How do you use flags
So I wanted to get some ideas from other YNAB users about flags. I can't think of anything to use them for so how do you all use flags on your transactions?
I found them useful once, when my bank account did not reconcile with YNAB and it had been a while since I last reconciled.
I went through my bank statement line by line, and used the flag feature in YNAB to mark transactions as I found them.
But once the problem was sorted, the flags had no long term value so I removed them again.
I don't have a consistent use allocated to each colour but I use them for various things:
- if I've made an estimation of the amount for any reason on manual entry
- against items where I am expecting a refund or reimbursement
- items where I need to check the category (if entering for someone else)
- items where I intend to change the category in future
- e.g. wish farm stuff
- separate vacations have their own budget line but then are moved into a generic vacation line once everything is done and dusted
- challenges or any other reason why it makes sense to record all transactions in one place for the duration but then I want them categorised correctly for long term reports
- occasionally for reconciliations
For all these uses they are temporary and removed once they've done their job. In the past I've used different colour flags for different cars in one car category but I found it easier to just put #citroen #ford etc in the memo for that.
I think I'd potentially use them more if you could identify on the flag what it actually meant to you.
I use them to track reimbursements for business trips. I also use them to track a specific event eg. anniversary party. I have to look into that toolkit. I have seen it mentioned a couple of times. My only question with the toolkit is how does that "translate" to the mobile app. I am thinking the toolkit is just adapting the presentation in the browser and not actually making any additions to the YNAB info.
I use the flags to identify transactions that require more information or follow up, and when those details have been handled.
yellow means a recurring monthly bill needs to have the actual amount confirmed, updated, scheduled for payment in the bank bill pay system (all my scheduled recurring transactions/transfers are flagged yellow or red)
green means it was taken care of already when it populated the first time, and this time it's accurate and the date is the date it will be paid out of my account
I use a red flag on recurring monthly transfers -- between bank accounts and to credit card accounts -- and when a new red flagged item pops into the register, that tells me I need to log into my account and manually make a transfer happen before the end of the month. I have these set to populate a couple of business days before the month rolls over. After I make the transfer, I change the flag to green.
I used to use orange to identify reimbursable expenses that I needed to submit a claim for, but now I use a tracking account metholodology for reimbursements, so orange isn't used for anything.
Purple is used to flag a tax-deductible donation when I make it. I change the flag to Blue when I receive the offical tax receipt for that donation.
Like HappyDance , I use flags to indicate workflow status. Because I can't consistently remember to flag transactions in the app, no flag is the starting status of transactions. Purple flags indicate I've done everything I need to do with that transaction.
In between, red flags indicate scheduled transactions that I need to confirm actually happened on that date and for that amount. These are typically direct deposits (date affected by weekends/holidays) or pull transactions for periodic expenses (date can be affected by calendar, need to verify that the merchant didn't change the amount on me.) Future committed transactions (e.g., push transaction to pay my water bill when it is due) are flagged purple so when it fires off I know all I need to do is accept it. Future scheduled transfers (e.g., push payment to my credit cards) are flagged blue. I know I need to both accept these and change the flag to purple.
In the "All Accounts" screen, I typically have a search set to find flags that are red, blue, or none. That screens out the mass of purple transactions and lets me see just the transactions that need some further action from me. The future committed transfers are flagged blue so they will show up on this screen and can be accepted once instead of having to accept both sides of the transfer in separate operations.
Part of this is for my own workflow, which involves replicating transactions to Quicken where I track investments and net worth. Part is a workaround from nYNAB's stupid prohibition of future committed transactions. I'd be happier if nYNAB let me schedule payment of my credit card for the due date and then I didn't have to do anything else with that transactions. After all, I control the date paid and amounts, so it is truly a committed transaction after I set it up.
I use flags for when I am having trouble reconciling due to not doing it in a while, like some people mentioned above. I also use them to show the status of things I am getting reimbursed for, mostly from my FSA: red is that reimbursement request has not been sent in, yellow is that it has been sent in, green is that I have received the reimbursement.
I use them for temporary purposes, mostly transaction process flow, until a transaction has cleared. Mostly helps me, in a visual way, to quickly spot outstanding/upcoming transactions.
The main three colors I use are:
📗 GREEN - I set all recurring or scheduled transactions to this color. This way, when the scheduled date arrives and shows in the main list, I know right off it was entered by scheduled transactions. I chose this color because it's my wife's favorite color and she likes to spend money.
📘 BLUE - Used to flag those transactions that my bank/creditor does know about yet; such as, checks or delayed debit transactions. I chose this color because it's my favorite.
📒 ORANGE- Indicates the transaction is known by my bank/creditor, but is still in a pending status. I chose this color because it's the color my bank uses for pending.
Once a transaction has cleared my bank/creditor, I remove the color. When a GREEN or BLUE transaction becomes pending with my bank/creditor, I change it to ORANGE.
This method has come in handy many of times to help me catch some entry errors on my part. For instance, I had a BLUE transaction that still wasn't hitting my bank after a couple weeks. After researching it, the check I wrote actually cleared the bank. The issue was that I had double entered it into YNAB. Yes, I would have eventually found the error when I reconciled, but I was able to detect it quickly with the coloring scheme I use.
The one thing I wish YNAB would incorporate, is the ability to clear or set flag colors in the Edit menu. This would allow you to select multiple transactions and clear/set the color; rather than, doing them one at a time. I plan on submitting a suggestion to them.
I use flags within my scheduled transactions in checking accounts to quickly see things at a glance.
Red - all monthly recurring bills or payments, even if the amount varies. (I used to flag varied amounts orange but condensed to using just red)
Orange - payments that occur periodically or are one-offs, such as property taxes, auto registrations, child's upcoming estimated sports fees, or yearly subscriptions.
Blue - Auto transfers or expected deposits to savings or retirement accounts.
In savings or retirement accounts I use two flags.
Blue - The auto transfers or other deposits.
Purple - Interest income
In Credit cards accounts I have two flags.
Red - The payments transferred from checking
Yellow - Interest charge
I can cope with remembering two colours of flag.
I use red on repeating scheduled transactions that have a different $ amount each month, and on any transaction I think I need to come back and look at for some reason. So red means 'look at me'.
I use green in the mobile app to indicate a 'soft reconcile'. I can't do a proper reconcile on mobile, but when the bank account and my ynab account are the same I set a green flag. If I have to go back and check cos something is wrong I only need to go back as far as the last green flag. (I have found I need to be careful that there are no extra transactions sneaking in. There's not always a consistent order that transactions list between ynab and the bank. So if its a busy time in the accounts I would not set a green flag.)
I use them for scheduled transactions. Yellow and red are for scheduled payments, blue and green are for scheduled income and orange is for scheduled transfers.
Yellow indicates a payment that will happen automatically (i.e. is set-up on auto-debit, ACH, etc.). Red means I need to manually initiate this payment -- I only have a few of these for variable expenses, (i.e. electric bill). At the beginning of the month I schedule these manual payments with my bank and then change the flag from red to yellow as they are now going to happen without further intervention from me.
Green is for scheduled salary and blue indicates scheduled other money in.
Orange is a scheduled transfer.
As these are all scheduled transactions, when the date comes around, I just remove the flag after I have approved the transaction.
Purple is used for expenses to be reimbursed and gets cleared once the reimbursement comes through.
RED: Action required, such as a manual transfer, asking someone for money, giving someone cash etc.
ORANGE: Will be paid automatically but I will need to check the amount because it varies.
YELLOW: Automatic and fixed value, I don't need to do anything with it.
GREEN: Transaction complete, I don't need to do anything with it.
BLUE: Will be reimbursed.
I actually find the flags very useful. Especially if you do manual transactions and are slow to reconcile like me and you are faced with a wall of transactions, they help a lot to immediately make sense of what you are looking at and focus on the red/orange and ignore the automatic yellow. I also deal with a lot of reimbursements to the flag makes it very easy to keep track of it and make sure I get the money back.