Planning for, but not "forecasting", future expenses

I'm working on "embracing my true expenses" because although we're doing well with saving and paying down our debt, I'm shuffling money around within categories each month.

What would be helpful is a place within YNAB to list/track upcoming expenses and, ideally, even prioritize them, even if there isn't money yet to fund it.

So for example, my husband said yesterday we need Drain-o. There's no money in the "home maintenance category." We could move around money from another category (we aren't broke, just "YNAB broke") or just wait until we get paid so that the other categories remain intact.  I'd love a place to just write down what needs to come out of a category next.

Similarly, I know we have several birthdays in October, but I sometimes have a hard time remembering what gifts I've budgeted for and which will still needed funded.  I might look at it and think, "why is there $75.00?"  How much did I need again? Who else is left to buy for? (And because the gift hasn't been purchased, there's no record to look back on, yet)

Further, the miscellaneous category can be broad for us and varies widely from month to month. This month it includes school fundraisers, dues for civics organizations, school portraits,  and buying new checks. I like to list what needs to come out, and the order it is needed so that when we get paid, I know how to fund the specific categories.

Is there a way that people track this? I heard the Budget Nerds mention paper and pencil, but I'd love a method for keeping the information all within YNAB. Are there other videos or workshops that would apply? 

Thanks!!

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  • Magenta Tiger said:
    Further, the miscellaneous category can be broad for us and varies widely from month to month. This month it includes school fundraisers, dues for civics organizations, school portraits,  and buying new checks.

    Consider more granular categories. Instead of a catch-all "miscellaneous" category, break those things out into more narrowly defined single-purpose categories.  In my budget, I have "charity" and "school" categories for some of those expenses you listed.

    You could break out a dedicated category for each "gifts" recipient, too. But if that feels like overkill (category bloat!!!) you could instead utilize the "Notes" feature of YNAB to remind yourself about what expenses (birthdays) are due in a given month.

    As a general strategy for budgeting True Expenses, you should try to average out your "lumpy" expenses so that you budget equal amounts each month. E.g. if you expect to spend a total of $1200 per year on gifts, then you should budget $100 / month -- whether or not there's any birthdays on that month. You can use YNAB's Goals feature to help stay on top of that.

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  • Thanks! I do have a gifts category and I have a giving category but didn't think of the fundraisers that way--so that's a good point.

    I didn't know about notes--that helps to list out the info that I need to contain within the category.  

    Your point about goals is also well taken and certainly our goal. Getting to the point of using them effectively has been our challenge. Hopefully, this step will help to better implement the goals.

    Thanks so much!

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  • Another option is to use scheduled transactions to know that something is coming up so that you know it is there. For example, we have a curling club registration that comes due once a year. We have budgeted the cost of the membership as part of our hobbies and activities so that by the time that the registration comes around, the money should be there. However, if I have been moving money around, and it is one of my lower priority items, when it comes to the time to pay the fee, i get a heads up that I have this expense coming up to make sure i have enough in the balance available of the category.

    You could do something similar with the birthdays. Fund it on a monthly basis and then use a scheduled transaction for each month (dated the 1st perhaps) so you know whose presents you are buying that particular month.

    But figuring out averages per category and reducing the breadth of your miscellaneous category would really help with that view i think.

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