Dealing with Scheduled Payments

How do I get more visibility into scheduled payments? A number of my bills are paid through scheduled credit card or checking transactions that I know are coming. Insurance, cell, internet, etc. I get a notice in my email a few weeks ahead of time, with the bill. That email says that card X will be charged Y on date Z. If I plan ahead and enter a transaction for date Z on credit card account X for amount Y, it will go in as a future transaction, and won't be treated by YNAB as activity until that date. 

Assuming I've budgeted for it, between now and Z, YNAB reports "available money" in the category corresponding to that bill, but I don't think of it that way. The money is effectively spent, but the transaction just hasn't gone through yet. 

How can I get YNAB to recognize scheduled transactions as done deals, that just haven't cleared yet? That way, they'll appear as spending activity (and therefore spent money) rather than available to be grabbed for another expense? I don't want to change the date, for a couple of reasons -- I like the account register to reflect reality, as much as possible, and I worry about matching up transactions on import.

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  • This has been a criticism since launch. Add your voice with a Feature Request to optionally allow future dated transactions to impact category balances.

    The common example is Amazon Pantry order categorized to the Grocery category.

    The workarounds are:

    1. Use a dedicated category for the scheduled transaction so your other category can be relied on to have the money it says it does. So category bloat.

    2. Enter with today's date, which has the two drawbacks you mentioned. FYI, the import window for matching is only 10 days.

    Some people will do #2 and "shepherd" those transactions forward as time goes by (edit the dates to the new "today").

    There's no great solution, and sadly, it's not a priority to the developers.

    Like 1
      • Walrus 44
      • Getting the Hang of it
      • walrus44
      • 6 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui Thanks. In my case, most of these scheduled transactions are once a month ones, so they effectively have dedicated categories. Looking a bit closer, there is an info box that tells me about upcoming transactions.

       

      Also, if I do take money out of that category, it gives me a stern yellow indicator (with a calendar icon) that I don't have enough budgeted for scheduled transactions. That's different from an ordinary yellow that I'm behind on a goal. 

      That helps a bit, but it's hardly obvious, and I like the idea of an option on the scheduled transaction to make it affect categories while still pending. Basically, make it like a check, where you know the transaction is committed to, but just hasn't hit the bank yet.

      Like 1
      • Herman
      • herman
      • 6 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui ynab made a design decision at the time of creating nYNAB that the calendar date would be the *trigger* for scheduled vs posted.  Like most design decisions they made at that time, they defend it as intentional right up until they don't.  (Running balance anyone?} Maybe they'll change this one someday too.   In the meantime there is one other work around that I use from time to time and that is: 1) change your computer date to date in future.  2) enter transactions you want committed between now and that date.   3) change computer date back.  As long as you don't edit those transactions after you change the date back, they will remain committed and reflected in the category balance.  

      In the early days of the toolkit I recommended they automate this process but it never went anywhere.

      Like 1
      • Walrus 44
      • Getting the Hang of it
      • walrus44
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Herman I can understand why they stick with that decision. Allowing scheduled transactions to affect available balances messes with the concept of "available", especially if you're adamant that it represents the current state of your money and nothing else. <sidebar>Personally, I find that YNAB's display columns are misnamed. "Budgeted" really means "spending allocated this month", "Activity" means "spending this month" and "available" means "allocation not spent yet".  Maybe that's second nature to everyone inside the YNAB bubble, but I'm still new here, and that's not how other parts of society use terms like budgeted and available. </sidebar>

      Anyway, if you imagine that they relented and said that future-dated transactions could affect those figures, I start thinking about what it means for ALL future transactions. Especially (and this is important) future inflows. If we start saying that future-dated inflows are allowed to affect the budget, that leads us down a dark road of starting to spend money that we don't have. I know that my paycheck is hitting my bank tomorrow, and it's always the same, so...why not mark it as available? Because that messes with the concept of allocating the money you've got on hand. I don't think anyone is asking for future inflows to be supported, but maybe the data model is such that it's difficult to add support for one without the other. Who knows? 

      I just submitted a feature request for this as well. 

      Like
      • Herman
      • herman
      • 6 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Walrus 44 When I've told my bank to take $x a week from now, I consider that committed.  Yes I could date it today but if that date is 2 weeks from now then import matching may fail.  I leave it to others to debate the finer points of the budget philosophy but I 100% disagree with this one.  Knowing that you are new here, I will just tell you this has been discussed to death on the old forum and this one since before the official release.  Happy ynabing!

      Like 2
      • Walrus 44
      • Getting the Hang of it
      • walrus44
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Herman Oh, I completely agree with you, and I want the same thing. I'm just saying that making a fundamental change in philosophy like committed transactions with future dates, could cause a fairly major impact on the fundamental data model of the product, and the reluctance to make that change shouldn't be necessarily considered stubbornness. It might just be hard.

      Full disclosure, I write software, so I have some sympathy.

      Like
      • Herman
      • herman
      • 6 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Walrus 44 That's kind of what I was referencing when I said they made a design decision.  In my opinion, they don't admit that they won't change something because it is hard due to the implementation of that decision. They make it seem like it was an explicit decision based on the method.  YNAB 4 had implemented this exactly the way we are asking them to do it now.  I think the primary reason they do not is because it is a significant change to technical design.  I don't write software but my day job is dealing with application issues and identifying solutions so I also sympathize!

      Like 1
      • PhysicsGal
      • Nerdy female homo sapien
      • physicsgal
      • 6 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Herman I don't know why they can't just add another column indicating what is left after committed money from scheduled transactions, like the Toolkit almost does.  They don't have to change the entire philosophy, they could just add that line in the budget screen, as a line you can add or not add, just like running balance. 

      I'm not that kind of programmer (I write Labview and Matlab code for my research, but that's about it, although I do have a wonderful idea for a gardening app that I want to write, but that's another matter), but it doesn't seem like it would be that hard, if the toolkit people are doing it for free.

      Like 1
      • Herman
      • herman
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      PhysicsGal well I certainly don't pretend to know, however, the big difference for the toolkit and ynab is ynab changes have to work in all browsers and mobile platforms that they support. 

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view
      PhysicsGal said:
      why they can't just add another column indicating what is left after committed money from scheduled transactions

      Pretty clumsy, IMHO. One of them will always be redundant/misleading.

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view
      Walrus 44 said:
      "Activity" means "spending this month"

      When you consider the possibility of returns, this notion breaks down. I think that's one of the reasons for the choice of Activity.

      Walrus 44 said:
      Budgeted" really means "spending allocated this month",

      And if you don't spend anything this month? My preference would be "Allocated". When you spend it is quite immaterial to the action of reserving additional funds.

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view
      Walrus 44 said:
      Especially (and this is important) future inflows.

      If someone wants to pretend they have money they don't, they can already use today's date. The request is for an optional capability to impact the budget -- the default would be to not do so (as currently implemented).

      Like
      • PhysicsGal
      • Nerdy female homo sapien
      • physicsgal
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui Yeah, later I thought a toggle bw the two would be a better option, so you can see whichever balance you prefer. It does seem like if many users want one or the other, why not offer the option for both?  It’s super easy math. 

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

      PhysicsGal There are reasons for both, depending on the particular transaction. The "toggle" needs to be on a transactional basis. 

      Like
    • Alemap
    • Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler -Albert Einstein
    • alemap
    • 6 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    The YNAB toolkit exposes future payments by category—maybe that meets what you’re looking for?

    Like
      • Walrus 44
      • Getting the Hang of it
      • walrus44
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Alemap So it does! That gets pretty close to meeting my needs, but I think there's still a case for an improvement. I'm not sure I want/need the toolkit, but it's nice to know it's there.

      Like
  • dakinemaui said:
    Add your voice with a Feature Request to optionally allow future dated transactions to impact category balances.

     In a very disappointing turn of events, I put this in as a feature request (for probably the 3rd time). I was trying to consolidate and reorganize my categories, and wished I could combine categories with disparate spending patterns that are functionally the same. Anyways, I got frustrated enough that I wrote in directly from the app. 

    The kind support person proceeded to need specific examples (she didn't ask - she just demonstrated a misunderstanding by flat out saying that future, committed transactions went against the 4 Rules). I gave her an example that I'm pretty sure I got from either you or Patzer (and was definitely included in the entirely too long feature request post I made last year, so I also know I included it in an official feature request), and someone else responded that it seemed very much in line with Rule 1, and that my new idea would be very helpful to the developers. 

    It was rather disheartening.

    Maybe if enough people suggest the "new" idea, it will at least be recognized as not new.

    Like 1
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 6 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Move Light Sound Life Yes, VERY disappointing. The purpose of Rule 1 is to avoid thinking money is available when it's not. The Budget captures my Plan A. The rational YNAB has given me for their resistance is basically that I might change my mind. Well dang, isn't that why Rule 3 exists? IF I change my mind, I'll obviously change the plan at that point!

      I've been accused of wanting to hide money from myself by doing this. The cricket chirp was practically audible when I pointed out, "Of course I do, that's exactly how an envelope budgeting system works," or something like that. No further response from Support.

      Like 2
    • Move Light Sound Life I know this option was discussed in length a while back in this forum. I recall a pretty eye opening thread that went over a number of use case scenarios and the possibilities of separating Scheduled Transactions from planned transactions (where one would affect Available amounts and the other wouldn't). Ultimately, this wasn't a feature our team chose to move forward. However, each time we receive a new feature request for it (or something similar in regards to Available balances being affected by future transactions) we pass the information along to the Design Team for consideration. 

      The "Balance After Upcoming" takes future transactions into account and is available in the Inspector, but I agree it would be helpful to have that amount more easily accessible. It never hurts to submit a feature request, but this option isn't something we're looking at changing at the moment.

      Like
    • Thanks for the response, Faness .

      Like
  • The YNAB Toolkit has an option to put the scheduled transactions right next to the total category balance, so you can see that you've already committed the money in that category.

    Like 1
    • PhysicsGal Well, yes, but I usually look at category balances on my phone. 

      Like 1
      • PhysicsGal
      • Nerdy female homo sapien
      • physicsgal
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Move Light Sound Life True, me too, at least when I'm making every day purchases, but I guess it's never been a problem for me because the categories I use on my phone and the categories in which I have scheduled transactions on do not overlap.

      Like
    • PhysicsGal Yes, I use that Toolkit feature, too. My worst offender would be Fun (that's where Netflix is, I mean, would be - I'd rather it not have its own category), but I know people in situations where Groceries (subscription meals + store shopping), Clothing (subscription boxes + store shopping), Health (vitamin/razor subscriptions + otc at stores), etc. would run into this issue.

      Basically, any functional category with subscription and in person shopping runs the danger of a store trip (where decisions to cut can more easily be made) shorting the subscription (a decision that was already made).

      Like 1
      • PhysicsGal
      • Nerdy female homo sapien
      • physicsgal
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Move Light Sound Life Ah, I never though of those issues.  I have all my monthly subscriptions type things in their own category, so I guess I've never run into that, but I also don't have very many subscriptions.  I have also been trying to figure out a way to simplify my category structure as much as possible without hurting my decision making, but I never thought to include subscriptions in those other categories.  It totally makes sense for people to want to, I just never though about it.  And it doesn't seem that hard to implement.  Why not, YNAB?  It could be something you can turn on and off, like running balance, but it replaces your current balance with the current minus future transactions in this month.  Or be an additional column.  

      Like
  • Walrus 44 said:
    <sidebar>Personally, I find that YNAB's display columns are misnamed. "Budgeted" really means "spending allocated this month", "Activity" means "spending this month" and "available" means "allocation not spent yet".  Maybe that's second nature to everyone inside the YNAB bubble, but I'm still new here, and that's not how other parts of society use terms like budgeted and available. </sidebar>

     You are thinking in terms of spending, but the reality is a little more generic. Some categories you only hold money in but never spend directly from the category (INM, Emergency Fund, Things I Forgot to Budget For, etc.). Credit Card payment categories aren't about spending, but making credit card payments. The spending happens when you charge the card.

    Budgeted = money added to / removed from the category in the current month on the budget screen. This may come from TBB, it may come from another category. it doesn't really matter which.

    Activity = Transactions affecting the category in the current month. This can be spending, but it can also be money back. For credit cards, it includes payments to the card, but spending is limited to budgeted spending.

    Available = well, it's exactly what it says. How much money you have available for the job right now.

    The relationship between them is Available = Last Month Available + Budgeted + Activity

    Like
      • Walrus 44
      • Getting the Hang of it
      • walrus44
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      nolesrule Yes, obviously my description is simplified. You're right, of course, about credit card "categories", but I hardly think of those as categories. Maybe my thought process would be different if I had to plan to pay off a big CC balance, but I think of them as special case, time-adjusted, account transfer vehicles that kinda look like categories on the budgeting page.

      Like
      • nolesrule
      • YNAB4 Evangelist
      • nolesrule
      • 6 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Walrus 44 It's probably better to think of your budget as a plan for your cash. These credit card categories, while they behave differently from other categories, make sense when looked upon in that context. When you use your credit cards in perfectly normal ways but go beyond simple categorized  budgeted purchases and payments, then this point of view comes in handy for rectifying differences in the budget.

      Like 1
  • Herman said:
    YNAB 4 had implemented this exactly the way we are asking them to do it now.  I think the primary reason they do not is because it is a significant change to technical design. 

     Well there you go. That's something I was not aware of. Maybe my request, coming from someone who is not a YNAB4 user, might have more weight. Then again, maybe not.

    Like
    • Walrus 44 I didn't use YNAB 4, either, and this was one of the first things (I think) that I asked for. Then I found other discussions on it on the forum, over a year old, last year. 

      To deal with the future inflow issue, I imagine (my coding experience is... well, I passed Intro to C++) that they could make a rule that doesn't allow future, committed inflows. And others had the same solution before I said it. 

      The main reason I bumped your 2 week old thread was to share my dismay that this idea was considered... New. 

      I'm not over it yet. Obviously.

      Like 3
      • Walrus 44
      • Getting the Hang of it
      • walrus44
      • 6 mths ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view

      Move Light Sound Life I started this thread 8 days into my trial of YNAB. That should tell you that it doesn't take a huge amount of sophistication with the product to see the need for this.

      Like 3
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