Variation on reimbursements

Looking for ideas on how YNABers handle tracking of expenses they don't make, but want to track, in a shared expenses situation.

A quick example:

Roommates sharing rent 50/50.  Rent is $1000 per month.

Roommate A has a dog, which is not a shared expense.

To save roommate A a trip to the store, roommate B picks up $50 worth of dog food while at the grocery store, and "carries" the expense till month-end and then just pays $450 as their "half" of the rent.

If roommate A wants to "track" the purchase of $50 dog food so they can run a year-end report on how much was spent on pets, what would be the best way to do that?

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  • You need a "Stuff I bought for Roommate B" category. The problem you are going to run into is on the budgeting side, since you are buying things you aren't budgeting for, and there isn't any reimbursement management in YNAB.

  • For tracking purposes, I would recommend Google Sheets or your favorite spreadsheet.

    Roll your own register with sums. Three columns:

    Expense Discription
    Roommate A Paid

    Roommate B Paid

    Sums for the last two columns, and a Delta amount.  When you get to a reimbursement point You look at the sums, and the person who owes money in the Delta amount cuts a check to the other, and you put in offsetting entries in the spreadsheet which will zero out the Delta.

  • Yeah, the tracking we already have covered, and is done in a spreadsheet as you said.

    My issue is exactly as you said in your first post, how do I enter the spend when it wasn't me that did the spend and track it as such.  I could do a transfer of money from pets to rent, which is technically what happened, but that doesn't show as an expenditure in YNAB . . .

    I might be able to do something with an off-budget account maybe, have to think about it some more.

    The issue is my situation is actually more complicated - the "roommate" scenario was hypothetical just to get the basic scenario across and that I could extrapolate a solution to my situation.  So the more manual / moving parts the solution has the less likely I am to implement and just go back to my current situation of balancing the budget and not tracking the expenses properly. 

    I suppose worst case I export a report out of YNAB and then write a formula to aggregate the data out of the monthly sheets and generate a "true" report from that.

    Would be nice though to do it one place and be done.

    • Hi nbhms !

      I may be misunderstanding things, but is the issue that you want to show the $500 for rent and the $50 for pet food instead of $550 for rent? If so, you could enter a split transaction - $500 for rent and $50 for pet food. The total's the same and properly updates your reports/budget to show where your money is going.

      • nbhms
      • nbhms
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Faness Yeah, I think you are misunderstanding the scenario.  The dog food purchase is for me, but I'm not the one who did the purchase so there is no transaction for me to split (unless I make a fake one per dakinemaui (see below)):

      In my budget there is a single transaction - $1000 for rent.

      I have a "rent" category that I fund $500 from my pay, $500 given to me by roommate.

      This month, roommate buys $50 in dog food for me, so only gives me $450 as their portion of rent, to keep things simple.

      So I fund my "rent" category with $550 from my pay, $450 from roommate. 

      Everything balances, but the dog food purchase is not "tracked".  I could fund my pet category and rent category as normal, and "transfer" $50 from pets to rent, but that wouldn't be "tracked" and wouldn't show up on a report as spending on pets.

      Per dakinemaui below, there may be something I can do with a split transaction that has a net value of zero, with -$50 to pets and +$50 to rent.  Which is effectively a "transfer" of funds between categories but should get tracked as a purchase.  But it's been a busy week and I haven't had a chance to try it yet.

    • nbhms I would run the rent through the Roommate category as well. (And any other shared bills.) This provides a consolidated total/net of things you pay for and things Roommate pays for.

      • Jannelle
      • jannelle_ynabsupport
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      nbhms I hope you don't mind if I jump in for Faness here! Yeah, it doesn't sound like there is anything else you can do to track that dog food purchase from the Reports side of things (you did right by moving the $50 from pets into the rent category though). Unfortunately, what was the simple option when it came to reimbursing your roommate for that pet purchase, also meant not giving the budget enough details to track when it comes to Reports. 

      I wouldn't suggest creating a faux transaction to track that money, but you're more than welcome to test that out of course, it's your budget! If that same situation occurs again though (again, keeping Reports in mind if that's what's important to you),  I would let your roommate pay you the full amount and then you could reimburse the rest using another transaction (ie. Apple Pay or Venmo, so that transaction can be categorized into "Pets"). 

      Anyway, I hope that helps! 

  • If roommate A is using YNAB, you're effectively already tracking it, because you have to account for every penny that goes through your account, including paying B back. You would have a category called, "Owed to B". If this is positive, you owe B. If negative, B owes you. Just reflect reality with the transactions you record:

    In the case where B buys dog food, no money enters your account, so Net = $0. Record this as a split transaction:

    • Split 1: Inflow $X to "Owed to B"
    • Split 2: Outflow $X to Pet (or whatever)

    If you buy something for B that is not shared (e.g., dinner), again reflect reality. For a $40 total bill with $20 your portion, that's a Net of $40 and:

    • Split 1: Outflow $20 to Eating Out
    • Split 2: Outflow $20 to "Owed to B"

    Be careful if B owes you (negative category). YNAB will not carry over a negative past the end of the month. Options to deal with a negative category:
    - Arrange to finish positive with the timing/amount of who pays what expenses
    - Settle up at the end of the month so you end at $0 (or positive)
    - Seed the category with enough of your own money to stay positive. If the category is less than the seed amount, then you are owed. Tip: put this amount in the category name or notes.
    - Leave it negative, which manifests as increased CC debt. Upon reimbursement, you must manually shift funds to the CC Payment category when you do finally settle up.

    Be very careful if the OwedToB category is red. This indicates that there is missing money from the rest of your budget (because you used it to buy something for B). If this is an appreciable portion of total on-budget funds, you should "seed" the category (see above) with enough money to not be red. When there is no red showing (either yellow or green), then your other categories will be entirely backed by cash in hand.

      • nbhms
      • nbhms
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui  A "Net $0" split transaction may be the answer, hadn't thought of that. 

      That may work for my situation even without the shared category.  I'll need to play with that this evening.

  • I use my Emergency Fund budget to float reimbursable expenses, and I flag unreimbursed expenses with a yellow flag until they're reimbursed. I figure, if the expense doesn't end up getting reimbursed, it's low-key an emergency :)


    For Roommate A, if they end up paying $550 in rent to cover what they owe B, but wanted to track the $50 separately, I'd probably just use the split feature (or these days, more likely, just do a separate transaction with Venmo or Apple Pay to Roommate A).


    For real world situations like this, e.g. travel with friends, I tend to just tally all my expenses for say a shared trip under Travel. We account for who owes who what in a separate spreadsheet, and any settling up transactions also get logged under Travel.

    • Khaki Storm
    • YNAB book topics online:
    • Khaki_Storm.1
    • 1 yr ago
    • Reported - view

    I had the same problem with a local non-profit that I volunteer with. I'd be out, pick up something they needed, then they would give me a check a couple of weeks later. The problem is I didn't plan on spending the money. I asked them for an advance since this happened about every 2 weeks. In your case, if your roommate gave you $50 now, then they'd have a credit with you. When you spend it, you ask for another advance to keep the credit positive. My situation didn't like that. I spoke with a leader and asked them to get a credit card, which they did. Now they can order things online or the leaders with credit cards can purchase them while they are out. 

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