Is the stealing from future completely gone as a feature?

I'm trying to get used to the new YNAB and I'm still struggling with the workflow I'm supposed to have.

Let's say I have a category Fun in which I plan to spend $100 monthly. Let's also say I spent $180 on it in October.

In YNAB4 I'd sort out the overspending by using "Subtract from the next month's category balance". Because my budget for November would already be copied from October that would leave me with $20 in Fun for Nov.

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  • That old YNAB4 feature was called "The Red Arrow". And yes it's gone, because it allowed people to keep more money in their budget than they actually had, which is a violation of Rule 1. Additionally. it caused people to develop bad habits long-term by ignoring overspending and carrying it month after month after month, so they never truly fixed the problem with their budget.

    Stealing From the Future refers to something else entirely... that is the act of budgeting money into future months, and then accidentally double budgeting in the current month. This makes the future month over-budgeted while the current month looks happy.

    Like 3
  • That's right - you can't roll over a negative number in the available column from one month to the next. Here's what happens When the Month Rolls Over.

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  • You need to avoid the red arrow situation and instead wam money from another category in October to make up the deficit before moving into November.

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  • For your example, you can use a Spending Target with Needed for Spending by Date. You can set yourself a yearly amount ($1200 in your case). YNAB will tell you how much to assign each month. It'll start with $100 per month. If you overspend in one month, you cover the overspending. But YNAB will see you spent more than $100 and it will recalculate the target amount in subsequent months so you don't spend more than $1200 over the year. So if you spend $180 in the first month of the target, the subsequent months will show a target of $92.73 for the subsequent months.

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  • I am not saying one should do this, just that one can do this.  

    I have an upcoming bonus, and I do want to plan ahead of time.  So, I create a cash account and simply put it in there.  I budget only in the future, upcoming months where that money would be spent.  Is there a chance I will have to re-budget?  Sure.  But it does not affect October (current month), which only has real dollars.  

    FWIW, this is very much not in the YNAB spirit.

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  • New user here, and this 'overspending' a target amount is the main issue I can't get my head wrapped around. For variable expenses, I set a monthly target equal to the average monthly expense for that category. Inherently, some months that category will be over the target, but over time it should even out with months that are under the target. We are not living paycheck to paycheck, so the cash flow aspect is not a concern.

    If I understand things correctly, a positive balance (i.e. underspending the category) will carry forward as available for future spending, but the negative balance gets zeroed out and deducted from total available funds - which makes sense from a cashflow perspective (if you don't have the cash, then sure, you need to reallocate from elsewhere) but not a budget one where we are trying to control/track spending and the underfunding is expected in some months.

    I'd love suggestions on how to handle this. Thanks.

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      • Vibrant
      • No more counting dollars, we'll be counting stars
      • vibrant
      • 2 wk ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Endaar if you're starting at the high point in your spending cycle, you need to budget for the reality. You can switch to budgeting for the average as you move into the low spend part of the cycle, because you need time for the excess funds to build up, so that you have an accumulated balance to draw from when the high part of the cycle comes around again. 

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      • Mark
      • warby
      • 2 wk ago
      • Reported - view

      Endaar YNAB's primary objective is reducing and avoiding debt, which means it errs on the side of caution by only allowing you to spend money you actually have right now. This is frustrating for those of us who are without debt and would like to roll with the punches automatically by carrying over negative balances once in a while.

      Carrying negative balances is useful for truly discretionary categories like Eating Out, where you may have accidentally overspent the current month so you want to exercise restraint in the next month to compensate. YNAB even encourages continued overspending in your Eating Out category because you're forced to cover the overspending in the current month, meaning the next month starts fresh with all sins forgotten. Go ahead, order that lobster again!

      The way I manage this now (which unfortunately also encourages overspending) is that I set my Grocery and Eating Out budgets to the absolute maximum I could ever imagine spending. After the month rolls over, I release excess amounts in those categories to RTA and then put them in an Extra Savings category.

      Is it worth submitting a feature request for a "Carry over negative balances" per-category checkbox? I don't know. My impression is that features that go against the YNAB way are immediately ignored, even if they are pragmatic would be super useful and beneficial to many users.

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      • Ceeses
      • Ceeses
      • 13 days ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Mark There are long threads on this forum responding in lots of details and discussions. The crux is what you are proposing is the basis of an average based budget and not an envelope budget.

      The problem isn't about cash flow or debt. The problem is relying on average budgeting, you might very well be end up delaying your saving goals. Because you are relying on your future self to eat out less, which is unreliable.  With envelope budgeting, you rely on your present self to decide, normally before the overspending, if it's worth eating out now or not. The crux is it only works if you actually check your budget before spending, if you are not then you aren't optimising your savings anyway. I am not currently and I for sure am not optimising our savings.

      Like 2
      • Ceeses
      • Ceeses
      • 13 days ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Ceeses that said the target type Needed for spending by date can help here. Put a yearly total spending and cover the overspending as you go. The target will reduce to take into account the previous spending.

      Like 1
  • My use case is exactly the same as Mark's and yeah, the proposed solution (which is also kinda how YNAB4 worked) would make perfect sense to me.

    Like 1
  • My issue with removing the red arrow is it was allowing you to budget across months - not everyone focuses on the 1st of the month as being a new budget day (especially if you're not just paid end of month).

    Because I would get reimbursed for company travel, I kept a "buffer" to always cover but I wanted it separate to the amount owed (so I could check what I'm owed at a glance) - therefore, I would have liked a situation where the "master category" shouldn't carry over if negative, but individual categories could carry over if negative - ie. A positive buffer would offset.  No liquidity risk this way...

    And the reality is, you can just enter the previous negative as a "-" into the next month budget number to do the equivalent of the red arrow anyway, it's just more fiddly (especially with loss of multi-month view) if you have multiple sets of negatives.

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      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 12 days ago
      • Reported - view

      Peter C There are two ways to manage seeing how much you are owed at a glance in nYNAB.

      One is by using a Savings Balance Target on your reimbursement category and pre-funding to the target amount (the underfunded amount will tell you how much you are owed).

      The other is transferring money you spend that will be reimbursed to a tracking account.  When you are reimbursed, you transfer it back (the transfers are part of the spending transaction). The balance of the tracking account will tell you how much you are owed.

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