How to get ahead next month when the budgets are filled ?

Hi all, I have a couple questions about budgeting ahead. Hopefully this hasn't been answered a million times, but my search-fu isn't finding this exact scenario.

I've been using YNAB for years, since before it was a web app. To date my method has been to fill all my categories, then when one goes empty I refill it on the next paycheck, in the SAME MONTH. I never used the next month button. This made it kind of hard to tell how ahead I am. I decided recently to try budgeting for next month like I should probably have been all along, and so...

I just received a my first check for the month. I'm almost a month ahead, so I budget the remainder for this month. It's the 3rd, so all my budget categories for this month are already full, and nothing has come out yet. Green boxes all the way down. A great feeling, thanks YNAB :)

However, I want to get ahead on next month. So I roll forward one month. But all the boxes show up green there as well! They're still full of this month's budgeting money. It doesn't seem to show pending transactions in that month as needing anything either, since I guess it is assuming nothing came out the previous month. I don't want to wait until after things come out this month, since if there's weird transaction bunching and my checks come at a weird time I might not budget at the right time, and I could roll into next month with an empty category. I has the fear. <kitten picture>

So, questions:

1. Is there any easy way to see which categories in the future month need money allocated so I can get ahead or do I have to click on each one or rely on seeing the zeroes and knowing I need to put something there ? How do you budgeting superheroes deal with this ?

2. Tangentially related: How do you tell when you actually have a surplus ? Is it when you completely fill up the next month, then you put stuff in buffer ?

3. Do you all find it useful to organize budgets by category or instead loosely by important and date so you can just run top down ?

thanks for taking the time to read!

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  • If I understand correctly,  when you refer to "filling your categories" I'm thinking you are adding money to the budget columns.  It sounds like you may be adding more money to the categories than you actually need for the month.  This would explain why when you jump a month forward that it already shows green in the "available" column.  What I do is set a monthly goal for each category.  Since you are a long time YNAB user, you can leverage the reports section to get a good idea of how much you spend in each category to assist in setting your goals.   Each month I allocate money from the "To Be Budgeted" area to cover the goal amount.  This means you may still have funds left over in the To  Be Budgeted area. If you then jump forward a month, you can allocate those funds to meet the goals of that future month. You should keep allocating funds to future months until To Be Budgeted gets down to zero.  

    If you have over-budgeted for each category, you can correct this by reducing the amount in each category to meet your goal amount.  Extra funds will go back to "To Be Budgeted" so you can allocate them to future months. 

    Reply Like 1
    • Vibrant
    • No more counting dollars, we'll be counting stars
    • vibrant
    • 4 mths ago
    • 2
    • Reported - view

    I know exactly what you mean - the next month's bubbles are already green with this month's money because the bills haven't been deducted yet.

    But the budgeting column for next month should be empty. So you can still budget MORE money to the category in the future month. Like, if you budgeted $50 for Electric in July, then jump ahead and budget another $50 in August, August will say $100 available but July will still say $50. Then when the July bill hits, July will go to zero and August will show $50. Rinse and repeat for September, as August's income comes in.

    All that said...Personally, I think it's cleaner and simpler to recreate the "income for next month" category and dump excess income there until the month rolls over.  

    Reply Like 2
  • Yes, I would say create an "Income for Next Month" category to hold next month's money (you know how much it should be, based on this month).  You save work by not budgeting in the future, so that when the internet bill hikes, or the electricity fluctuates higher than anticipated, or anything else changes, you don't have to go through and manually change everything.  You can just know the money is there and do it right the first time at the beginning of the month.  

    To address your green categories: They wouldn't be green in August if you had monthly funding goals or Target by Date goals.  Are you only using scheduled transactions or Target goals?  Not that you should do much in August, IMO, but that's me.

    Since you're basically buffered now, I would organize your categories so that it's easy to get what you want from the reports.  With proper goals, you can easily sit down and budget the whole month at one go, so I don't think there's a need to organize by time period.

    Reply Like 1
  • Thanks for the replies!

    When I say category I mean budget for the most part. Sorry for the confusion.

    I use target by date goals for a bunch of things and was using scheduled transactions to get the “yellow bubble” effect, which worked great when I was refilling this month. It wasn’t until I paged forward that I saw that the scheduled transactions don’t really seem to help with future months. I forgot I could use target amount per month for that because I’m so used to using that for “build up over time” type funds.

    So two great ideas for handling this. Thanks! If I go with the income for next month one, is that how things are intended to work? What’s the paging forward for exactly then?

    happy fourth for those in the USA... and happy ... Thursday for everyone else :)

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

      Turquoise Cheetah The official YNAB workflow is to flip to the next month and start budgeting. You can still fund scheduled transaction categories using the "budget for upcoming" quick budget option, which will work even if the current month's transaction hasn't posted yet, but you have to go one category at at time (if you select multiple, the "budget for upcoming" option goes away.) BUT once you start budgeting in future months, you have to be super-uber-careful about how you make changes to your budget in the current month, lest you accidentally steal from that future-budgeted month without realizing it (this month's TBB won't go red but the future month's will). This is why keeping all income in the current month via a "income for next month" category is a popular workaround.

      Reply Like 2
    • Vibrant interesting. Has there been any official commenting on the work around or the reasons for it? I’ll probably adopt that method.

      it would be neat to have a handbook or wiki with community lessons. I wonder what other neat tricks I’m missing. Guess I should browse the forums more. 

      Reply Like
      • Vibrant
      • No more counting dollars, we'll be counting stars
      • vibrant
      • 4 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Turquoise Cheetah the "official" stance on "stealing from the future" as it has been coined, is that they are aware of the problem and are working on it. They've been saying that for going on three+ years, even though a variety of solutions have been offered up by experienced YNAB users. Start by searching "SFTF" on this forum (brace yourself, there will be a loooooot of results). 

      Reply Like 1
      • WordTenor
      • Arranged the menu, the venue, the seating.
      • WordTenor
      • 4 mths ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      Vibrant The official official stance is that the software is working as designed because obviously if you increase this month, you intended to decrease next month. And if you increased this month because you made a typo, you meant to make the typo. I snark, but there are definitely convos where support was completely baffled by the suggestion that anyone might ever make a typo....

      Turquoise Cheetah there actually is a fix for it that is in beta, which is a quiet acknowledgment that it is an error. But the mea culpa has never been public. The workaround preserves what many of us felt to be the most transformative aspect of YNAB, which is decoupling decisions about the budget from the pay cycle. Budgeting a month at a go, regardless of how you’re paid, is freeing and gives you better perspective. 

      Reply Like 4
    • WordTenor thanks, I’ll look that up. Finding the right terms is 80% of it. Seems like every community has its own shorthand.

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