How to budget reimbursed work expenses
I just recently switched over to the new ynab and am struggling with how to get it to work with work expenses which get reimbursed.
In the old ynab I would just allow that category to go in the red until I got paid back each month for work related expenses and then deposit straight to that category. I don't really want to "budget" or assign money to that category each month because I don't actually need to. Expenses go on a cc and then I get reimbursed before bill is due.
Hi Coral Memory !
How to handle reimbursements is an important topic, so a section of our Help Docs is dedicated to it.
Since you're using a credit card, you can create a 'Reimbursements' category (or something similar) and allow it to temporarily be overspent until you receive the reimbursement from your job.
Temporary overspending is only recommended when the reimbursable expense occurred on a credit card, since money hasn't been immediately removed from your bank. Our Help Docs explain how to handle the reimbursement based on whether you receive it in the same month or a future month.
Take a look and let me know if you still have questions! :)
If you have a lot of reimbursable expenses, like travel for work, it's probably a good idea to use software intended for that purpose. It makes reimbursement requests easier. You would still record the summary transactions in YNAB to document the cash flow but the details to be submitted for reimbursements are more easily handled by other means.
I prefer recording the spending as a transfer to a budget account named 'reimbursement due' or similar. Essentially, it's an asset, as opposed to a credit card account, which is a liability. When you get reimbursed, record the deposit as a transfer from that budget account. That way you never record reimbursable spending as an expense because it's not your expense.
If a reimbursement is denied you can record that denial in the reimbursement budget account as of the date of the original expenditure, or as of the date of denial. Alternatively, you can edit the original transaction to make it an expense, not a transfer to the receivable account.
I've been fiddling with different methods to best allow me to track these kinds of things. In my case, the expense is often a split category when I buy groceries or other items for my Lady friend in the same purchase as with my own things. The problems I've encountered with the most common recommendations:
- YNAB's 2 Help Docs solutions: The first, of budgeting for the reimbursed cost & then setting the repayment as a future transaction, is still muddled by the fact that the spending isn't carried to the next month, AND that I have to do some extra legwork in adding everything up whenever I ask for/am offered a check (I'm often in no rush). The second, of temporarily overspending, I'm having some trouble conceptualizing *and* still has the issue that once the month ends, I end up having to track 2 separate reimbursement amounts -- that up until the "freeze" at the end of last month, AND this month. And when I get paid back, the negative balance wasn't carried over, so it shows me as having extra budget for this month. And one of these 2 solutions has the reimbursement go to "to be budgeted" instead of back to the category, so it was *really* a pain to see what the running total was on debt/reimbursement. This started hurting my brain...
- The other solution I'm seeing take traction is to create a new tracked account like spammagnet mentioned. I thought that sounded really cool, until I realized that I'd be tracking the direct expense to my bank/CC, AND the "transfer" to the tracked account. So, I got to see exactly what the total owed was at all times right there in the tracked account, BUT had to do twice the legwork. This was complicated by the split category thing I mentioned, so the transfers only matched a portion of the spending instances; and it makes my CC/bank show a double-spend on any reimbursement transaction. For example: purchase for $30 goes on my CC, and then I do a transfer of $30 to the "Reimbursements" tracked account. CC shows -$60 total. I'd have to break CC/bank linking to be able to do transfers & pays straight from that account...yet again just about as complex as everything else.
Here's what I'm trying now, and it "feels" nicer in my mind so far:
- I budgeted $0 for the reimbursement account last month. At the end of the month, I had a negative balance on it. Nice big RED amount shown.
- This month, I budgeted that amount as negative in my Ladyfriend Reimbursements category. Yay! Now I have the red "overspend" already & know what the carry over was without having to go back to March. Let's say it was -$50. And my "To Be Budgeted" went up $50 -- I feel that may be breaking a rule (spending money I don't have); I'm ok with this for now due to my Age of Money being healthy.
- Due to a bit of laziness on my part, the check she gave me 2 weeks ago (in March...) -- when she owed $40 -- I deposited this month (To this category, not To Be Budgeted). YNAB doesn't care about carrying forward debt, so normally would show me I have +$40 -- Not very useful once more reimbursement charges start adding up, since I have to hunt around transactions to see what's actually owed. Now, my category shows -$10. I still know what's owed.
- I'm at -$10. I shopped again, buying her another $20 of groceries. I record the transaction-- Another split with some stuff I bought myself (which in my understanding can't be done to another tracked account). Now, I'm at -$30 in the category. So, it's keeping a nice running balance under "Available".
The one odd part, but it hasn't affected me, is that my Activity doesn't reflect the real activity for this month. I found out it could, if I put repays into To Be Budgeted and updated the prior month's "Budgeted" amount to match the still-carried debt. In this case, in step 3 I'd be setting it to -$50+$40 so that it shows -$10 for the end of the month. Not sure that's necessary currently; the bonus is that applies the repayment to "last month"'s money instead of this month's, so my Activity looks nicer. My Available amount still matches perfectly with what's owed, in either case!!
I hope this all makes sense...it definitely doesn't feel that simple to write out, but feels more like the way my mind wants to track the debt (i.e. without month-end/start zeroing).