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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.