YNAB should be more helpful with planning

YNAB is great at stopping you spending money you don't have, it's also great at teaching you to priortise spending on what's most important in the moment. What it is not good at is assisting you to plan ahead (unless you have bundles of cash and it's not a worry). 

I say this because this month is our 5th month of YNAB. We've paid off debt and now it's time to spend some money on things we've been holding off. Problem is, for me to figure out what those things could be, I had to create a spreadsheet. This spreadsheet estimated income and removed the known expenses. This then allows me to set targets in YNAB against the variable categories (grocery, eating out) which then allows me to allocate more towards what we want to do (to me, this is budgeting).

Why can't YNAB help me create a view of this? 

I understand that YNAB's ethos is preventing you from spending money you don't have but the flip side is that a lack of planning means you can find it harder to achieve goals that require a bit of forward thinking. I have found also that as you get paid you end up topping up categories just to stay on 'today's' budget and not the longer term view.

Illustrated in the image, it would be good to see the introduction of the planned column. This would still fundamentally work with the allocated, activity and available columns to prevent you from spending what you don't have - but it would at least give a view of what limits you should strive for to achieve what you get out of bed for in the morning. 

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  • Are you a month ahead? Are you budgeting in one month chunks, only using last month's money?

    Until I was in that state, I used a spreadsheet, too. 

    Actually, I still use a spreadsheet for playing with things sometimes because it's easier.

    Anyways, being in that state, or "being Buffered" used to be YNAB's rule #1, which makes the planning a lot easier.

    Like 1
    • Move Light Sound Life not one month ahead yet, we just paid off the credit card debt last month so we're now into a bit of catch up on delayed expenses.

      I guess my main point here is not around forecasting where I'll be with money we don't have, it's more about indicating what you should do to achieve something. E.g. if we want to allocate $500 near the end of the month towards a trip, we really need to reduce our day to day spend on groceries, so your grocery budget this month should be $x.

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      • Ivory Storm
      • Ivory_Storm.3
      • 5 mths ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view

      Turquoise Piano Budgeting in full month increments will totally resolve this problem for you. 

      It's completely transparent to me how much I can spend on groceries each month if I want to make sure a $500 trip at the end of the month is funded.

      For longer term plans, like how to fund an expense or a change of income 15 months from now, I do make up phony budgets in YNAB to help me forecast and set expectations. Of course, things never quite seem to turn out as I forecasted . . so much can happen between now, and 2 months from now. 

      Despite the fact that forecasting doesn't seem to work out very well, I still find value in it, and I am doing phenomenally well with all my long-term goals, even coming up with new ones I never imagined I'd have.

      I agree it's a YNAB paradox. 

      Like 3
    • Ivory Storm 

      Ivory Storm said:
      Budgeting in full month increments

       You mean by being 1+ month(s) ahead in order to do this, right?

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    • Turquoise Piano Some people think "being a month ahead" just means budgeting in future months. 

      However, the clarity will come by budgeting in monthly chunks. 

      Search "Trying out the YNAB buffer" for an awful lot more information on it. 🤣

      Like 2
    • Turquoise Piano I get paid monthly at the end of the month, so I can budget in full-month increments without having made any special effort. For others paid more frequently than that,  they do have to save up a month's expenses to get there. It's what Move Light Sound Life said - just budgeting in monthly chunks, however you get there.
       

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    • Ivory Storm Move Light Sound Life just read the YNAB Buffer thread and yeah I get it. Regardless of having a month ahead or not, having the ability to budget an entire month at the start of the month is essentially the way to resolve what I'm complaining about.  

      The buffer has piqued my interest and I will see how we go. One thing that has made things slightly more complicated now with our budgeting clearly is I get paid monthly (mid-month) and my wife gets paid weekly. So it's basically a game of top up categories and fund as far as we can go at the moment but we lose the momentum 1 week before I get my next monthly pay.

      Won't be long, we'll be ahead! Funnily enough I have YNAB toolkit and have the days of buffering toggled on...

      Like 2
      • Annieland
      • I was told there would be no math.
      • Annieland
      • 5 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Ivory Storm If your end of May paycheck doesn't come, are you still square for June?  If not, you're not a month ahead, even though you're budgeting your entire paycheck at once for the month.

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      • Ivory Storm
      • Ivory_Storm.3
      • 5 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Annieland Right, that was my point. My point was about clarity in budgeting process rather than being "one month ahead"- budgeting in 1-month chunks.

      Like 1
      • Annieland
      • I was told there would be no math.
      • Annieland
      • 5 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Ivory Storm Ok, gotcha.  It's funny, I'm a month ahead, yet I budget in 4 hour chunks.  Go figure.

      Like 2
      • Ivory Storm
      • Ivory_Storm.3
      • 5 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Annieland You're on fire!!!! Ha haa ha ha ha

      Like 1
  • They are currently working on some debt management features, and the progress bars can help you visualize your goal reaching. 

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  • Aside from all the monthly buffer stuff, how about just doing a general savings goal for each category?  That would be equivalent to your "Planned" column.  You might save it all, you might not, you might spend too much or just enough.  Either way, there's a visible reminder that you'd like to save more in there if possible but still be able to spend.

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    • Annieland yeah I have those set up :) 

      I think the difference is that the "spending goals" feature works well for things that you're saving up for, but it would be good if there was a "budget goal" that could be your budget goal, not funding goal (if you know what I mean?)...

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      • Annieland
      • I was told there would be no math.
      • Annieland
      • 5 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Turquoise Piano It's called the "Target Savings Balance" now.  I had to go look, I forget when they change the names :).  It's not for spending, just targeting an amount you'd like to have in there at some point.

      Like 1
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