Budget and Checking Discrepancy

tldr - My budget shows I have money to pay off my cards but my checking account does not have enough available funds.

A tale as old as time I'm sure, but I am having an issue with my budget values and my checking account. I started fresh at the beginning of May so I had starting balances on my credit cards. I started budgeting as usual but as I was going to pay my cards off I noticed that my budget was not matching up with the money I had to spend in my checking account. Due to this I went through and funded all of my categories to just the amount I spent in them (which feels and looks weird to have zeroes all the way down my available column). This left me with negative 102.39.

I then went forward a month and added up my total available and added that to my negative to be budgeted. Which gave me a value that when I subtracted my available money from my checking and savings accounts totaled to 0.

I usually pay my credit cards off in full, but I have credit card bills totaling 884.99 with only 328.44 in my checking. My budget only shows negative 102.39 which doesn't account for the difference of 884.99 - 528.44 = 356.55

I'm sure it has something to do with starting fresh that I am missing - any help would be appreciated. I'm sure more images are going to be asked for of certain sections so just let me know.

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• Aquamarine Mainframe said:
tldr - My budget shows I have money to pay off my cards

To start with, if your TBB is negative, then your budget is telling you you *don't* have money to pay off the cards. At least until you move things around. 🙂

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• Move Light Sound Life I understand what you're saying, but I wanted to see if the math would add up if I zeroed everything out.

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• Ok, here's what should have happened:

1. Fresh Start.

2. Since you're paying off your cards, allocate money to the CC payment categories such that the available = the absolute value of your negative credit card working balance.

3. Budget to the rest of your May categories.

4. Spend according to your categories.

5. Reconcile, budget, rinse, repeat.

I say that so this doesn't happen to you again.

At this point, though, when you noticed the problem, the steps should be:

1. Reconcile all accounts. Always do this before messing with the budget.

2. I agree that a good next step is to set all the categories' availables back to zero (hint: this is like a mini Fresh Start anyways).

2a. Did you reset June as well? If you have money that you need for next month, figure out how much that is and stick it in a category called Money For Next Month {in the May budget}. Especially since you're having trouble, you really want all the information on the same page. Trust me on this. 🙂

3. Allocate money to your credit card payment categories such that the available is the positive equivalent of your negative balance (like above).

4. Allocate money elsewhere. Ensure no red anywhere.

5. After you're done with May (like, let it settle for a bit), set that Next Month category back to \$0 and go budget June, since it's fast approaching. It's also pretty easy to just wait until the 1st and 1) reconcile, 2) empty that category, 3) budget June. If you wait, then you may feel more solid about the month turn.

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• Move Light Sound Life I like the idea of the category for next month's money (this is the buffer YNAB recommends right?).  I have done these steps and can't seem to find the discrepancy of why the math I showed in my original post seems to be missing a chunk of money even though everything is adding up.

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• Aquamarine Mainframe

Aquamarine Mainframe said:
Which gave me a value that when I subtracted my available money from my checking and savings accounts totaled to 0.

No discrepancy. YNAB is a zero-based budget. It was including savings account money, but that's not a problem. Unless of course, you were thinking savings account money was not included, but now you know.

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• Aquamarine Mainframe said:
I like the idea of the category for next month's money (this is the buffer YNAB recommends right?).

Right, or used to recommend.

Since I stated disagreement with the month ahead video (one day, I'll get around to writing a response to that, but it's been a busy year and I have other priorities), here's an awful lot of information on that Buffer.

But, please, since it's not your current issue, please don't confuse or overwhelm yourself be reading it now (I mean, unless you want to... It could be a diversion at this point...).

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• Aquamarine Mainframe said:
I usually pay my credit cards off in full, but I have credit card bills totaling 884.99 with only 328.44 in my checking.

How much is in your savings? You'll probably need to transfer to checking to make the payment.

Do you really have Paid In Full status - able to pay the whole balance to \$0 at anytime?

Or are you riding the float - able to pay the statement balance when it's due, but you need income between when you swipe for the purchase and when you pay the credit card company?

If the steps above don't work for you, you may have one of these situations. Ask, clarify, and we'll help.

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• Move Light Sound Life I have enough to cover it in my savings, but it is budgeted in the available column so it is accounted for. It is the only column with a value in it.

I must be riding the float if I'm having this issue rather than being able to cover it. My issue is I don't have the understanding of what is off just yet which bugs me. I feel like paying for it with my savings is cheating in a way since it skips the step of me understanding what I did wrong, which makes me feel like this will just happen again next month.

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• Aquamarine Mainframe

Aquamarine Mainframe said:
My issue is I don't have the understanding of what is off just yet which bugs me. I feel like paying for it with my savings is cheating in a way since it skips the step of me understanding what I did wrong,

In that case, my guess is that you're thinking of your savings account as a separate function. In YNAB, accounts don't determine purpose - categories do.

In fact, the categories are an overlay over all of your accounts. There's a few blog posts that explain in more detail. Maybe someone can link those.

If that's where your misunderstanding comes from, then (as long as there is no red in the budget) paying the amount you've got available in your cc payment category isn't "covering from savings" and isn't cheating - it's your plan.

Now, if you're unable to sustain the rest of your budget, then you probably are riding the float (there's a blog post about that, too), and you'll want to change the plan to reflect that.

In the floating case, you may need to move some money from the CC payment category to other priorities. You might still be able to pay the statement balance on its due date, but you'll have to ensure that there's enough in the category. Budgeted spending on the cc will increase the amount available to pay, so don't quit using the card. If one of your priorities is to get off the float, then you'll budget directly to the CC payment category until the balances match, as discussed above.

Going back to the savings account idea, what probably happened is that you had an idea of what the savings account money should be used for, but you didn't expressly make categories for those purposes - instead maybe you accidentally budgeted that money to other categories, and here you are today. You'll just have to decide what's more important for you: maintaining the float, getting PIF, or those other savings (make 'em, even if they're empty) categories.

If it makes you feel any better, I did the same thing. I unwittingly budgeted my savings account (what I considered loss of income) to various other things when I started, and had to excruciatingly pull the money out of the other categories about 3 months in, since that was my priority. The money can do anything you want, but each dollar can only have one job. 🤣

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• Aquamarine Mainframe, there are two articles that might be helpful here, in addition to the ones Move Light Sound Life shared:

Glad you were able to work with support to get this account situation clarified! :)

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• Aquamarine Mainframe said:
I then went forward a month and added up my total available and added that to my negative to be budgeted. Which gave me a value that when I subtracted my available money from my checking and savings accounts totaled to 0.

YNAB is good at doing the 0-based math. The reason to go forward a month for the audit is to let YNAB amount for any overspending in the current month.

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• Aquamarine Mainframe said:
It is the only column with a value in it.

Depending on when you get paid and when you pay the cc statement, I'd say you're definitely floating debt.

If you had a larger charged month than normal, it could even have pushed your float to be interest-bearing.

However, you're going to have to pay bills and eat, so make sure to include those in your plan (budget) alongside paying off the card. The card can wait, but it's hard to make another payment without electricity.

I'm going to try to find those links.

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• This is what showed up when I searched the old title "The Relationship Between Your Budget and Your Accounts: It's Complicated"... But it's the new blog post, not the old one. Still good.

Search "Credit card float" on the blog for more, but here's the first result... Ignore the annoying "Month Ahead" video at the end. Unless you want to watch it and then come back to the right forum for some more/helpful info.

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• Move Light Sound Life Thanks for all your help and these articles. I worked with YNAB support and ended up figuring out the issue. It is twofold, one is that I am riding the float which I understand. Secondly is I just recently got a joint account that I have put into my budget that I wasn't accounting for.

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• If your cards are paid in full, when you fresh started you needed to have budgeted for the entire amount currently charged on the card.

If the card balance and the card payment category are out of step, you need to fix that. And if you didn’t do the thing in the first paragraph,  that’s your entire problem and no need to search further.

Whether the money is in savings or whether you consider it to be savings is not consequential here. If you intend to pay your cards in full, you must give dollars that job when you start a new budget. Did you do that?

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