How to Deal With Restricted Money

Hi everyone, I have a very unusual way of conceptualizing a purchase I want to make, and I'm not sure how to apply it to my budget properly. I'm sure it probably goes against YNAB's philosophy or something, but I'm curious if it'd be possible to do in YNAB.

Anyway, so there's a video game that I want that's $85. I only have $25 in my "fun money" category this month, so obviously I can't buy it without overspending, or covering it with another category. However, I recently returned a gift on Amazon for $65, so that balance + my fun money would cover the cost. The issue is, I can't buy the game on Amazon, I have to buy it at Target. My conceptualization here is that I will fork out $85 to buy the game now, and then promise myself that in the future I will only use that $65 Amazon balance for normal household goods and stuff that I would normally buy. Essentially, I'm trying to "convert" the Amazon-only funds to anything I want by frontloading the cash now. 

I don't see a way I can do this in YNAB without moving funds from another category. I was thinking I could set up an Amazon Balance category with $65, and then when I buy the game it would use that category and the Fun Money category. The issue with that is what category(ies) do I apply the $85 charge to? If I apply it to Fun Money and Amazon, then my Amazon category is at $0. Then when I go to buy household goods in the future, I can't charge it to my Amazon Balance anymore, as it will be at $0. 

Is there any way to set this up in YNAB? Thanks for your help.

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  • I have my Amazon Gift Balance as an on budget account. It's just another location for my dollars. I would simply reallocate from elsewhere to get $85 in the Fun Money category and buy it. In your case, putting that location on-budget will give you $65 in TBB which can be budgeted toward Fun Money.

    The fact you have $85 in Fun Money means you can afford the game. The fact you have at least $85 in some account that is accepted at Target (credit card, debit card, cash in hand, whatever) means you can pay with that account. The trail ends there. Nothing else to think about, unless you only have a few hundred in total funds in the budget.

    As for that last caveat, technically the amazon money isn't completely interchangeable with the rest of my money, but the ONLY way I would get burned is if I spent ALL of my other cash that is the budget. Since my amazon balance is a tiny fraction of on-budget funds, I have no problem blurring the line and treating it like any other account -- meaning as just another payment method.

    The fact you can't use your Amazon account to make this purchase is no different than me not being able to use my CC to buy tamales from the roadside truck on the way to work (even though I've got a Tamale category that says I can afford it). Payment methods (accounts) are completely independent of the intended purpose (categories). 

    Like 2
    • dakinemaui True story: the other day I bought some frozen tamales at the Japanese supermarket (?!) and they turned out to be really tasty. So I went back for more and realized they were $7 for two tamales. At the same time, however, I realized that there were five varieties and all of them sound just as delicious as the pork and red chile.

      Summary: I need a Tamale category.

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      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 1 mth ago
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      Matthew Don't we all!

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  • Would it work to make an Amazon "account" in YNAB and not an Amazon category, then budget that $65 into Fun Money? Then I could make the purchase with the Fun Money category using my credit card, and when I want to buy household goods with my Amazon account in the future, I can buy them and use the Amazon Account as my payment method?

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    • Orchid Mainframe Exactly correct. 

    • dakinemaui Great! That's perfect, thanks for the help once again.

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  • An alternative is to leave accounts as they are (leaving the Amazon Balance out of YNAB), reallocate from somewhere and buy the game with cash. When you buy something from Amazon and use the Amazon Balance, you can record that as a net $0 split transaction, outflowing $X against whatever category is relevant and inflowing $X as Inflow: To Be Budgeted. (The net of $0 makes sense because nothing entered or left any budget account.) You would then budget that same amount wherever you like.

    This fluid nature of funds is incredibly powerful once you've can grasped the concept. Accounts are merely payment methods. They do NOT address whether you can afford something or not.

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