Is My Savings Really There

Hi Guys!

Ugh, over budgeted due to some unforeseen expenses this month. Who knew a 30,000 mile service for my car would be $400 AND then I'd need $300 brakes. Anyway, I guess that is why we are all here, right...


Anywho, I created a category for general savings, emergency, and holiday/gift spending. How do I really know that my money is *there* though? Am I really saving it or just giving myself the illusion that I am? I suppose this is where the app comes in and why you check your budget before unplanned spending. 

I guess I am just having a hard-ish time with how ethereal everything feels. Maybe I'm not trusting the process yet? I want so badly to be successful but I feel like I have no clue what I'm doing.


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  • There are only two reasons you can't trust green numbers in your budget. #1 is that you have cash-based overspending, which will show up as red. If you have a red category, then your other categories are overstated by that amount. (Yellow overspending means you are choosing to create debt. You should fix both types, but yellow overspending does not ovrstate yourothr categories,)

    The other reason is if your accounts are wrong. You should regularly be checking that the cleared balance in YNAB matches the cleared balance your bank gives you for that account (this is called reconciliation).

    If your account balances reconcile, and you do not have cash-based overspending, then any green amount is really there. Depending on how many accounts you have and how much you keep in each account, it may not all be in the account you need it to be in, but it is in your budget. If your budget says you can safely spend $700 on car repair, and you have $700 in the account you want to use to pay for the car repair, then you can safely pay for it. 

    Like 5
    • WordTenor Thank you!

  • Susanne Johnson said:
    Anywho, I created a category for general savings, emergency, and holiday/gift spending. How do I really know that my money is *there* though?

     Are these 3 separate categories or one big one? If it is 3, yes everything that WordTenor said is correct as usual. Even if it is only 1, it's still correct, but you need to understand that now your set aside for holidays/gifts and general savings are drastically reduced, so if you have a wedding to go to in April, you may need to think about where the funds for the gift will come from. That's the problem with the single pot of "savings" - you may have mentally given it too many things for it to reasonably handle.

    Like 3
    • jenmas Sorry for the confusion - 3 separate categories. 

    • jenmas Also, that makes perfect sense. Do not give a category too many jobs.

      Like 1
  • I ask this question all the time!

    My financial picture is complicated: lots of accounts, lots of credit cards, lots of categories. To answer the question of "where my money is", I do the following:

    1. Check every few days to be sure all my accounts are reconciled. That is, the YNAB "working balance" has to reflect what is available in each account, after pending transactions go through. 

    2. Once in a while, I export the YNAB budget, and load the budget file into Excel. I sum up all the amounts in the "available" column, which should equal the total amount sitting in all the accounts. On a separate section of the Excel sheet, I enter all my account balances (the 'working' balances), and sum those up. The amounts, shown in yellow,  should be equal. (The only tweak is that credit card debt is not be used to determine the account totals, assuming it is budgeted for and waiting to be paid.)

    I'm created a template for this, because it's something i do regularly.  Here is a screenshot, showing totals from a fictional budget.

    (In the chart, I've grouped certain categories together so that I can differentiate money available for spending, money that is set aside to satisfy required account minimums, savings, my personal buffer, and money waiting to be used to pay my credit cards. But the chart is less important than the fact that the account totals and budget totals match up.)

    Like 1
    • doctor_who Wow that is awesome! Thank you for sharing. I am so used to "hiding" money from myself, but that was ridiculous because it wasn't doing anything and I wasn't making dents in debt - like accelerating my car payment or using it for unexpected hits like car brakes and jazz. And we all know, it's not really savings if you've got debt looming overhead.  I am really on board with the idea of giving every dollar a job. It's just such a learning process!

    • Susanne Johnson Good luck! Sort of holding my breath too, because my very old car is due to be inspected, and I have this fear that they will find all kinds of things wrong with it. 

  • When I first started using YNAB, I asked myself this all the time.  I did exactly what    doctor_who  describes, give or take the fancy graphic (nice!).  

    Now I no longer worry about that because I'm used to the way YNAB works .  At least once a week I check that there's no red in budget, and investigate any orange, and I reconcile the accounts with my real-life accounts.  If I do that, I know I can trust the numbers.

    It takes a bit of getting used to, though.  

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