Need Some Advice on Accomplishing Something

Good afternoon fellow YNABers,


I am hoping that one of you might have a tip or trick to help me with something that I can not seem to get to work the way I want it too.


In my “Accounts” section I have something called “Set Asides”, it is where I put the sums of money for Semi-annual and annual true expenses., YNAB, auto insurance, Sam’s Club, Microsoft Office, and other subscriptions or things I am saving for. The money is transferred to a no fee, pre-paid debit card. I do this for 2 reasons, first it provides a clear physical and psychotically separation of the funds, while I can access the funds at any time, I have to take conscious steps to do it, the second reason is that since I don’t use the card online or for normal shopping, it gives me access to funds if my checking account/debit card is hacked/cloned or my identity stole, something that has happened to me several times.


My problem and it is problem for my weakness and desire to spend talking more than anything, is in the budget section. I have monthly and fund by dates set up for each item and transfer the money to the card once a month. However, the amounts in those sections grow each month and if I have overspent in one area, I see those funds and want to dip into them, where if they were greyed out I would not. I tried putting the "Set-Asides" in a tracking account and can’t remember right off the top of my head what I didn’t like about that. Does anyone have an idea of what I can do to fund my “Set Aside” account but not have the balance grow month after month in the budget section?


Thank you.

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  • That's tricky. I've had some similar problems with old sinking funds (my future car fund was basically my overspending protection fund). I'm not sure how to track that fund without a growing balance, but a couple ideas that might help... 

    - Make a note in that category detailing everything it's for, maybe with dollar amounts to help you see what you'd potentially sacrifice by drawing from it? Or a motivational message? 

    - Create a separate category just for covering overspending and only pull from it for that reason. That might at least put a buffer between you and your set asides.

  • Sky Blue - I don't think I stated it right, I don't mind a growing balance, just not as Green in the budget. I restarted "Set Asides" as a tracking category and transferred the funds to it. So far it is doing what I want, as I said in my original post I can't remember what it was that I did not like in the past when I tried it. It could be that I was doing it wrong.

    As to an overspending category, are you saying in addition to my "Emergency Fund & Auto Emergency Fund"? I like that idea and that is something that I would not mind seeing increase, sort of personal overdraft protection.

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      Tomato Mask (05bd62cee897)  Yeah, it's basically like your own built in overdraft protection. If you find yourself overspending by a certain amount, budgeting about that amount every month for a while should cover you pretty well. If you find yourself overspending less, then you can set a cap on that category, stop budgeting when you hit that cap, and just replenish it as needed. 

      The only thing that's tricky is not letting that overspending protection enable spending you wouldn't otherwise do! ;) 

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    • Sky Blue Octopus (9909553a77bf) I am working on not enabling any overspending. YNAB is the first time that I have stuck to a budget in my life. I am 5 months in, I have only gone into the negative once, I had disputed a charge, the bank said I won the dispute gave me back my money, then 45 days later after the creditor gave them the additional info they did a chargeback or something. 

  • I would look at your categories before you spend and make adjustments before you spend. That's how you build the muscle which keeps you from spending money that's in categories. 

    The longer you use YNAB and the better you hone that muscle, the more of a hassle all these "But if I put this on budget I'll take the money for something else!" accounts become. I've been there, got this exact advice from Lee from YNAB, told him he was crazy and clearly did not understand that my situation was unique, and then totally regretted it a year and change later when I had to re-do all my accounts to avoid fresh starting my budget. Yes, a tracking account puts it out of sight out of mind for now, but when you're better at respective  your category balances it becomes a PiTA to constantly be transferring money out of your budget. 

    It will also save you the hassle of transferring money to a separate prepaid card. (I reread and saw it was fee-free.) 

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  • Tan Major (faac422e1003) said: I am not sure I understand what you mean here.
    "But if I put this on budget I'll take the money for something else!" accounts become.
    I am working at honing and sticking to the budget, I even had an emergency this week, wiped out my emergency funds accounts, but did not impact my budget for month everything was covered.
    The monies I am moving around are almost all in discretionary spending, I will fund say movies, but end up buying books and not going to any movies at all that month.
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      Tomato Mask (05bd62cee897)  You indicate you are transferring money to a separate debit card in order to prevent yourself from spending it, and you don't want that money on budget. 

      This is a really common feeling when you start YNAB--"I can't allow myself to see that money or else I'll rob myself!" But as you get better at using YNAB, you won't be tempted to do that, and the tracking accounts or entirely off-budget accounts you've created to hide money from yourself become a nuisance instead of a help. Making moves before you spend helps keep you from moving money you don't intend to move. 

      You mention in this post that you're only talking about swapping discretionary spending. If that is the case, then the savings muscle is already honed and the separate debit card isn't needed. Don't over complicate your budget. If you're not robbing the "Sams Club" category, then there's no reason to have a whole separate account for saving up for it. (And there's no reason to have a separate account even if you are robbing from it; you just retrain your thinking.) 

    • Tan Major (faac422e1003) Preventing myself is only part of the reason I have a separate account. I have been cursed, certainly was not a blessing, to have been the victim of both having my debit card cloned several times and my whole identity has been stolen 3 different times. Each time my banking account was frozen until I got a new card, so I keep some cash and a separate card, so I would be using it anyway.

      I am working on retraining my thinking, it is a slow but steady process.

  • There's some great advice here!

    You might also consider setting Goals for those "Set Aside" categories -- if you move money out of one of them, and it goes below your Goal amount, the Available will turn orange. You'll keep the budget all green, instead of watching for that gray when the money is gone from the budget.  

    Let us know how it goes as you decide.

    • Jen - YNAB Team Actually I have already set Goals, I have done that for the set aside as well as most of the regular categories, Groceries, Transportation, Personal Care, ect. 


      I find that I spend about 5 minutes on the Budget each day, just double checking that all entries are in, approving scheduled transactions, then once a week, usually on the weekend, I will double check my spending. Right before my check hits on the third of the month, I plan for the upcoming month, make any adjustments to Categories and such, add in anything that I know is upcoming.

  • Hi Tomato Mask,

    Would placement help? 

    For example, if it was at the bottom of your budget categories and always collapsed (out of sight, out of mind). It would still grow and show as green but may not be as prominent.

    Or would a physical representation of the delay to achieving your goals help such as a timeline where every time the set aside fund is dipped into it shows the goal moving? Similar to the image below.

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    • Tan Banjo (c031bfdaebb1) I never thought of placement and collapsing that category. I have collapsed my "Annual True Expenses" category and will see how that works out. Thank you for the advice .

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