How to Budget Splitwise with Multiple People?

All of the posts I've read about Splitwise revolve around budgeting with a single person (housemate, significant other, etc.).

I use Splitwise with an unlimited number of people, so I need a scalable technique for maintaining an accurate transactional history. How is everyone else doing it? :) 

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  • As far as YNAB is concerned, it's all reimbursement tracking. Splitwise is simply a communication mechanism. You still wind up with transactions in YNAB for your spending as well as spending by others on your behalf. These are typically split transactions that hit your categories (for your portion of expenses) and the reimbursement for things that are not your portion.

    To scale up without the clutter of a category-per-person, you'll effectively implement "sub-accounts" based on an identifier in the memo field. A search for that identifier will filter the display to show only transactions relevant to that person -- i.e., the "sub-account". It sounds more complicated than it really is.

    1. Create a single category to track the ins/outs from everyone. I'll call this ReimbCat.
    2. Create a single tracking account to hold the balances. I'll call this ReimbAcct.
    3. Use the normal reimbursement workflow with the addition that the Payee is a transfer to/from the ReimbAcct. You obviously lose the real payee information, so put it in the memo somewhere if it's important to you. The category is always ReimbCat, regardless of who you're dealing with. (The pending total is tracked in the subaccount, not the budget.)
    4. When recording transactions, put the individual as the first thing in the memo. For instance, "Joe Blow: lunch, Panera". It's going to be on you to be consistent with that personal identifier as long as anything is pending.
    5. If you want to know how much Joe Blow owes you, search for their name in the ReimbAcct register (i.e., activate their "subaccount"). The Search Total IS that pending amount owed (positive if they owe you or negative if you owe them).
    6. When things are back to "even", clear all the relevant transactions for that person and reconcile to $0. This will allow you to hide all those transactions. You would typically keep only the pending reimbursements visible.

    Your choice whether to offset the ReimbCat (first of the standard approaches) or not (second of the standard approaches). The first simplifies interaction (automates it, actually) with the CC Payment category.

    A tip on the second approach (Temporary Debt): the far simpler guidance for when to move money to the CC Payment category is when the ReimbCat category turns green. This handles all the timing-related concerns mentioned in the docs (as well as some it doesn't consider). Also for this approach, it's FAR simpler if you use the same CC for all reimbursable charges in order to make the reallocation to the Payment category easier.

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