Annual budget spent unevenly over the year

Under the old YNAB, I could overspend on an item one month and underspend the next month to ensure I didn't spend more than I wanted in a year.  As an example, we didn't want to spend more than $1200 a year on eating out, so I would budget $100 per month.  If we went over one month, I would still budget $100 but we would know to spend less.  I know this goes against rule 3, but it meant we kept to our budget in a year.  Is there a way to manage this now without doing the calculations and checking the spending  each month.

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  • If I'm not mistaken, you can set up an annual spending goal. 

    The only caveat is that if you start that goal in a high spending month, YNAB will want you to frontload the funding so it never goes negative. I couldn't tell you for sure if YNAB would correct the negative in the goal itself if you leave it overspent, but I'd recommend covering the overspending regardless.

    It seems like you've got some YNAB history, so if you navigate to your lowest spend month in the last 12 months and start the goal then, ideally enough would roll over to support the high spend months. Or you can just start it now and deal with what comes, which is much easier IMO. 🙂

  • Using an annual goal seems so obvious now you have explained that, thank you.  I was stuck on trying to make monthly goals work.

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    • Plethora An annual spending goal will help you plan your spending fo the year, but it still won't allow you to roll overspending into the next month. An annual spending goal really means, "I want to budget at least this amount over the course of the year."

      By design, there isn't any way in YNAB to say, "I don't want to spend more than X amount in this category this year." And you're right, Rule 3 is reason for that. If you say to yourself, "I don't want to spend more than $1200 on dining out this year," but you spend the entire amount by August, what happens next?

      • Zero spending on Dining Out for the next 4+ months, making everyone grumpy and hangry, with finger-pointing and recrimination all around.
      • Stop looking at your budget, and take your credit card out to the Four Seasons.

      Or you adjust your budget. The whole point of YNAB is that you can spend as much as you want on dining out or anything else that's important to you. The only catch is: You have to be honest with your budget about where the money is coming from.

      When you look at the budget and and move money from another category before going out to eat, that's where the real YNAB magic happens. You might look and decide, "There isn't another category I feel good about taking money from today. Let's cook at home." Or you might decide, "We need to treat ourselves—I'm taking money from the vacation fund." Or, "I just can't handle cooking tonight. Let's move a little money from Groceries and order Domino's."

      That decision is based on facts, rather than a determination you made months ago when circumstances may have been different. And that's why Rule 3 exists!

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