Can't trust my budget again! What am I doing wrong?

Month 3 of YNAB and [email protected] still struggling.  I've definitely spent less money due to simply scrutinising every penny I budget and spend.  however, I can't plan ahead because different parts of YNAB aren't reconciling.

 

I had problems before largely because I live on the credit card float, so my 'to be budgeted' (TBB) money never equaled my account balance.  So toda, on the 1st of the month I started from scratch and made a fresh start.  And low and behold I'm in the same position again!

 

I've budgeted for everything I want to budget for this month so far.  And I want to allocate the remaining money.  I have some future transactions set up, which I have budgeted for.  However, my account has £1200 in it, the TBB amount equals £2422, but the right hand column of YNAB says that I have £1212 available!!  WTF!

Seriously getting annoyed with YNAB, as every month I have this problem where the three totals do not marry up.

there are plenty of free applications that let me record my expenditure, which is all I'm able to do here.  Once I've budgeted for the 'immediate obligations' I can't trust any of the amounts left on screen to give me a sense of how much money I have left to allocate.

I'll be asking for my money back at this rate!

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  • Hey Silver Lion , I'm really glad you wrote in. Let's dig in so you can move forward with your Fresh Start :) 

    Here’s a little way you can verify every dollar in your bank account(s) is reflected in your budget – and not a dollar more. A few quick calculations will help us see where things are at right now.

    1. Advance to next month's budget. (The math is easier there, because all overspending is covered.)

    2. In the right sidebar, when no categories are selected, you’ll see your Total Available amount, which is the sum of the Available column.

    3. Add that to the amount you have left To be Budgeted and any amount Budgeted in Future, if applicable.

    Let’s stop here for a minute, just in case your To be Budgeted was negative. If it is, you would need to subtract it from Total Available, because that means you’ve given jobs to dollars you don’t yet have. Preferably though, you would go back to this month’s budget and budget less in a few categories until To be Budgeted is back in the green at $0.

    4. Now, add up the cash in your budget. That includes checking, savings, and cash accounts, plus any positive balances on credit cards if applicable.

    5. Your totals in step 3 and 4 should match, to the penny.

    Let me know how it goes and we'll go from there!  

    Like
      • psc9
      • psc9
      • 2 wk ago
      • Reported - view

      Janelle 

      So how should I address this situation and 'trust' YNAB, after reconciling my accounts and  getting everything to tie out in your steps above.

      - CC Payments are around $4K.
      - Go to CC Website: the outstanding balance is far greater than $4K  (as is the 'next payment that is due).

      Thank you!

      Like
      • satcook
      • satcook
      • 2 wk ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      psc9 YOu need to budget to the credit card payments section if you need more money in the available bubble for the credit card.

      Like 2
    • psc9 YNAB is merely showing you the reality of your plan. Currently, you cannot afford to pay the entire CC debt because you've got other plans for the money it would take to do that. (You do have to trust that YNAB can do simple arithmetic.)

      The primary thing you MUST to do is eliminate any red from the budget (TBB or categories), as that signifies missing money, making the plan infeasible.

      After that, if paying off debt is more important than something else in the plan (a.k.a., budget) that has money, then reallocate from that category to the CC Payment category.

      Like 1
    • psc9 said:
      the outstanding balance is far greater than $4K  (as is the 'next payment that is due)

      You may be riding the CC float. Don't forget that you will be making budgeted CC purchases between now and when the payment is due, which raises the Available payment. Hopefully you can raise it enough by the due date to cover the amount that's due (i.e., the statement balance). If not, then you need to budget enough to cover the difference or pay less than is due (which may incur interest).

      The ONLY way to improve the situation (i.e., reduce the float) is to budget toward the CC Payment category. Paid-in-full status requires the category balance covers the entire account balance. You may have to gradually narrow the gap by budgeting a little each month if you need your cash for other things.

      That's really the point of YNAB -- to remind you where you have planned to spend each of your dollars. This way you don't send money needed for Rent off to the CC by mistake.

      Like 1
      • psc9
      • psc9
      • 2 wk ago
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui I pay off my cc every month, 100%.   The CC I'm talking about has a positive balance in the YNAB budget register.

       

      As an experiment, I added a 999.99 transfer to that CC acount and the account just got more positive.

      Is this 'riding the float'?

      I thought when you use a CC that YNAB automatically moves $ into that account.  <- Is this a misunderstanding?

      Thanks!

      Like
    • psc9 said:
      - CC Payments are around $4K.
      - Go to CC Website: the outstanding balance is far greater than $4K

      By these statements, I would expect your CC account in YNAB to have a negative balance, which represents debt. I expect the CC Payment category Available  to be positive, representing real dollars you'll eventually send to the CC.

      psc9 said:
      The CC I'm talking about has a positive balance in the YNAB budget register.  
      As an experiment, I added a 999.99 transfer to that CC acount and the account just got more positive.

      It's not clear what you mean. There is no "budget register". There's a category in the budget and there's an account register. I'll address both possibilities below.

      psc9 said:
      I pay off my cc every month, 100%.

      OK, so you want this card to have "paid-in-full" status. Two possibilities:

      1. If the YNAB account balance (shown on the left side of the screen) is negative (the normal case), then the CC Payment Available needs to be the same as the account balance but as a positive number (green). 
      2. If the YNAB account balance is positive, then the CC Payment Available should be $0. You have no debt on this card. They simply have your money and are acting as a checking account for the time being.

      The fact you previously mentioned a "next payment that is due" would suggest you have debt in the real world. As such, the YNAB account balance should be negative. Fix that first, then deal with the CC Payment category.

      Like
    • Janelle I just tried this and my total in step 3 is $1674.25 but the total in my accounts is $1466.38.  This is a shortage of $207.87.  I'm not sure how that happened because I reconcile my accounts every couple of days and they are reconciled now.  I did notice that some categories that seem budgeted will cause my account to overdraft if they are paid.  What can I do to fix this?  And what would cause this to happen so I can avoid it next time?

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 13 days ago
      • Reported - view

      Pink Piccolo with regard to overdrafting... If you have multiple accounts, the categories solely address whether you can afford something. It's up to you to pay with an account with sufficient funds (or arrange for sufficient funds with a transfer).

      As far as the disagreement between budget and accounts (Steps 3 & 4), a common mistake is to use the Budget Account Total shown on the left for Step 4. This doesn't work since that total includes debt. The budget (Step 3) is cash-only, so add up your positive account balances for Step 4.

      Like
    • dakinemaui ok,so there was $44.26 in a cc account. That brings my difference to 163.61.  I did add up only my bank account/cash balances for step 4.

      I’m trying to trust the budget and pay when it shows green but something seems off and it isn’t just a matter of needing to transfer funds from one account to another.

      What kinds of things would cause this to get off?

      Like
    • Pink Piccolo The first place to start is by addressing all of those red alerts at the bottom of your screen which are telling you there are issues in your budget that need to be fixed...

      Like 1
    • Pink Piccolo Also, when your category group says there's 44.26 available, but all of the categories in that group show $0 available, that's strange. Try using the web app instead - I think it's easier to figure out and see what you're doing. 

      Like 1
      • psc9
      • psc9
      • 12 days ago
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui  Thank you for your detailed responses!! 

       

      dakinemaui said:
      psc9 said:
      - CC Payments are around $4K. - Go to CC Website: the outstanding balance is far greater than $4K

      By these statements, I would expect your CC account in YNAB to have a negative balance, which represents debt. I expect the CC Payment category Available  to be positive, representing real dollars you'll eventually send to the CC.

       CC account (on the left) has a negative balance.

      Under Credit Card Payments,  Budgeted = 0,  Activity is positive.  Available is positive.  

      When I add a new CC transaction, the Account Debt increases, but the Budget Activity field doesn't change.  Is there a video explaining this?

      Like
      • nolesrule
      • YNAB4 Evangelist
      • nolesrule
      • 12 days ago
      • Reported - view

      psc9 

      psc9 said:
      When I add a new CC transaction, the Account Debt increases, but the Budget Activity field doesn't change.  Is there a video explaining this?

       It's fairly simple. If you spend money using a credit card in a category that doesn't have enough money in it, then the purchase isn't backed by cash. If the purchase isn't backed by cash, then there isn't the cash available to pay the credit card back. Therefore YNAB will not put money in the CC payment category.

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 12 days ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view
      Pink Piccolo said:
      What kinds of things would cause this to get off?

      It cannot be off unless there is a bug in YNAB (and everybody would have issues). The money in the budget always equals the cash on hand. You  now seem to have a better answer for cash on hand, so let's look at the other side. How did you arrive at the money in the budget? 

      It's easiest to understand if you look in next month's area. There, the Total money in the budget is equal to Total Available + TBB + Budgeted In Future. That will match the cash on hand in accounts.

      You can also change your settings to allow YNAB Support to look at your budget if things still don't make sense.

      Like 3
    • Pink Piccolo If things still aren't adding up, we'd be more than happy to take a closer look at things for you! If you’re up for it, go ahead and enable Support Access for your account. Once you’ve done that, let me know—and mention whether you’d like to continue the discussion here or via email instead.

      Like
    • Faness thanks, I enabled access and I’d like to continue via email.

      Like
    • Faness I just realized that the difference I am seeing equals the amount of October overspending.  So, when I go to October, TBB is red by that amount.  However, when I move to November or December, TBB is zero.  I thought that I had budgeted in November to compensate for that October overage but I must have done something incorrectly.

      Like
    • Pink Piccolo When you run the self audit check, it should be done in the furthest month out in your budget - that way any overspending is accounted for. I will take a look now and email you shortly! :)

      Like
    • Pink Piccolo You can't budget in Nov to fix October's red overspending. You need to fix it in Oct.

      Like
  • Definitely follow Janelle's advice as a starting point, but just as one quick aside, really the only time your TBB and your account balance would match up is if you only have one checking or savings account and if you haven't budgeted any money yet, or if you just get really lucky and the numbers randomly aligned.

    Your TBB is simply a reflection of all the money in your accounts that hasn't been budgeted yet. It isn't intended to constantly match up with your account balance, and in fact if you're following YNAB's advice about "giving every dollar a job" most of the time it should be zero.

    Like 1
  • Ben (furiousfalcon)  , that's a great point about To be Budgeted! 

    There are also some things that may cause Total Available in your budget to differ from the summary of your budget account balances.

    These can cause your Total Available to appear smaller than the summary of your budget account balances:

     – Money budgeted in the future will not appear in Total Available until the month in which you budgeted.

     – Overspending on a credit card removes money from your Total Available (because the category is negative) but not your accounts (no cash has actually left your accounts).

    These can cause your Total Available to appear larger than the summary of your budget account balances:

     – The summary of Budget Accounts on the left-hand side is the total of your cash accounts minus any debt accounts. It's like a net worth of your Budget Accounts. Debt balances, however, are not subtracted in the budget. Total Available is all the money in your cash accounts.

     – Overbudgeting adds money to your Available that isn't in your accounts. If your To be Budgeted number is red, this is at play in your budget.

    Like
  • There are a few technical terms that may be tripping you up as well.

    In YNAB "budget" means to put money into the virtual envelope. The Budgeted column shows what you've put into the envelope this month. The Activity column shows what you've spent out of the envelope this month. The Available column is what's still in the envelope, available to spend.

    Available money is sitting in envelopes ready to spend. To Be Budgeted hasn't been put in envelopes yet. They will never match, they aren't the same money.

    Also, Available Payment for a credit card is not necessarily equal to your payment; it's the amount earmarked for paying that card, either this month or next month. It can be too low if you overspent category, or if you didn't budget for the starting balance.

    Like 1
  • psc9 said:
    I thought when you use a CC that YNAB automatically moves $ into that account.  <- Is this a misunderstanding?

    Perhaps a misunderstanding in terminology. If the purchase is against a category with Available funds AND you take on debt (i.e., the CC account is negative), then money moves from the spending category to the CC Payment category (not account). Your payment (and the transfer transaction in YNAB) move funds between the checking and CC accounts.

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