Using "Stuff I Forgot to Budget For" with Spending Goals?

Hello there!

I'm a very happy YNAB user for a few years now, but I never really bothered using the "Stuff I Forgot to Budget For" category. After a few frustrating months of—well, stuff I forgot to budget for—I've decided to give it a whirl.

My idea is to apply a Spending Goal, so I can budget an amount for each month and then forget about it until I need it. Then if I have money left over (hopefully most months), I can allocate that surplus into other not-yet-budgeted categories.

My problem is... what do I do when I actually need to use that money? I would prefer to keep my spending in the proper categories (example: if I overspend in "Groceries" and need more money for that category in a given month, I don't want to categorize those grocery transactions as "Stuff I Forgot to Budget For"). But if I move money from "Stuff I Forgot to Budget For" into another category and don't spend it, it'll look like I didn't reach my spending goal.

Has anyone had any luck with this? Any pointers or ideas for alternative ways I can look at this?

Thank you!

Chuck

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  • Maybe instead of a sending goal, just set a solid amount to sit in there (say,$50). Then when you need it, move it to the category that needs it and refill the stuff I forgot category to $50

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  • My "Stuff I forgot" category has a target balance with no date. I'm happy when the category sits at 100 bucks. Then when I need to use it I take money out, reassign it to the overspent category, and the goal will remind me to top it back up in time.

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  • I wouldn't use a Spending Goal; a Monthly funding goal send more appropriate to me. Options for the warning:

    * No goal at all, just a manual budget entry. Put the nominal amount in the category name for reference.

    * Re-establish the goal in next months area. Literally hit Edit, OK.

    * Live with the warning

    You might make a feature request for a template goal that does not conflict with the core methodology (Rule 3).

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  • Thanks for the insight, folks!

    I think for what I’m trying to do, this will be easier when I’m a full month ahead in this category.

    I like the idea of budgeting for the same amount in this category each month for future budgeting, but then being able to re-allocate the surplus after closing out a given month. It’s like a gift to myself for being a thorough “budgeter” (?!) and not dipping into that bucket. That’s the reason I’ve been drawn to Spending Goal as opposed to Saving Goal.

    This will be easier when I have funds in this category for this month and next month, because as the month ends I can move money to the current month if I’ve had to make any category transfers. No stress on figuring out where the money comes from to make the category look “whole” by the end of the month.

    As you can probably tell by the above, I’m quite obsessed with finding a process where I don’t miss my monthly goals at all costs. It’s the little things, like seeing all those green categories each month, that make me happy. :)

    Love the feedback! Please keep sharing your ideas if you think I’m still missing something!

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  • On another note, it would be cool to have a feature where transfers count as “spending” toward your Spending Goal, but only for certain categories like “Things I Forgot to Budget For.” Or, probably better yet, a new type of Goal to accomplish this which the user can select. Not sure if this would ever happen, it’s probably pretty niche. 😳

    Anyway, I’ve never requested a feature. I’ll have to figure out how to do that.

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  • You shouldn’t spend from Stuff I Forgot. Use the category to build up money, but then either create a category for the thing you forgot, or add the money to the category where you need to categorize the thing you forgot. So the only possible goal is a funding goal. And that’s a great idea: it signifies a commitment to that category each month.  

    I also would recommend not scraping out excess monthly, because one of the things you want to be prepared for are the less than monthly expenses that you forgot about when you set up your budget. Those kinds of expenses are the reason that this category became standard practice: when you realize you forgot to account for paying for Amazon prime, you look in that category and hey look, money is sitting there because one of the true expenses that you have been accounting for all along is the true expense of “I probably won’t remember every single moving part of my budget for the first year or so“. 

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  • I just move the money into the correct category before spending it.  My "Stuff I forget to budget for" is more like a buffer.  And I never have extra leftover, but my budget is pretty tight.

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    • PhysicsGal This is what I do as well.

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  • Chuck said:
    This will be easier when I have funds in this category for this month and next month, because as the month ends I can move money to the current month

    Pulling from next month is a bad idea in my opinion. What you should be doing is evaluating money Availability BEFORE you've made the purchase. You know, before it's too late to skip that purchase.

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  • dakinemaui : I totally get where you're coming from. My idea was to have a large amount sitting in this category, and budget that same amount every future month assuming that I will always have to spend that much for things I forgot. Of course that shouldn't actually happen, so when the new month comes I can re-allocate last month's surplus and still have a good amount of money for this month (since I already budgeted for it, assuming I would spend it all last month).

    That's why I thought of it as similar to a "Spending Category", but really more like a "Transferring Category" (which obviously doesn't exist). It assumes I'll need to "transfer" (instead of "spend") a certain amount each month, but ultimately I want to end up with the same balance each month and don't feel the need to "build up" savings for this category. Because if anything, I don't want a process where I end up with a lot of money in this account, since hopefully I'm not forgetting that much.

    The "next month" idea was simply more of a timing "hack," since the current goal options don't do exactly what I want. I could temporarily move money from the future month to current month, and then replenish what I took out as soon as I get paid next. But I see your approach, and I may just need to re-think my logic. Maybe I just use a Savings Goal to add a smaller amount to that category each month, as opposed to trying to replenish to this one larger amount. I'll give it some thought.

    PhysicsGal : That's exactly how I use this category too. This whole idea came from me wanting a way to proactively replenish that buffer on a regular basis, and I thought using goals was the right way to do it. But since I'm not spending from this category, it takes a bit more thought on the right type of goal to use.

    Thanks again for all of your insight!!

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    • Chuck Don't forget you can enter a budget value yourself. Goals are hardly mandatory.

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  • dakinemaui : Very true! I like using a combination of scheduled transactions and goals to see how far I am from being fully budgeted for the month. But for this one category, I could just manually budget the same amount I would have put into a goal. Now I just have to remember! 😜

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    • Chuck 

      Have you tried the target balance goal? It doesn't play nicely with quick budgeting, and it will warn you when you have to transfer out of the category, but that may give you the number you're looking for without a manual calculation.

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  • Sorry to bump this topic again, but I did try the monthly funding goal approach (one of the options proposed by dakinemaui and WordTenor ) and I wanted to share my findings...

    At first it seemed to work. But I tried moving money and realized the category is  now fighting itself. This is because I'll always move dollars from the budget and never spend directly out of "Stuff I Forgot to Budget". Here's an example:

    • Set $100 monthly funding goal starting last month
    • Budget $100 last month (green - met goal - balance $100)
    • Budget $100 this month (green - met goal - balance $200)
    • Move $50 to Groceries due to unexpected overspending (yellow - $50 under goal - balance $150)

    Essentially, no matter what I've already saved in this category's budget, I'll miss my funding goal if I move those dollars to the category where they're needed (unless I over-budget by the same amount I'm moving). This defeats the purpose of having this for unexpected expenses, since I'd need to expect and over-budget for the unexpected.

    All this is to say that I believe the only solution is the manual option. The key problem is that spending vs. budgeting is critical to goals functioning properly, which goes against the essence of "Things I Forgot to Budget For" which will never have any spending.

    Therefore I conclude that "Stuff I Forgot to Budget For" really can't work with goals as they're designed today. But as always, I'm happy to be proven wrong! 😄

    Thanks all!

    Chuck

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  • Chuck said:
    Therefore I conclude that "Stuff I Forgot to Budget For" really can't work with goals as they're designed today.

    Yep, see above. If you value the convenience of goals, just turn off the warning in the event you need to reallocate.

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