Goals, Available and Next Month

Hi all, just set up my first YNAB account and am very excited.

I've been reading and watching tutorials for YNAB and I feel like I got a good grasp on it (perhaps not), but something is still making me confused.

So suppose, for August, I have the Clothing category, I set a goal of $100 for it, budgeted $100 (and To Be Budgeted is at $0.00), but at the end of the month I spent only $50. The Available column will show a green $50.00.

Now if I go to September, what I would expect is for this extra $50.00 dollars I did not spent but budgeted to 'rollover' and be put into the 'To Be Budgeted' category, which is not happening.

In September, Clothing shows up with $0 Budgeted, a yellow $50.00 in Available, and $0.00 To Be Budgeted. And it asks me to put and extra $100 in Budget to achieve my monthly goal.

Where is the extra $50.00? It is money I didn't spend, it is sitting in my checkings account, but I can't use it for budgeting nor does it lower my monthly goal! What am I supposed to do with the available money at the end of the month? Move it to a savings category or to the 'To Be Budgeted' category?


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  • Your positive category balances flow from one month to the next; they don't just go back to "to be budgeted." That would defeat the entire purpose to undo all of your saving from last month. 

    All the budgeted column means is how much you either added to or removed from a category in a given month.  The $50 is still available because you added it in the previous month. Budgeted is 0 because you haven't added to that category yet for that month. 

    Now understanding what each column is telling you, on to the goals. It sounds like you set up a monthly funding goal. That goal type looks at the budgeted column only. Setting that goal means you told YNAB "I want to add $X to this category every month." It doesn't care how much is in the category in total, just that you haven't added the new month's worth of $100 yet. 

    So basically you dont need to do anything with the $50 you still have available, it's just a matter of if that goal type is right for what you want to do with that category.

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  • There would be no Rule 2: Embrace your true expenses if money didn’t stay in your categories from month to month! That is how you save over time. A Christmas fund is a good example of this. If you want $1200 in your Christmas fund in December, you budget $100 a month to that category starting in   January.

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  • Many people will sweep discretionary category leftovers at the end of the month into whatever their highest priority category might be at the time.

    TBB should be $0 unless you're actively shifting funds around. Rule 1, right!

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  • What Tobias said is correct. To simplify further. Available is the total of ALL the money you have budgeted that is unspent. This amount should be the total balance of all your budget accounts. An extreme simplified example would be if you had one bank account with $5000 and available balances of $3000 in Mortgage and $2000 in Christmas. 

    Budgeted is how much of this month's income are you allocating to the category. In the simplified example above, I would budget $3000 for the mortgage. (I could set this up as a monthly funding goal since ever month I need to allocated $3000. More likely, I would have a recurring transaction that needs to be covered.) Assuming my income was $3000, my To Be Budgeted would be zero. 

    At the end of the  month, assume I paid the mortgage so the available for mortgage would be $0. I spent nothing on Christmas, so my available for Christmas would be $2000. My bank account should be $2000. Roll over to next month and my mortgage category would show up as $0 and orange in available because I have to allocate money to pay that mortgage again. Christmas would show $2000 available. the colour for Christmas would depend on whether I have any goals set up. Most likely I have a target category balance by date which I would set as November since that is when I usually start spending for Christmas. If $2000 is on track to my total goal balance, the available will show as green. If I am short of my goal, the available will be orange and  if I hover over the number, a message will popup for how much I am short. 

    To demonstrate further, here is my actual Christmas detail for July.  See where it shows Cash Left over from June? That is the amount left in available from June. I don't have to rebudget that. Its already there. See the budgeted this month amount? That is the amount from this month's income that I am putting toward my goal of $1200 by November (you can see that goal at the bottom where the pie chart is). In this case, I was able to budget the whole amount and I am on track. So far I have accumulated $494.24 towards my Christmas savings goal. 



    Now let's roll over to August. See how the cash left over from July is the same as the available from July above? Now this month I haven't been able to put any money toward my Christmas goal. The available for this month is showing orange and the message shows that I am short of my goal by $176.44. If I were to budget this amount (which I could do quickly by clicking on Underfunded or Goal Target) the available would show as $670.68 (494.24 cash left over from July plus $176.44 budgeted this month). this amount would then be in a green bubble. 

    That is how saving up for something works. You can put a target date on it and YNAB will tell you how much you need to add each month. 


    A monthly funding goal is something like groceries or gas or spending. We budget $90 per month for spending. I could just quick budget by clicking budgeted last month, but I am a lazy budgeter. I want to click one thing and have the budget done. So I set a monthly funding goal of $90. this way I can just set my budget by clicking underfunded. Boom. budget for that category done!

    In summary, you need to think of YNAB as a giant envelope system. Every month you get your income and you put in envelopes. Some envelopes are for things you need every month and you usually spend all the money each month. You may have a bit left over that stays in the envelope. Other envelopes are for expenses you need to save up for. Think vacations (yay), taxes (boo), Christmas, vehicle renewals, etc. Each month you put a little in those envelopes until the time comes to use the money. Some of those types recur every year (again, taxes, boo) but some may be a one time only expense (wedding, dream vacation, car purchase). 

    If you had real envelopes, you wouldn't dump them all out at the end of the month and then start over. But some you might. This is where you hear about WAM-ing which is where I take money out of one envelope and put it into another. For example, I didn't spend all my grocery money so I want to use that toward my vacation savings. I would move that over. Or I could just leave it in the envelope and use it next month. YNAB is flexible like that.  


    So now I have rambled on as usual. Hopefully I have helped you more than I confused you. Let me know if you need me to clarify any of the above examples. 


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  • Thank you all so much for the thoughtful replies! I think I understand a little bit better now! I believe that as I continue using, I will grasp it more fully. 

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  • I have the exact same confusion and these replies are so helpful but I'm still only 90% of the way there.....


    So if I decide that my monthly grocery goal is $100 because that's about what I should spend on groceries each month.  I set it as a monthly goal.  In June I only spend $50.  Then in July I will have $50 available, I budget an additional $50, so now I have $100 available for July - BUT it will show up as red or yellow because I haven't met my goal for that month?  Do I just live with that, or am I missing that there's some way to say "it's cool YNAB, this month $100 is all I want and it's what I got, yay!"


    Also am I then right that say I have some expense that I don't know exactly when I'm going to spend.  Like say I want to be able to go to a broadway show at the drop of a hat (for some reason...) whenever a show catches my eye, then I could budget in the Broadway Show category $100 this month, not set-up any goal at all, and then the next month it will show that I have $100 available in "Broadway Show", but I won't need to add to it ever again.  Then say 5 months from now I spend that $100, I'll now have $0 left in the "Broadway Show" category and then it's up to me if I want to replenish it or not.  OR would I make a goal with no deadline of $100 for "Broadway Show" so that it shows me visually whenever I don't have $100 - so after I spend it it will show up in red or yellow to alert me that I can no longer go to a broadway show on a whim?

    • Shubha Bala Goals are rather primitive and do exactly as they are self-described. A monthly goal must have a budget entry > $X to be satisfied.

      YNAB doesn't have the goal you actually seem to want -- start the month with $X.

      Given this lack of flexibility, most people will sweep the leftovers into a high priority savings category at the end of the month, and budget the whole $100 that the goal wants to be happy. 

      The end result is the same, since if YNAB did allow you to "top-up" the category, that would leave you with $50 in TBB which you would presumably put toward some high-priority category. Sweeping in the previous month's area does the same thing in a different way.

    • Shubha Bala All your Broadway Show comments are accurate, and there are various possible approaches yielding various different results. It comes down to whatever you want to do. Your final comment about achieving a warning with a generic goal might be the most applicable, and that's certainly one way to achieve it.

      Personally, I avoid goals. When my category is full, I tack on a "=" to the end of the name so it's incredibly obvious I don't need to continue putting funds in the category. I will obviously know if I go to a broadway show and will simply adjust budget entries moving forward to replenish the category in a timeline that is compatible with all other priorities/demands on my income.

      You're not the first to fight with the limitations of goals, nor will you be the last. Better goals were the hope of many users when the current types were present at launch several years ago. Nothing new has shown up, in spite of the many threads such as yours on this support site.

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