Question about amazon gift card balance


New YNAB user. I have a couple hundred dollars on my amazon gift card balance. This is money that can be spent on a wide range of things (so I don't just want to put it in one category, like I would for a starbucks giftcard) but it obviously can't be spent on other things (eg., rent) so I don't want to treat it like cash in YNAB. I want my purchases to reflect the category I spend them on (eg., if I buy clothes on amazon, I want to account for that in my clothes category). What's the best way to deal with this?

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  • If the amount in question is a small portion of total on-budget cash, the fact it's not really cash can be ignored. Make an account for that money and budget it as you see fit anymore in the budget. It is fungible enough.

    (This practice would only be an issue if you spent the entirety of your real cash, leaving the Amazon money to pay the mortgage.)

    The alternative is to maintain that hard line between gift card and real cash and leave it out of YNAB entirely. GC purchases are off the books.

    Some people attempt to put those funds on budget and synchronize a category to that balance. I think this is the worst option as it is identical to my first suggestion once you've reallocated for a purchase, but requires additional effort to maintain synchronization up until then. Either treat it as cash or don't.

    • dakinemaui We have evolved into using a middle ground approach - put the gift card money into one of two categories until a decision is made what to do with it.

      1) We have a non-fungible GC category that holds money on cards to places we rarely frequent, and that money stays there until we use one of the GCs. If it was normal budgeted spending, the GC amount goes to another priority. Some places only offer things outside our normal budget, so that category provides safe keeping until it is needed (and decided upon). This nFGC category always matches the remaining total of the gift cards it houses.

      2) We have a fungible category that just holds the unexpected money until we have decided how the extra numbers will be used in the budget.  This category rarely matches the total of its gift cards - it just allows us to postpone a budget meeting about those funds without losing track of them.  Then we just try to remember to use the gift cards in normal spending. This requires a bit of planning, but there's only the hurry of their expiration dates!

      Amazon gifts go with #2, but Sonic goes in #1 (we rarely eat fast food and typically buy ice cream from the grocery store).

      I've been thinking I should update my old post about dealing with different types of gift cards, as I've updated (and overhauled past transactions to reflect) my process to give cleaner reports. It will happen in a while.

      But, Eucalyptus forest , Amazon is the outlier here, because once you redeem a code, the whole GC balance just sits on your account - and I lost several sets of pennies somehow and had to reconcile them away. Maybe that won't happen with more frequent online shopping.

  • Move Light Sound Life said:
    We have a non-fungible GC category that holds money on cards to places we rarely frequent

    As far as a middle ground, I'd do this with a tracking account to use as a reminder of what's outstanding. A budgeted purchase with one of these cards is simply a $0 split transaction, outflowing against the spending category and inflowing as TBB.

    I mean if treating this amount as fungible it's problematic, I would use an approach that effectively prevents it from accidentally entering the budget. A synchronized category is one Quick-Budget press away from trouble.

    • dakinemaui That is a very interesting idea!  I will think on this. 

  • It would never occur to me to put gift cards though YNAB.  I wouldn't do it.  

  • And I learned a new word today-fungible 

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  • I treat my gift cards entirely like cash. I have a single gift card account and it has I 3 different gift cards in it now - Target, Amazon, and Costco. The total is about $200 which is 0.22% of my cash on hand in my budget so it doesn't matter if I allocate a $25 Home Depot gift card to Clothing. I bought the Target gift cards so there wasn't too much to budget, except that I got them on sale so most of it was a transfer from the credit card account to the gift card account plus the $20 in "income" that I got for buying them at a 10% discount (paid $180 for $200 worth of gift cards). That $20 probably got allocated to my sister's wedding category.

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  • I created an unlinked checking-type account for my Amazon gift card; because it's refillable, I reload it from one of my other accounts (Transfer from that account to the Amazon account) and then when I make a purchase on Amazon, I spend and categorize it as usual. (As a bonus, thanks to my Amazon Prime membership, when I reload my Amazon gift card directly from a checking account, an additional 2% gets added to the balance.)

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  • Just chiming in as a recent Google search brought me to this post. I find that I prefer transaction-level detail for my gift card balance, so as Skreidle  does, I too have a dedicated account inYNAB for just my Amazon gift card, which I reload regularly and refund returns to when needed.

    • over a year old, but still relevant ...

      Danny  I agree on this. Creatingthe unlinked checking type,  "Transfer: <Account Name>" as the Payee between the accounts (AMEX CC for me), giving me the power to breakdown transactions granularly. 

      The main reason I do this is for the AMEX gold 4x points when I buy the amazon gift card at Kroger, since I only get 1x directly on amazon. (Don't do this if you are wanting AMEX purchase protection on a specific Amazon purchase). 

      Now to do this for Netflix and other subscriptions. :D

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