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into all my personal finances, suffice to say I have a handful of bills for which it is normal for the bill to be withdrawn by autopay either on the last day of the month or the first day of the next.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

    Sure, and the exact same thing happens for seasonal utilities like water or electric. The methodology would have you build up a surplus in the low and draw from it in the high. What it doesn't want you to do is start with the high -- it's not certain there will be a low next month. What is certain is you spent more than planned, and the money's gotta come from somewhere.

    Like 2
    • dakinemaui This is another good point.  But if I use the goal of spending $500 per month and only spend $400 this month, YNAB says I only need to budget $400 next month (because of the $100 UNDERSPENDING the previous month).  Maybe it's the goals that are throwing me off.  I would think if you could rollover underspending (which I like), we could also rollover overspending.  I think I'm starting to get the point, though, that I told YNAB that I only want to spend $500 per month (in goals) ... even if I underspent the month before.  More to think about.  Thanks.

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

      Ivory Python I was talking about a Spending Goal with a YEARLY target. (A Spend Monthly won't build up a surplus if you underspend. Nor will it reduce next month if you overspend on the 31st.)

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

      Ivory Python Last thought regarding the end-of-month scenario: You're basically accelerating the timeline by buying groceries early, right? If you cover overspending then fund next month at the full level, then you've permanently advanced things. IF you are within $500 from the 31st to the next 31st, you'll still have enough in the category to buy groceries on the 31st again. Cover once and you've solved that problem.

      Hopefully the follow-on conclusion is also clear -- IF you incur overspending on the 31st thereafter, it's because you've exceeded the $500 during that 30 days (31st to 31st). It's no longer about buying groceries on the 31st vs. the 1st -- the issue is you're continually overspending and should either raise funding or curb behavior.

      Just carrying over a negative balance would not give you insight into this distinction. You'd merely chalk it up to "31st vs. 1st" spending which actually isn't the cause.

      Like 2
    • dakinemaui I'll have to try the yearly idea ... will that show how I'm doing monthly?  Or will it just show a large amount and then I divide by 12?

      Like
    • dakinemaui I totally agree with this.  The over spending would HAVE to be balanced out by underspending over 12 months.  And, as you say, if I would just cover this month it, technically, shouldn't really happen again (especially if available money is piling up when I underspend).  

      I think my problem is that, coincidentally, I have a little overspending early on in my experience with YNAB.  As you say, I could just cover this month and then fully fund all future months and over time (since I budget somewhat liberally), I'll actually have a buffer over several months and a little over spending in future months wouldn't be an issue.   

      I'll think this over but you all have given me some good ideas.

      Like
      • Annieland
      • I was told there would be no math.
      • Annieland
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Ivory Python I have done yearly spending goals for many categories for this entire year.  Sometimes with money starting in the category too.   I'm even using it to help me accelerate a car loan payoff.  Not every category is a Jan.-Dec. either, and I put the "reset" month in the category line "i.e. Water Bill (Nov.)."  I estimate what my water bill SHOULD be for the year, and if one quarter comes in higher,  then I adjust the next month.  It's my way of "carrying forward."  Car insurance ended up way under this year, of course.  But I left the balance in the category, reset the estimated amount for the next year, and am now budgeting less each month.  

       

      The correct goal amount doesn't update until the month rollover in certain circumstances.  But I have been pretty happy with the way it's been working for me all year.  

      Like
    • Annieland Do you use "Needed For Spending" By Date?  Or something different (for Water Bill and, potentially for Groceries)?  Or another goal type?

      Like
      • Annieland
      • I was told there would be no math.
      • Annieland
      • 3 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Ivory Python Yep, needed for spending. The other is for saving and can mess you up a bit if you budget the suggested amount and then spend from it. I’m a very experienced YNAB user so I take pleasure in messing around and experimenting, always putting notes to myself on what I was thinking or trying and when.   I pick and choose what method I use to budget for each category. When I don’t like how things are going, I just change strategy or priorities. Believe it or not, I don’t often use spending goals for discretionary items like groceries, recreation, clothes, etc.  For me, I find that limiting and stressful, and rather just monitor vigilantly and revise at least monthly.   I’m considering revising to a yearly spending goal for gifts next year, as I had a very prominent “expense creep” last Christmas.  I want to make sure I spend much less than my category balance this year and then set a more conservative goal for next year. 
       

      There’s some YNAB “best practices” and then there is much flexibility in applying the features (or lack thereof) for your personal goals and situation, even if it may change month-to-month. 

      Like 1
  • Ivory Python In addition to the Spending Goal with a yearly target for groceries, a few folks have put a weekly spending goal on groceries. This is because a lot of folks do their groceries always on the same day of the week, eg, Saturday. But in some months, you'll have 5 Saturdays while in other you'll have 4. 

    For the weekly spending goal, you enter a weekly amount by a given day of the week. YNAB will calculate the adequate monthly goal whether there are 4 or 5 occurrences of this day in the month.

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    • Ceeses I actually do my shopping the same day every week, normally.  Might be a good idea to change my goal.  I think my amount each week varies somewhat dramatically as sometimes I buy only what I need for the week and sometimes I buy sales (like if meat is on sale, etc).  But, I think if I "started low" the build up, over time, could mean never overspending in a month.  I guess it just seems simpler to me to allow overspending to rollover.  I get that some folks would turn this into "abuse."  I, personally, would not let this get out of hand.  Still, your idea is helpful.

      Like 1
      • Ceeses
      • Ceeses
      • 3 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Ivory Python Some people also have 2 groceries categories: one for everyday shopping and one for "special" shopping. "Special" shopping could be an infrequent run to Costco, buying a lot of meat at once ... People who do that usually don't have their "special" shopping at the same time as their everyday grocery shopping. So it might not be the best solution for you, but I let you judge of that.

      Like 2
  • 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? 

    Not @WordTenor, but I don't prioritize spending less in future months it I spent high in previous months. At the beginning of the month I budget the exact same amount to the majority of my categories. If I do have to WAM from a lower priority category, I do it and  move on.

    Like 4
  • I agree, its really confusing that positive balances get rolled over but not negative balances. It would make YNAB a whole lot easier to use if the deficits rolled over, or at least give users the option to roll deficits over. 

    Like 1
    • Slate Blue Sun The advice someone else gave me earlier on this thread fixed the problem for me.  I just added $1M to each spending category.  That way I know if I'm over $1M I'm positive and if I'm under $1M I've over-spent that category.  Mildly kludgy, but really not bad.

      Like
  • I did not have time to read this whole thread, however not rolling over negative balances is irritating.  We have a small side business.  Sometimes I buy things for the business and the business pays me back.  If those transfers happen on the 31 of one month and the 1st of the next, YNAB wants me to cover those expenses from non business funds while waiting to be reimbursed.   It just gets very annoying.  We have the money to cover it, but I dont want to make a new category of a business slush fund cause there is way too much variation each month to keep a steady amount in there.  I may do that, but an option to carry over a negative balance would be so nice.

    Like 1
  • Cornflower Blue Orca said:
    YNAB wants me to cover those expenses from non business funds while waiting to be reimbursed

    See the second recommended approach. No "steady amount" in the category.

    To summarize: categorize both outflow and inflows to the Business category. If that category turns green, move the positive portion to the CC Payment category. Search for the category in All Accounts for the pending reimbursement amount.

    Like 1
  • This issue is the primary issue that will push me to a competitor's budget software if it's not fixed between now and whenever the 64bit workaround for YNAB4 no longer functions.

    Every few months I check the forums to see if YNAB has fixed it yet, and this thread or one like it is always one of the top forum threads.

    As others have stated, the reasons nYNAB doesn't do it have been made abundantly clear, but at the same time the fact that this thread or one like it is almost always on the first page of the forum, the number and sheer creativity of "workarounds" that have been developed, point to how much it's wanted.

    Make the "nYNAB way" the default.  Fine.  Make carryover a super hidden feature that requires the Konami code to be entered in triplicate with multiple confirmations, whatever.  But do it.  As others have pointed out, that's what software is for - to make our lives easier, not harder.   If this was all strictly  about applying a specific method, and not ease of use, we'd still be using physical cash and physical envelopes to apply whatever said method was, because anything above physical funds makes cheating "easier". 

    I'm quite impressed by some of the creative workarounds and I can see how they'd work . . . but . . . I'm not paying a monthly fee to add extra time and steps to my budgeting.  For me to justify a monthly fee, it has to make my life better, not worse.

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

      nbhms Start looking now.  It will not be "fixed"  because it is working exactly as ynab intends it to work.  

      Like 1
    • nbhms Shouldn't be hard to run YNAB4 forever from a virtual machine which can be very seamless. I suspect the eventual issue will be the mobile client.

      Like
      • nbhms
      • nbhms
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Herman Oh, I fully understand that, and have started looking already.  Right now YNAB4 and it's mobile counterpart does everything I need, so I'm not jumping in to pay anyone a monthly fee, YNAB or otherwise.  But I keep a casual eye on the "envelope" method budgeting market, and have a general idea of which ones I'll be looking at when the time comes, barring any newcomers between now and then.

      And before someone corrects me that YNAB is not the "envelope method, they are their own thing", yes I know that too, but I use the envelope method, and I thought (at the time), YNAB3/4 were the best software implementations of the envelope method, despite "not being the envelope method". 

      When the time comes and I have to go shopping, that's what I'll be looking for.  And again, yes, I'm fully cognizant of the fact that it will more than likely not be nYNAB that gives me the features I want. 

      I don't feel like I'm "owed" anything, nor am I demanding anything.  Just disappointed that the YNAB team are ignoring long time customers, when a (relatively) simple optional feature could be implemented to satisfy those customers, and provide YNAB additional revenue from keeping those customers.

      Like
      • nbhms
      • nbhms
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui I agree, and that's my current plan.  Wouldn't surprise me if DropBox became an issue too, before the desktop client.  DropBox already cut back on the number of "free" DropBox connections you can have, and since YNAB is basically the only thing I use DropBox for, I can't really justify a monthly fee for them either (and had to cut back on the number of machines I was running YNAB on).

      Like
      • a_different_joel
      • Amused by the incorrigible nYNAB
      • A_different_joel
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      nbhms Re: DropBox - if you are needing more machines you can share a YNAB  budget/directory with 'other' users (like your partner's DropBox account) and it all works fine, thus freeing up some of your own machines.

      When if mobile/DB kills YNAB4 I'm going back to 2010 where the family dumps all our receipts in a box and manually enter them in every day 🤣.  Nothing beats YNAB4 yet, IMO.

      edit: I guess it’s not “freeing up” but rather  “allowing more machines”

      Like
    • a_different_joel Additionally, any computers on the same network can access the budget via network file share instead of making a copy via Dropbox. Similar idea in that you use fewer Dropbox slots. You could even use a different synchronization method if it's a laptop.

      The only things that absolutely need Dropbox are the mobile client(s) and one desktop.

      Like
    • a_different_joel said:
      When if mobile/DB kills YNAB4 I'm going back to 2010 where the family dumps all our receipts in a box and manually enter them in every day

      Nah, you could still enter in the mobile app while out and about and Legacy Sync when you return home. Easy as pie.

      Like
      • a_different_joel
      • Amused by the incorrigible nYNAB
      • A_different_joel
      • 1 mth ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui I completely forgot about the local sync option.  That will work great, thanks for the reminder!

      Like 1
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