Closing out a category

I'm struggling to find a good way to "close out" a category I no longer want. I've read a plethora of posts on this topic, but none contain a suitable solution. YNAB doesn't seem to have a good option, and my current work-around is particularly tedious. Does anyone have a better solution, or do the devs need to add something?


Example:

Say I have a "Car Insurance" category. It's served me well for three years, smoothing out my budget to handle the big premiums that come every 6 months. Now I move to the city and sell my car in favor of public transportation. I no longer need the "Car Insurance" category, and I want to get rid of it. What do I do?

1) Rename it? No. I already have all the other categories I need.

2) Hide it? No. Screws up my reports, and over time I'd build up a huge pile of useless "hidden" categories clogging up my budget.

3) Delete it? Maybe . . . but it gets complicated:

  • First step is to re-categorize all the existing transactions to an appropriate category. I'll pick my "Transportation" category. I can bulk edit the transactions from my accounts tab. YNAB even offers to do it automatically when I click "Delete". Yay, YNAB!
     
  • My "Transportation" category has now gone into the red. This makes sense - I haven't yet moved the "Car Insurance" dollars in my budget. Time to bulk edit my budget allocations and . . . wait . . . what? How do I do this?

    If I just delete "Car Insurance", all the dollars I've budgeted over the last 36 months will get dumped together into TBB. I could put it all into "Transportation" for this month, but it feels wrong to be budgeting money I spent years ago today. My budget history is all screwed up, and "Transportation" is running negative all months except the present one.

    Looks like I have to go through an manually move my "Car Insurance" budget to "Transportation" for every month for the last three years. Then I can delete "Care Insurance". Really? Is this how it's supposed to work?

Multiply that example by every category you ever want to get rid of.  Canceled Netflix subscription? Student loan you finally paid off? Television bill that got merged into your internet service? Overly-detailed "Scuba Gear" category you finally realized should just go into "Shopping"?

Even if "Hidden" categories didn't screw up reports as they do, there's no reason to carry around these phantom categories once you're done with them. YNAB-junkies like clean budgets!

Merging the category into a larger one is the sensible option, but the only way to keep the budget history intact is extremely tedious. You could argue that only the current month matters and budget history isn't important - but then why does YNAB let us see past budgeting in the first place? Again, YNAB-junkies like clean and accurate budgets, reports, and tools to help us plan for the future.

Manually transferring budgeted dollars month by month is my current solution. Luckily it doesn't come up very often, but when it does, I have to wonder why YNAB doesn't have a better answer. The frequency of similar complaints on this forum point to a clear opportunity to improve YNAB functionality. Am I missing something, or does YNAB need a "Merge" category feature?

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  • You’re making a lot of assumptions about what YNAB-junkies like and don’t like. I’ve been using the same YNAB budget for 10 years now and I don’t mind hidden categories. I just went and looked and I have 31 of them! But they’re hidden. I never see them. I couldn’t care less about their history.

    Like 4
  • Just hide them! It's ancient history. 

     

    You can export to CSV then process data in excel if you ever need a detailed report. I have done this recently for a mortgage application and the bank loved it. 

     

    Edited to add: YNAB is a forward looking method. Having said that, it keeps good enough records for me. 

     

    XLS data tables are a nice way to handle and export any data - you can simply export the car insurance transactions from the main data set to its own little table. 

    Like 1
  • I, too, don't like inaccurate reports.  Why even have a report if it's not right?

    When I've merged categories, the best thing I've found is,

    1. In All Accounts view, search for the category that you would like to delete {cat. A}.

    2. Select all transactions, and recategorize (they just updated this so a split transaction won't get completely messed up, yay! I haven't tried it yet. Just be happy you don't have to do splits individually) to the desired category {cat. B}. Use the Edit menu. 

    3. In the budget view, in the farthest back month, just click on the available amount of category A, and use the Move Money tool to move it all to category B. ***

    4. Repeat in all following months' budgets. 

    5. After checking that you didn't miss anything, delete category A. 

    This approach requires no calculations, which helps prevent errors. 

    ***I have found that this can cause the credit card bug to rear its head, because it puts cat.B as overspent temporarily, and/or refunds can get twisted. I do not worry about these, because there's no easy way to know what the cc balance was at that time, and since I've already made the decision of what to pay that month (and it has no bearing in reports), there's no value to that work for me.  

    Good luck!

    Like 1
    • Move Light Sound Life PS. I think a Merge/Separate category feature would be great. Maybe it could be a mode, where every time you recategorize, the exact budgeted amount for that transaction moves to the new category (for separation), or the whole category transactions/budget amounts go to the new category (for merge). 

      Maybe I'll put in a feature request. I think that would be the third one on this topic for me. Each have slightly different solutions...

      Like
      • Rhubarb314159
      • YNAB-enthusiast
      • rhubarb314159
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Move Light Sound  This is exactly what I do, too. It's the only way to make the budget work as it should. Seems needlessly complicated, though, right? The problem is steps 3 and 4, which can take a LONG while if your budget is many months/years old.

      What we need is an option to move allocated budget when we do step 2. There is already an option to bulk recategorize transactions - we should also be able to move the dollars that we budgeted for those transactions! It would make this whole process tremendously easier.

      Thanks for understanding. Some of the people on this forum seem to be willfully unhelpful.

      Like
    • Rhubarb314159 I will also say that dakinemaui is typically one of the more helpful (and even emotionally neutral) people on the forum. Go read through most things he writes and you'll learn something pretty soon. 

      Tone is always hard to read over the internet, and everyone has grumpy days (or times where you're doing so many things that it's all terse, no hard feelings). My guess is that there have been so many new budgeters all running into the same UI problems that have been feature requested many times in the past that some of the regulars are finding themselves repeating themselves. It's hard enough to approach the same material exuberantly for the 500th time in person - a digital person can make it more difficult to inspire that freshness. The human connection is important.

      That's a long way of saying to take everything with a grain of salt. :)

      Like 1
      • Rhubarb314159
      • YNAB-enthusiast
      • rhubarb314159
      • 4 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Move Light Sound Life I think you've touched on the right issue here. We don't need a "Merge" feature so much as we need additional options when we bulk edit transactions. If I bulk recategorize a set of transactions, the dollars that were budgeted to cover those transactions should follow to the new category. Or at least have an option to make them do so. That would make closing out a category much easier (and make a lot more sense).

      Like 1
  • The point of YNAB is to plan your future spending. Hide it.

    Although I agree it's pretty silly for the category delete not to reallocate budget funds to the new category.

    Like 1
    • dakinemaui Why have reports if they will not accurately represent the past? People say to look at reports for averages to inform their future plan. If the averages are incorrect because of hidden categories, that doesn't help plan well for future spending. 

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    • dakinemaui I do think the issues for hiding and merge/separate categories are different. 

      I don't want to see my student loan category in my budget anymore, but I definitely want it shown in the reports as a debt payment, not a hidden category.  I think the hidden categories should be shown in the reports as still falling under their original category group (that information is in YNAB - if you unhide a category, it retains the original group).  I have yet to decide how I'll make this happen. I could hide/unhide every time I want to look at a report. Repurposing has different implications. 

      Merging/Separating categories has more impact on calculating true averages to inform budgeting, as well as more logistics to clean up the historical changes. 

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

      Move Light Sound Life I don't think a hidden Car Insurance category will impact future planning. What would be important is what does Car Insurance cost at the time OP is considering getting a car. The fact they paid $X 5 years prior doesn't matter when Geico quotes them $Y.

      As for total spending being reduced, I'd submit that total spending is not in and of itself informative of future spending. If YNAB has taught me anything it's that it's best to break things down in order to plan.

      Like 1
    • dakinemaui Perhaps the car insurance situation of the OP is more like my student loan payment. Selectively showing hidden categories under their original group in reports would do quite well in this case, too.

      For me, the merge/separate categories would be very useful for isolating types of spending I want to control, then bringing those transactions back into the original category after the habit is developed. Or, more likely, because I set up the structure one way but realized it works better in YNAB this other way. 

      In my life, this manifests itself in food (groceries, convenience meals, dining out, treats, dog, hosting) and car things (I'm about to want to break some things out, because my husband and I keep assuming that money will cover X AND Y, somehow, in time...). For food, the reports will be better at informing spending if they logically represent those categories over time (hiding doesn't work with the logic). Car things - we'll see. But I know it won't tell me anything useful if I don't make it accurate, historically. 

      There was a thread a while ago that you participated in with a good analogy for the merge/change category. In it, the dollars were being historically "fired" from their past jobs and losing documentation/clearances of previous work when the intention was to simply transfer departments. 

      The situation makes me think of one of my favorite "both/ands" lately: If something is worth doing, do it well, but if something is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly.  I'm pretty sure one of those is based off a Chesterton quote, and I can't remember who said the other one. I paraphrased.

      If YNAB is going to have reports (why should it not?), they should represent the data well. But, they shouldn't eliminate reports right now because they're imperfect.

      Nightly musings.

      Like
  • Move Light Sound Life said:
    I definitely want it shown in the reports as a debt payment

    And that's cool, but that's not planning future spending -- the primary purpose of YNAB, right?

    I do think YNAB should revise the reports to selectively include hidden categories (under their original groups). Make a feature request, I guess. Until then, the "side benefits" (e.g., a sense of accomplishment) will require additional effort to unhide if you want it in the original group. A "Mostly Hidden" group that is typically collapsed is a good middle ground.

    Like 1
      • Rhubarb314159
      • YNAB-enthusiast
      • rhubarb314159
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui Just because something isn't the "primary purpose" of YNAB doesn't mean it should be ignored. YNAB *does* offer reports, and they may as well do something useful.

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

      Rhubarb314159 You do realize that I said they should improve the reports, right? (If you missed it, it's in the post to which you replied.) And my initial post I said the reallocation you so bemoan is silly. Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive, but I suspect the "willfully unhelpful" snipe was direct at me. I wonder what you'd say if I actually disagreed with you.

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    • dakinemaui Don't be overly sensitive. It's the internet. Take the good and leave the bad. *Insert appropriate emoji/face here*

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

      Move Light Sound Life Eh, I'm over it, though I greatly appreciated your kind words. Cheers...

      Like 1
    • dakinemaui I do really want to know though... Do you think YNAB should have reports? Why?

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

      Move Light Sound Life I could take or leave reports, TBH. I've found the best report for my needs to be the Search function in All Accounts. (You may be interested to note that it's not subject to the hidden category limitation.) I do like some of the graphs, but I refuse to call them "reports". 😉

      One big reason to have reports is to check a box to attract additional subscribers/revenue. Maybe someday YNAB will pay their developers to implement the other features that have been languishing that would be beneficial in its "primary" role. One can hope at least, LOL.

      Like 1
      • Rhubarb314159
      • YNAB-enthusiast
      • rhubarb314159
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui Nope, definitely not directed at you. Sorry you thought so!

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