Pre-tax commuter benefit

Hello wise YNAB forum, I am writing for some advice as I try to pick up the pieces of a debtful holiday season. 🙈

I poked around for the answer to this but couldn't find exactly what I was looking for so hopefully this is not a repeat thread.

I work in NYC area so my employer offers a pre-tax commuter benefit which I receive in the form of pre-paid debit cards that I can use to purchase my monthly NJ Transit train pass and also my NYC subway Metrocard. The limits on pre-tax dollars are lower than what I actually need for all my transportation costs so I do want to have this on-budget to make sure I am covered. However, these debit cards are only valid for transportation so they aren't really part of my regular money, if that makes any sense?

For example, I had not yet received my new transit debit card prior to purchasing my Jan monthly, so I had to put that on a credit card but I can't "direct" my cc payment money in YNAB from my transit debit card because it just doesn't work that way - I can only use it to make purchases at transportation hubs, etc. 

It gets a bit messy and confusing, to me. So, at this point I may just leave the transit cards off-budget and just have only the additional funds I'll need to cover beyond that, on-budget. Does anyone have any experience with something like this? Any advice, tips? Appreciate your time and thoughts!

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  • Welcome to the pain that is NJ transit. Mrs. nolesrule uses it too. We have our Wageworks commuter benefit in the budget. Here's how we handle it.

    When the Account receives new money, we treat it like income (technically it is since it's just rerouted from the paycheck). Then you can budget the money however you want, because money is fungible. If you need to budget it to your commute category, then that's where you'd put it. When we use the benefit, we categorize it as spending out of the on-budget benefit account.

    In our case we use a single category for Commute costs and gas for the cars.

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    • nolesrule This is of course not the only pain of NJ Transit, as I am sure you are aware. 😆 Thanks for your reply. So do you just add additional non-wageworks taxed money to your commute budget to cover everything you'll need? That is a simple answer, not sure why it's so hard for me to get my head around. Thanks for helping me think it through!

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      • nolesrule
      • YNAB4 Evangelist
      • nolesrule
      • 1 yr ago
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      • Reported - view

      Jen Wilson Yeah, it doesn't matter whether it was taxed or pretaxed. Your W-2 will have all the payroll tax information you need so there's no need to track pre-tax/post-tax anything in YNAB.

      Our Commute/fuel category is funded independently of the money added to the benefit account since we know how much we plan to spend. So when the benefit money comes in we can deploy it anywhere. If you are unable to fund your commute category without it, then by all means, budget it to that category when it hits the account.

      We're at the western end of M&E. The train doesn't even come out here on weekends and government holidays. But Mrs. nolesrule only goes from here to Morris Plains. When we go to the city for a family trip on the weekend, we drive to Secaucus and take the train from there.

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  • I have a Wage Works account that is linked to my budget.  It has a positive balance of $435.00 in it.  YNAB does not appear to consider it income that I can budget.  How to I treat this money at income then assign it to my commute category?  Thanks!

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      • nolesrule
      • YNAB4 Evangelist
      • nolesrule
      • 9 mths ago
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      Frank Castro Is it set up as a budget account or a tracking account?

      If it's a budget account, then you need to make sure that inflows are categorized to To Be Budgeted.

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      • Frank Castro
      • Navy_Blue_Rhythm.14
      • 9 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      nolesrule  I linked it online so it is a tracking account.  I will change it to a budget account. Thanks!

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