emergency" fund. After doing away with the credit card float and front funding categories that didn't have enough money in them to cover "true" expenses, that fund was depleted by half. Now that I know I can pay for what is actually happening I can build that fund up again pretty quickly know it truly is for emergencies.

      Like 3
    • Periwinkle Flute Thanks for the idea... that's probably the right approach.  It should work well for consistent periodic payments (e.g., disability insurance, property tax).  It still doesn't fix the issue where I over spend one month (e.g., eating out too much), and want to make sure I scale it back in future months to hit my yearly spending target - I don't want to give myself a mulligan when I overspend in one area, even if I have the cash to cover it.  Similarly, for inconsistent things like house repairs, I'll still want to carry over the negative balance so that I can see after a year or two if I'm hitting my targets on average or not.  But, at least clearing out a number of the categories with your suggestion will reduce the effort involved.  Thank you!

      Like
      • nolesrule
      • YNAB4 Evangelist
      • nolesrule
      • 2 mths ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view

      Navy Blue Yearling 

      Navy Blue Yearling said:
      It still doesn't fix the issue where I over spend one month (e.g., eating out too much), and want to make sure I scale it back in future months to hit my yearly spending target

       This is actually at the heart of the whole discussion. You want to make it up? You budget less in future months and stick to your budget. The problem is too many people don't do that, because it's not really as important to them to cut back as they try to fool themselves into believing.

      Back in YNAB4, I tried cutting back when we would overspend a month, and it didn't work. Instead I ended up finishing almost every month spending more than we had planned. Finally I realized was that cutting back wasn't possible and we actually needed to just budget more to the category every month, because that was the reality of the situation.

      having a plan but trying to stick to it even when the plan itself is wrong is an exercise in futility. When the plan is wrong, change the plan.

      Like 3
    • WordTenor
    • I have the honor to be your obedient servant
    • WordTenor
    • 2 mths ago
    • 7
    • Reported - view

    I wonder if we could just answer this thread with 

    "It doesn't screw up anything" and just leave it at that.

    Like 7
  • Navy Blue Yearling said:
    I don't see why this can't be an *option* for those who don't have a problem with cash flow management

    It's not an option because it is contrary to the methodology. When you pay the Property Tax, that money has to come from somewhere. It would not be a PITA if you simply face the reality that you sent them money that is earmarked for other spending. YNAB doesn't want you to pretend that you still have it.

    Like 7
    • dakinemaui Thanks for the reply.  I totally see why those who are focused on managing cash flow would never want a negative balance.  Do does anyone have any advice on budgeting software that is nice and usable like YNAB, but doesn't require buy-in to the YNAB method?  I see it as the difference between cash flow accounting and accrual accounting - my problem may be that I'm trying to run an accrual P&L on a cash flow tool...

      Like 2
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Navy Blue Yearling 

      Navy Blue Yearling said:
      those who are focused on managing cash flow would never want a negative balance

       I think it's the opposite with respect to cash flow. Someone who cash-flows is doing the behind-the-scenes "borrow" with the expectation they won't get caught short.  "Managing" cash-flow is heavily focused on predicting when you will receive income (so as to not get caught short). A more accurate description of YNAB is an allocation tool.

      Navy Blue Yearling said:
      I'm trying to run an accrual P&L on a cash flow tool...

      In my view, managing cash-flow is an integral part of an accrual system since you book revenue when you bill. That money usually doesn't show up immediately, but you still have expenses that have to be paid. Ensuring you actually have enough real cash -- i.e., managing cash-flow -- is crucial. In other words, "cash-flow" is not the opposite of "accrual accounting".

      I'd actually arrange the spectrum as "allocation" -> "cash accounting" -> "accrual accounting", in order of increasing amount of abstraction:

      • Allocation deals with actual income + actual expenses (real money all the time). Any negative balances should be corrected ASAP.
      • Cash accounting deals with actual income (booked when received) but will cash-flow (implicitly borrow) for expenses. Negative balances carry forward yielding a plan containing some amount of "Monopoly money".
      • Accrual accounting books income before it's actually arrived and will cash-flow expenses. The amount of Monopoly money in the plan is typically greater (as it includes income as well), mandating even greater emphasis on cash-flow management.

      Hopefully someone will chime in with some alternatives for an accrual-focused tool with improved cash-flow capabilities. Those in YNAB are extremely lacking, mainly because they're just not needed in an allocation system which doesn't mis-represent available funds.

      Like 1
  • Skimmed alot of this, so not sure if this has been mentioned...
    I'm in the boat as many others where before I'd have a (buffer) account with $x,xxx in it incase anything went under $. Plenty of overhead.

    If the new TV goes on sale for 50% off today and I only have $900 of the $1000 I need; I don't want my grocery budget being shorted $100, which only has excess since there are only 4 Sundays this month instead of 5;  nor do I want to wait till the next week when $250 gets added to my fun money account just so I can pay full price for the TV instead, oh wait, wouldn't have enough still then, nor do I want to change my monthly contribution for a blip of opportunity that came up. If only the buffer could (hold) (allocate) the funds, it would of worked instead of having to change everything...

    Trying to do funny math on a fake account I added to temporary inflow into Fun money and outflow from Buffer works, net $0, but then I have to remember to flip it back... no red reminder, as just less in my buffer, not good. If this worked better, as the money is there, I'd love it.

    My new Possible Work Around I'm trying in my free trial before I go back to YNAB4 is:

    Making a fake unlinked account for $25,000k; Pre-adding $1,000 to each of my 25 categories. Voilà, now any category can go negative up to $1,000, not that it would, but it is a nice even number where I can just visually subtract that in my head as I look over my things... Is it worth dealing with it though? IDK yet

    Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • 5
      • Reported - view

      Cornflower Blue General if you have a buffer account, put those funds in the budget and in a category. YNAB works best when it reflects reality.

      Your plan to offset categories is effective at letting you track paybacks, but what is even easier is accepting you cannot predict the future with complete accuracy.

      Changing the plan (budget)  to reflect new information is common sense. When you realize it's going to rain, you don't insist on having the picnic as originally planned, do you?

      Like 5
    • Cornflower Blue General If I understand your suggestion accurately, I'm now feeling like a complete idiot not thinking of it.  I think your suggestion is that if I one-time add $1,000 to each budget, I know that in reality seeing $2,000 means I have $1,000 left to spend, and seeing $100 means I need to accrue back $900 in future months to return to my target.  This should save me a solid half hour a month in setting my budget - thank you!!  (I may take this a step further and do something like $100k per category - I feel like the math will be even easier for large expenses like mortgage).

      Like
      • Cirrus
      • Living mobile and solo
      • miriamnz
      • 7 days ago
      • Reported - view

      Navy Blue Yearling If you want to change your mindset around money, don't game the ynab system.

      Keeping a category to top up for shortfalls is within the ynab system.  I have a "while I am there" category to cover times when i have driven somewhere so therefore am able buy things when my budget might not have enough. Next month I top that category back up. I know exactly how many dollars are sitting around to meet that need, and I can adjust the balance to suit the rest of my needs.

      Having $2000 in a category with $1000 of it fake, so you have to remember that the numbers are all untrue is just ghastly.

      Following the 4 rules, which means that spending this month needs to be accounted for *within* this month doesn't just balance dollars it also calibrates your mindset on what is important in your life.

      This week the new TV is more important than having all the rent money ready a week in advance. If you move those $ then the budget reflects your personal reality. When you can rely on your ynab budget to actually show your reality then you are in charge. Rather than at the mercy of memory (oops that $1000 wasn't actually there) or impulse (the TV! the TV!).

      Like
  • Navy Blue Yearling said:
    want to make sure I scale it back in future months to hit my yearly spending target

    So you're using your priorities from up to 12 months ago when formulating today's spending plan? In my view, that's a HUGE mistake.

    Like 2
    • dakinemaui It really depends what one is trying to accomplish.  In my case, I found that I was spending much more than I wanted on eating out and clothing.  I was spending $1,000+/mo on restaurants, and more than that on clothes.  But when I thought about my priorities, that's not where I wanted to be spending my money (or calories!)  In full transparency, I decided I wanted to cut those categories by 75%, and at least double my charitable donations.  I know it sounds like humblebrag, but I feel like a annoyed by hearing that my goals are a "HUGE mistake" from someone without any context.  The whole goal in my case of setting the budget was to bring my spending in line with my priorities.  I recognize other folks have other objectives, which is totally fine.  But, setting today's spending plan based on well-considered priorities is the point, not a mistake.

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      Navy Blue Yearling My point is YNAB has a way of helping you identify what your true priorities are -- if you let it. I stand by my statement that using year-old priorities is a mistake. You should ALWAYS use current priorities. If today's priorities are the same as last year's, then that's all well and good, but I highly doubt that is the case precisely because you are overspending.

      Much of this comes back to your desire to run a cash-flow/accrual type system, which naturally locks you into using those old priorities. I probably should have reviewed your other posts, realized we've had this/similar discussions and not responded; I'm sorry to not have connected the dots. However, since I already jumped in, I'll continue this train of thought.

      Put it this way, when you overspend, that suggests that category is indeed a priority. Actions speak louder than the year-old plan. Now it could be you "accidentally" did it because you didn't check balances, and if so, don't do that. However, if you were fully aware there was no money, but you spent anyway, there must be a reason for that. By definition, that is an elevated priority -- you felt it important enough to spend more money than originally planned. YNAB simply wants you to own up to that. 

      Like 4
      • WordTenor
      • I have the honor to be your obedient servant
      • WordTenor
      • 2 mths ago
      • 9
      • Reported - view

      Navy Blue Yearling A further comment to dakine's fabulous explanation above: if you are on a new attempt to slash spending by 75% in those categories, and you are consistently overspending them right now, it suggests that this plan, while admirable, is not truly feasible. If you're kind of netting out every other month, that's different and suggests that maybe you just need to be honest and budget a little more so that you smooth the bumps. But if you want to carry over negatives so that you can "catch up" later this year, you might stare at the budget-mirror a a moment and ask yourself whether you're actually going to catch up to your very admirable giving goal or whether you're just going to get shorter and shorter and shorter and eventually be angry and disappointed in your inability to stick to your ambitious plan.

      Giving is a hugely important category for me also, and dining out is similarly one I prefer to keep in check. So it becomes easy, when that priority is staring me in the face, to go, "The only possible place I can pull in order to go to the pub tonight is from giving. So...I'm not going to the pub." The method is immensely powerful in actually forcing your spending to align with your priorities. It's not that prioritizing giving is a mistake. It's that there's a more effective way to go about handling that priority with YNAB.

      Like 9
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view
      WordTenor said:
      "The only possible place I can pull in order to go to the pub tonight is from giving. So...I'm not going to the pub." The method is immensely powerful in actually forcing your spending to align with your priorities.

      Deserves multiple likes. This is the best I can do. The "consequences" when kicking the can down the road (carrying negatives forward) are far more easily ignored in my experience.

      Like 4
    • dakinemaui I take a different approach to the question that was asked. I see looking back at what my budget was last year as an INPUT into setting my priorities for the current year and going forward. It is part of the reflection of what worked well and what did not work well for me based on the plan. Did I stick to my original plan of only spending $XX on eating out? What factors impacted why I did or did not stay with the plan? Will those factors still be in play for the foreseeable future? 

      Building a budget in my mind is a reflection of what I did in the past to recognize behaviours I may wish to change (eating out - since it is so common) and confirm those that I have stuck to and wish to continue in the future. It entails being honest with myself, as you point out, that while my goal may be ambitious and what I *think* I want to do, my behaviour does not bear that change out. Maybe I need to do it in smaller steps, or maybe accept that the recorded behaviour is what I will do. So, knowing what I did in the past, and know what I want to achieve going forward, how can I leverage YNAB to accomplish that? 

      I think it is also a reason you see the requests for knowing the changes to budget allocations. Reflecting on how I moved the money in the past may help me decide which items are not as high priority as I thought. However, this can be accomplished by seeing the total numbers at the end of the month and comparing them to the original. I can do that by comparing my end of month numbers in YNAB to a static copy of my plan in an Excel to see how it is changing. I think many are perhaps asking for that. However, one tool cannot be all things to all people so there may need to be recognition that you might have to do some things with other tools. And it gives you an ability to approach things differently.

      I am in the middle of a large ERP - finance, supply chain and HR - implementation for a provincial government so am VERY aware of limitations and needs of end users to want the "system" to do it all for you. But there is a need to be involved as sometimes allowing the system to take care of it all for you also reduces your accountability and active involvement. It enables you to say that "the system" did it. Not me. 

      Anyway, just my thoughts.

      Like
    • Navy Blue Pegasus The essence of your argument, as I understand it, is understanding when spending is not inline with initial guesses. I agree that is useful, and many people achieve this by putting the nominal amount in the category name. This is easily seen in the expense report along with actuals and averages.

      Like
      • Ceeses
      • Ceeses
      • 3 wk ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Navy Blue Pegasus To expand on dakinemaui 's reply. Looking at the expense report for last year, you can quickly see if you spent more on A, B, C and spent/saved less in D, E, F categories. Knowing how you transferred the money between these categories is pointless because money is fungible. What it tells you is last year you considered A, B and C more important than you thought initially and D, E and F are your least important categories. If you realise F should really be more important than that, you have to make a different plan in your budget across ALL your categories to ensure you don't rob F to fund anything else. If you are happy for D to be a low priority, reduce its nominal budget and plan to add the "unbudgeted" money to another category. This other category doesn't have to be A, B or C or F or E. It can be anything. 

      If you think A shouldn't be a high priority in your budget, make a plan to always check this category before spending in it and give yourself tactics on how to say no to the spending.

      Like 2
    • Ceeses Yep. Nor was it necessary to carry forward a negative balance to gain the understanding you described (and Navy Blue Pegasus wanted).

      Like
    • dakinemaui and Ceeses Sorry if I did not explain my point well. I do not support negative balances carrying forward. I actually didn't understand how they worked in YNAB4 which I think is why I didn't stick with it. I have actually had more success with nYNAB. 

      What I was trying to say is that there is no REPORT within YNAB to show what my original budget was for the month and what it ended up being at the end of the month, or year,  so I can do some trend analysis etc as Ceeses pointed out. Yes, I can put that amount in the budget category but if I want to look at a report to see a summary of the comparison to the plan compared to what I actually did, there is no report to do that that I can easily use to do analysis. Having it in the category name is not really going to help when I want to do sorting or other analysis. It is why I suggested that one tool (YNAB) may not always be the only tool you need to budget. You may need to do the summary comparisons to the planned budget and your final budgeted amounts manually in excel. Then, you can pull in the actuals to fully do the plan budget, vs final budgeted amount vs actuals comparison.

      I was suggesting that the reason that this request keeps coming up may be related to this desire to compare planned budget to actual budgeted but there is no functionality in YNAB even at the summary level to do this. And, as I was even typing this out to figure out how you would do it, it would be quite complicated (think of when we make adjustments after the end of month to budget to account for those credit card items that sneak in). 

      Like
    • Navy Blue Pegasus I understand your position now, and I'd also say you're a rarity. 😎 As I've read the discussions over the years, most want to carry negatives forward to 1) track "paybacks" when they reallocate or 2) stay "on track" -- defined by some guess made up to a year ago. As for your specific point of evaluating the "appropriateness" of the nominal budget entries, I think people quickly get a feel for that through normal usage. I agree, though, a summary would be nice.

      Like 1
    • dakinemaui thanks. I'd like to think of the Navy Blue Pegasus as a rarity LOL. Yes, I think most people want to do exactly what you say. We have now stuck to the YNAB way since January and it is making a HUGE difference in our lives. I like to think that when the world goes to the new normal, it will give us a better foundation to have those conversations about money as more priorities come up.

      Like 2
  • Navy Blue Yearling said:
    setting today's spending plan based on well-considered priorities is the point, not a mistake.

    Totally agree with this, assuming you're talking about today's priorities.

    Like
  • If I have a spending plan of $500 for groceries every month and spend $600 in January, I would REALLY like YNAB to tell me, in February, I have $400 to spend ... and if I do this, I'm still "on track" for the year. 

    Is there any chance this will be become possible with YNAB, even as an option only for users who have this preference?  (This would be helpful for several of my categories.)  As of now, I have to lower my "goal" in February, manually, to show I should only spend $400 in February and make notes, etc., to help me stay "on budget" for the year.  I would prefer this to happen automatically in SOME of my categories.  I don't want to have to change transaction dates / wait to do my grocery shopping on an inconvenient day, simply because this is not an option in the software. 

    I REALLY like YNAB ... and changed over from Quicken, recently because Quicken doesn't work as well for US AND Canada (combined).  And I REALLY like YNAB web interface (which I didn't use / know about for Quicken).  But Quicken DID allow me to carryover negative balances from one month to another (and even allowed me to choose which categories for which this would apply).

    I have zero debt so the "YNAB" rules, though I agree with them, are not super important to me.  I simply want the option to allow some categories to roll over a negative balance.  This will not (probably) be enough for me to back out of YNAB (at least for as long as I live in Canada), but it WILL likely cause me to keep my eyes open for other options out there, over time.  

    All in all, YNAB seems to be a fantastic product.

    Like
      • Herman
      • herman
      • 3 wk ago
      • Reported - view

      Ivory Python I think it is unlikely you will get that functionality. YNAB has been consistent on this point.  They are not really looking to make the product work for people that don't want to apply the rules.

      Like
    • Herman Thanks for the quick reply.  I'll hope that Quicken works better for Canada / US combo and possibly head back that way.  Though I have really fallen in love with the YNAB interface / across all devices.  Maybe Quicken will catch up with this, over time.  Thanks, again.

      Like
    • Ivory Python said:
      If I have a spending plan of $500 for groceries every month and spend $600 in January, I would REALLY like YNAB to tell me, in February, I have $400 to spend ... and if I do this, I'm still "on track" for the year. 

      By saying "on track", the implication is that you want to hold on to some guess you made, that is perhaps up to a year old, as being absolutely relevant and without error today? That's precisely why the methodology is trying to guide you away from that line of thinking.

      Why in the world would you only spend $400 in February when you normally spend $500? In fact, you just demonstrated that even $500 was not enough! Was that out-of-the ordinary? Possibly. I'll just say I'm not a fan of suggesting "less than ordinary" funding when hoping the upcoming month is merely ordinary.

      I strongly believe you should rethink the premise of your argument that being "on track" means the pace of spending matches your guess from up to a year ago. You know so much more today than you did back then! The plan moving forward should reflect TODAY'S knowledge and priorities.

      Cards on the table: you can achieve exactly what you want with a Yearly spending goal for the yearly total. If you budget more than $500 in Jan, subsequent months will have their funding cut. Again, I think it's usually going to be a mistake, but I'm certain you'll hear someone suggest it (or even conceive of it yourself).

      Like
    • dakinemaui Hello.  Sorry.  I should have said November.  I was only using January as an example. 

      I am very strict with my spending ... but simply would not prioritize shopping on the 1st over the 31st simply because of a budgeting software.  Does this make sense? 

      I would certainly prioritize only spending 400 in the following month ... or at worst a lower amount the month after, assuming I only have so much money in a year and want to prioritize other things, as well.  And in the case where I was continually over-spending, I would THEN adjust the budget. 

      It just seems strange to me that YNAB can't handle this probably very common situation.  I think it would be quite normal to overspend and underspend on groceries every-other-month in the case where one buys in bulk and then ends up not spending much the following month ... and so on.  I think I'd prefer almost a quarterly budget, in this case.

      I did think of the yearly spending goal but have not dug into it much.  I guess I could experiment with that as I'm not picturing how that would work, at the moment.  It does make sense, though, as the way I have it set up, currently, if I only spent $400 this month, next month would STILL only show ability to spend $500 (just my current settings, I think.)

      Thanks for your suggestions.  Do you know if there is a quarterly option?  I wonder if that would suit me best, if negative spending rollover is never going to be an option.  Honestly, if I set my spending budget high enough, I wonder if I just would never run into this negative spending, anyway.  Another thought, at least.

      Thanks, again.

      Like
    • Ivory Python said:
      And in the case where I was continually over-spending, I would THEN adjust the budget.

      I'm sure it's not a stretch that in such a case, one would have carried over multiple months in a row, leading to a huge adjustment. YNAB would prefer you nip things in the bud and avoid that slippery slope. The realization that priorities merely shifted really is at the heart of the methodology and one of the reasons it works so well... if you let it. 😉 (Again, this directed at the continually overspending scenario.)

      I do agree groceries on the last day of the month is quite the innocuous use-case that isn't terribly odds with the methodology; it's simply a convenience, really. The problem is enabling carryover for that situation opens the doors for abuse in other cases. You may be interested to know YNAB used to have this capability in previous versions. Based on historic evidence, I'd say widespread application to other use-cases is a certainty.

      I've lobbied for a "This category Next Month" option in the Cover Overspending and Move Money dialogs to address the end-of-month convenience factor. No traction from the developers, obviously, but you might make a feature request as well.

      Like
    • dakinemaui Ah.  Your "This Category Next Month" is exactly what I'm thinking (and makes a lot of sense to me).  I doubt I would use it EVERY month but think this would be a great addition to YNAB (even if used rarely).  Can you send me a link to where I can "agree" with this idea?  Otherwise, I'll search for it and make a feature request.

      Like
    • Ivory Python Feature request on the right side of the main support page. There is no "I agree" with requests by others function.

      Like 1
    • dakinemaui Thank you.  I just entered this as a feature request.  Too bad there isn't a "vote up or down" option with feature requests.  I would think this would be insightful to the developers.  Anyway, thank you for all of your ideas / insights.

      Like 1
      • Cirrus
      • Living mobile and solo
      • miriamnz
      • 7 days ago
      • Reported - view

      Ivory Python The new ynab goals can do this. Set a goal for  12 weeks time for  groceries as a Needed For Spending  goal with an end date. (I am still struggling with the new ynab goals,  but think I have this right.)  So you say in 3 months time you should have saved and spent $1200, each month it tells you how much to add to stay on track. If you overspend, not sure what happens with the goal in that last month. I'll know in a couple of months!

      Like
    • Cirrus Thanks for this idea!  I'll give this a try.

      Like
    • WordTenor
    • I have the honor to be your obedient servant
    • WordTenor
    • 3 wk ago
    • 4
    • Reported - view
    Ivory Python said:
    I have zero debt so the "YNAB" rules, though I agree with them, are not super important to me. 

     Just to clarify--many, many YNABers do not have debt, either because they are beyond needing to use YNAB to get out of debt, or because we never had debt to begin with. The YNAB rules are about aligning your spending in the short and long term with your priorities, not about getting out of debt. Nearly every seasoned YNABer, as you'll see in this thread, agrees that carrying over a negative balance to "punish" or to run an annual budget strips YNAB of its efficacy. Many of us wish there were a better functionality for reimbursements , which was handled well in prior versions with negative carryover, but on balance, you'll find few people who think negative balance carryover should exist outside that specialized use case, if it should even exist for that one. Not because anyone is in debt, but because we know that acknowledging your priorities, and changes in those priorities, is immensely powerful. 

    Like 4
    • WordTenor Thanks for your further comments.  I have read that YNAB is a good tool for folks who are not in debt ... even if very helpful for those who are.  And I find the way the software works to be helpful, mostly.

      I appreciate your thoughtful explanations.  Do you have further thoughts on how I can either change my thinking or help YNAB work in another way that would help me be "allowed to spend money across more than one month" ... in other words, help me to stay on a planned AVERAGE spending even if I spend more in one month than the next?  As it stands, if I overspend in one category in one month, YNAB encourages me to spend the full amount the next month (or at least shows amounts available - assuming I'm "fully funded" that month).   

      Does rule 3 mean that if I overspend on groceries in January ... I change my budget in January?  And then I change it again in February (assuming I want to spend less in February due to over spending in January)?  And then change it again in March, due to wanting to get "back on track"?   All because I went shopping on the last day of the month in January?

      It just seems that the software could "help me out" a little more in this department.  I actually totally agree with all 4 YNAB rules ... but wish I had more "functionality" with overspending (rather than trying to remember after the month flips that I really only want to spend a certain amount this year and I overspent last month).  Does this make any sense?  Would seasoned YNABers really tell me that YNAB isn't for me at this point and that I should find software that handles overspending differently?  

      If these questions are annoying or redundant, I totally get that you may not be able to spend time answering over and over.  I really do appreciate the answers you all have provided before.  So, thank you for that.

      Like
      • WordTenor
      • I have the honor to be your obedient servant
      • WordTenor
      • 3 wk ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      Ivory Python I think @dakinemaui has mostly answered these questions below, but to answer them specifically: 

      If you want to budget an average eventually but you start in a "high" month, you have to budget high. Whether that's a 5-week grocery month or starting your utility bill in the highest use month; same idea. You need more money dedicated to grocery shopping in January if you want to do extra grocery shoping in January.

      The fundamental thing you learn using YNAB is that there is no such thing as "average" spending. There's only spending within your budget. There are indeed some ways to handle this kind of fluctuating expenditure, as others have explained: setting a weekly spend goal, for instance. But generally what most seasoned YNABers would tell you is, the average doesn't matter. Acknowledge your money is finite and move the money in the month you need to do the spending. Doing this leads you to a greater understanding of your own finances and gives you more control, not less. 

      I budget a set amount each month for groceries, and I keep my groceries under that amount regardless of month length.  And if it's a month where I need more than that amount, I take money from some other category which is a lower priority than groceries. It's that straightforward. 

      Like 4
    • WordTenor Yes, he (and others) have explained things helpfully.  And your further explanation is also helpful. 

      How do you remember to prioritize spending less in future months after you've "blown it" a few times in a year?  Just remember?  When the amount flips to zero (and takes from next month's to be budget, I think), it makes it hard to remember.  This might imply that "groceries" IS the priority (practically speaking).  But if I had an indicator or "notice" in the following month, I might be more likely to choose differently (or more knowledgably)??

      I really like the "From Category Next Month" idea.

      Like
      • WordTenor
      • I have the honor to be your obedient servant
      • WordTenor
      • 2 wk ago
      • 5
      • Reported - view

      Ivory Python 

      Ivory Python said:
      How do you remember to prioritize spending less in future months after you've "blown it" a few times in a year?  Just remember? 

       I don't prioritize spending less in future months. If I'm constantly needing to add more money to a category and I'm being deliberate about those moves then constantly blowing the original guess means the guess is wrong. 

      These questions are really only questions if you're dealing with your budget infrequently and not using it to make proactive decisions. If your relationship with your budget is reactive, of course you want to try to track your budget over time. But if you're constantly using your budget as a guide, consistent changes in the amount needed reflect that there is a change in the amount needed. 

      Like 5
  • Ivory Python said:
    help me to stay on a planned AVERAGE spending even if I spend more in one month than the next?

    You have access to the average spending in the Quick-Budget button. If that is higher than desired (see previous why that target may be irrelevant), then simply budget less than the desired target this month and respect that plan when making spending decisions later. If you bought groceries on the last day of the previous month, that will hopefully not be an issue.

    (Tip: put the nominal value in the category name for reference.)

    Like
    • dakinemaui This is a helpful idea ... I haven't totally made sense of the quick-budget button / side numbers yet.  Of course, if I budget less than the desired target, I think I'll have a red alert and show "underfunded."  Is that correct?  But that's not a problem.  Would just be a constant (good?) reminder that I overspent the previous month.    Thanks for this idea.  I'll study the quick-budget button.  I'm sure I can find it online, but do you have a link to a video that explains this?

      Like
    • Ivory Python If you have a goal, then that would warn you -- in yellow -- if you budget less that its suggestion. You're always free to budget without goals, though. I personally don't use them at all, precisely because I dislike the nagging when I realize my initial guess was offbase in light of newly arriving information. In other words, "don't bother me when I reallocate!"

      In this case, the Quick-Budget button is strictly for information. You won't actually click that button, as that will simply budget the average (which you already know is above your target).

      Like
    • dakinemaui This is helpful.  You say "see previous why that target may be irrelevant."  I'm noticing that my average spent is way too low to make sense to me.  I'm not sure what you mean by "see previous why that target may be irrelevant."  My average budgeted seems low and my average spending seems way low.  Is there a way I can "fix" this?  Can I tell it how many months to use as an average?  Or does it use 12 months?  Or all data?  Is this because I only just started using YNAB?  I started using YNAB at the end of September and only "spent" $58 in groceries that month (just because of when I started using it).

      Like
    • Ivory Python The "see previous" was about the idea that a target selected months prior (i.e., "on track for the year") is likely to be out of touch with current reality.

      Yes, the average spent is low because Sept. is influencing the average. It uses up to 12 months. One possibility is to increase the starting balance and then record a transaction to force September's spending to be "average" for that category. Manually compute the average based on subsequent months to find the required transaction amount.

      It may be possible to eliminate the partial month by adjusting the starting balances & dates. (I'm unsure if YNAB will use the new date or if this makes it even worse (averaging $0 spending).

      Like
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