Dealing with Laundry and Quarters

Hi everyone,

I just recently started getting my finances in order using this free trial of YNAB, but I had an issue that I can't seem to find an elegant solution for because it seems dreadfully complicated to implement in YNAB, despite it being rather simple in real life. 

So basically I have to do my laundry using quarters, which means every 2-3 months I go to the bank, get like $60 cash back, and exchange it for quarters. Of course, I don't want to front the $60 each time, I want to save like $20 per month until I have the funds available in 3 months (which is about when my current stockpile of quarters will run out). 

Here's where things get tricky... Essentially I want an unlinked account called "Laundry" that will show me my current quarter balance at any given time, but I also want a category called Laundry (which is completely separate and not linked to the Laundry account) where I will save up the $20 per month. I set up the category with my $20/mo goal no problem. I want this category to ONLY reflect my laundry budget, I don't want it to combine my current stockpile of quarters with the $20/mo, because that will be misleading.

For example,

  • I have $5.50 in quarters right now, and I would like my unliked Laundry account to reflect that, and nothing else, because that's all I have in quarters at the moment. 
  • I have budgeted my first $20 (from Checking) in my Laundry category, bringing the total to $20 (it's the first month of budgeting for laundry).

My issue is that I cannot add the $5.50 into my Laundry account without assigning it a category, which would be the Laundry category in this case. But I don't want the $5.50 to be budgeted into my Laundry category, because then it paints a misleading picture that I've saved up $25.50 towards my laundry goal, when in fact I have $5.50 right now in quarters and have only saved $20 towards my future goal, not $25.50. 

What can I do to fund my Laundry category for 3 months, without touching the Laundry account, and then "transfer" that $60 to my Laundry account once it's finally in quarters, all while keeping the Laundry category at $20 increments each month only?

 

Thanks for your time.

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  • Separate concepts:

    1. You need to reserve money for laundry, so budget for that. Enough to cover laundry until you put more in the category (as with any category).

    2. You need to pay with quarters, which presumably will be a separate stash from other cash. Since accounts map to locations / piles of money, create a Quarter account. Withdraw quarters anytime you like as a transfer. Location/form of money has no bearing on purpose.

    When you do laundry, record a transaction in the Quarter account categorized to the Laundry account for whatever you spent.

    If you happen to need quarters for something else, that's no problem. Just make sure to get some more before laundry day.

    Like
  • There's a flaw in doing this that I'm not seeing a clear solution for. The money I currently have in quarters is going to overlap with the money I'm budgeting to save up for the next cycle, and that's going to be very misleading. For example,

    • January I put $20 into my Laundry category.
    • February I put $20 more into Laundry.
    • March I put $20 more into Laundry, make a transaction from Checking Acc to Quarters Acc, so the balance of Quarters Acc and Laundry Category are both $60. 
    • So I do laundry throughout the month until April...
    • April I put $20 into Laundry Category (to save up $60 again, since it will be depleted in 3 months, right?). Now Quarters Acc. shows how many quarters I physically have (which is $40 at this point), but Laundry category shows the sum of how many quarters I physically have ($40), and how much I've saved towards the next exchange ($20).
    • This leads me to believe I have $60 saved up to be exchanged when in reality I only have $20, because I will have met my goal and it will be green.

    Sorry this so confusing, but do you see the issue here? The Quarters account is fine, but the Laundry account is the sum of the Quarters Acc and whatever I've budgeted towards my new $60 goal, whereas the Laundry Category should not include my Quarters Acc balance, just what I've saved up to exchange for quarters in the coming months.

    Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Orchid Mainframe It's only an issue because you are insisting an account match with a category. Removing that synchronization eliminates that problem.

      Read this, it may help:

      https://www.youneedabudget.com/the-relationship-between-your-budget-your-accounts-its-complicated/

      Location/account is independent of purpose.

      Understanding this is how you can defer spending until the money is out of your control. 

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Orchid Mainframe When you budget $20 to laundry, you can spend up to $20. How you choose to pay is a totally separate consideration. The fact you need to use quarters just means you need to get some quarters (raise the Quarter account balance). When you use those quarters to pay, that's when the spending occurs. When you get quarters, you haven't spent anything yet, and no category is impacted with what I've described.

      Like 1
  • Orchid Mainframe said:
    This leads me to believe I have $60 saved up to be exchanged

    The fact the category says $60 is Available to spend on laundry means exactly that. The fact you don't have $60 in quarters doesn't matter, because you're not going to spend $60 all at once. All that matters is there is enough for the current laundry run. If there isn't enough, then just go get more quarters beforehand. In that case, Checking account decreases, Quarter account increases. That's simply a location change.

    Like
  • Something else that may help: consider a laundrymat that accepted a debit card (linked to checking) directly. The fact you have, say, $2000 in checking and $20 in the laundry category hopefully doesn't phase you. All that you care about is that the account you use to pay has at least $20, the contents of the category.

    Using a different payment method/account is no different. If you plan to spend $20, and the category had at least $20, then you can afford that expense. If the account has at least $20, then you can use that account to pay. If not, then transfer from any other account.

    Like
  • dakinemaui said:
    It's only an issue because you are insisting an account match with a category. Removing that synchronization eliminates that problem.

     The issue I have with this is that it's sort of necessary. I understand the philosophy of "where the money comes from isn't important, all that matters is that you have it" but that doesn't really apply to this scenario, because it does matter where the money is. The money has to be in the quarters acc or I can't do laundry, period. The entire point I have this $60/3 month savings category is so I only have to get quarters once every 3 months, so having my quarters account tell me when I'm out of quarters (and my Laundry category telling me when I have enough money saved to exchange to quarters) is important. 

    I don't really see a way to achieve this because what I want this to do is against the YNAB rules/philosophy. I want one category for this, but doing so means having usable money (cash to save up for quarter exchange) mixed in with specific-use money (quarters for laundry), so I never really know if the $60 in my account means I have $40 saved up and $20 in quarters, $60 saved up and $0 in quarters, or $40 in quarters and $20 saved up. 

    What you're telling me to do is essentially like trying to combine gift cards and cash into one category and expecting me to understand what the total balance really means, and the reason I say that is because to me, quarters are not usable anywhere but the laundry. I'm never going to use them for anything except laundry, so they're essentially useless unless I do laundry with them. So this would be similar to having a Best Buy gift card account and a checking account, and then my groceries category shows $80, but 40 of those dollars are Best Buy dollars, which I can't use to buy groceries.

    Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Orchid Mainframe 

      Orchid Mainframe said:
      So this would be similar to having a Best Buy gift card account and a checking account, and then my groceries category shows $80, but 40 of those dollars are Best Buy dollars, which I can't use to buy groceries.

      Which would only be a problem if you had $80 in the entire budget. If $40 is not a huge portion of total budget funds, it's far simpler to treat them as being just like any other pile of funds.

      In this case, quarters can be used for non-laundry purchases, so it's really not the same as a Best Buy gift card. Sure, it's your choice to not use them for anything else if you want. The Budget doesn't care. Nothing changes in how you record things. 

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Orchid Mainframe if you really can't get past this desire to synchronize, create a TRACKING account for Quarters. When you get quarters, record a transfer to the Quarters account in your checking account categorized as Laundry Quarters. The category reserves funds until they turn into quarters, at which point that amount is removed from the budget.

      Like 1
    • dakinemaui 

      So if I did it the way I'm supposed to do it, every month would look like 

      • Budget $20 to go towards quarter exchange 
      • Spend $20 doing laundry
      • Net result at the end of each month is $0 in my laundry category

      So it looks like I'm not actually saving for anything, even though I suppose technically I am still setting aside $20/mo to exchange into quarters. Maybe I'm just not understanding the way I'm supposed to do this, but that's what it seems like would happen.

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view
      Orchid Mainframe said:
      So it looks like I'm not actually saving for anything

      So? Money was reserved toward laundry, and therefore not spent on something else. Clothes are clean. Isn't that what's important?

      TBH, money was actually saved, just not for very long. 🙂

      Like 1
    • dakinemaui 

      Well I suppose, yeah, but isn't the whole point of creating a "savings" budget to see how much money you're saving for something? It sorta defeats the purpose if all you see is essentially $0 every month. For example, how will I know when I've saved up the $60? Reading $0 at the end of the month, I'm left to essentially guess or do the math my self using past transactions, so I can't really forecast when I'll be able to (safely) exchange my $60

      Like
  • Orchid Mainframe said:
    that doesn't really apply to this scenario, because it does matter where the money is.

    You will continue to face this quandary. The only time location matters is when you need to pay. And the amount that matters is the amount of the outflow (not even ask that's in the category). As long as there is at least that much in the account (and category), you're golden. And if there's not that much in the account, just move funds between accounts.

    So yes, it applies to this scenario. It applies to every spending decision you make as long as you have more than one cash-based account on budget.

    You can synchronize budget accounts and categories of you like, but it's definitely more work and prone to errors.

    You can also do the tracking account, which is effectively a heavy-weight category. At least it can't get out of sync (so a little better than synchronizing in my view), because the category represents the CHANGE in the tracking account.

    Budgeting / defining purpose by account is great if all you have is accounts. It's rather clumsy when you have YNAB and categories, though.

    Like 1
  • Orchid Mainframe said:
    So if I did it the way I'm supposed to do it, every month would look like

    That's it exactly. I'm sure you already do this with Groceries, right? Does it bother you that you don't "save" for them?

    It sounds like you are very close to understanding completely.

    Like
  • Yeah I do understand generally how YNAB works I think, and I definitely do (somewhat) the same thing with my groceries. The only difference is I don't need to save up with groceries, so my budget should be $0 at the end of the month. With the quarters, I don't want my budget to be $0 because I want to save $60 over 3 months, even if I'm also spending $60 over 3 months at the same time. But I can't know if I'm actually saving $60 over 3 months if it cancels out when I spend the $60 I saved up last time, ya know? 

    This would all make perfect sense IF I exchanged $20 for quarters every month, then I would do that, spend them, and rinse and repeat in harmony. But I don't want to have to do that, I'd rather exchange $60 every 3 months, and that requires a $20 budget each month to be able to afford.

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  • Orchid Mainframe said:
    how will I know when I've saved up the $60?

    Doesn't matter. If you want more quarters, just go get some and transfer between checking and the on-budget quarter account. Transfer $10, $40, $100, whatever is convenient and doesn't leave you unable to pay for other things out of checking.

    Like
    • dakinemaui So you're looking at this with the perspective of "exchanging $60 for quarters doesn't change anything because I'm essentially just shifting money around, I still have it and can use it as I wish"?

      Because my perspective is that exchanging $60 for quarters means I've essentially spent $60 on something and can no longer move that money anywhere else, it's now only for laundry - like buying a gift card for only laundry and nothing else ever, so that's basically a transaction that would leave me unable to pay for things out of checking if I didn't have $60 saved up.

      I know technically that's not true, but for the sake of this, let's pretend it is.

      Like
  • Orchid Mainframe said:
    I'd rather exchange $60 every 3 months

    Is $40 an appreciable portion of on-budget funds? Would taking out $60 up front instead of $20 cause issues with overdrafting? If so, then the Tracking account approach is going to be better for you.

    Same thing if you really want to pretend you've spent that money when it turns into quarters. The tracking account works exactly like that. (Money leaving the budget is spending, by definition.) A categorized transfer spends those "savings" and updates the total quarter balance at the same time.

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    • dakinemaui 

      No, I could definitely front the $60 every 3 months no problem. I was just trying to do it the YNAB way by "saving up" for purchases like that. Would it work to transfer $60 from my checking to my quarters account and then budget the next 3 months for $20 for laundry? That way I can see how much money I have in quarters at any given time without using trackers, but also will limit myself to $20/mo for laundry, and I suppose when the $60 in my quarters acc runs out I can just front the $60 cost again? 

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view
      Orchid Mainframe said:
      I was just trying to do it the YNAB way by "saving up" for purchases like that.

      In my view, the conversion to quarters is not a purchase, and I would therefore use an on-budget account. (I also would have the flexibility to use quarters on some other purchase if the need arose.) There's an entire rule in the methodology about converting non-monthly spending to a monthly basis for clarity. You are trying your level best to disguise monthly spending as non-monthly "spending" -- the opposite direction.

      However, if you strongly believe that conversion is a purchase, then the money should leave the budget at that time. That is very "YNAB" as well (given that viewpoint), and categorizing the outflow does that. The tracking account is a convenient add-on that shows the balance in YNAB rather than simply looking in the laundry jar for that information.

      In my opinion, synchronizing an account balance to a category balance (even if you scatter that across 3 months) is the least "YNAB". This based on the fact YNAB has no facility to synchronize on its own and treats purpose as independent from location by design.

      At this point, it's whatever makes you most comfortable. Your budget, after all. 🙂 

      Like 1
  • Hi Orchid Mainframe !

    I think the Tracking Account approach would do exactly what you're looking for here! You'd budget $20 every month towards your Laundry category. Once you have $60 in your Laundry category, you'd make the exchange (withdraw $60 in quarters) and you'd enter it in YNAB as a Transfer from your Checking account to the Tracking account. This will take the $60 out of your Laundry category and add it to the Tracking account. You'll see $0 Available in the Laundry category, so you'll start budgeting $20 a month again until you reach the $60 total again. The Tracking account will show the $60 and each time you do laundry you can enter a transaction in the Tracking account to show how much you spent (this will also give you a running total of how many quarters you have left). 

    The Laundry category and the Tracking account will be separate balances and the transfer will move the money from one to the other. :)

    Like 1
  • Orchid Mainframe said:
    The money I currently have in quarters is going to overlap with the money I'm budgeting to save up for the next cycle

    Perhaps what I do with laundry coin will give you some ideas going forward.

     

     

    I use a laundry coin account, but I don't have a laundry category.  The cost of doing laundry is just one of many expenses/purchases in my Sundries category, which is the category I use for all those expenses that keep me, my home, and my clothes clean and/or functioning.  I spend about $800 a year in sundries, and budget for that in monthly allocations equivalent of $15 per Saturday in that month (so $60 to $75).  Those funds are used for all non-food consumables: light bulbs, laundry soap, tooth paste, batteries, toilet paper, sandwich bags, aluminum foil, laundry machines, etc. etc. etc.

    I decided to keep a laundry coin account early in my use of YNAB, right about the time I ran out of coin (again)  late on a Saturday or Sunday night and had to hang linens and towels to completely dry over every surface in my apartment.  I realized that just having a separate coin account would ensure knowing ahead of time if I had enough coin to do laundry or if I needed to go to the bank to get more before going home, and all without having to continually count the coin I had on hand.   But, in reality, the coinage I have earmarked for laundry machines can be used for anything -- parking meters, bus fare, milk at the grocery store, fundraiser chocolates sold door to door (when we used to do that kind of thing), etc. -- so, I treat it like it is just another cash account; the amount in it doesn't have to be spent on laundry and it certainly does not match up with the amount in any category in my budget.

    How do I continually replenish the laundry coin?  By siphoning it out of my wallet cash and, when necessary, going to the bank for rolls of coin.

    All Canadian currency under $5 is a coin, and I can use $0.25, $1,00, and $2.00 coins in the laundry machines in my apartment building.  I generally find that $2 coins add up to real money real fast, and I don't siphon those out of my wallet.  But for the other small coins generated as change for my cash purchasing, in particular the quarters and loonies ($1), I pull those out of my wallet once a week and record a transfer between my wallet and my laundry coin account. My current balance is enough to deal with laundry for quite a few months without adding more to it.  The laundry coin account tends to fill up a little faster in the summer because I prefer to use cash for small impulse spends like iced coffees and the like. I spend it down quicker in months where I don't have time for a lot of discretionary cash spending.

    Unrelated: I also pull all the nickels and dimes out of my wallet every week, record that amount as spent, enter a transaction to a payee I've identified as Nickels and Dimes, categorize it to the same category I use for bank fees, postage, and customs.  I toss the really small change into a jar and let it build until there is sufficient quantity to bother rolling for a trip to the bank. I estimate there's nearly $100 in the nickels and dimes jar now, so that's a task that's on my to-do list.

    Like 2
  • HappyDance said:
    I realized that just having a separate coin account would ensure knowing ahead of time if I had enough coin to do laundry or if I needed to go to the bank to get more before going home, and all without having to continually count the coin I had on hand. 

     If not for this thinking, (and probably this is why OP wants to keep track, but if not, here's an alternative...) Don't keep track of it after it leaves your budget.  Just consider it a transfer out, categorized to your laundry, and keep the pile of quarters in your jar, (or wherever you have it).  you can visually tell  when it's getting low, and time for a new withdrawal.

    What I do with my "blow money" is I budget a certain amount, and then when I pull the cash out of the bank, the transaction (usually a split, for various cash categories I have) gets assigned to the category, and the money is pulled out.  And that's all there is as far as the budget is concerned.  I no longer know how much money I have to blow, by looking at YNAB.  I do by looking in my wallet, though.  And when I use that money to buy something at the store, I don't have any transactions to remember to input, because it's already been categorized as "blow money" leaving the budget.  What I do with it after that doesn't matter to YNAB.

    I don't have any "cash" accounts to keep track of cash that's not in an actual bank account, or CC.  Once I pull out cash for a purpose, that category no longer has the money, and it's considered "spent" as far as YNAB is concerned.

    So, anyway, like I said, probably not what OP desires, but it's another option, and (at least in my mind) easier than trying to keep track of cash in YNAB.

    Like
  • Thank you everyone, this has been very helpful. I think I'm gonna go with a tracking account because that makes the most sense to me. 

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