Track Roomate Running Tally as an account?


My housemate and I have a LOT of shared expenses (we share two dogs and frequently travel together). Right now, I budget for what I know I should pay to keep the balance within a thousand or two of even-steven, but this messes up my budget in the short run (e.g. I don't have enough money in my dining out category to cover both of us - so I move some money from my "stuff I forgot to budget for category") and leads to the over picture of my spending if I want to track it to look a bit lopsided (e.g., I almost always pay for rental cars and lodging on our trips, so my travel category is quite large), but she more often buys dog food and I pay her for rent, but it's sometimes waived due to other shared spending, so those categories are smaller than they actual are after the spending is done. Our mutual laziness in "settling up" also means that sometimes I can deficit spend out of this tab, which I think leads to some behavior that is not very in the spirit of the 4 rules.

I was thinking that maybe I could treat our shared spending as an account and use split transactions to put the split of the purchase that was for her as a transfer to that account and then put anything she buys for me as income to that account.

Would this work? What kind of account should I use? Tracking? Not-Tracking? Credit Card?

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  • Laura CA Sorry for the radio silence thus far - this is a great question! We want YNAB to match reality as closely as possible. That means I wouldn't necessarily recommend creating an account if there isn't an account in real life. This HelpDoc that covers reimbursements might be a helpful place to start if you haven't already had a look! 

    I wonder if creating a "splitting" category of sorts might be helpful here! For example: you cover a dinner out but you don't want the entirety of that amount to come from your restaurant's category, so you split the amount between "Restaurants" and "Housemate" (or whatever you decide to call it!). That way you have a specific category that is searchable if it's been a while since settle up and you need to quickly look at all the transactions that have been added to that category! 

    But I'll stop blabbering - I'd love to hear a bit more about how you currently have it set up, too! For example:

    • Does most of your shared spending happen on a credit card, or out of a checking account?
    • How do you typically record outflows to your housemate when you owe them? To the specific category(s) you're reimbursing them for, or to a category for reimbursements in general? 

    Let us know how it's going and we'll be here to keep spitballing! 

      • Laura CA
      • Lavender_Tape.13
      • 5 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Rachel I am pretty committed to using an account instead of a category for this because it functions so much more like an account than like a category. I already have a category where I maintain the stuff I’ve bought for her as kind of an emergency fund for covering smaller expenses I didn’t budget for, but it doesn’t reflect the stuff she’s bought for me, which I normally just factor in by budgeting for large purchases that I know will balance the tab or moving money from categories I was saving for.

      Sometimes the stuff I’ve bought for her is a very large amount (like I’m about to buy a $1800 dive propulsion vehicle for us) as is the stuff she’s bought for me (like putting all of our airfare and non-cancelable bookings on her card because it comes with travel Insurance, while I do rental car because my auto insurance has better rental coverage).

      I just think the category approach doesn’t work well. If I want my rent payment to offset how much she owes me for some other purchase, I’d have to move money out of rent into her category, which messes up the rent category if I want to see what I actually spent money on. Likewise, when she spends money for me (like when we eat out), that money is hidden from my dining out category, so I’m not able to truly see how much I (over)spend on dining. I can maybe budget that money initially into dining but am I really going to do a split transaction for every micro purchase at the time I “settle up” so that it comes out of all the right categories when I can do that transaction at the time the purchase is made?!?!?  It’s also a real pain to maintain the separate spreadsheet as we do now.

      We tend to settle up a few times a year and normally only when it gets several thousand dollars out of balance without any chances for the balance to come down in the next few months.

      To me, an account makes so much more sense - I can see the total amount one of us is in debt to the other and money can stay in its own categories as it gets spent against the account.

      I guess since you guys don’t really want to support this method, I will just try it out and see how it works and get back to you. 

    • Laura CA I'm curious how the way you're currently doing it is reflected in the budget. 

      If you're making the total rent payment of 1000 out of your account, is the idea that the true cost to reach of you is 500?

      And when she buys the dive propulsion vehicle for 1800, would you want that to impact your transportation/hobbies category by 900?

      And when you go out to eat, are you thinking that the $50 bill is essentially 25/person, regardless of who actually pays?

      And for vacation, when she books the flights+hotels for 2000, and you get the car for 1000, would each of you be responsible for an ultimate 1500, regardless of the payment being used?

      When you go back to look at your budget and reports for spending, do you actually want to see your half of the responsibilities or simply what you used your account to pay for?

    • If that's the case, this other help doc may be more useful to you.

      It's geared towards people using the Splitwise app, so it seems to be designed to help translate and apply the lingo. However, the basic concept and interaction with the software can still apply.

      Method 1 in the article is for doing all the calculations outside of YNAB (in Splitwise or your spreadsheet), without specific category impacts. I think that would blur reports, but it's your call what data you want to see.

      Method 2 is what I would recommend if you want to use YNAB to keep track of things. It will keep your budget aligned to and displaying your priorities.

  • So this is something I do with my mom, although not to the amounts it sounds like you might, and I still don't have a great solution.

    I will say I have started a "Money I'm Owed" category that I keep a balance of about $100 in, I charge things I expect to be paid back for from there, then I don't have negative categories if the month rolls over.  Also, I started trying to square up promptly, and I try to do the splitting less.

    When I started using YNAB and realized how much it mucked up my budgeting, I got annoyed and tried not to have her pay for things for me or vice versa.  I know it feels inconvenient, but with my YNAB budget, I realized how often we weren't square or forgot about the little amounts we had done. So someone didn't get paid what they should.  Or if we were square, I found it to be a nightmare to move money around to appropriate categories so my reports would be helpful when I used them.

    Maybe not the answer you wanted, but I find it helps to cost-share as little as I can or square up right away. 

    If it works best for you to cost-share, I'd love to hear what you figure out to keep the budget clear!     

      • Laura CA
      • Lavender_Tape.13
      • 5 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Completely Christina thanks Christina. I would like to think I could reduce the splitting, but the perks of doing it the way we do are pretty good - we take advantage of building up points for things when one of the other has a membership, we make it so only one of us needs to pony up for the Cadillac of credit cards  with all the travel benefits and take advantage of things only I’m eligible for. We’ve also been more like family than friends for a long time so I think we’re a little more loose with the tab. 

  • My ex-husband and I split a lot of expenses.  I have a reimbursement category and split each transaction between the reimbursement category and the appropriate budget category, like Rachel suggested. However, I’m pretty anal about making sure I’m reimbursed. Every Monday I sit down and calculate how much I’m owed.

    When he reimburses me, I categorize it as reimbursements. I also use my Stuff I Forgot to Budget For (which I call Life’s Surprises) to cover the category because I hate seeing the overspending alerts.

    If you may not be reimbursed, you will need to cover the spending somehow. I don’t know how an account will help keep your budget and real accounts correct. 

  • I would have a tracking account called something like roommate, and a reimbursement (or similar) category. When you spend money for her it's a transfer to this account with the category being reimbursement (or split between categories and transfer if you are paying some) and when she spends money on you it gets paid from the tracking account bringing the balance down. I think this most represents reality as the money is no longer in your budget to spend (just like reality) and when she buys something it will keep a log, but again no actual money comes into your budget

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