The colors for spending goals are a little confusing...

Hi everyone,

I'm not sure if anyone feels the same way, but I find the colors associated with spending goals to be a bit confusing. I'll explain what I mean:

Let's say I establish a monthly spending goal of $300 for groceries. In the "available" column of my budget, the goal will remain yellow until I budget at least $300 into that category. After the $300 threshold has been met, the goal will turn green.

This color scheme works the exact same way whether the goal is a spending or saving goal, and I think that's where the confusion comes from. In the case of a saving goal, it makes sense to me why an underfunded goal would be yellow until the threshold has been met. You are aiming to save a predetermined amount per month or by a certain date, and YNAB is alerting you to the fact that you haven't saved enough to hit your goal.

However, going back to the groceries example, I am often thrown off by the fact that my groceries category is marked in yellow because it seems like YNAB is telling me that I am not budgeting correctly. In fact, I might be following my grocery budget perfectly (or even beating it), I just haven't hit the minimum threshold for the color to turn green. I think it would make more sense to have the color turn either yellow or red after you have EXCEEDED the threshold. That way you can be sure you aren't overspending in that category every month.

Does anyone else ever have this issue? Or am I incorrectly interpreting the color scheme for spending goals? I might be making a problem where there doesn't need to be one, but this is something I have been coming across quite frequently in my own budgeting.

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  • Install the Toolkit Extension, which turns underfunded categories blue, leaving yellow to warn only of credit-based overspending.

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  • dakinemaui  is correct, and I use the blue option in the Toolkit too. However, YNAB is different in that it’s a forward looking budget. I remember 10 years ago when I used to use Quicken for budgeting and before I knew it I was in the yellow and then the red on every category, with nothing to remedy it except hope to do better next month (never happened).

    If you tell YNAB you might spend $300 this month, then it wants you to have the $300 reserved and available. If you spend less, great. You need less new money to budget next month.  I totally get what you’re saying, you haven’t overspent, but it’s the nature of the method and the software to help *prevent* you from overspending, not merely to alert you after the fact. 

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  • Goals are to help budgeting (even the Spending Goal). You're describing something related to spending, thus the dissonance.

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  • Thanks for the clarification! It definitely helps when you think about YNAB as a forward-thinking budgeting system. I'll try out the Toolkit Extension. 

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