Should I create a goal for every expense?

First time budgeter on YNAB and just getting started. I'm curious if I should be setting up a "Goal" for all known monthly expenses, such as rent & cell phone?


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  • I have bought* into the idea of setting up goals for everything. It's close to how I operate(d) in YNAB4 and it helps me keep track. There's an article about creating a template that you should check out:

    *One of those rare "purchases" that costs nothing but time.

    Edited to add: If you can take advantage of the Toolkit, do so! It has a lot of valuable features that YNAB is lacking, many of which are goals related such as allowing you to actually /see/ your goals on the budget screen. The Toolkit is available for Chrome and Firefox and you can find it by Googling YNAB Toolkit.

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  • Hi, Beige Wrench .

    I might delay setting up all my goals if just starting out. Only because I recall doing a lot of tweaking and reorganizing in the first six months of my YNAB budget. I mean, a lot of tweaking.  I was moving categories around, renaming them, combining expenses in one single category rather than having a single category for every bill, rejigging my definitions for some categories.  If you have each starting category buttoned down with goals, you might feel you have to leave it that  way rather than enjoying the flexibility of this budget system.

    Do I have a goal set for every category even the known repetitive monthly expenses?  Yes, I do. But I'm also finding I need to adjust the goals a little too much for setting and forgetting.

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  • Instead of goals, set up a template. IE, your register that your bills pop up monthly when they are due. There is a class for that walks you through it. Personally I use goals for long term items, things that are 3 months or more out and that I am saving so as not to get hit by a big expense. The monthly things except for groceries and transportation, which I have as monthly funding goals, are for me fixed so the template handles them as they are due the same day each month except my cell phone bill. 

  • Hey  Happy Clown  (Mike!), 


    It's totally up to you! Personally, I use a mix of scheduled transactions and goals. For recurring monthly expenses that are the same amount, I set up scheduled (recurring) transactions, but for True Expense categories (and groceries/gas), I use a monthly funding goal. 

    In both cases, if I don't have enough budgeted, the category will be orange and I'll go through and click either "Budget for upcoming" or "Goal Target" (in the quick budget feature) when I'm budgeting new money. 😊

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      • Dazed
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      • dazed
      • 2 yrs ago
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      Jannelle Same here!

  • The problem with goals as they currently sit is that they turn orange if you take money out of them or spend from them early. Useful for making sure you're on track to pay your property taxes; not useful if you're trying to set aside around $40 a month for something but it's not a big deal if you snatch $10 of that category halfway through the month. 

    So despite that it means less budgeting efficiency, I only set goals for categories that I want a warning about if they are not adequately funded. Things like "dining out" or "whoops I need to buy somebody a gift" get budgeted by hand. 

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  • I find myself using goals for things like Christmas or other expenses where I need to come up with a hefty lump sum at one time. However, this year I started taking that money out of my checking account and moving into a savings account so I will not dip into it without taking the extra steps of moving money back into my checking account and bank rules limit how many times I can withdraw money from my savings account. Too often I overspend in a category (e.g., eating out) when I am being sloppy about my spending. I say yes to something when I should say no...and the purchase is a nice to have, but not a true need. I use this approach with my emergency fund as I want to make sure I use this money for a true emergency and not because I overspent in a category. Plus I keep these accounts off budget. This approach works for me because I am not as disciplined about managing my money as I should be and it helps me be more disciplined. Rather like putting the cookie jar in the cupboard as opposed to leaving it on the counter in plain site.

    I also have a buffer category in my budget to help me cover unexpected/unanticipated expenses that I cannot easily cover by moving money from one category to another. It works like an overdraft account. I treat it like a personal loan in that I pay it back at the beginning of the month. However, this overdraft is not like a bank overdraft, it is my personally set up overdraft account where the bank is not involved.

  • I would say that when you are starting out living closer to paycheck to paycheck it is usual to separate out into fine grained categories, e.g. separate categories like electricity, water, gas because the timing of when you fund them is tricky. As you go along and you have more room in your budget you might find it easy to start combining categories, e.g. just have a utilities category. That has been my experience, at least.

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