Is this Flexi? Is this even budgeting?

Let's say I have three categories: Groceries, Dining Out, and Fun Money. I fund each of these every month. Normally I try very hard to spend only the money in each that I have given them, but often I want to spend more on two of them.

I don't really want to adjust the amounts I assign to each category. I can usually live within the budgeting constraints I've set for myself, but some months are different.

What I want to do is move money between these three accounts each month as necessary. If I want to spend a little more on Groceries than I have budgeted, I want to take some from Fun Money to make that work.

Is this still budgeting? I can live within the constraints I've set for myself, but some months I don't want to. I guess I'm concerned that I am not actually budgeting if I don't follow my budget to the letter.

Maybe I should look at it as assigning a strict total amount to those three categories, divided into those categories as looser "guideline" amounts. Then I am Rolling With The Punches, in a way.

Any thoughts on this? Thanks!

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  • Moving money between categories as different expenses come up (or your priorities change) is the definition of rolling with the punches. Having a plan can mean assigning money at the beginning of the month as guidelines and it can also mean moving that money to a higher priority category when things change. Both are plans. "I plan on spending $100 on dining out this month". "Oh now that my friends invited me out to dinner, I plan on moving $40 from groceries to dining out because I don't anticipate spending that much on groceries this month"


    One of the biggest  things about YNAB and the methodology is that your budget it ALWAYS flexible. It is not set in stone when you initially assign those dollars. It's dynamic just like your life is dynamic. Not every month will be the same. 

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  • Yes, it’s still budgeting. 

    I don’t budget for Dining Out or Movies or Socializing. I budget Fun. I allocate Fun to the other categories as I want to spend in them. I don’t have to split them out, but I do. I don’t have a set number for Dining Out, but knowing I’ve spent a lot there this month might send me to the grocery store instead. 

    Also, Christmas. I don’t budget for everyone individually. I budget to a pooled category and then parcel it out to other categories to help me see if I’m forgetting someone or have already spent enough on someone. 

    Those are budgeting activities. 

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  • You are absolutely, 100% budgeting - and this is Rule 3 in action! It's really hard to stick to set amounts every single month, and rolling with those punches is a key part of sustainable budgeting. I do a similar thing in my food and beverage category group:

    Groceries, Restaurants, Coffee, Alcohol categories all get the same amount monthly, but you better believe those dollars get tossed around between at least a couple of those four nearly every month. Each year, we reassess our actual spending and adjust monthly assignments as needed/warranted 😊

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  • A budget is a plan for your money. Like most plans, it is based on your optimal usage of your funds to reach your particular goals. It is based on assumptions made at the time of the plan. However, you cannot possibly know all of the possible things that might happen once the plan is implemented. Once you have implemented the plan, you will have to make changes based on life. Your car breaks down unexpectedly, you spend more dining out because you had out of town friends visit, prices have increased overall due to COVID. You now can "roll with the punches" to make adjustments to your budget (plan) to address these new or unexpected activities. For some, you may have budgeted dollars available (car maintenance for the break down or moving money from groceries to dining out for the visit). Without the budget (plan), then you would just be guessing. The budget allows you to make informed decisions about what your goals are, which ones can be delayed or scrapped temporarily to address these changes. 

  • Sure.... Is it still travel if you have to change your route?

    So you're on a road trip vacation, you have a route all planned out that gets you to all the stops you want to get to.

    But on the way there's a big accident, or road construction that means adding an extra 3 hours to your drive to your next destination. You would immediately begin looking for a different route.

    Adapting is part of life, and part of what makes YNAB a better budget than many - it's ability to adapt to changing needs helps to keep priorities in the forefront while you adapt to the changing conditions.

    Most GPS will offer you an immediate change of route to work around whatever the obstacle is in the road, your budget should be no different.


    Of course there's a completely different conversation to be had around WAMing frequently. If you are always WAMing a category, then at some point you have to sit down with yourself and say "Self, I'm not funding this category enough. I'm always having to steal from another category. We must evaluate why this is happening and make adjustments. Either I'm not being honest with myself out my spending and being realistic about my needs, or I am allowing myself to go overboard in an unhealthy way." Either way, a decision should be made that helps adjust your vision so that it matches up with reality a little better (either by being honest about what you can manage to spend in that category, or by putting the credit card away and not spending). Using reports can help tremendously with making sure that your version of reality matches up with how much you are funding in your categories. It can also mean a lot less WAMing, and a lot more funds in the right places with a lot less stress/effort (ask me how I know...).

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