Scheduled Transactions with different monthly amounts

I have scheduled transactions in my account for, let's say, electric bills AND savings account interest.

 

For my electric bills, I want to budget over what my expected usage is. I have an e-fund category that I can use if I under-budgeted to cover the amount (if that occurs). Let's say Month A it's $55, and Month B it's $60. I budget for $70, so there's no issue for either month. If I auto-schedule against the month A balance, all future balances are $55 (which is okay, for me). However, when that date for Month B rolls around, I get a notice that I need to "approve" of the $55 charge, which I ignore at first until the bill actually shows up against one of my accounts. Then, there's a $60 charge, but there's no matching between them - they show up as 2 different charges, even though they have the same payee on the same date. Is the tool simply not smart enough to match the 2? Does that mean I have to manually update the scheduled transaction if I wanted to see it on my upcoming payments register? 

Now, let's talk about savings accounts - The interest I gain is different month to month, dependent upon the growth of my savings. I want to see that there's a recurring Income related to that, but I don't know what that number is until the day I receive it. Again, it doesn't match against the previous month's balance unless I modify the dollar amount. In this case, it almost seems like that recurring scheduled transaction is useless, because I'd just have to delete it and keep the real one, rather than YNAB being smart enough to realize they're the same transactions just with different amounts. I don't know what that interest amount is going to be until is just shows up in my account. There are other bills that are somewhat like this too (not just income), so I don't know how that's handled. (e.g. my rent and water bill are combined, but my water is different month-to-month, while my rent is the same; I split the transactions, but have no idea how to make the rent "stable" with the water as "variable"). 

 

Am I missing something about matching transactions here? Is there a way to handle either of these scenarios instead of updating them on a month-by-month basis? How do I handle the "unknown" amounts even though I've budgeted accordingly? Is there a "variable" option that I just haven't spotted yet? 

Note: The general "Scheduled Transactions" help page doesn't really identify anything that would be helpful for these scenarios. 

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  • Hello, kerriv ! 

    Transactions in YNAB match based on the date and amount, and when transactions have a different amount, they'll never match automatically.

    That means you have a couple of options here. One is to do as you've been doing: manually match those transactions each month.

    Another option is to not use recurring transactions for these variable bills, and just rely on the goal you've set up to make sure you're budgeting for them. (This is what I do.) As soon as you get the autopay notice for electric bill, you can enter the transaction as a scheduled transaction, if you like, and then it will match the imported transaction.

    As for interest on savings accounts, I'd recommend not using recurring transactions for that. The reason is that the main point of recurring transactions is to avoid getting tripped up by an unexpected charge, but an unexpected interest payment never bothered anyone!

    The reason we never automatically match transactions with different amounts is that the rate of false-positives when you do that is shockingly high, and it's really hard to avoid that.

    Like 2
      • PhysicsGal
      • Nerdy female homo sapien
      • physicsgal
      • 8 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Matthew Yeah, I do what Matthew suggests, I have a scheduled transaction for my water and electric/gas bills, but I just change the amount every time I get my email telling me how much my will will be.  It's not so bad, and I bet he's right about matching charges that have different amounts being a very bad idea.  

      Like 1
    • PhysicsGal Oh, that's a good point: it actually didn't occur to me to just edit a recurring transaction when I get the bill, rather than entering a new scheduled transaction each time. I'm going to give that a try.

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      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 8 mths ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      Matthew The main trick when using a recurring transaction is to know if the value in the scheduler is left over from last month or you've already updated it for this month.

      • Simplest is to put the month in the memo when you edit the amount, and later you'll know if the amount is current if the memo month matches the transaction month.
      • Alternatively, you can peel off one instance of the transaction with Enter Now, edit the amount, and change the date back. (Ideally, YNAB would leave the date alone as nolesrule has described elsewhere.)
      Like 4
      • kerriv
      • kerrivberry
      • 8 mths ago
      • Reported - view
      Matthew said:
      The reason we never automatically match transactions with different amounts is that the rate of false-positives when you do that is shockingly high, and it's really hard to avoid that.

       Matthew I understand the sentiment to a certain extent, but these types of transactions don't generally vary wildly. For example, with Water - it's usually a delta of around $5 per month, if that. For electric, it's generally (for me) around $20 between winter and summer (with or without A/C). Not only that, but they have a specific Payee listed that should match to previous transactions (or you can set it up with the Payee manager). It's not like people normally pay the electric company twice within a day for different bills. A great example of why I would want this is my Cable bill - Between months, it varies by less than a dollar due to the ever changing broadcast fees/taxes that are levied. One month, it was 150.87, another it was 150.65. I don't want to have top manually change that every time. 

      For other things like a Dunkin run, sure - you might have 2 different transactions with different amounts in the same day (one for coffee and whoops, forgot the bagel). 

      I will put in a feature request for this, but I think it would make a lot of sense to put in a max range for "auto-matching" against scheduled transaction for this very reason (and only have it available for scheduled transactions). You could set it to 0 if you wanted to prevent these false-positives if you knew you would have multiple transactions with the same payee. However, in my example about Dunkin, generally people don't have scheduled transactions for their coffee runs. But I would like to have an auto-match so I can plan around a general estimate of what my running balance would be, without having to fumble around and keep track of my exact bills when it's literally pennies difference. 

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      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 8 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      kerriv I'm positive I've seen transactions with different amounts match before. Maybe once you train it? They were exactly the types of transactions that we're talking about here like the electric bill.

      I have put in a feature request before for this very thing since it is so common. I have all my monthly bills set up as recurring transactions, both those that are always the same and those that vary. I'm currently using the method dakinemaui espouses where I update the month number in the memo when I update the amount. It would be nice if YNAB helped automate this process since it such a common one.

      Like
    • kerriv That's an intriguing idea! Thanks for submitting the Feature Request. One thing I wanted to mention is that the Payee isn't a criterion for matching, and that would play a role here. Those can vary quite a bit (and even over time), so we're cautious. One of my favorite coffee shops moves to a new point-of-sale system every ~6 months, and it changes each time. Some don't even include their actual name!

      There are definitely improvements we can make here, and you bring up some great points that our Product Team will dig into! One thing about YNAB is that it isn't set-it-and-forget it program. That active engagement in identifying—yes, these two transactions belong together—is better than a mistaken match, that causes your plan to fall short.

      In my budget, I use the method dakinemaui mentioned above. Here's quick screenshot of what my variable gas bill looks. The scheduled transaction set up with my average spent (plus a bit of padding, because increases) and I use Enter Now when they email with the latest bill. Then you'd see the imported version match up with the scheduled because they amounts are the same. I hope you'll give it a try in the meantime. 

      Like 1
    • Superbone The automatic matching behavior is based on the exact amount, so that does sound odd. Let us know if it happens again! Once manually matched, it would show the link icon and ask for approval.

      Like
      • WordTenor
      • I have the honor to be your obedient servant
      • WordTenor
      • 8 mths ago
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      • Reported - view

      Nicole 

      Nicole said:
      Once manually matched, it would show the link icon and ask for approval.

       This is the part I would really like to see disappear. When you manually match, you already approved it--otherwise, why did you do it? It's three extra clicks that don't make any sense.  Sure there's a tiny case for someone somehow manually matching by accident, but if that's the argument, then there shouldn't be any quick budget buttons because those are one click to destroy the entire budget. 

      Like 1
      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 8 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Nicole No! It's a good thing. 🙂If I forget to update the amount from the previous month, it matches with the new correct imported value.

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    • WordTenor I agree with you, that the act of matching manually is a form of confirmation. There is room for improvement here! I suspect that it's because you can Unmatch/Reject until it's approved. Once you approve, they're no longer available. If you haven't yet, it's a great point—and our Product Team would love to take into consideration with a Feature Request.

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      • PhysicsGal
      • Nerdy female homo sapien
      • physicsgal
      • 8 mths ago
      • 1
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      dakinemaui Oooh, that's another good addition!  I do sometimes double check the amount because I don't remember if I changed it yet and I'm neurotic, so writing the month in the memo field will save me some time in the future.

      The other option is something I never even knew about, maybe that's even better, I'll give them both a try.  Thanks!

      Like 1
  • For the electric, I'd just use a monthly funding goal for the desired amount. In order to avoid excess budgeting, you could set this goal for the average (1/12th the yearly total) and cover any overspending from your e-fund category (or elsewhere) in the short term. Eventually you will start building a surplus within the category which is automatically drawn down during higher than average months.

    EDIT: I also use this approach for any seasonally varying category; for example, all utilities of course, but also auto gas, kids activities, and hobbies, just to name a few.

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  • kerriv said:
    Does that mean I have to manually update the scheduled transaction if I wanted to see it on my upcoming payments register?

    The primary advantage to having the scheduled transactions being accurate is for more accurate cash-flow projections via the running balance (RB). Most experienced users leave enough in checking to support the next 2-4 weeks of outflows and the rest of their money lives in an account with a higher interest rate. The RB shows at a glance the potential for more interest (or a need to transfer back for larger than normal outflows).

    Like 1
  • As far as interest, I have a $0 scheduled transaction so it's easy to run "manual match". (Some banks change the Payee each month, so the auto-categorize rules may not be effective.) Due to being in the scheduler, I get a little indication that date has passed as a reminder to reconcile. In practice, you could just let the import enter it, as you get a similar notification.

    Like 1
  • kerriv said:
    my rent and water bill are combined, but my water is different month-to-month, while my rent is the same; I split the transactions

    I would treat this as a single variable bill; no need to complicate it with two categories. As described earlier for Electric, you can budget the average billed amount and cover any overspending. Eventually, it takes care of itself.

    Striving for a consistent budget entries simplifies the budgeting process and reduces the chance of error. True, I frequently reallocate between discretionary categories, but they each get their nominal (consistent) values at the beginning of the month as the "best-guess" of where they need to be.

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    • casner
    • Now retired, and figuring out transitions
    • casner
    • 8 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    For some things like Interest, I have a recurring $0 scheduled transaction, to remind me to enter it. When the import eventually comes through, it matches and uses the actual amount from the bank.

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      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 8 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      casner I don't bother with that. I just let the import handle it. How often (never for me) is it important that you know how much interest accrued immediately when it hits your account? Not only that, my banks are very quick to DI into YNAB. Much faster than credit card transactions.

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      • casner
      • Now retired, and figuring out transitions
      • casner
      • 8 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Superbone It sounds like you have a nice bank for DI and a lousy credit card for DI. My bank (CU) is days for DI, and my credit card is generally minutes.

      I also use the $0 for transactions that vary a lot, where I want to remember that they are coming and have specific fields that I want to override in the import (like category or memo). It works well.

      Like 1
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