How do I categorize such an infrequent purchase?
After almost three years of ownership, I just lost my Apple Watch (don't ask) and am purchasing a new (used) one for $200. I hate to put it under "Stuff I forgot to budget for" but it also doesn't fit under "clothing" (in my mind). I could create a "tech" category but purchases there are so very rare.
Any ideas? What do other folks do for tech stuff?
Definitely tech. Tech breaks, gets lost, or just becomes obsolete but you can't live without it, so it's a true expense that you likely want to budget for. You'll need new computers, headphones, smartphones, tablets if you use them, etc. over time.
If you can always cashflow even big tech purchases, then a more general shopping category applies, but most of us need a tech true expense category.
I put stuff like this under Household goods, which is basically anything that's not a consumable or clothing. Tech, chairs, tables, smokers, etc. I think the main thing is to recognize this isn't as "one-off" as one might think at first glance, and having a true expense category for these sort of things is a good idea.
"Tech" works as well, if you want to limit/control such purchase in contrast to "non-tech" purchases.
It may feel a little weird at first to plan purchases out further than a year, or for some purchasing (like a TV, new bed, replacement sofa) even further than 5 years. Heck, it sometimes feels weird to plan purchases out for an entire year (Christmas, annual car insurance, etc) in the beginning. But predicting the estimated large chunks that you're pretty sure you are going to need/spend and being able to break it down to the smallest regular monthly allocations is a major leap forward in adding stability to your budget. For electronics replacements/upgrades I'm estimating a need for $2,000 to 3,000 in the next 4 to 6 years and am able to allocate $50 a month to handle that. Super low-stress way to handle some bigger purchasing.
Replacement electronics and replacement furnishings are the longest planning window categories in my budget. My next car purchase and retirement investing show as as monthly or annual expenses (those funds are in tax sheltered accounts, so they don't build up in my budget).
This is why I like reading through the forums. I've been using YNAB for about a year and a half and in that time frame I haven't had to buy any electronics, which is probably why I don't have a category set up for this. Being somewhat of a tech nerd, I'm surprised I didn't think of this before. But now that I've read this thread, I'm going to set one up ASAP!
an opportune time to switch is in the 3-check month
That is brilliant! There are two times (months) per year when I get that extra paycheck. I'll have to see when the next one is due and plan to use that to help me get a month ahead. In the past, I heard about this month-ahead thing but it always seemed out of reach and I never really knew how I'd accomplish it, though Hanna's YNAB videos
...are excellent BTW.
For now, as far as using "underfunded" to automatically fully fund specific categories, I went through my "Paycheck Planner" spreadsheet (I only have 28 categories BTW) and I labeled each one paycheck 1 or paycheck 2. Pretty much, bills due in the first half of the month, along with any immediate obligations (groceries, gas, etc.) are in pay 1 while true expenses and bills due at the end (or very early in the next month) are in paycheck 2. Looks good on paper, so let's see how it goes!
As a follow-up, I really lucked out on the watch. I mentioned needing to buy a replacement for my Apple Watch to my buddy and he said he promised his wife that he'd get rid of his. His is a series 5 and mine was a series 3 (and that's what I was planning on getting as a replacement). So I paid him $200, which is what I was going to pay, and got an upgrade... sweet! ⌚👍🏻😊