Goals lure people in the wrong direction
Goals are getting more sophisticated over time. You can now create a yearly spending goal with a target date and a repeat option. You need a flow chart (https://youtu.be/lBgF42p2Td0?t=624) to determine which one to use.
On the forums I see new users working hours to enter all their goals. Car payments are monthly, by which date do we want to buy a new car, when does this or that subscription renew?
What that means is that they're spending their YNAB time trying to predict the future. When their salary arrives, it's all taken by goals. Instead of giving all their dollars a job, it's just "Quick Budget: Underfunded".
What can be done to make goals less distracting?
Of course they are trying to predict the future. That's exactly what the budget is -- a plan for future spending. Goals are simply the plan for making the plan.
It makes a lot of sense to avoid doing this from scratch every time income arrives. As long as income and priorities have not changed, allocations should not change. (Priorities also encompass scope/amount and timeline.) So yes, Underfunded is a time saver, reduces the chance of forgetting something, and eliminates typing errors.
In a simpler time, people put the nominal funding amount per month (or per check) in the category name for reference. (Many still do.) For non-monthly expenses, they would divide the remaining funds needed by the months before the outflow. When they were paid, they went down the list allocating funds according to their notes. Goals merely avoid those manual steps.
Where i think things can break down is some people don't realize priorities DO change over time. That means goals should be updated as well. Being fixated on a yearly target can be a bad thing when that target becomes obsolete. That GUESS was hopefully based on all information available back then, but when new information arrives it would be folly to not consider that.
We revise plans all the time in other aspects of our life. For example, you planned to go on a picnic, but it rains on that particular day. Do you continue on with Plan A and sit in the rain? Of course not! It escapes me why some become locked into Plan A in the budget in spite of new information that contradicts that. ) I suspect it's a hold over from traditional budgeting practices.)
Before goals, people spent hours figuring out where their money needed to go, how much each thing would take, and then trying to deal with the constraint of a fixed income.
Understanding priorities is the hard part and the time-suck. Goals haven't changed that much.
This is not inherently bad. I don't use goals, but when I budget, I use Quick Budget: Budgeted Last Month because I budget the exact same amount each month to the vast majority of my categories. How is that not giving my dollars a job?
Goals are a mixed bag. In general, I like them as a template for many of my categories but you don't need one on every category as YNAB seems to teach. Also, they don't currently work really well with Rule 3, Roll with the Punches since they sometimes nag you when you intentionally follow the rule.
I use them on all my major known expenses/categories but intentionally don't have them on the rest of my categories. I don't have enough to fund every category every month nor do I want to. I like the process of using Underfunded to do my budgeting each month in one fell swoop but then also enjoy the process of making a quick audit of all categories and budgeting the remaining funds as preferred that month. Each month can be very different from the previous one on these non-goal categories. Some are already at capacity and some, like Vacation, get a lot more love on surplus months.
I think just the opposite. It is a priority that I save for a new furnace, roof, car etc. It is also important that I budget enough for dog food and doctor visits, therefore I have goals for each. If I did not have goals especially for the further out items there would always be a "priority" that took precedence and in 10 years I would not be happy with myself. Looking at my budget now, I have goals for just shy of 1/3 of my categories.
Initially I wrote the dollar amount in the category name and that worked fine, but I think it's faster to use the goals. The flow chart is funny, and agreed there are so many goals it's confusing. I just stick with the basic monthly goal it serves its purpose (for me).