Is it possible to keep a ledger of when / how much money is moved from bucket to bucket

In my budget, we keep unspecified savings goals in large buckets such as Medium term, Short term, and Long term savings. These are for things where we know we will spend but haven't prioritized the money. For example, home renovations, trips, and other large purchases. It would be very helpful to keep track of when, how much, and where money transferred from that bucket goes so we can follow the trail.

 

For example, let's say we decide we're going to take a $5,000 trip this year, we might seed that bucket with $1000 from Medium term savings. I would love to be able to look back later and see that $1000 was moved from Medium term savings to the trip bucket.

 

Can this be done in YNAB currently? Maybe a future feature?

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  • No. It can’t.

    this question comes up again and again. Still, I don’t expert it to be a future feature because rolling with the punches is YNABs second rule. It doesn’t matter wat your previous plan with the money was. Just where you  decide to put it now. And YNAB is designed for that.

    Like
    • Powder Blue Pony 

      > It doesn’t matter what your previous plan with the money was.

      I don't really agree with this, there's a lot of signal in this data. Knowing where you made mistakes in the past helps come up with better budgets in the future. It's the same as when you overspend and YNAB recommends how much to add to a given bucket next month.

      Like 1
      • Scott
      • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
      • Scottgoeshiking
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Silver Pegasus good point. Knowing I regularly move balance from one category into others indicates that I might need to increase my budget in the target category or reduce the budgets in those other categories. Sure I see this in the month when I make the move, but I don't know if that is a one time mis-budget and I'm rolling with the punches, or if it's a move I end up making nearly every month that indicates the need for a longer term budgeting adjustment.

      Like
      • Ceeses
      • Ceeses
      • 1 mth ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Scott Comparing the average spent with the budgeted amount gives that information once you have budgeted for a few months. If in the current month, the average spent is higher than what you want to budget, you are likely you will need to move money into that category during the month or a future month. 

      I guess one of the major cases when you might not need to move money to the category is if you have consciously decided to curtail your spending in that category

      Like 2
  • Can't really be done in YNAB. I feel it's highly doubtful it will be a future-released feature because YNAB wants you to understand that initial allocations are merely guesses. Reallocation is simply how we, mere mortals, can improve our guesses with the benefit of hindsight.

    Like
  • You can use the category notes to record this information. I don't track this because it isn't useful. If I could see into the future, I could accurately budget and then I would never have to move money around. But since I can't, I accept that my budget allocations were accurate at the time that I made them, but sometimes life dictates that priorities change. I trust myself that if I reallocated funds, it was because I was moving something from a lower priority to a higher priority and there is no need to keep note.

    Like 3
      • MXMOM
      • MXMOM
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      jenmas This is what I do (use the notes).  If I WAM a large amount or if I reallocate to a different goal then I make a note in both categories.  For example, we had money set aside for son's living rent at school for this year. Thanks to COVID he's living here. So we don't need that category funded (now or ever). So I reallocated the amount to my other son's 2nd level tuition. Sort of in the same group for now. I did at one point make notes in the month's notes but they are really hard to get at.  If I move money from the emergency fund to cover something I usually just make a note in the emergency fund category. 

      The first shows moving money from one category to another (and then back again).  The second shows emergency fund (sidenote - the July 2019 note is when we got rid of the credit card float and stopped budgeting based on monthly expected income and only on real dollars - ouch).

      Like
      • jenmas
      • jenmas
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      MXMOM but why does it matter why you took money from the residence category? How does it help you with the rest of your budgeting?

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      • MXMOM
      • MXMOM
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      jenmas because it helps explain an apparent “windfall” when looking back or explaining where it went when the money is gone  

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    • MXMOM Yeah I think this is my best bet, thanks for the tip.

      Like
  • Silver Pegasus said:
    These are for things where we know we will spend but haven't prioritized the money

    Why not? Take a guess at it. If you later feel something else more important needs that money, them move it at that time.

    Being specific and concrete with category names facilitates a better understand the relative priority among the various demands on your money. This is crucial to having a budget that actually works. (Actually allocating funds is trivial once you understand priorities.) 

    This may be one of those things you're just going to have to try for yourself. However, I don't know of anyone who has actually tried it both ways that has gone back to being vague and unspecific with their plan.

    Like
    • dakinemaui I understand, but this is akin to how there's a big chunk of money in "Emergency fund." It's a bucket which is there for unknown circumstances which would be allocated only when a new need arises.

      The rule I have for myself is to be as concrete as possible with nearly all my categories, with a small handful of categories to handle recurring but unknowable excesses. So, like many people, I keep discretionary buckets which help for rolling with the punches when certain categories overrun.  I'm about 250 days ahead, so the system works!

      It's kind of like a waterfall. Medium term savings -> more specific categories -> roll with the punches.

      Anywho, I've been using YNAB for something like 6 or 7 years, and this has been less of a must-have a more of a nagging desire.  Thanks for the reply!

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 1 mth ago
      • 5
      • Reported - view

      Silver Pegasus Lots of people have moved beyond a generic Emergency Fund because it doesn't give insight into how near-simultaneous likely "emergencies" can be tolerated. Not to mention, most "emergencies" for new users are really true expenses. So yes, I can see the parallel to a generic EF, but I'd submit that could be improved with more specificity as well.

      You mentioned two things already (home improvements and trips). When questioning whether you can take a trip, you would need to worry about how much you're planning in the back of your mind for home improvements. Or vice versa. Failing to do that risks spending coming up short for whatever you want to do second. Compounded by anything else you "might" want to do with those funds.

      Since you're not a new user and you've already seen the benefits of being concrete elsewhere in your budget, I'll leave off with the observation that the generic categories seem "inconsistent" to me, but it's called "personal finance" for a reason. Cheers.

      Like 5
    • dakinemaui I appreciate this feedback. Based on what I'm reading, I think I will try to convince the wife to distribute the medium term savings into things like travel, home renovations, investments, etc. and turn the "Emergency fund" into "Income replacement" which I quite like.

      Like 3
      • Cirrus
      • Living mobile and solo
      • miriamnz
      • 4 wk ago
      • 6
      • Reported - view

      Silver Pegasus 

      i’d just add a little bit. Spelling out what the medium term priorities are, and guessing a dollar value not only helps with prioritising. The other thing it does is it rearranges your thinking. So you get to realise that the planned trip and the renovation of the back deck are not equally important, the trip matters more. You also realise that the new Ipad has never got dollars in the last six months, that while you THINK you want it, in fact, in reality, you dont. 
      There are so many things we THINK we want or need, and it is so difficult to escape the advertising pressure, the everyone-else-can-afford-it pressure, the what-you-are-supposed-to-do, and know what you REALLY want. This prioritising process of assigning dollars to all the different things calling for our attention and $ rearranges your thinking and exposes your true real fundamental priorities, what really adds value to your life. There are no wrong answers there. This , i think, is the true magic of ynab. (I budget a few dollars to waste in opportunity shops. Its fun. Practically speaking its wasteful. Others might opt for a small house and big travel budget. Or buying art but not eating out. Or eating out but holidaying at home.  Discovering where you get the real (not imagined, not what others think is good) value in your living is priceless. )

      Like 6
    • Scott
    • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
    • Scottgoeshiking
    • 1 mth ago
    • Reported - view

    I have the same request. My setup is to have 3 flex accounts, one for myself, one for my fiancee, and one for unexpected shared expenses. When one of us makes a discretionary purchase, that transaction is put in a specific category that is unbudgeted, and then the overbudget is covered with a move from the flex category.

    The intention is to give us each some flexibility in our monthly spending while allowing us to keep track of how much discretionary spending we have. If we spend less than our flex in a month, it either rolls over to the next month or is moved into a wish farm category. 

    This lets us each have the same amount of flex budget and gives us the opportunity to budget it towards wish farm items if we want. It also lets me track our actual spending once the spending occurs. The only thing it lacks is a way to see where the flex spending categories were ultimately allocated.

     

    If we just guessed how much of our flex categories we planned to spend each month, we lose both the flexibility and accountability of flex categories.

    Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 1 mth ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Scott seems convoluted. Why not Just have a Flex / Personal Spending category for each of you. Record the spending directly in that category. Any leftovers automatically roll over directly in that category. If you want to move some to a wish farm category, then just do it.

      YNAB does not have the capability you seek. You'll either need to change your process (eliminating the need for your request) or find another program better suited to your process.

      Like 1
      • Scott
      • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
      • Scottgoeshiking
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui It isn't bad at all really. I'd rather record the spend in actual categories so I can see how much we're spending where later on. If I just assign it to the flex spending category, figuring out what type of spend it was later on is more challenging.

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      • MXMOM
      • MXMOM
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Scott this is really just WAMing from a "budget wiggle room" category.  

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      • Scott
      • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
      • Scottgoeshiking
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      MXMOM In a way you could look at it like that. But as dakinemaui suggested I could just be budgeting these expenses against the flex categories and that would be fine. The extra step I take to allocate spend to more detailed categories gives additional clarity into the irregular discretionary spending we do.

      For example, we don't always eat out every month. Most months neither of us buy any clothes, and the amount we spend when we do is highly variable. Once or twice a year I have a large sporting goods purchase (this year it was rain pants, a wool baselayer, crampons, and an ice axe!). These aren't budget categories I can predict, even at the beginning of the month, and I wouldn't want to plan for spending in these categories because it's so erratic and variable.

      Further, since both my fiancee and I might buy clothes (but very infrequently), budgeting directly in the clothing category doesn't give any insight into our own personal spending, which is very important to me. Regardless of our incomes, I want to make sure we have equal flex money, and I want to make sure neither of us is outspending the other regularly. We currently still have separate checking accounts which give some insight, but once we get married we'll be merging into one and will lose that tool.

      Another way to think of it would be if you could budget dollars to a category group, and then assign them to categories within the group when spending occurs. That's basically what the flex categories do.

      Like
    • Scott I agree with you here. Long-term reporting on categories is much more important to me than making it a bit easier by putting all discretionary spending in one or two categories. Even if it's discretionary, I want to know how much I spend on video games, clothes, etc.

      Like 1
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 1 mth ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view
      MXMOM said:
      this is really just WAMing from a "budget wiggle room" category.

      I'm a fan of such a category. It's literally the lowest priority in the budget, and therefore the first thing to go when something more important needs funds because I can't guess 100% right all the time.

      Like 3
      • Yes I can
      • yesican2020
      • 1 mth ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      MXMOM I like this category name. Thanks. It’s better for me than ‘Stuff I forgot to budget for’ as it’s usually because I underestimated a category (as I’m still fine tuning my budget) not that I forgot it. I don’t want to take out of Emergency funds or a budgeted True expense!

      Like 1
    • Scott I haven't yet made it through all of the comments so I apologize if this has come up already, but I'm wondering why it matters so much to you whether the flex account for each of you was used for video games or clothing or whatever else...

      My husband and I, and our 3 teenage kids, each have a Personal Expenses category (with differing budgeted amounts assigned to each, depending on what amount seemed reasonable for them (kids all have the same amount). . If someone chooses to spend all of their money on makeup and clothes (daughter) or tennis shoes and indoor tennis court time (husband) or Lego Creator expert sets (me!) I don't care as long as their monthly allotment doesn't go over their budget. 

      Even before kids it was nearly impossible to ensure we had "equal" amounts to spend. I love to read and knit and hubby plays a lot of sports so I'd have categories  for books, hobbies, and sports. But there was really no logic behind that; tracking it didn't provide me with any insight other than reading books is a lot less expensive than playing tennis!

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    • Scott Also, your annual/large sporting goods purchase absolutely - and - should be budgeted for! You may not know when or exactly how much such items will occur but you know they will so you should set aside the funds for these.

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      • Scott
      • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
      • Scottgoeshiking
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Periwinkle Flute 

      Periwinkle Flute said:
      I love to read and knit and hubby plays a lot of sports so I'd have categories  for books, hobbies, and sports. But there was really no logic behind that; tracking it didn't provide me with any insight other than reading books is a lot less expensive than playing tennis!

       It's a fair point, and I think arguments could be made in both directions. Categories generally matter though, otherwise why budget at all? When budgeted to directly, they help with anticipating where spend will occur, and they do provide insight into spend trends after the fact. Whether that's valuable is up to the budgeter.

      For me, I think elsewhere I used a hypothetical example of an alcohol budget. The value of seeing trends in spending isn't about balancing the budget, but about understanding behavior. If I were to spend a large amount on alcohol each month but allocated that spend directly to my flex category, I have no insight into this type of spend. If instead I transfer flex budget to an "alcohol" elective category and record my spend there, I immediately have a metric showing my alcohol consumption over time in the context of my overall budget. This both helps reveal spending trends that might not be as obvious (do I really spend that much on alcohol!?) and can help inform changes in behavior (maybe I should consider other priorities). That's it really. There isn't anything else I'm getting out of it.

      Like
    • (Mainly for Periwinkle Flute 's benefit) Recommended practice is to just budget directly to the alcohol category and record spending there. It's probably worth repeating that Scott has a flex category and then reallocates as he spends to the alcohol category in order to keep his and his partner's discretionary spending separate and equal. That requirement adds a layer of complexity that others may not need.

      (I think that's the case, Scott; please correct me if I'm wrong.)

      Like
      • Scott
      • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
      • Scottgoeshiking
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui yup that's correct, and I've made my case previously as to why I get value both from a flex category and from allocating that flex category into defined budgets. It does add complexity and may not be for everyone 

      Like
  • dakinemaui said:
    most "emergencies" for new users are really true expenses.

     so true!  Its amazing how everything is an emergency when money is a problem.  Less emergencies as true expenses are recognized and planned for.  

    Like 2
      • Scott
      • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
      • Scottgoeshiking
      • 1 mth ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      MXMOM I'm trying to wean my fiancee out of this mentality. Even though we have a fully funded emergency fund and additional savings beyond that, every moderate unplanned expense is very stressful for her. I'm really hoping YNAB will help with that, since I can show her we have already budgeted for unplanned healthcare expenses, vet bills, or car repairs long before they happen. It's a difficult but rewarding process to transition from money being stressful to seeing money as a tool to facilitate life.

      Like 4
      • Yes I can
      • yesican2020
      • 1 mth ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view

       dakinemaui well said. They are (says newbie user). Slowly I’m putting money aside for next months non-monthly bills and even a few ‘date unspecified’  true expenses. I’ve even subtitled my small emergency fund (unfunded true expenses)! 

      Like 3
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 1 mth ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Yes I can Brilliant! Love the new category name.

      Like 1
  • MXMOM said:
     so true!  Its amazing how everything is an emergency when money is a problem.  Less emergencies as true expenses are recognized and planned for.  

    This is one of the great benefits of using a system like YNAB for a long time. "Emergencies" are stressful! Why not eliminate them?

    Obviously, life happens. Cars break down, roofs spring leaks, and pandemics create major upheaval. But those things won't feel like "emergencies" if you already have a plan in place to handle them. Maintaining categories for "Car Repairs", "Home Maintenance", and "Income Replacement" (for job loss) transform those emergencies into manageable expenses just like any other.

    If you're in a stable job & living situation and have used YNAB for a few years, you should probably reach a point where you don't really need a general purpose "Emergency Fund" anymore. You should have a pretty good handle on all your expenses -- short and long-term -- and have single-purpose categories for them.

    At about the 5 year mark using YNAB, after not touching my "Emergency Fund" category for most of that time, I finally went ahead and renamed it to "Income Replacement." That more accurately describes it's purpose: An unexpected job loss is the only time I'd access that money.

    Like 7
  • Scott said:
    budgeting directly in the clothing category doesn't give any insight into our own personal spending, which is very important to me

     Not sure if I am misunderstanding this so if I did, just ignore me. 

    The budget is not reflected in the spending reports. Only actual spending goes there.

    Like
      • Scott
      • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
      • Scottgoeshiking
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      MXMOM What I mean is if I don't have a bucket each month for flex spending but instead budget that bucket out to the various categories it gets used for (clothing, sporting goods, video games, etc), I no longer have a way to easily see how much each of us has used of our flex spending each month.

      Alternatively, if I recorded the actual against the flex category, as you say I'd only see the spending as flex spending on reports rather than the more specific category of clothing or sporting goods.

      The overall goal is twofold:

      1. Track and limit our overall personal monthly flex balances.

      2. Track how we spend our money against different kinds of consumption (video games, dining out, etc). This is the normal function YNAB supports.

      Like
    • Scott would you possibly get the same information if you put Clothing, sporting goods, video games in a category group (possibly each of you their own) and budget your flex money there. Of course you wouldn't always guess right, but for clothing you can take from sporting goods etc. And reports would tell you what each of you spent your flex money on over time.

      I know you were looking for a different way, but thought this might give you the same, via a different (now possible) route.

      Like
      • Scott
      • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
      • Scottgoeshiking
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Powder Blue Pony Yeah that's an interesting idea. I wouldn't get a single category for household clothing spend, for example, but I could see how each of us spends on clothing differently. If there was a way to tag transactions that would also work: I could tag hers vs mine. Memo line is kind of like this, but it isn't useful for reporting.

      Like
      • Yes I can
      • yesican2020
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Scott could you use the flags as tags like this? You can’t change the names but you can search and report on the different colours eg, blue for you, green for your girlfriend, red combined . There is a recent Hannah video on this. 

      Like
      • Rakuna
      • rakuna
      • 1 mth ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Yes I can If you use the Toolkit for YNAB extension for Chrome or Firefox, that lets you give the flags names. They of course are only available on your computer and are browser specific but it's still better than nothing.

      Like 1
      • MXMOM
      • MXMOM
      • 1 mth ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Yes I can Scott of course the flags. Why didn’t I think of that. FYI when you export to excel the flags come over as well. 

      Like 2
      • Scott
      • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
      • Scottgoeshiking
      • 1 mth ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      MXMOM I'll have to look into these. I haven't used this feature at all.

      Like 1
      • MXMOM
      • MXMOM
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Scott I don’t use the toolkit but I think it allows you to name the flags. 

      Like
  • Scott said:
     It's a difficult but rewarding process to transition from money being stressful to seeing money as a tool to facilitate life.

     That's a whole other topic.  I will say that before I started YNAB (and Dave Ramsey before that), I tracked everything to the penny in Quicken. But I was always bugging my spouse, what was this for and what was that for. Or freaking out because I knew the electricity bill payment was coming out of the bank today with autopay and we have enough to cover it, but then he would spend $10 and the payment would bounce.  All very stressful and adversarial.

    When we started the DR plan the month ahead before the month begins philosophy, it was not only my spouse that had to change but me too.  So I agreed to WAAAAY more money budgeted to booze and the coffee truck and spending money. But once we agreed, we were done. I knew we were fine and my husband was happy that I wasn't nagging him anymore. 

    Not saying this is the situation with you and your fiancée but just saying this because there is a lot of stuff behind the money.  And it sounds like your fiancée NEEDS security. So by having all those "extra" categories with available money, she will see there is safety.  And I would suggest you let her decide the amount that each needs.  Its probably WAY more than you think should be there but let her go with a worst case scenario approach.  And then over time, you can whittle that down as she becomes more comfortable. 

     

    Edited to add -

    maybe set up a category group for all the things she worries about.  That way you can see the total sum (aka emergency total) and she can see every little things covered.

    Like 2
      • Scott
      • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
      • Scottgoeshiking
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      MXMOM she's much more frugal than I am actually, I think in part because she spends based on how much it stresses her (so she avoids spending) rather than on the money we have available. As a consequence I keep bumping up against the (arbitrary) flex spending amount I have while hers snowballs into wish farm items. 

      Like
  • Scott said:
    Track and limit our overall personal monthly flex balances.

     I will admit I don't get this concept as there is no yours and mine in our budget.  There are certain categories that are more mine (Hair) or his (Golf) but most of them are combined at the initial budget stage as in: hey, how much do you think you're going to spend on pub nights this month.  But that may also be a difference between being married and engaged.  Not putting any judgement on it. I think we are also unusual in that we combine ALL our money. A lot of my married friends don't.

    Like 1
      • Scott
      • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
      • Scottgoeshiking
      • 1 mth ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      MXMOM We intend to combine our money and the budget includes all our funds from all cash and savings accounts.

      I think what I'm trying to avoid is partly psychological. I make more than she does, and in the past she's felt like that was used by a previous partner as a means of manipulation. By budgeting all of our expected, recurring, or unavoidable expenses from our collective net wealth (things like groceries, rent, insurance, medical, vet, savings for emergencies and house down payment), we split those shared or unavoidable costs of living. Beyond that though, we each have hobbies and interests, and my goal is to make sure we each draw the same amount from our total funds to put towards those personal goals.

      By using separate flex categories, I'm basically forcing her to realize an equal amount of personal spending as I am. She can then do what she wants with it or roll it into a bigger item like a new bike (or she can even dedicate it to a shared goal, but that has to be a conscious choice). Without this, I might end up spending proportionate to my income and she to hers, or worse I might spend proportionately more. 

      Does this make sense?

       

      Also to helps when I want to buy a big ticket item like a new graphics card that's purely for my entertainment, I can point to our flex spending budgets and wish farm items and say I saved for it, and she likewise saved for and earned her big ticket items. It makes things overall feel more fair I think.

      Like 1
      • MXMOM
      • MXMOM
      • 1 mth ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Scott I think it’s great that you have insight into her “issues “. There’s a saying that personal finance is more personal than finance. And you guys are at the beginning of your “partnership” so there are so many years to fine tune the way you handle money. I understand your point and leave it to you guys to figure it out. 

      Like 1
  • Scott said:
    These aren't budget categories I can predict, even at the beginning of the month, and I wouldn't want to plan for spending in these categories because it's so erratic and variable.

    Of course you can make a prediction. And it may be low or it might be high. But it's money that's reserved for those purposes and no other.

    I wasn't talking about having only a Flex category to cover everything. I figured you had other categories that you funded for clothes, hobbies, personal, and so forth. (Lots of people have a miscellaneous His & Her Spending Money to cover stuff that just doesn't fit elsewhere. I thought that's what your Flex categories were.)

    Put it this way, if that flex money really is "first-come, first-serve", then it does absolutely no good to reallocate into something more specific. It's interesting, perhaps, but that doesn't help you budget your future money. What does it matter if you spent $X on clothing and $Y on fitness, etc.? What matters is whether the flex category runs out of money or not. That is sufficient to budget that category.

    For me, and I strongly suspect for you as well, discretionary categories are NOT all of equal importance. First-come, first-serve is a bad approach if that's true, and therefore, a single category doesn't mesh with that multi-priority viewpoint. Why is it a bad approach if true? Assume Clothing is more important to me than Sports. I wouldn't be happy with myself if I saw a big pile of cash and spent a bunch on sports equipment... leaving very little for clothing purchase. 

    Of course, I could mentally reserve some for clothing, but if I'm able to do that, then I hardly need YNAB! The whole point of putting this into YNAB is so what you see in the Available column really is available for that purpose. Every penny of it.

    Categories exist to protect funds. What I find that works is to contribute toward both clothing and Sports. If I think there's enough in clothing, but I just haven't gone, then I would just stop contributing. That money would sit there, safe from me thinking it's available to spend on sports equipment (or booze or eating out or books or movies or whatever other discretionary thing I might think of).

    Like 1
    • Scott
    • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
    • Scottgoeshiking
    • 1 mth ago
    • Reported - view
    dakinemaui said:
    Of course you can make a prediction. And it may be low or it might be high. But it's money that's reserved for those purposes and no other.

     Yes, that's fair, but it doesn't really do anything of value to make these guesses. In most months I won't spend a thing on clothing, and if I do want to buy something, it's purely elective and doesn't need a standing budgeted amount that isn't available to do something else. Ultimately I'd just end up pillaging the clothing budget for whatever I did spend my money on in the month, which is the rolling with the punches part. At the end of the day though, there's zero value to estimating, say, $100 for clothing, when most months I won't use it and will need to move that budgeted amount anyway. Further this is challenging when I'm trying to track two people's flex spending amounts. If I planned to spend 150 on clothing and my partner planned to spend 50, and then we don't end up spending the whole amount, it's very difficult to parse out which "allowance" dollars belong to whom for allocation to other categories or for returning to our flex categories.

    I care more that I keep my elective category group spending to a certain limit, rather than the specific categories within it.

    dakinemaui said:
    I wasn't talking about having only a Flex category to cover everything. I figured you had other categories that you funded for clothes, hobbies, personal, and so forth. (Lots of people have a miscellaneous His & Her Spending Money to cover stuff that just doesn't fit elsewhere. I thought that's what your Flex categories were.)

     That's exactly right, but I want to classify that spend that "just doesn't fit elsewhere". For example today I added a Personal Care category for special toiletries. Over time this lets us look at our spend by category, understanding that, for example, we (hypothetically) spend two grand a year on sporting goods and maybe we should re-evaluate that priority (even though we each individually ultimately decide how to spend our flex money). It gives us an overall picture of household spend.

     dakinemaui said:
    It's interesting, perhaps, but that doesn't help you budget your future money. What does it matter if you spent $X on clothing and $Y on fitness, etc.? What matters is whether the flex category runs out of money or not. That is sufficient to budget that category.

     Yes, I agree. For purely budgetary purposes you're correct there's no value. However there is a great deal of value when you contextualize the categories. For example if I was spending $200 a month on alcohol and I allocated that spending into my flex category, that's it; my budget matches and the accountant in me is satisfied at a job well done.

    But if I put that spend into an alcohol category and then cover that category with budget from my flex category, I both ensure that overall my discretionary spending limit is maintained while also tracking alcohol spend as a type of spending I care about understanding and quantifying. I can look at it over time and realize that alcohol isn't a priority and I should adjust my spending.

    Also I could reasonably plan for a small alcohol budget (say, $25), and deduct that from my flex budget at the beginning of the month if I both planned for the expense and new it was coming. Still I would start the month with a balance in flex spending and then move budget over to the alcohol category.

    dakinemaui said:
    For me, and I strongly suspect for you as well, discretionary categories are NOT all of equal importance. First-come, first-serve is a bad approach if that's true, and therefore, a single category doesn't mesh with that multi-priority viewpoint.

     I might come to this conclusion eventually as well, but right now the elective spend categories truly are equal weight. If I knew of a specific upcoming expense (say I was buying an expensive suit) I might budget to the clothing category before the expense occurred, set a category goal (funded over time from my flex spending), or even itemize it in my wish farm. For all the small spending that occurs within a month though, this is just really unnecessary. If I've already spent my allowance and decide I need something else, too bad! I can wait until the next month. None of these items carry any urgency, hence why they're elective.

    Also the flex spend amounts are variable and are intended to comfortably cover the spending we want to do. I've raised and lowered how much flex I give myself over time as circumstances and income has changed. If I find I'm needing more money for electives than I have in my flex category most months, I'd increase the flex budget and reduce something else, like my housing down-payment category. I'd increase it for both myself and my partner though, ensuring we have equal say in how our shared money is spent.

    Like
  • Scott said:
    I want to make sure we have equal flex money

    Ha, good luck with that after you're married. (Congrats in advance, BTW!)

    I strongly urge you to be "equitable". The odds of that also being "equal" are very slim. Different interests simply cost different amounts of money for the same amount of time/enjoyment.

    Like 3
      • Scott
      • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
      • Scottgoeshiking
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui Thank you (and thanks for all your advise and insight).

      Yes in most things I prefer equitability, but in this case if one of us has a hobby that costs more, then I'd prefer to increase both of our flex budgets. That way the other person has money they can allocate to whatever their priorities are. Maybe those priorities are shared, like moving the money to the housing down-payment category. That's fine! But moving allowance into a shared category should be intentional rather than a byproduct of one person spending more than the other on hobbies. Otherwise the person with the less expensive hobby will find themselves with more allowance and might realize they can afford a new hobby or improve the quality of the hobby they have. Having the allowance can trigger changes in behavior. Without equality in allowance, I might eat up the majority of our combined flex budget for my hobbies, which, while it may be fine with my partner, has the effect of limiting how much is available for her to spend if she wanted to. If she decided she wanted to spend more at some point, we'd have to hash out how much of my hobby I'd have to cut - an uncomfortable conversation. Giving equal allowance to begin with ensures that never happens. Also this is really a luxury of us finally having our financials in order. It would be much more challenging if the true costs of living were a larger part of our income.

      It's hard to find a good analogy, but maybe voting is one. One person might care tremendously about the outcome of an election and have a big stake in it, while another doesn't really care all that much. You don't give the person who cares more voting power than the person who doesn't. Both people can choose to vote or not, and who to vote for, but the total influence they can have in the voting process is equal.

      Like
      • MXMOM
      • MXMOM
      • 1 mth ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Scott this is what I say about matching amounts spent on kids (I know different than marriage but I think it’s applicable). 
      Fair doesn’t mean equal. So if I spend $2000 on goalie equipment for son 1 (take that as a hint to never let your kids be a goalie) that doesn’t mean I have to set aside $2000 for son 2. Son 2 went to Germany (twice) which may have cost more or less than $2k. Different people, different goals. 

      I will plant one thing in your mind for future consideration. When/if you have kids and one person stays home and makes no income there can be a danger to this idea of balancing money.  If there is one bucket, then the concept of your contributions vs my contributions become irrelevant. 

      Like 2
  • Scott said:
    right now the elective spend categories truly are equal weight

    Say no more. The bolded cinches the applicability of the single category within the budget. If you're willing to do the extra work to reallocate to specific categories, that's your business. As you say, there's no need as far as budgeting, so you must find some other benefit. At the least, you'll have a good idea of target values if you ever switch away from a single funding pool. 😉

    Like
  • Very disappointed with not being able to track movement of funds.  I've spent countless hours tracking down mistakes (why does this category not look correct) or figuring out that someone else moved the money.  Just knowing when and how much would have solved both situations instantly...

    Like 1
      • MXMOM
      • MXMOM
      • 1 mth ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      glynab I agree that it would be frustrating to find the categories different. In our household, I am the “administrator “ so I do the budget allocations before the budget meeting, I move (WAM) money to cover overspending (but tell my spouse). For large movements which are a clear change in plans, after we discuss, I move the money and make notes in the category. 
      hubby records his transactions himself (Usually with funny comments) and checks the available funds. 
      WAMing within a category group is not a big deal here (eg food category includes groceries, restaurants, coffee truck and Starbucks) so if restaurant goes over but there is still money in groceries, that is a no discussion required WAM. 
      I recommend that this model be used (with one administrator). Also funds shouldn’t be moved (regardless of who moves them) without discussing first. 

      Like 2
      • Scott
      • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
      • Scottgoeshiking
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      MXMOM That's a good strategy I think. I do like the accountability angle of tracking budget adjustments.

      Like
    • Scott
    • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
    • Scottgoeshiking
    • 1 mth ago
    • Reported - view
  • I’m struggling a bit with this too as I had a couple of categories that I moved money from to cover more needed categories.  But now those ones I took money from are yellow in my budget and I don’t remember which ones I had funded and moved money from and which ones I still need to budget for the month.  

    Like 1
    • Slate Gray Sander Where it came in the past from simply doesn't matter. As you look at things NOW, what is most important to fund before more money arrives? Repeat with the 2nd most important. When you're out of "new" money in TBB, you have to consider reallocation. Starting from whatever next-most important category didn't get funded, is that higher than the lowest priority category with funds? If so, then reallocate. If not, then that unfunded category is obviously the lowest priority but you're out of funds, so you're done for now.

      Like
  • Let me just say that I've been using YNAB for over 10 years and it has never had this feature and I have never looked back. Trust the method. Look forward, not backward. My results speak for themselves.

    Like 1
  • Scott said:
    I do like the accountability angle of tracking budget adjustments.

    I don't recall it being mentioned here, but YNAB has said something along the lines that their reluctance has to do with their belief such a feature would reduce the effectiveness of Rule 3. A permanent record of a "mistake" in the initial allocation could lead someone to not reallocate when they really should. Experienced YNAB users understand that initial allocations are mere guesses, but when traditional budgets regard those as "law", you can see there's already an uphill battle to change that viewpoint in new users. Just food for thought.

    Like 9
      • nolesrule
      • YNAB4 Evangelist
      • nolesrule
      • 1 mth ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui Anchoring bias. It causes you to be unduly influenced by the original number, even after you've made the change.

      Like 3
    • Scott
    • In the beginning the budget was created. This has made many people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move
    • Scottgoeshiking
    • 1 mth ago
    • Reported - view
    Periwinkle Flute said:
    Even before kids it was nearly impossible to ensure we had "equal" amounts to spend.

     Addressing this separately, even if we don't each spend the same amount each month (which isn't the goal), we still have the same amount of dollars to leverage in our budgets against our personal spending goals. If I spend less than my partner, I can allocate the remaining budget into a wish list item or other long term category. The flex categories don't get merged back into the shared pot (TBB) each month. They carry over and are added to the next month's flex budget allocation.

    It's fine if one of us has a more expensive hobby. Without flex categories, this results in one person spending more than the other, shifting the balance of elective spend in their favor. If the other person wants to pick up a more expensive hobby, then they have to negotiate for their "share" of the flexible budget, which is unfair in my mind and leads to a destructive power dynamic, especially if the higher spender is also the higher earner.

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