"Moving money" in past month causes SFTF?

I've been YNABbing for about 3 months now and wanted to start to get an idea of my average true spending in some categories so I can budget more accurately going forward. So I noticed I had misclassified some expenses in my first couple of months and moved the money around in those months so the income/expense report would be more correct (by WAMming between categories that, in Feb and March, had leftover dollars).  So, as a concrete example, I had assigned an electric bill of $118 to gas in February. So I recategorized the expense to electric, which had enough money "available" in February. I did this in a few places, in some cases moving money between categories in Feb or March to get the categories more correct.

So far so good. But then I just happened to click forward to May by mistake and found I was in the hole in TBB in May. I had already adopted the "holding category" approach to fund the next month (luckily I can do that), so I just WAMmed from the April "Next Month Money" category into May TBB so all my TBBs in each month are now back to zero. 

I think this is the only way to handle it, because although the categories in Feb and March that I took money from appeared to have "available" money, in fact that money had been reallocated in other months and I was now Stealing from the Future. Is that right? Any tips on how to avoid this issue when correcting categorization of expenses in the past?

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  • You seem to understand it correctly. The additional spending causes overspending down the road which is taken out of TBB (from that point onward).  You're lucky you had cash spending that eventually manifested as SFTF -- you may not have noticed if those were credit transactions.

    The only way to ensure this doesn't happen is to also move the exact same amount of money between categories within the budget when you recategorize a transaction. Once you're done, you can shift funds in the present if category balances are not to your liking.

    That said, I would personally just correct the budget back up in the present. Seems like less work than chasing cascading budget issues through the various intervening months.

    I wouldn't take it from next month's funds, however.  The money was presumably there before, so it's simply misplaced after recategorization. Reallocate within the current month until balances are satisfactory.

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  • When moving funds in a prior month, it is safer to use the Move Money Tool. Click on the available balance of one category, take all or a portion of what is available, and move it to another category.  It's when you overwrite the budget cells that you can make the mistake of pulling funds back from a future month.

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      • mamster
      • mamster
      • 1 yr ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      HappyDance Using the Move Money tool can still cause problems, though. Say I spend $100 on groceries in March, and all of that money rolled over in the category from February. If I go back to February and move money out of that category, I'm going to end up overspent in March, which then converts to overbudgeting in the future.

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    • HappyDance In this case, no budget adjustment was made. The recategorization of spending as a different category (which had money that month) caused overspending in a later month (when combined with the later spending).

      I'd still call it a manifestation of SFTF, though, because of the lack of any indication on the current screen that there is a problem.

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      • Salmon Boa
      • Salmon_Boa.4
      • 1 yr ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui Yes, that's exactly right. And after I saw your first reply, I looked in April and suddenly had more money budgeted in the categories in April that I had moved money into in Feb and Mar (and some deficits, too). I cleaned it all up in April by moving money around and got back to TBB zero in May as well as restocking my "next month" category. But what a pain!

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  • I kind of missed the initial cause on this one being changing the category on a transaction, and certainly if you go back further than last month, it can create a complicated domino effect. I've been through one of those revision projects and it was ugly. I also made a complete mess of my budget once and (luckily) was able to transition my YNAB4 budget all over again.  I find the lack of walled months makes revisions to older data a risky and slippery process. The more complicated the change, the greater the likelihood I will need an aspirin for the headache afterwards.

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  • Aspirin or a stiff drink! Yes, it was a hassle but now that I understand it I can head it off. I hope. 

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  • What does SFTF stand for? I came across it in an other discussion but have teouble understanding.....

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  • Found it! Stealing from the future !

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