Thinking into the future when you only have enough to budget for the next week or two...
I have gone back and forth with YNAB on this and wondered if anyone has a solution. I like thinking a month (or two) ahead of time and thinking about the activities or expenses that we'll have...many of them in existing categories. However, I am trying to live by the YNAB rule and only budget what I have available. Inevitably something will come up that I forgot about that I didn't budget for, mainly because I'm not thinking far enough ahead. It's almost like I need to keep a separate spreadsheet with things I need to budget for once I have the money available to do so. Scheduled transactions don't work since I'm not sure when these will happen. The best I've come up with is to add a note in the "notes" section for the category, but that doesn't really give me a holistic view of my upcoming expenses. Hopefully I've explained things clearly!
I will usually add a category for those things. If it's a regular expense like an annual subscription renewal, it will be a permanent category. If it's a one off expense, I will use a category that I can rename. So I might have my normal Fun Money category, and one that is currently "Tickets to concert in June" and once that is paid for I might save up for "Dinner theater in August". I might have a Clothing category, and one I use to save up for specific items.
Another option is to use a "wish farm" concept where you save up for small, medium, and large goal categories. I've done that too, & which works best depends on what I am saving for.
That's why the "Stuff I forgot to budget for" category exists. Fund it as much as humanly possible when you start, because you're going to need it as these things you forgot about came up, and each time it happens, create a category for it and move money into that category to cover the expense from "SIFTBF". Usually these expenses have a time horizon no longer than annually, so you can usually get an accurate picture within one year.
Also, there's nothing wrong with using a spreadsheet too. I think most of us old-timers do it for something.
Hi Alex! Blue General
Do you have a Budget Template in place?
In YNAB, your budget is a plan for the money you have right now—but you may want to plan ahead for what to do with money you'll get in the future. We call this a budget template.
Even if you don't know when a transaction might take place, you can set up your budget template to budget a certain amount towards certain categories each month. Maybe you don't know when you'll get your next oil change, but if you budget $50 a month every month for car maintenance then you'll be able to cover it once that service is needed. That might be a more concrete example, but you can do the same with other categories and the Stuff I Forgot to Budget For category as well, like bevocat mentioned.
You don't need a spreadsheet, you simply make categories for everything. You only have the money you have, so you simply must prioritize. The more important things get money and lesser important things don't. I don't subscribe to the "I'll wait on this important thing and hope I can make it up later" mentality. The earlier you budget for the important non-monthly thing, the smaller the per-month demand it will make.
You gotta get off the roller coaster. Recognizing your priorities, allocating money in accordance with priority, and being consistent with your budget entries will greatly simplify things.
I add categories for everything that comes up or that I know I have to pay annually. Things like DMV registration, contact lenses, cord blood banking, Christmas. Inevitably I will forget something, get hit with a bill and will need to WAM, but then I create a category for that item for next time. Anything that's annual, I put the amount/12 into the account when I get paid. This makes many of the things that seem painful to me in one lump sum not seem so bad. For example, a $1000 Christmas budget sounds pretty good, right? But also painful in one lump sum, so before I'd put it all on my credit card and stay in debt forever. Now, I put $1000/12 into my account monthly, which is only $42/paycheck.