Protecting some of the starting balance from being in the budget

newbie here, and couldn't find this anywhere.

YNAB allocates all of my available balance as potential budget.  I want to lock away at least $x for a safety net to prevent me from getting close to $0 and incurring potential charges.  Any recommendations on how to limit how much of your checking account can be available as potential budget?

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  • If the *only* account on budget is your checking account, you can set up a savings/buffer category and keep money there. As long as you don't spend from/take from that category, that money will always be there.

      If you have multiple checking/savings accounts on budget, though, no, there is no way for YNAB to monitor the account balance for you. You can turn on the running balance, and between that and scheduling transactions can keep an eye on how much is/will be in the account. And the account balance will always be listed in the accounts list.

    With multiple accounts, even if you were to remove money from the on-budget amounts (by reducing starting figure and/or making a fictional payment - very strongly recommended against, as it makes reconciling accounts extremely difficult), that money wouldn't necessarily stay in your checking account. You'd still have to monitor that yourself. So definitely not recommending that method.

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    • Fuzzball Meows is right, if you have multiple accounts then you do still need to make sure you're paying attention to the account balances (the running balance IS really helpful for this!).

      BUT you can also get around this by having a "safety net" category group and then a specific category for each individual account that you want to have a "safety net" in. So if you want $1000 in checking, and in savings, then you can make the group, and then make a separate category for each account and put $1000 in it. You can collapse the group if you don't want to look at it, and as long as you are managing over spending (i.e. don't allow it to happen) then you shouldn't have any issues maintaining that amount.

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    • farfromtheusual How do you make sure those dollars stay in the assigned account?  Since dollars are fungible, as far as location is concerned, don't you still need to monitor the balances to make sure you retain that buffer to match the category?

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    • Fuzzball Meows Sure you do, BUT if you have specific categories set up for a safety net (or emergency fund or whatever you want to call it) and they just sit there then you can generally count on the fact that they'll be there. If each of your accounts has it's own safety net (or you know that you always have $1000 safety net per account sitting in 1 category together, so 3 accounts would be $3000) then you're pretty safe to say that you're covered.
      If you do tend to move money around, then yes, you do need to pay attention to how much you have anywhere, but that is true whether you have a safety net or not.
      It mostly boils down to simply paying attention to the budget. Budgeting is an active thing, not a passive thing. You have to pay attention to it for it to work for you. The good news is that when you set up YNAB and get it humming smoothly it only really costs you about 10 minutes or so a few times a week to maintain it and make sure your money is where it needs to be.

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    • farfromtheusual I get having a safety net to make sure there are dollars you're not spending, but still not sure how that helps with, e.g., making sure one doesn't draw the checking account down to 0. I have a number of categories that are "this money is not to be touched," but I have no idea where those dollars are sitting should the catastrophic thing happen and I actually need them. They could be in any of my accounts at any given time, because the categories are account agnostic.

      Granted, I more or less violate this concept with one account, where I have my FSA as an on-budget account and a category I keep synced to it. But nothing other than FSA transactions are spent out of that account, so it's just a matter of moving money from that account to the correct spending category as the spending happens. Those dollars are single purpose dollars, though, as opposed to, say, a checking account that I use for a variety of kinds of purchases. And if I didn't want the granularity of knowing how much I'm spending on appointments vs. medications, etc., I would just have the FSA category and not bother moving the money out of it to other categories.

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      • Bigtime Topbanana
      • Be Your Gold, Every Day
      • Ivory_Cobra.14
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Fuzzball Meows   I definitely want to make sure that every account has a positive balance.   makes no sense to think I'm fine across two accounts, when one is -$50 and the other is +$150.   since I'm going to incur charges on the negative balance account.

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    • Bigtime Topbanana I get that. I'm the same, and definitely do keep a buffer in my accounts to prevent that. But it's not something I can do by having a YNAB category for it - I have to do the keeping it that way myself. I use the running balance on the account transactions page and the number in the account overall to do that (more so the running account balance). Keeping a category in my budget for it and relying on that number could get me in trouble, if I don't double check it with the other methods. And since I have to double check anyway, I (personally) do not feel like I need a category labeled "checking account buffer". I'm sure there are people who do have that category, and it's totally okay. But relying only on that category has the possibility of getting one into trouble.

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  • In YNAB, categories determine the purpose of your funds. Put any funds you don’t want to spend into savings categories and then don’t spend from those categories. It’s as simple as that.

    Bigtime Topbanana said:
    I want to lock away at least $x for a safety net

    Make a Safety Net category and put $x in it. Or it could be called anything. Most of us have multiple savings categories.

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  • thank you all.   excellent, insightful and speedy answers.

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