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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I went ahead and upgraded from YNAB4 a few months ago, hoping I'd get used to not having negative balances and use the support team's recommended strategy, or uncover a hack that I hadn't during testing. It's such a pain to not have this option and I've been frustrated ever since. The spin that it's a bad practice just doesn't stand up in all situations. Lot's of functionality can be misused, that doesn't mean it's wrong all the time for everyone. Please bring the negative balance functionality back! Every new month is another pick of the scab.
This is ridiculous that this is still an issue. YNAB is being overly prescriptive about a legitimate use case. The worst part is that this can be solved with a checkbox. Just let users choose what they want to happen. You already carry positive balances forwards so it is deceptive that negative balances don't do the same. It violates the principle of least surprise. It's no wonder that you have multiple threads about this and people complaining. Stop telling your customers they are incompetent and "doing it wrong" and let them make their own decisions.
Just discovering this thread now after writing to YNAB directly about this issue. Like many of those who have written, I am often in a situation of waiting for reimbursements for more than a month (sometimes in amounts of several thousand dollars), and not being able to carry a negative balance in that category from month to month puts me in real danger of missing it when a reimbursement is not paid. This is getting close to a make-or-break issue for me, and I'm now shopping for replacements for YNAB. Any advice on possible alternatives would be welcome.
Adding my voice for better reimbursement handling specifically, and better negative balance handling generally. I appreciate that simply letting people roll negative balances month after month is not the answer. But, the current situation means that overspent categories (assuming the overspend was on a CC) disappear into the credit card--how is that BETTER than having a flashing red category? At a minimum, YNAB should be telling me very loudly that I don't have enough in my credit card envelope to pay my current bill. It strikes me as entirely inconsistent with YNAB's philosophy that I can add $1,000 in debt to my credit card, and come the first of the next month, there is no clue on the interface that I've done this, no measure of the debt I've created.
Once you do figure out that you have debt, it can be maddeningly difficult to figure out a few months later why you don't have enough in your credit card payment to cover the actual bill.
With reimbursements specifically, YNAB is no help at all keeping track of whether or not I have actually been reimbursed for my expenses, since there is no link between expenses and payments, and no way to balance negative months with positive months in the reimbursement envelope.
One thing that would help with the reimbursements at least would be a register that tracks inter-envelope moves. Right now, if I move $100 from my "Reimbursable Expenses" envelope to my CC, and I move $100 from my "Loans to Friends" envelope to that same CC, the CC "budgeted" amount just shows $200, and I can't go back and figure out where that $200 came from. It would be great to see "transactions" like we do for payments/transfers between accounts.
Sea Green Display said:
It strikes me as entirely inconsistent with YNAB's philosophy that I can add $1,000 in debt to my credit card, and come the first of the next month, there is no clue on the interface that I've done this, no measure of the debt I've created.
The debt -- every penny of what you owe -- is shown on the left in the accounts area. If you mean you don't have a clue that the gap between Available payment and that debt has increased, I'd agree with you. (Unless that gap is supposed to be $0, then it's pretty obvious when it's not.)
I suggest you make it a habit to look back at last month's budget a few days into the new month (after transactions have posted/imported/reconciled). Just click on the Activity for each CC Payment category. A mismatch in the top row means you should go hunt for overspending.
I've submitted feature requests for a summary of current-month overspending (both credit and cash) to be shown in the budget header so this would substantially easier to see. Ideally a "click-to-take-me-there" functionality. Obviously not implemented yet. :-(
Hi, yes, thats what I mean... the numbers are there, but there’s so signal that something is amiss, like there is when inflow or an envelope is overdrawn.
Side note, I think that underfunded goals and overdrawn envelopes look the same contributes to this problem. If you always fund all your goals it’s fine, but if you don’t, it becomes really easy to miss some debt being created.
As for the “why” I think it can matter for several reasons. The problem could be a data entry error, which is easier to diagnose with more bread crumbs to follow back. If I really did spend the money and didn’t realize I’d gone over budget, that’s valuable information. It makes reimbursement expense tracking harder if moves are unrecorded. Probably there are other reasons.
Anyway, this is a point of frustration, but I am a committed YNAB user and I respect that the developers are thoughtful about these things. The app and web app are both top notch. Nothing is perfect, but we can keep trying.
Sea Green Display said:
It makes reimbursement expense tracking harder if moves are unrecorded.
I don't follow you on this one if you use one of the two recommended approaches. It's very clear if you should move funds, and very clear if you've moved the wrong amount. With the first, it's actually trivial because you don't move funds (though I realize not everyone is able to use that one... which is why the second is useful).
The short story on the budget operation in the second approach (as the docs make it out to be far more complicated than it really is): if the reimbursement category turns green, move the excess to the CC Payment category. That handles all the this vs. next month issues, including one they didn't even consider (additional reimbursements made after submitting your expense report but before receiving the money).
If you're doing reimbursements any other way, I strongly encourage you to try one of the standard ways.