Feature Request - Buffer - Does This Make Sense To Others?

I was thinking of submitting a feature request, but was curious if anyone else though this was useful or if they could help refine my thinking? I'd love to get your feedback before submitting this!

 

I have a spending target setup for categories like groceries and I feel like that is getting me 90% of way to covering my spending on groceries. I’m not at 100% because for a couple months a year I go over my normal grocery budget by about 30%. I already budget slightly more than my average spending for groceries, but because I want the total of my targets to be less than my normal monthly income, I don’t want to bring up the spending target to cover the really big months.

 

My request would be to have the ability to add a true expenses/buffer component to spending targets. Which would allow me to build up savings/true expenses gradually while keeping a cap on how big a category will get.

 

Here’s an example scenario: my grocery spending target is a $1000 per month and I have a $500 or 50% True Expense/buffer for that category:

 

  • June grocery is funded to $1000 and spending is $800. $200 goes to the next month.
  • In July, I assign $1000 for the spending target and the $200 left over stays there and doesn’t get “flagged” for Reduce Overfunding because it’s below the $1500 threshold. I spend $1100 on groceries. $100 goes to the next month.
  • December starts with $600 coming from the previous month. I only need to add $900 to bring the category total to $1500 OR $1000 was already added to the target (because I budget a month ahead) but $100 gets “flagged” to Reduce Overfunding. I spend $1500 on groceries. Nothing gets sent to the next month.

 

While I was thinking about what types of expenses are true expenses, It hit me that a lot of non-true expense categories do have a true expense component.

Thanks!

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    • nolesrule
    • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
    • nolesrule
    • 3 days ago
    • 2
    • Reported - view

    Monthly funding goal with a Target Balance cap. I've been requesting this for the past 5.5 years.

    I have several categories that I fund with a formula like this (though not groceries): Restaurants, School costs, clothing, household goods, medical OTC, date night, haircuts, gifts, Adult beverages, Scouts.

    Like 2
      • Breau
      • Breau
      • 3 days ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      nolesrule I'm going to guess someone has already requested this, I'll send mine in to add more signal to feature request :)

      Like 1
      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 2 days ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Breau Yes, put in the request. It's been a long time since the last time I asked about it.

      Like 1
  • I understand what you mean but it doesn’t make sense to me. If you don’t want your targets to be more than your monthly income, then where will the money come from? Where does that extra 30% come from? 

    You may also want to explore why you spend more in those months and have separate categories for those expenses. For example, if your grocery budget is high in July because you host a 4th of July party, then again in November due to Thanksgiving, maybe you need a separate hosting/party category. 

    Like 1
      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 3 days ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view

      Britnee You have an amount you fund monthly. If there is leftover, you still fund the monthly amount in the next month until you reach the target cap for the category.If you spend down below the cap then start funding it again.

      The cap might be multiple months, it might be less. Depends on how much you want to allow it to build up. If you read my reply, I listed a bunch of categories where I use this logic in my previous reply to OP.

      In some cases my cap might be 1.5X but in other cases it might be 2X, 3X, 4X, 6X.

      My restaurant category gets funded $500/month. Any leftover amounts get rolled over, but I don't want to fund the category past $800. My date night category gets $100/month, but I want to stop funding at $1000. School costs get $40/month, but I want to stop funding when it hits $360. Etc, etc. Like the OP,  I'd like a goal/target type that will handle this for me so I don't have to pay attention to it every month like I do now.

      It's a method I've been using to fund categories for 7 years and seems a perfect use case for a goal/target type in YNAB.

      Like 3
    • nolesrule !!! I would totally use this for dining out. And/or groceries. Although thinking about it, those are weekly funding goals for me. Maybe Needed for Spending with Target Balance Cap?

      How do you handle it currently, since the goal type doesn't exist? Do you put the cap data in the note? 

      Like 1
      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 2 days ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Fuzzball Meows It all manual. I use a target Balance goal for the cap and use the Auto Assign option for the same amount budgeted the previous month when I set up my next month. If it hits the cap I manually adjust, because the "correct overfunded" auto-assign option is currently buggy for Target Balances as it ignores any spending.

      Needed for Spending wouldn't work because it can't be open-ended by date. At some point it has to reset. I mean, they could build it however they want of ourse, and as long as it works the weay I want I'd use it.

      Like 1
    • nolesrule Hmm. I'll have to play around and see what works on my end - I don't want to lose the YNAB telling me how many times x day occurs in the month, vs. me having to look it up, which the target balance doesn't do.

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      • nolesrule
      • Stealing From the Future fix is an improvement but is incomplete....
      • nolesrule
      • 2 days ago
      • Reported - view

      Fuzzball Meows your use case is different from mine, but certainly valid. It'd be nice if they could make both work.

      Like
    • nolesrule Slightly so - if I'm understanding correctly, the difference is that your monthly assigning doesn't vary, whereas mine does depending on number of "weeks" in a month. If they ever end up making your use-case work, I'd probably switch to using that, if they don't do both.

      Like 2
  • Britnee said:
    If you don’t want your targets to be more than your monthly income, then where will the money come from? Where does that extra 30% come from? 

    The buffer would only fill up when you have unused balance from the previous month, if you always spend groceries to $0 the buffer would never fill up. It could take months/years to fill up. If it was to happen today would could get the extra money from a few other categories in our budget, we have a bit of slack.

     

    I’ve though about creating a new true expenses category for those bigger months, but that makes the budget more complicated (how much can I spend on groceries is now across two categories). Especially if you start having a true expenses companion category for many of the spending target categories.

     

    Does that make sense?

    Like 1
      • Britnee
      • britnee
      • 3 days ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Breau Yep, makes sense! 

      Like 1
  • Interesting idea, Breau ! I love to see different ways YNABers use to age their money and get a bit ahead. If you haven't seen it, here is our Feature Request form! It's the most direct route from the Forum right into the hands of our Product team. 😊

    Like 2
  • Many YNAB’er I believe would find value in a categories that could incorporates a *maximum value* indicator/rule/limit (whether the ‘target’ is Spending Goal, Monthly Savings Builder or Savings Target).  I do find that - in combination with a few assigning methods - the ‘overspending’ function button in the right-side inspector panel helps for the *Savings Targets (dated or undated)* type goals (particular if it has become unintentally overfunded).

    My additional thoughts.  
    • I am sure that it is easier said than done. (My head hurts 🤕  to just think how it might be navigated by the designers)
    • Even if *smarts* are not yet able to be added (i.e. higher priorities), it could be a ‘interim-step’ measure to simply get an indicator that HIGHLIGHTS the overfunding in a more visual way on the budget screen so that the user can then see-it-at-a-glace which categories are affected and then take action singularly or by selecting the highlighted categories and then using the underfunded button (functionality exists).  I have categories in the 100’s so, a visual indicator per category - when scrolling the budget - would be really really helpful.
    e.g. 
    - Could the available bubble/pill be a new colour if overfunded (lavender /🟣purple)?
    - Could a small colour dot/button🔘 appear next to the bubble/pill
    - Could the pie piece be a different colour if over funded?
    - When a category is selected, could the underfunding amount (text or text box) on the inspector panel be coloured (🟣🔴) if value = zero?
    🤔 Since the underfunded inspector panel box already determined overfunding perhaps this could be leveraged when building a visual indicator at the budget screen panel (?)

    If your submission could include these ‘interim-step’ suggestions, that would be appreciated. 
    Thanks for asking.
    Nettie

    For further reading, Only if you want to grab a cup of tea…..
    My behaviour approach for groceries/food/dinning out: (in case it helps)
    • I have two category groups - F.essential and F.discretionary; I like that YNAB gives me two sub totals for each grouping.
    • Collectively they use 9 sub-categories combined.
    • 8 of them are use *spending targets-Mthly* which I zero out at the end of the month before the rollover.  I do this because as we know, overspending in groceries is a life long battle (pandemic aside).
    Note:~ *Spending target-weekly* also works for my method.
    • 1 subcategory has a *savings target* at $100 (no date).  
    I do not spend money (i.e. activity column) in this category but I can use it to top up any of the 8 others if they experience heavy-than-usual spending.  I also zero out any ‘available’ monies here before the monthly rollover.  I have tried using Monthly Saving builder for this ‘shell’ category but I have settled on savings target (user preference applies)
    • I can pinch money from any of 9 to fund the other 8.  Heck - if I decided I’ve been “too-naught too-soon in a month” I might empty the remaining available monies from that category and put it to the shell category (out of the way) to enhance money-scarcity.
    • When I fund for all 9, I do it fully (because I have emptied them all out at the end of the month).  In this way last month funding remain consistent.  I can see how much I am staying under my total group budget - while front loading it all at the beginning of the month (via Assign column category totals), during the month (via activity column) and, at the end of the month vs other months via budget reports.  
    • I fund $800 across 5 subcategories in the essential groups (e.g. shell, household, groceries, meat, liquor).  I fund $300 across the remaining 4 subcategories in the discretionary group (e.g.  fast food, restaurant, health food, cafe).  We rarely use discretionary so there should be a lot of the $300 left over at the end of the month.  🤞🏻 
    • In summary I have what I like to call a $1,100 grocery float; its like a maximum spend really but, my challenge (if I choose to accept it) is to keep the total per month as low as I can.  $820 for the month gives me an A+ scoring.
    • Some months are always going to experience higher than usual spending, and it may or may not show any regularity with time of year or season. I may or may not have advanced notice for any higher spending if I want to add ahead of time.
    • I rarely overspend the $1,100.  I find spending is inversely proportional; one category might be high but the other may be simultaneously low (and I engage behaviour towards that, if circumstances dictate).  
    • A ‘zero out’ method (at the end of the month) works for this highly variable category where there is a strong desire to keep the spend as low as you can go. [I do the same for fuel]
    • All 9 Groceries (and Fuel) categories is the first thing that I fund for the new month (so I’m never short).  
    • Because each category per month now has a money moves breadcrumb trail it would be possible to even create  another food-subcategory called “NEXTmonth groceries” where the end of month sweep is gathered.  The money-moves history is going to give you a ‘one-click’ look (going to each month) on how much I have saved.  That could be efficient for devising a groceries report card🏅 ⚖️ (although it is simply $1,100 less the activity that shows on YNAB reports).  As the month rolls over this is then ‘money-moved’ into the 9 categories (just like those that use the “NextMonths Buffer” method of capture and release into the ‘ready to assign’ field).
    I hope this give you food for thought (pun intended) as you write your Feature request. 😃 
     

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