New Category Sweep Function

I thought I would share this little trick we used to help keep track of funds within our Boy Scout Troop.

TL;DR;

I created a sweep function to transfer all the available amounts from many categories into a single category. It leverages a $0 transaction to provide a history trail of the movement.

BACKGROUND

We have the concept of "Scout Accounts". These are not real accounts for the boys. That's against the rules. Rather, they are individual budget categories, allowing us to track the funds reserved for any particular scout.

One of the challenges we ran into was tracking when money is moved from a scout account category into another category, like dues. We want to be able to show a history of that money movement, even though the funds never transferred in/out of the bank account.

To address this issue, we create a $0 transaction entry in the ledger, using the split transaction feature to show both sides of the transfer. For example, if a scout is paying $10 in dues from their scout account, then we simply create a transaction for $0, with category splits for -$10 scout account and +$10 dues. Since the total is $0, it doesn't mess with our ability to reconcile the ledger and we get a history of money flow that the basic "move money" feature doesn't give us.

SWEEP FUNCTION

Taking this concept to the next step, we have category groups for things like "summary camp". In these groups, we have a category for each scout, in order to track their contributions (we use spending goals here) . We also have a "summer camp fees" category to track the troop's payment to the camp facility itself.

When it comes time to use the scout contributed funds to pay for the camp, we "sweep" the money from the individual categories into the "summer camp fees" category, thereby funding it so we can pay for camp. The sweep transaction is the same idea as the previously mentioned idea: using $0 transaction with category splits.

As you can imagine, this is labor intensive (and error prone). So, I created a Chrome extension that does the work for me. It even adds a new button the YNAB Quick Budget area to kick it off. It then uses the YNAB API to post the transaction using the newly released ability to POST transactions with subtransactions! THANK YOU YNAB!!!

  

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