Budget account for non-cash accounts

Hi, all.

I hope this question is not too stupid.

On my list of budget accounts, I have cash, credit cards, checkings, and savings. The issue that I face is that I also have an account for my lunch vouchers. "Why in the heck do you have it for", you ask? Well... In my case I can use it for all sorts of things, including gas, groceries, etc. 

But, since this is not actual money, count it as "to be budget" can make budgeting a little deceiving. Is there a better way to handle it? I already thought about putting it in tracking accounts and making a transfer to a budget cash account every time I spend something there, but I think it just complicates things unnecessarily. 

If you guys could help me on this puzzle it would be great.

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  • Hey, Harry Knoener ! This is a great question, really.

    There's no one right answer to this, but I would make this a Cash account. Yes, the money in that account isn't totally interchangeable with other money in your budget, because it can only be spent on certain things. However:

    • It sounds like the money in the lunch voucher account is quite flexible.
    • The lunch voucher money probably doesn't represent a large proportion of your entire budget.

    The situation you're trying to avoid, of course, is having money available in a category but being unable to actually spend it, because it's lunch voucher money that can't be spent on things in that category. Because of the two points above, though, I think that situation is unlikely and that you'd spot it quickly if it happened!

    I'm curious to hear other people's solutions, though.

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  • We've seen other questions by people who have "cafeteria" accounts, usually an employment benefit.

    I would add it as a separate cash account.  This is what I do for my gift cards as well as online accounts like Amazon that have a balance in them.  As Matthew rightly points out, the funds are not entirely liquid like currency, but even so, the vouchers can replace currency in your budget, so being able to track the balance and to choose that voucher account as your method of payment without having to create entangled transfers is so much more convenient.

    edited to add:  and it provides a convenient reminder to use up your vouchers or gift cards. Before YNAB I would forget I had gift cards or gift certificates and find them months, if not years, later.

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  • Thanks for your answers.

    It was not exactly what I was expecting as "solution", but it made me think about the whole thing in a different that kinda solved the problem all the same 🙂

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  • Treating it as real money, interchangeable with any other money, will ONLY be a problem if you spend all your real cash. If the chance of that is negligible, then it's far easier to treat it like any other money. Accounts simply map to different methods of payment.

    If that amount is a substantial portion of on-budget funds, it's best to leave it out of the budget entirely. It's too easy to make a mistake.

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