Vacation expense categorization techniques
Returned from a 2-week vacation - my first while using YNAB and wanted to share.
I created a generic payee called #Florida_Mar_2020 that I would use for all the local, one-off merchants (e.g. Alligator Farm, Fred's fruit stand) so I didn't clog up my payee list. In the memo field I tried to follow a format of "description", "merchant", "city" (since we were driving around Florida).
For the non-one-off payees (e.g. Starbucks, Walgreens, etc) I would be sure to add the #Florida_Mar_2020 hash tag into the memo field.
As for categorization, I eventually decide to put everything in the Vacation category. I had considered putting a few expenses into my "normal life" categories like Dining Out, up to the budgeted amount and then putting the rest into Vacation. I didn't want to throw of the "average spent" for future budgeting. This became too much work and now with the coronavirus lockdown I see that all my categories are going to get out of wack regardless so why bother.
This way, the Vacation category has ALL my vacation spending. I can add a filter on #Florida_Mar_2020 to see everything I spent while on this specific vacation.
Entering transactions on a daily basis throught the mobile app was key - especially for cash transactions. It was hard at first but with practice it become easier and faster. At first I let it go a few days and had a big pile of receipts to go through. Linked credit cards are delayed a few days and the merchant name doesn't always match the actual place I was had.
Thoughts and opinions welcome.
Daily Impressions said:
Entering transactions on a daily basis throught the mobile app was key
If money is tight, this is indeed key.
If that's not the case, the other options are save more than you feel you'll need or reallocate when you return (or both). Spending decisions are a bit more of the "wing it" variety. On the flip side, my intuitive measure of spending pace without using YNAB is pretty good.
Thank you for this post. I'd like to know if you guys think I could do the same for our situation. The children and I are spending 6 months abroad and my husband comes and goes from our home. So for six months this year we have YNAB activity in our home that is regular and we have YNAB activity abroad that is somewhat regular like groceries but then there are also travel/vacation items like outings. I want to keep separate our 'home' numbers from our 'abroad' numbers. I want to have a clear picture of how much we're spending 'abroad'. But I don't want to create a new category group 'abroad' because once we're home I would have to hide or delete it. So I'm wondering if creating a payee for 'abroad 2021' for example would work. We're also doing some medical care while we're abroad and not sure where to put this. Any tips appreciated. Thank you!
Daily Impressions , rather than trying to assign some holiday spending to your usual categories, what I do is move some of my funds from those categories to the vacation category. I.e part of the trip is funded that way. For example we are away 2 weeks so funds usually assigned to weekly groceries are moved over to vacation. Then i record everything under the vacation and have a good idea of what it really cost for future goals of the next vacation
We keep a general "Family Vacation Savings" envelope in YNAB and that's where we put money we budget each month saving for future vacations. Then we create a new envelope for a specific vacation and then as we spend money (using credit cards) we just drop all the expenses in to that vacation envelope.
When the vacation is over we'll simply transfer X amount of money from "Family Vacation Savings" to the specific vacation (i.e. "Orange Beach, AL - May 2021" to zero it out.
This makes it nice and clean. We don't clutter up our normal "Family Vacation Savings" envelope with a bazillion random transactions and we know exactly how much we've spent on each vacation.
After trying out various more detailed methods over many holidays I realised that just calling it the Holiday was manageable, and also captured what I meant the money for. On holiday I spend loads more on eating out and treats and so on, and logging it under the usual 'eating out' category skewed the numbers. I save up for Holiday, and spend as Holiday. Easier and more true, for me at least.
Adding on for anyone who Googles in the future:
I have categories for vacations, trips (e.g. two states away to visit my parents or a day trip to the nicer city two hours away), and conferences for work. Within them, I use a payee to designate what kind of expense it was. So I have Vacation lodging, Vacation airfare, Vacation food, and Conference lodging, etc. The first part of the payee allows the expense to be categorized correctly, and the second part allows me to search to see how much I spent on food at last year’s big annual conference. And of course, the fact that they are generic means I don’t add an entire payee for “Big Jack’s Surf Shack” when I will probably never return to that particular beach again.
Also adding on for future reference, and for anyone who has strict budgets/likes granularity:
In our main budget I have a "vacation" category. This is what I fill up and eventually categorize everything to without much concern about what they are.
Because I also keep a separate "vacation" budget, outside "our budget." I don't do direct import with it. instead I inflow whatever is in my "vacation" category in our main budget (or whatever is set aside for that trip) and assign it to categories there.
Below is my 2019 budget for when I went to NYC. Every transaction here was categorized in "vacation" in our main budget, but this is what I used daily when on the trip. Everything manual, of course, since I didn't want day to day expenses showing up here.