Available after upcoming transactions

Hey all! I just started using YNAB and I'm really enjoying it so far. One issue I'm trying to get my head around is the difference between the "available" column and the "Available After Upcoming" row in the inspector. I'd really like to make the "Available After Upcoming" point more visible because that's the most important for some categories. I'll give an example.

I have a category for "gifts" that is used for things like birthday gifts, christmas gifts, wedding gifts, baby showers, etc. There's always something. I currently have it set to an annual target of $600 because it is not evenly distributed across months.

Here's the problem: I'm splitting the cost of a gift with a friend (my half is $100) and it will be a couple months in the future. I obviously don't want to forget about this so I created a scheduled transaction for it. I currently have $300 available in "Gifts" but only $200 available if I consider upcoming transactions. Worse, the "upcoming transction" is only considered in the month the transaction is in, so I would have to look ahead two months to see this number. This seems like an easy way to accidentally overspend.

An alternative, I suppose, is to create a Category Group for gifts with this as a specific sub-item, alongside other more general items. That feels really klunky to me, though, and could lead to over-spending in the overall "Gifts" Category.

How would you handle this kind of situation?

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  • I would use a temporary category for something like this. There's nothing specific to the way it is set up in YNAB that makes it temporary, just how I handle it. 

    In this case I would set up a category Gift for XXX, move the $100 to it and place the category under my regular gift category in the budget tab. I use an emoji to clearly indicate to me that the category is temporary. 

    When it comes to actually spending the money in a few months time I would record the spending against my gift category, move the budgeted money back to the gift category to cover the spending and delete the Gift for XXX category.

    I use this approach all the time if there's something specific I want to keep money aside for and if you search for wish farm in the support material, you'll see a similar approach although with a slightly different aim. Folks often also create separate category goals for individual vacations but then move all transactions and money to a generic Vacations category once it is completed. In this instance, when the temporary category covers multiple months, you may record the transactions in the temporary category initially. This used to be a bit of a pain to put right once you deleted the temporary category but recent improvements to YNAB mean you can do this easily by following a prompt when you hit Delete on the category.

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  • Thanks, that's helpful. A bit awkard, but doable.

     

    This would obviously be a huge ask, but it seems like "sub-budgets" would be quite helpful. Each "category" would effectively become a sub-budget that you could drill into and add categories or more sub-budgets. For example, my wife and I could each have a "sub-budget" for our respective "fun budgets". We would assign $x from the top-level "household" budget to each of our "fun" sub-budgets, which could then be used for different items within the sub-budget.

    I see other similar requests for sub-categories and nest categories that would probably accomplish the same thing.

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      • monkeyhanger
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      • monkeyhanger.1
      • 1 mth ago
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      Bry That would actually be a more cumbersome solution for me. I want the ultimate expenditure to be recorded in the main category. I don't need a multitude of permanent additional categories.

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  • I'm honestly not sure what the issue is.  I have a birthdays category (definitely not spread evenly over the year) - I put in 100NIS/month.  Spend as needed.  No goal or target, just 100NIS/month.  The money's there when I need it.  I don't put in a scheduled transaction for February/May/June/June/October for my kids' birthdays or November/December for Chanukah...I just spend what's needed out of whatever's available at the time.  Wedding/baby gifts come out of a different category ("Circle of Life") which is funded separately and spent out of much less frequently.

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      • monkeyhanger
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      • monkeyhanger.1
      • 1 mth ago
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      Sky Blue Tape (mmille) I must admit, I don't tend to use it for birthdays but I can see a potential issue in the early days of using YNAB when your budget isn't flush. For me there's a benefit in using that approach in other categories though e.g. clothes or vacations. For example, my budget could look quite flush but I know I need to buy an expensive item e.g a coat soon. In that instance, I'd set up a temporary category for the coat and put that money to one side. Once I've done that, I can just look at my category balance if I want to buy anything else and not do the mental maths of, well there's £200 in the category but the coat is likely to be around £150 so I've really only got £50 to play with (totally random numbers).

      I guess the OP's example given is different to your case of spending according to what is in the category because he's committed to spending money in the future so he wants to avoid the mental maths in the interim.


       

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    • monkeyhanger My budget is never flush...if I know I have something down the road I'll either increase my monthly allocation to the category, or in that particular month I'll fund the whole thing (because in that month it will be yellow based on the scheduled transaction).  Dunno, I can't wrap my head around the scenario that OP is presenting.

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      • monkeyhanger
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      • monkeyhanger.1
      • 1 mth ago
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      Sky Blue Tape (mmille) My understanding is (a) that this was just an example and (b) that he has allocated the funds to the category. The issue is in remembering that some of the funds in the available balance aren't really available for other spending because they are ear-marked for something else. This can be an issue for any category where multiple items are included in that category. In their specific example, they have $300 in the gift category but because they know that they have committed to a $100 spend in a few months, they only really have $200 available for any other gifts that they might buy in the meantime. If you follow the recommended YNAB behaviour and check the category balance before you spend it would say $300 rather than the $200 you really have and you could overspend. Of course, the OP would have a couple of months to make up any shortfall so it may be a non-issue but this could result in the annual spend for that category being more than they wish.

      If I have anything big coming up that I want to ringfence funds for but which ultimately I will record in a regular category, then I set up a temporary category as described. 

      In the exact situation described by the OP, the other option is to date the transaction now (with a flag and an explanation that it is still to be paid in the memo field) as he has already committed to the spend. This solves the category balance issues but potentially introduces confusion to the reconciliation process if they don't fully understand that. A short-term category to hold the funds should be less easy to mess up.

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      • MadDog
      • Navy_Blue_Pegasus.2
      • 1 mth ago
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      monkeyhanger In this case, I have done something similar but just review it and move it forward. Using this example specifically, I would create the transaction for the end of the current month for $100 with a note that the actual spending will be in 3 months. Then, my category shows that I only have $200 and not $300 left. At the end of the month, I will change the date on the scheduled transaction to the end of the next month. And keep on moving it forward until I actually do the purchase. It is manageable and achieves the needs of the OP I think.

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    • MadDog This is what I do in my personal budget, too. I'll set a scheduled transaction for this month with a memo, then move it forward as needed during my reconciliation routine. It's kind of like a moving reminder until the spending is final!

      Would that work for you Bry and be less clunky feeling?

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