Warning when future month's TBB is underfunded?

Hello,

as I've got enough money built up that I'm budgeting into the future I'm encountering what some call "stealing from the future". That is: my last paycheck was able to cover categories in a future month, something then changes in this month (e.g. rolling with the punches, a reconciliation adjustment, etc.) and the money that's now missing this month is silently taken from the future month without due warning. If I'm not aware of this I'll get a nasty surprise as soon as the next month rolls around.

I do understand why YNAB handles money in this fluid way and I fully embrace how money flows between months. What I don't understand is that there is no kind of warning in the current month about this. It would be super helpful if a TBB going negative in an upcoming month would trigger something like the "Budgeted in Future" amount turning red. Any heads-up really that a future month has been altered in a way that now it's missing money. Red in YNAB means "you need to act". In my opinion this situation qualifies as a "red" situation.

So my question is ❓ Has anything developed in this regard or are there any new best practices for dealing with this situation?

I've only found kind of old and stale threads about this, that largely centered around complaints. I'm not here to whine about this so please don't hijack this question in order to do so. I'm legitimately curious because I want to deal with this situation in a decent way.

Pinging Faness  since you relayed quotes from those old threads to the design team and did a good job trying to get to the bottom of this.

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  • The only remedy I'm aware of comes from the Toolkit add-on for Chrome or Firefox. Native YNAB doesn't have the feature you're looking for.  On the Budget screen of the Toolkit, there's an option to add an alert about stealing from the future in the budget header in YNAB.

    Like 2
      • Peter
      • Professional Designer, Web Developer
      • lasty
      • 2 yrs ago
      • Reported - view

      JoeDid unfortunately I budget quite a bit on the go in the app (where switching months is especially tedious as well). I'll try the leaving something in TBB method described by Herman

      Like
  • Currently, either you use the Toolkit to provide that warning, or you might consider changing how you handle budgeting money in future months to avoid the issue. Instead of budgeting directly in future months, you would place that money in a temporary holding category in the current month, then budget it out once the new month rolls around.

    Like 5
      • Peter
      • Professional Designer, Web Developer
      • lasty
      • 2 yrs ago
      • Reported - view

      Ben how would I handle this so that my income v. expense reports stay accurate? Re-categorize it as Inflow: TBB when the new month rolls over? Or handle it as Inflow TBB right away and assign the money to the category as Budgeted amount?

      Like
      • Abby
      • Toolkit for YNAB Designer & Developer
      • abbydawn
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view

      Peter Sorry, I probably wasn't clear. 

      Any money you earn that needs to go towards next month's expenses would be categorized as "income: to be budgeted" as normal, but budgeted to some sort of temporary "next month" category in your budget. As you earn money throughout the month, that category would increase.

      Once the next month starts, you move all the money in that category back to the TBB (by using the move money tool or simply negative budgeting from that category so that it goes back to zero) and budget it out towards the month's expenses. Any additional earnings in the current month would be budgeted back to the "next month" category, then repeat the process.

      You're just creating a temporary holding category for that money, rather than budgeting it out immediately every time.

      Like 3
      • Peter
      • Professional Designer, Web Developer
      • lasty
      • 2 yrs ago
      • Reported - view

      Ben Ah yes, thanks for the clarification. I'll try that in May

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      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view

      Peter There are a couple variants in workflow, which differ primarily in how they affect the headers. Personally, I categorize as IncomeNextMonth (INM) throughout the month to keep things segregated. When next month rolls around, I will recategorize as TBB. This works well because I'm a complete month ahead -- all my income received in April will be budgeted to May's area. This is the most efficient and least error-prone approach I've found.

      A different approach used by many is to categorize as TBB and immediately budget to INM. Then in next month's area, you release money from INM with a negative budget entry. You can release funds at any time you like. The con to this approach is it's more manual effort and a potential to mix income from months (e.g., you don't get around to budgeting income received late in the month in a timely manner).

      TBH, until you are able to push all your income into next month's area, I'd suggest you use the budget canary and leave $1 in TBB.

      Like 3
  • Peter said:
    What I don't understand is that there is no kind of warning in the current month about this. It would be super helpful if a TBB going negative in an upcoming month would trigger something like the "Budgeted in Future" amount turning red.

     No one else understands this, either.  Toolkit provided such a warning ages ago, but YNAB does not appear to regard this as very important.  There is a beta test of a change to how TBB works in an attempt to fix the SFTF issue; the proposed fix is rather more complex than a simple warning on the current month budget screen.

    Like 4
      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      I don’t understand it either. The toolkit fix is so simple and at least alerts you to the fact, yet YNAB still hasn’t incorporated it. It’s unfathomable to me.

      Like 1
      • ynaber2613
      • ynaber2613
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Superbone Add me to the I don't understand why YNAB refuses to provide a warning either camp.  Information like that should be considered vital to budgeting.

      Like 2
  • For a while I left $5 in tbb. that way if I stole from the future tbb would be something other than $5.  I only budget one month ahead and I found sftf was never really a problem so I stopped but it was a solid work around for a while. 

    Like 2
      • Peter
      • Professional Designer, Web Developer
      • lasty
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      Herman I like this. If it doesn't have a name yet I suggest we call it the budget canary

      Like 4
      • Patzer
      • Retired at age 60. Thank you, YNAB!
      • Patzer
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      Peter Be aware that if you use the budget canary, overspending that is not corrected this month will still silently steal from the future.  That's because the reduction of TBB from the overspend doesn't happen until next month.  The $1 canary left in TBB this month just stays there chirping merrily away while the overspent category this month reduces a future month's TBB, making the future month over budgeted.

      To prevent this, either never overspend a category; or move money to cover the overspend as soon as practical, and in any case before the end of the month.

      SFTF is an inevitable consequence of TBB being fluid across months.  The total lack of warning on this month's budget screen is just plain bad programming.

      Like 4
      • Peter
      • Professional Designer, Web Developer
      • lasty
      • 2 yrs ago
      • Reported - view

      Patzer thanks for the heads-up. I've become very good at WAMing overspent categories as soon as it happens, so I'm not worried about this, but it's good to know either way.

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      • Herman
      • herman
      • 2 yrs ago
      • Reported - view

      Patzer  this is true but this isn't really stealing from the future.  The overspent category in the current month should be all the warning you need this your budget is no longer accurate.  but maybe that's just me, I'm a hawk on overspent categories.

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      • Patzer
      • Retired at age 60. Thank you, YNAB!
      • Patzer
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Herman I am also a hawk on overspent categories.  I note this because I've seen people surprised by it.  Like many things that don't have easy visibility on the current month budget page, it's not a problem if you're aware of it.

      Like 2
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Herman There's no reliable indication in the current month that next month has less money than you thought it did. A rose is a rose.

      (Overspending is easy to miss under a collapsed category or scrolled off the screen. It's good to be a hawk, but not everyone is that diligent.)

      Like 1
      • Herman
      • herman
      • 2 yrs ago
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui  Like i said, maybe that's just me. If an overspent category isn't a reliable enough indicator that you have a problem with your budget then I'm not sure there is one.  It doesn't seem that it is diligence to make sure you don't have overspent categories, it seems like it should be a basic function of this type of budgeting.  It would be great if the web app added the same kind of warnings as mobile. 

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      • Herman
      • herman
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      BTW, I have the beta SFTF fix and it handles the scenario if you over budget in the current month but does not solve the awareness if you have cash overspending in the current month.

      Like 1
      • Salmon Boa
      • Salmon_Boa.4
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui I agree that overspending can be missed if it's in a collapsed category. Would be nice if the category header itself had a green/red indicator so you can drill further to see what's going on. I collapse credit cards because I pay in full each month but it made a misallocated payment harder to find. Having said that, it's one of those things to look for now.

      Like 1
      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Herman While overspending is stealing from the future, it is not Stealing From the Future. The latter is from the act of budgeting changes in the current month causing money to be sucked out of future budgeted months, placing the entire budget into a state of being overbudgeted. The real problem is that it can happen from a data entry accident that goes unnoticed, such as a typo or being interrupted in the middle of making budget changes. In those cases one might not even think about checking future months.

      Overspending taking out of next month's TBB is YNAB doing Rule 3 on your behalf. There should be some sort of consolidated overspending warning in the current month for this with an outline of the overspent categories, but at least the categories themselves contain the relevant information.

      Like 1
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view
      Herman said:
      If an overspent category isn't a reliable enough indicator that you have a problem with your budget then I'm not sure there is one.

       Sure there is -- put something in the header that's always visible. Even better, let me click it to jump me to the issue. Seems like low-hanging fruit to implement, but obviously my feedback on the matter has been ignored by the YNAB devs.

      My categories don't fit on one screen, nor do I always have groups expanded. Therefore, a colored category is seldom obvious in my budget. 

      Like 3
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      nolesrule Perhaps splitting hairs, but to me Stealing From The Future is the lack of notification that funds are double-booked. Perhaps typically that's because of budget entries, but why make that distinction? Rocks break windows, and birds break windows. I still have to deal with a broken window regardless of the specific root cause.

      With your definition, OTOH, it seems the only way to fix it is to completely eliminate flow of money between months. Don't hold your breath on that one. :-)

      Like 2
      • Peter
      • Professional Designer, Web Developer
      • lasty
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui Overspending is easy to miss under a collapsed category or scrolled off the screen.

      This is why I like using the mobile app regularly, because it complains to you about overspent categories in the current month. It's a good tool for the seasoned hawk

      Like 1
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 5
      • Reported - view

      Makes you wonder why if something is useful enough to include in the mobile app, then wouldn't it be equally as useful in the browser??

      Like 5
      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 2 yrs ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui I think your header solution was perfectly viable in all scenarios.

      Like 3
  • One common workaround is to always leave $1 in TBB. It's only when TBB == $0 that money might or might not be where you originally put it.

    Awareness is obviously key, and it's good you recognize the issue. I feel sorry for all the new users who will be bitten by this design flaw before they come to realize it's a problem.

    ETA: I see @herman already made this suggestion! In that case, I'll add the other common workaround is to never budget directly to the future. Shuffle money into next month via a holding category. This really only makes sense when you're an entire month ahead, however.

    Like 2
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