Keeping track of overspending in categories

Hi there, 

It's my 4th day using YNAB and really want to make it work for me!

I have set up my Categories and started budgeting for some things. One thing I realised as I was doing this is that, while it's great that you give every penny a job, how can you keep ahead of overspending in one category over another. I'm sure you heard this a million times but here is an example:

I have a category for my daily dose of coffee, which I budgeted for the month. While I know it's ok to overspend and then move from a different category, what if I want to keep within my budget for this category?

One way I fist dealt with it, is by inputting daily the amount I spend on cafes in the 'To Be budgeted', having first set up a monthly goal. This, however, is a bit counter-intuitive for YNAB since it will mean that I wil tediously have to put that money in the 'To be Budgeted' on a daily basis. 

Is there another way of doing this, more practical, more efficient? The same goes for most of my 'To be Budgeted' things, how do I keep track of what I'm doing month in month out...?

 

Thank you

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  • I’m not sure I’m understanding what you are doing. Why are you moving the money to your to be budgeted??  Why not just budget it to the coffee category??

    Like 2
    • satcook I had this column's name wrong. I meant 'Budgeted'

      Like
  • Screenshots would help here! But here's the typical way to do it (and what satcook is suggesting):

    On the first of the month (or when you get paid), budget $50 to the Coffee category.

    When going for coffee, check your category balance before spending. If it's getting closer to the end of the month and the category is running low, that tells you it's time to skip a day, buy drip instead of latte, make coffee at home...or, if coffee is a high priority, move money from another category.

    Next month, repeat. That's it—and your other daily spending categories work the same way.

    Like 4
  • You budget the $50 to your coffee category. If you use cash...take out the cash and once it’s gone, no more coffee. If you use a card, be sure to  track your spending to that category and once you get to the budgeted amount, stop. 

    Like 1
  • Hi guys, 

    Thank you all for your replies.

    I guess I'm missing something fundamental about YNAB here..! 

    I have attached 2 screenshots of what I've done exactly. I have created a 'Monthly Funding goal' for the remaining month, (started 4 days ago) of €43 by placing it in the 'Available' column. Then went to the 'To be budgeted' column and budgeted for that exact amount. But this, doesn't tell me how much I'm spending really. 

    Do you now see what I'm getting at? How do I know if the category is getting low Danielle M. ? Is there another way to set this particular Goal? Can you describe exactly in steps how you set it up so it shows you if you're running low?

     

    Thanks again to everyone..

    Like
      • jenmas
      • jenmas
      • 9 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      KeepingAfloat Every time you buy coffee you have to enter a transaction in your account register to show that you bought the coffee. The available amount on the budget screen for that category will go down each time you enter a transaction.

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      • jenmas
      • jenmas
      • 9 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      KeepingAfloat If you buy it with a credit card, you enter the transaction in the credit card register. If you use cash, and you have a cash account you enter it in the cash account register. If you don't have a cash account, you count the money as spent as soon as you withdraw €43 from your bank and record it as such in YNAB. And when that €43 is gone from your wallet, you stop buying coffee. When not working with a cash account if necessary, stick the cash in an envelope labeled coffee and when the envelope is empty, you stop buying coffee.

      I have been using YNAB since 2014 and I have a cash account. In that time I have recorded every single transaction manually including cash. And except for an unfortunate incident when some cash was stolen from me, I have never "lost" more than $0.03 at a time and then only 1-2 times per year. It's not a big deal.

      Like 1
    • Voracious Reader
    • YNAB broke is not the absence of money, but rather the judgment that it has something more important to do.
    • Orange_Cheetah.3
    • 9 mths ago
    • 1
    • Reported - view

    Here's what I THINK you're asking, but let me know if I'm way off base!

    You have budgeted for your coffees, but aren't sure how  to make sure you're staying within your budget.

    The way you do that is to track your coffee expenditures. There are a couple of ways to do this, depending upon how you like to pay for your coffee. One simple way if you like to pay cash and don't like to track is to withdraw the 43 euros at the start of the month, categorize the withdrawal to the "coffee" category which will zero out that balance, and then spend from your wallet until it's gone and then stop.  

    If you use a card, you can either track your coffee purchase whenever you get one, or if you get it daily, you can set up a recurring transaction from your card account and that will automatically input it for you each day. But any time you spend money you DO have to tell YNAB that you've done so and what category it was for or you're exactly right, the software won't know how much you have left.

    It may seem burdensome or overwhelming at first, but it's really not. I'm in the U.S. so I have the option of just direct importing my transactions but I log everything manually because it makes me feel in control. It takes less than 5 minutes a day...most days it takes less than 2 minutes. And in using YNAB for 35 days, I've literally increased my cash on hand from nothing to 400 dollars while dealing with an apartment flood, an unexpected vehicle repair, three fillings, and the YNAB annual fee. So figure I've spent 2 hours tracking and 2 hours budgeting and I've made 100 dollars an hour. It's definitely worth it.

    Like 1
    • Voracious Reader
    • YNAB broke is not the absence of money, but rather the judgment that it has something more important to do.
    • Orange_Cheetah.3
    • 9 mths ago
    • 1
    • Reported - view

    My pony is slow. 😋

    Like 1
  • So in essence, you need to create a Goal for each thing you're budgeting for, input the projected monthly amount you need, and then, do what I've said in my first message.: input each transaction separately in the Budgeted for column..?!

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I have found free apps that do that. While it's great at first to enter each transaction at a time, there will be a time where you just give up this tediousness..!!

    As for the 'envelope' example, where you set the money aside, I will need about 40 envelopes...lol...!!!

    Either I'm not explaining myself clearly, or I have maybe set some high standards for an 89 $ paid app. 

    How do you go about creating such goal? Can somebody give me a step by step example I will ask again please?

    Is the way I explained earlier the wrong way of doing it?

    Thanks again everyone..

    Like
      • jenmas
      • jenmas
      • 9 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      KeepingAfloat Goals are optional. I don't use them at all. I do budget the same amount to most of my categories every month using the Quick Budget options.

      You don't need actual envelopes. It's just that the YNAB methodology is essentially a form of envelope budgeting which was popular in the past when people would cash their paychecks each week and divy it up for the known expenses they would encounter: rent, groceries, etc. Have you engaged at all with the training/support materials that explain the YNAB methdology?

      By having a cash account (mine is helpfully called "Wallet"), there is no need to have a physical envelope. I have $X budgeted for Restaurants but it doesn't matter if I pay by cash or card because I just assign the transaction to the appropriate category. 

      As for the free apps that do everything for you, are the people who use them successful at getting out of debt and saving up enough money to not have to worry about things like replacing a flat tire? I don't know about Europe, but according to the surveys, in the US most people wouldn't be able to handle a $500 emergency. Isn't your financial well being worth 5 minutes of effort per day?

      Like 1
      • Technicolor Cheetah
      • Not sure when I became a cheetah...but I'll run with it
      • technicolor_cheetah
      • 9 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      KeepingAfloat 

      I like things granular.  I have 90+ categories.  Master categories:  Groceries and household goods.  Gotta Haves (health care, personal care,  clothes, giving, gifts, etc).  Car expenses(fuel, insurance, etc..  House Expenses (mortgage, utilities, etc).  Kid expenses.  Sinking funds (like big home repairs).  Infrequent expenses (once a year bills like Costco membership, life insurance, safety deposit box, etc.)   Quality of life (vacation, hobbies).  Just For Fun (eating out, entertainment).  

      So yes, I have monthly funding goals or catergory target goals (I want to save $600 for a bill due in December, I want to save $xxx for charity, I want to put $100 a month towards a category within the Kids master category).  As I get money, I put numbers into each of my categories according to our needs and then the remaining money goes to wants by my priorities.

      Then, as I go about my daily life, I input my spending.  Today I scheduled 2 bills to be paid in 2 weeks, paid one bill, went to 2 stores where I bought things in 4 different categories.  At Costco I bought things in the following categories: Groceries, Kid  clothes, alcohol, and household goods.  I go to the appropriate credit card account on the left, and enter a split transaction for Costco, a transaction for each of the bills, and another transaction for the other store.  I have recurring transactions for monthly bills that are autodrafted (Netflix!  Now $12.99, happens on the 27th of each month).

      You can choose to have your accounts linked and then it will try to pull in transactions.  I do mine manually, takes a few minutes a day if that.  I can do them on the go (ie I can put how much I spent on gasoline while I'm at the gas station on the phone app), too. 

      I can see how much I've saved up for vacations since I started, I can see that I'm halfway to my Life Insurance goal, I can see that I paid my cell phone and electricity bills this month, I can see that I've spent $300 on groceries this month and $0 on eating out so far.  I can track each and every one of the things I want to save and spend money for.  I can track that I put $xxxx into my kids' college funds this year.  I can see that by saving $x a month, I will get to my goal for a new roof in 13 years.  

      If this is too much work, then YNAB is not for you.  It's worth it for me and mine.  It all depends on what you want out of it.  I have found that we have drastically reduced random Amazon purchases for instance.  I can afford to blow $100 on craft supplies every month but right now I'm allowing myself $20 a month for them and using the other $80 that are more important to me.  

      Like
      • chahan
      • chahan
      • 9 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      KeepingAfloat  There does seem to be a disconnect between your understanding and explanation. YNAB can be a difficult system to understand at fist, especially if you just try using the software without reading any of the help materials. There are tons of help documents, videos, and online webinars that explain the system. Have you spent any time looking through these? 

      I highly recommend going through these first as they will help you understand the system a lot faster than going back and forth on the forums. It will also enable you to ask more directed questions on the forum. 

      Like 1
      • Technicolor Cheetah
      • Not sure when I became a cheetah...but I'll run with it
      • technicolor_cheetah
      • 9 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      jenmas  KeepingAfloat

      I've added more than $1000 to my savings account every month.  Some of it is actual savings, some long term sinking funds, some of it is for vehicle maintenance, some of it is for future new vehicle purchase/downpayment, etc.  I can easily absorb a $500 car repair bill because I have more than $500 in my car repair category. 

      Regardless, in the 4 months I've been using YNAB, I've seen my debt go down and my savings go up.  My net worth has gone up by 8% since January, not bad considering the size of my mortgage.  It's gone up more than that since I'm not including assets like retirement funds in the net worth calculations, just money in the bank agains my debt.

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    • jenmas Hi there and thanks for replying.  I have organised also my YNAB and have watched a few videos as well. I have even set up Debts as Credit cards, (since I don't own a cc), that would give me the feature a credit card would have, by paying each month against the total amount. The one elusive thing that I thought would be straight forward for most ppl using YNAB for a while, is the keeping track of not going overboard. 

      Well, it has sparked up quite a discussion here :-)

      I also have a 'Wallet-Cash' account set up and you mention that '..it doesn't matter if I pay by cash or card because I just assign the transaction to the appropriate category.." I'm with you on that one. All I'm asking in here is how do you keep track that in the budgets you have set up for each category, you don't overspend? That's what I thought would give me a straight-forward answer. 

      I mention Goals because that was one way I had found that it told you how much, (both in % and money), you were away from your target. I achieved that not by putting in the same target amount in the To be Budgeted with the one in the Goal, but by inputting the amount I'd spend in a day in my coffee for example. That would tell me in a way if I was 'overspending', (i.e ..'your're so much % of your monthly goal).

      My financial well-being is well-worth more than 5min/day, which is why I'm investing so much time here trying to find out how to use this more efficiently, because other, free apps that I've used in the past, have long ago become obsolete. I just don't want to end up paying this app here, and then loosing track of many daily transactions I'd need to input manually each day. If this is indeed the case, then I just need to know what I'm up against. 

      Thank you so much for your help.. :-)

      Like
      • bevocat
      • Sometimes, It Just Sucks to Be You
      • bevocat
      • 9 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      KeepingAfloat Ah! I think you may be looking at the goal backwards. The goal isn't "stay below this amount". The goal is going to be something like "budget this much every month" or "budget this amount by a certain date". It's more like to help you save up money toward something, not to keep your spending under X amount.

      It sort of sounds like you want the pacing features in the toolkit. http://toolkitforynab.com/

      Like
    • Technicolor Cheetah Hey thank you so much for the detailed explanation and the time you took to write this! I can see YNAB has a lot of strong supporters, which is encouraging for me. 

      We're basically saying the same things here really! I don't mind the 'manual labour' of inputting various transactions throughout the day. I used to do that, and a lot more, with other apps that never gave me a Budget option, (they were merely for keeping tracks of expenses). 

      I think I'm a bit more clear with the procedure of what needs to be manual versus a budget amount. I believe I will keep using goals for my 'Immediate Obligations' and anything else I pay straight off, (either through online banking, i.e bills). As far as everyday expenditure, I will still set up 'monthly payment targets' and manually adding the amounts I spend in the 'to be budgeted' column. That is a way for me to keep track if I'm overspending, close to doing so, or within the budget/goal I initially set up. 

      Thank you again!!

      Like
    • chahan Thanks! I watched a few videos but did not have the time to watch a webinar yet, (I missed one tonight that I signed up for due to other obligations). That's why I thought I'd drop a question here that sparked up a gigantic heated forum discussion :-) I'm grateful of the response rate and help..!

      Like 1
    • Technicolor Cheetah Thank you :-)

      Like
      • bevocat
      • Sometimes, It Just Sucks to Be You
      • bevocat
      • 9 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      KeepingAfloat Oh, this discussion has come nowhere near to heated. Believe me!

      Like
    • bevocat ha ha...:-)

      Like
    • bevocat Cool, I'll check it out.. :-)

      Like
      • chahan
      • chahan
      • 9 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      KeepingAfloat I don't think the discussion is heated, and I absolutely encourage you to ask questions on the forums. Going through the help materials will give you a different perspective. More importantly, you'll understand the terminology used - I think this may be what's confusing at first. Certain words mean something specific for YNAB, so if you are aware of this, it'll help with the communication. Keep at it, read the materials, ask questions, and play with the software. Hopefully, it works out for you.  

      Like 1
  • KeepingAfloat said:
    input each transaction separately in the Budgeted for column..?!

     Maybe there's a communication barrier? I mean this gently, because I may be the one misunderstanding. It sounds to me like you're not getting that there is the budget screen, where you make plans for your dollars/kroner/dinars/whatever, and the accounts, where you enter actual transactions.

    Say I budget $43/mo for coffee in the budgeted column (with a goal set on the category or not). Then I go to 7-11, swipe my debit card and buy a $2 coffee. I need to click on the debit card account (on the left side of YNAB's window) and then in the main pane/register, I need to add a transaction. It'll have today's date, 7-11 as the payee, "coffee" for the category, and $2 in the outflow column. My debit card account's balance in YNAB is decreased by $2, as is my budget category. The "coffee" budget category's available column will now show $2 less available than it did before I bought the coffee.

    If you think that's too much work to have to do to keep track of your money, then yes, your expectations are too high for an $89 paid app. In fact, nothing is going to get the job done without this level of engagement.

    Like 1
    • bevocat THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU...!! This is exactly what explanation I needed. I hadn't quite figured out to add a Transaction of the item/coffee amount after I had set the Budget monthly amount...!!! 

      I somehow thought that Transactions were only for other things, (dont' ask me what), dah...now I feel silly :-)

      I followed your instructions and voila...I saw my monthly budget for the category go down by the respective transaction amount. With or without a goal as well...! Thank you so much again. 

      For the ppl who thought I may be too lazy...no, that's not the case:-) I used to manually put all expenses in a lot of detail, daily, both in other apps as well as a fancy spreadsheet I had made...! :-)

      Thank you everyone...!!!

      Like 3
      • bevocat
      • Sometimes, It Just Sucks to Be You
      • bevocat
      • 9 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      KeepingAfloat 🎉👏 😃

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  • Like
    • bevocat Yes, that's what I meant. I don't know why I kept writing it as 'to be budgeted' throughout my conversations. I guess I wrote it down initially, and then followed suit for every thread.. :-) Sorry!

      Like 1
  • KeepingAfloat said:
    As far as everyday expenditure, I will still set up 'monthly payment targets' and manually adding the amounts I spend in the 'to be budgeted' column. That is a way for me to keep track if I'm overspending, close to doing so, or within the budget/goal I initially set up. 

     Okay I think there is a big misunderstanding happening. Say I have allocated $43 dollars/month for coffee. In order to do this, I enter 43 in the left hand column of my coffee category on the budget page. On Monday when I go to the store to buy coffee for $4 in cash, I will then go to my Wallet account in YNAB and enter the transaction with the Payee being the name of the store, the category being Coffee and an outflow of $4. By doing this, the $4 will show up in the middle column of my Coffee category line on the budget page and the available amount in the category in the right column will now read $39. I will not make any changes in the left column on the budget page. It stays at $43 in the left column.

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    • jenmas Yes, thank you. This is exactly what I meant from the beginning. I missed the 'transaction' bit as I mentioned to bevocat

      This works like a charm for me now...! That's how I can keep track of the remaining amounts!! Thanks a lot!!

      Like
  • Wow, I never thought this would generate 11 threads here. I'm kind of proud...lol.... :-) 

    Thanks again everyone for your valuable time and explanations. 

    Like
      • bevocat
      • Sometimes, It Just Sucks to Be You
      • bevocat
      • 9 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      KeepingAfloat It's a good discussion that will come in handy for someone else later on. That's why they say the only dumb question is the one that goes unasked.

      I was playing around with it, and I think this might be what you want in the toolkit, on the budget screen, just search for Overbudget.

      "Display Target Goal Amount And Overbudget Warning

      Adds a 'Goal' column which displays the target goal amount for every category with a goal, and a warning in red if you have budgeted beyond your goal."

      Like
  • Thank you - really, for all your time. I'll install that 😉

    Like 1
  • I recommend Nick True's YNAB videos on youtube.  The first one is below, he has a slew of them.  The credit card one is particularly useful.  The middle of the month one can be useful if in fact you are getting things going mid month.  I'm not affiliated with the guy, I just thought his videos were great.  

    If you're non-US based, there's some things YNAB is not set up to do properly, like bank accounts which allow you to overdraft up to a certain amount without penalty.  YNAB is sadly US-centric.   There are work arounds but there are other threads in which those are discussed.  If you think that YNAB is not set up to reflect your reality, definitely do some searches or start a new thread.  

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  • Nick True's Credit card video:

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