Feature Request: Expenses AND FUNDS transfer to new assigned categories during category deletion

The Feature Request

My request is this: If I choose to delete a category, and I reassign the expenses from that category to other categories, both the expenses and the associated funds used to cover those expenses should transfer to the new category. 

 

Example:

Say I open a new YNAB budget in Month 1 with $100 in a bank account and have no debts. In month 1, I budget $60 to category A and $40 to category B. 

In month 2, I earn $30 from a job that goes to "To Be Budgeted". Consider the scenario where I now want to spend that $30 dollars on something in category c, a category which I did not have in month 1, and further consider the scenario where I think I should merge category a into c.

If I want to delete category a and reassign the expenses to category c, the current process is that I

1) Delete category a 

2) Receive a pop up dialogue explaining that I need to recategorize all of category a's expenses. They can either become all uncategorized for individual reassignment or all recategorized to a single new category. Thus, I would, in this example, recategorize them all to category c. Fair enough so far. The problem lies in the fact that the money I budgeted in Month 1 does not also transfer from category a to c. For some reason, the current implementation puts category a's funds back into to be budgeted. Thus, I separately need to 3) Go to Month 1 and add $60 to category c.

 

My Frustrations

This example makes that final step a 1-step process. However, I have had to delete categories many times and wade through years of transactions and budgets to fix everything. I will likely want to delete categories in the future as well.

Reasons I Have For Deleting Categories

  1. Knowing how to bin budgeted money is difficult, especially before you start receiving the invoices or charges for those expenses. A simple example: I had a Category Group for recurring expenses (netflix, amazon prime, ynab, etc...). However, as more and more services switched to subscription models, my group of these categories became too long. I decided to merge them into two subsuming categories: Digital Services and Media Subscriptions. This merge took me ~5 hours. It could take me less than a minute.
  2. It is easy to make categories that will only be used for a few months and never again. I had a category group called "One Time Purchases" for expensive items I wanted to save for over many months (I-pads, computers, headphones, software,...). In retrospect, this is a terrible idea, but when I first started YNAB, it seemed logical. 
  3. My living situation, income, expenses, and scope of purchases has increased. I have gone from having very few expenses of my own and no consistent income to having a full time job, insurance, a mortgage, etc... Thus, my income went from sporadic to consistent, and my spending went from entirely discretionary to a much more consistent household budget. During this process, I leaned about and started taking responsibility for more and more financial transactions, and the way I think about budgeting and sorting my expenses. Accordingly, the categories in my budget have expanded, merged, and become more active. YNAB needs to be flexible to these changes. If you want to tell me that I should have used my current budget categories for the entire time I've used YNAB, then you are trying to tell me I need to perfectly understand my current and future consumption so that I can best categorize it. YNAB is designed for people who DON'T have that understanding yet. As they learn more, their budget categories should be as easily augmentable and changeable as their understanding.

 

Why Hiding Categories is NOT a Solution in any Sense of the Word

Telling customers to hide categories that they want to delete is terrible advice. As an example of why, consider the scenario where I buy both board games and computer games, and start out having categories for each. Due to any number of the reasons above, let's say I want to merge the board games and computer games categories into one "games" category.

If I were to make a new category called "games" and hide the computer and board games categories. All the statistics would be off in the Reports tab for the new and old categories. If I want to know my historical spending on all games 2-years down the road, I would have to remember that two years ago, I hid my previous spending and chose to ignore it. In order to understand my spending on games for all time, I would have to either unhide the categories and perform one time calculations to add up my total spending in each previous month, or I would have to spend hours merging expenses and redistributing money in previous month's budgets.

 

Why I'm writing this now

Making funds follow recategorized expenses is such an important feature request for me that it was worth over an hour of my time to write this post.

Other users have complained and so far gotten nothing in response to their requests: https://support.youneedabudget.com/t/80179k/delete-and-combine-categories-creates-big-problems . CamJPete  listed other devastatingly illustrative examples of how the requested feature would augment the ease and flexibility of budgeting, but after over a year, this feature was not released. 

Please YNAB, give your users this feature.

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  • av8or said:
    CamJPete  listed other devastatingly illustrative examples of how the requested feature would augment the ease and flexibility of budgeting, but after over a year, this feature was not released. 

     Considering that critical bugs from the release of the software that they have known about for 3.5 years are still not fixed, I'd recommend adjusting your expectations or you're just setting yourself up for disappointment.

    Like 2
  • That is really sad to hear. I don't think I have run into any of the bugs your comment refers to, but I sympathize with anyone who has.

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  • Hi Av8or ! Thank you so much for your detailed analysis. We really appreciate it!

    When you have a moment, would you mind submitting a Feature Request? That form goes directly to our team, so you can let them know what changes you’d like to see to the process of deleting categories going forward.

    Like 1
      • Av8or
      • Pink_Cyborg.5
      • 1 yr ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Nicole I have submitted the request.

      Like 1
    • Nicole I am going to send so many feature requests now, I wish I had known about it earlier!

      Like 1
      • bevocat
      • Sometimes, It Just Sucks to Be You
      • bevocat
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Maurycy Zarzycki Knowing about it sooner would not have an effect on the outcome.

      Like
    • bevocat It would have an affect on me being able to remember all the small things I wanted to request at the very least.

      Like 1
    • Maurycy Zarzycki We're ready for them! Thank you so much. 😄

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  • I concur with everything detailed here. Categories are so fluid and I’m constantly wanting to fine-tune them...but never do because of this issue. I feel like my budget is forced to be set in stone and my only option is to start fresh. Makes me still seriously consider mint over YNAB.

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

      CamJPete I make changes to my categories often, and I just hide categories I'm no longer using. It works fine, and I've never fresh-started.

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      • Av8or
      • Pink_Cyborg.5
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      mamster by hiding those categories, your reports tab is not lying to you. It is showing data for each non-hidden category that have different start dates.

      So, for example, your food category might have existed since you made your first budget, but it's possible you hid a gasoline category a year ago and chose instead to put all future gas purchases into a "transportation" category. If you then go to your analytics a year later to understand your historical spending, you will see a disproportionately large percentage of your overall historical spending is on food because all gas purchases before a year ago are in a hidden category.

      Rinse and repeat for each substitution or subsumption and your analytics become near meaningless.

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      • CamJPete
      • CamJPete
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      mamster I think that works for some but not for other situations. For example, my budget is so granular it is driving me crazy. I want to combine all of utilities like gas, electricity, water, internet, etc. into one category called utilities. With years of data, I will know how much on average I spent on all utilities and can easily just put a good $400 or whatever into the category. If I hide all old individual utilities and start a new category called utilities, it has zero history on how I’ve spent on these. I want to do the same thing with my dating category, family fun category, vacation, and eating out. I just want to lump it all into “family activities” and have a full history of my spending habits. I can’t do this easily if I keep hiding rather than combining. 

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  • I'd say that this feature would be useful even if you were not deleting the category.

    If I would like to recategorize any past transactions because of

    • error
    • budget growing/shrinking
    • I would like to target the tracking of that spending (that used to be part of a larger category)
    • deleting category
    • currently unknown reasons

    then any time you change the category of a past transaction, there should be an option box that pops up with radio buttons to choose from:

     - Reallocate [amount of transaction] from [original category] to [new category] in [month of transaction]?

     - Do not reallocate budget money. 
    ***Warning: This category change does not affect the budget, and could possibly cause overspending in [month of transaction].  Continue anyways?***

    There is a use case for each scenario.  It's just a glorified move money tool (one that is really relevant, useful, and doesn't require hunting transactions and months down).  This way, the reports still show valid data.

    Of course, this should not replace the option to hide a category, as that is for a different use case. 

    Sometimes, I wish I knew coding, and would happily provide the necessary script so the developers could make it more easily.  As it is, there's a fairly fleshed out design idea.  I'll put in a feature request so that maybe after playing with the colors (and the icons/shapes/other indicators we are repetitiously awaiting), this can be an easy feature to add. 

    Like 1
  • I can't believe it doesn't actually do this - I discovered the hard way, but didn't have that many past transactions to deal with. Sometimes I just re-think the way I want to budget (simplify!) and I need to re-allocate those funds in order for the overall picture to stay accurate. This is a MUCH NEEDED feature.

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