Carry Over Negative Balance

I've read the previous threads about negative balances.  I understand why YNAB resets the balance, and agree that the vast majority of time it is the correct why to handle a negative balance.  I disagree that it should be handled that way ALL the time.  Typically a one size fits all solution causes headaches for someone.  I have one such headache.  I have two categories where I need to  track reimbursements.  Those categories either have $0 balance (all reimbursements received) or a negative balance - money is owed to us.   I'll give you two examples:

1- My wife works for a small company.  They don't provide company credit cards, and on some occasions my wife has to make work related purchases.  Typically this is rare, but there have been a few times where she's has had to make multiple purchases in a throughout a month.  I enter these purchases in category specifically to track these expenses (i.e. make sure all the expenses are reimbursed)  The category often will have a negative balance, because there hasn't been time to be reimbursed.  New month begins, negative balance goes to $0. Reimbursement is paid.  Category now has a positive balance, and I have to manually go and check to makes sure All the reimbursements were paid, and move the positive balance.  If I could carry a negative balance this would be soo much easier.  If there's a negative balance, there's a reimbursement that hasn't been paid.

2- Is similar.  We are the executors of an estate that is being settled.  There are some expenses that come up that in order to keep the legal process process moving need to be paid sooner rather than later.  We pay those, and are reimbursed by the the estate.  Collecting those reimbursements takes a bit of time.  Again a negative balance would make this process sooo much easier because I could see what money is still owed, rather than having to open the category and track transactions manually after YNAB resets the balance.

There has to be other users that have "reimbursement" issues.  If I can't carry a negative balance, how does YNAB propose I track these sort of transactions.

15replies Oldest first
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Active threads
  • Popular
  • It seems like the "approved" approach is to have a funded Reimbursement category. Set a Target Category Balance goal for the current balance in the category. Cover the other category's overspending. As long as your goal isn't met, you have outstanding reimbursements for the amount of the deficit. If the goal is met. you've been reimbursed.

    Your scenario would probably require two reimbursement categories so you can track the different sources.

    I've also tried manually recreating the category deficit (in a test budget, I haven't done a month end, yet) and tried covering the overspending from another category and creating a future inflow for the amount of the reimbursement, adjust the balance as money comes in.

    I'm not sure which one I'll use long term if I stick with YNAB.

    Like
  • A simple search for the relevant reimbursement category in All Accounts gives you the pending reimbursement total. Make sure you categorize both outflows and inflows to the reimbursement category. (YNAB's official documents are in error in this respect, suggesting use of Inflow: To Be Budgeted in some cases, and will lead to issues with reporting and spending totals.)

    The largest distinction about reimbursement handling is whether you are able to automate interaction with the CC Payment category or not. If you can devote enough of your cash to cover the pending amount (use it to keep the category positive), then it can be automated. If not, then you may have to manually shift funds from the reimbursement category to the CC Payment category. These are the two approaches described in the official docs.

    Like 1
  • dakinemaui said:
    A simple search for the relevant reimbursement category in All Accounts gives you the pending reimbursement total.

    There are other ways to track the pending total (namely the use of transfers to a tracking account), but I find these far more awkward in comparison to the Search. The main drawback is the Payee field is occupied by the transfer information.

    Like 1
  • Hi Clint ! I wanted to be up front and let you know that we don't plan on bringing back the red arrow—but we are looking into ways to improve reimbursement handling in YNAB.

    There are two ways to handle reimbursements:
    1. Budget for the initial expense, then treat the reimbursement as income
    2. Temporarily overspend, then use the reimbursement to cover it

    You can learn more about those options in our reimbursement Help Doc.

    When you receive the reimbursement, categorize it to the same category used for the expense. This will also help keep your reports happy since your spending will be offset by the amount of the reimbursement.

    Once you've categorized the reimbursement, be sure to check the Available balance in the spending category—that's where the reimbursed money ended up! If you no longer need the money in that category, you can move it to another category. If you choose to temporarily overspend, check the amount in your Credit Card Payment category after the reimbursement, too.

    Like
    • Clint
    • Another day, another dollar
    • Gold_Flute.4
    • 4 mths ago
    • 1
    • Reported - view

    I'm using the overspend method   It works fine as long as all the transaction work in a given calendar month.  Not so much if the transaction cross months.  I need a simple why to track reimbursements.  I've been struggling with this issue for months, and finally decided to ask if I was missing something.  Looks like I'm not.

    I get how "the red arrow method" could be abused and go against the YNAB philosophy.  Not having it also makes it so I no longer have a straight forward way of tracking reimbursement categories. 

    The whole purpose of budgeting software is to easily track your money.  My case may be the exception, but if I can no longer easily track reimbursements, I'm going to have to look at other options, which is disappointing,  I've used YNAB for years, and up until now have thought it the best.

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

      Clint Are you categorizing both outflow AND inflow to the reimbursement category? If you do that, it's pretty simple. The color of the category gives you an indicator whenever you need to move money to the CC Payment category. The simple rule is that if it turns green, move the excess. Works within the same month, across months, or even overlapping reimbursements (when you've made more charges before being reimbursed for previous ones).

      That assumes your purchases are made with a CC. If you pay for a reimbursable expense with a cash-based account (e.g., with a debit card), then you should move the same amount from the CC Payment category to the Reimbursable category in order to turn that into new debt.

      Like
    • Hi Clint !

      While we don't have any plans to bring back the Red Arrow, we understand that reimbursement handling isn't quite ideal. We plan to take a look at improving that functionality in the future, but in a way that doesn't allow overspending to hide in the budget. This is one of our longer term goals, but it is on our radar!

      Like
      • BWill
      • Long time YNABer
      • MI_YNAB
      • 2 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Hi  Clint ,

      Oh, I feel your pain.  I've spent about 20 hours (support, training, videos, reading articles, elbow grease) in the past few weeks trying to migrate data and change my philosophical approach in the areas of "overspending".  I'm mostly willing, but the reimbursement situation is just not workable and I've tried every workaround I can think of (setting it up as a credit card, other account, line of credit, etc), but there's always a showstopper.

      I just can't afford to budget enough money from other categories into reimbursement categories so I artificially don't have a negative amount on the last day of the month...

      It's super frustrating because the functionality worked so well for reimbursements and for motivating me to easily track what I wanted to "pay back" into a category that I "overspent" in.

      I've told so many people about YNAB and now I don't know if I can stay.  Did you look into and find an alternative?

      Like
  • BWill said:
    I just can't afford to budget enough money from other categories into reimbursement categories

    Then use the Temporary Debt approach instead. Transaction-wise, it's the same: categorize outflow and inflow to the same category.

    (I'm assuming these expenses are on a credit card and you are reimbursed within 4 weeks of the outflow.)

    In the budget, let the category go overspent/yellow. If it ever turns green, move those funds to the CC Payment category. Pretty simple and no need to budget your cash.

    To see the total owed, Search for the Reimbursement category in the account, Select All, and the Total is what is owed.

    Some people combine this with transfers to a tracking account so the pending total is shown as the account balance. I find the search pretty easy, but it's an option.

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

      If expenses are not on a CC, you might be able to convert them by covering the Reimbursement category with the cash from the CC Payment category (from other budgeted purchases that will show up on the same or later CC statement). 

      Like
  • This is actually quite maddening. First, you move to a subscription-based service and stop supporting your software. As a Mac user, that means that if I want to move forward with the base Operating System, I HAVE to move to the new service. Second, you remove the ONE feature that solved the biggest headache (reimbursements) and put the problem on your long term plan of things to eventually kinda maybe solve, but not the way it was done when it worked.

    I've been using YNAB since 2013, talked myself into paying a subscription for something I already bought, spent a TON of time getting things moved over, then a TON more time trying to fit a round peg in a square hole, only to find out, "sorry, you can't do that." And the entire goal of making budgeting easier became absurdly complex.

    I'm beyond frustrated with this. You claimed that the move to the subscription model was to make it easier to support an enhanced feature set, but all I've seen is a reduction in feature set and a failure to make things like this reimbursements, which is a REALLY BIG DEAL, happen. As someone that deals heavily in software development, I've seen this pattern take over the software industry and it has left everyone with lighter pockets and less complete products to use. Way to fall in line with everyone else making more money on lesser effort.

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

      Pink Piccolo YNAB4 works fine on a Mac once you patch the Adobe Air runtime. See this:

      https://gitlab.com/bradleymiller/Y64

      Like 1
      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 2 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Pink Piccolo You can also get a refund on your unused portion of your nYNAB subscription if you choose to cancel. Maybe tell YNAB to contact you after they've added a reimbursement solution to their software.

      Like
    • Clint
    • Another day, another dollar
    • Gold_Flute.4
    • 2 mths ago
    • 1
    • Reported - view

    YNAB - You keep offering Band-Aid solutions that do not really address the problem.  The simple fact remains, there are legitimate reasons to carry a negative balances.  When the month rolls over and I have a negative balance in a category, and YNAB zero's it, I no longer have a simple way to track what's owed to me. I understand the philosophy, but YNAB needs to provide a solution, not hoops to jump through.  The whole point of budgeting software is track your money.  Zeroing a negative balance defeats that purpose.  I personally believe you should go back to letting the user choose to carry the balance month to month, or create a special account that is for reimbursements.  Just because some people abused the option to carry a negative balance, it doesn't mean those of us with legitimate reasons should be forced to use some kludged together method, that is prone to errors and mistakes. 

    Like 1
    • Hi Clint !

      We understand that tracking reimbursements could stand to be improved. We do intend to take a closer look at this in the future, but the option to carry negatives in the budget is something we still want to stay away from. I can't say for certain how this will be addressed going forward, but it's on our radar.

      Like
Like Follow
  • 2 mths agoLast active
  • 15Replies
  • 321Views
  • 8 Following