Big negative unallocation from trying to read and fix

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My next confusion arises with the envelopes, it 8/3 and I’m ready to start my first clean slates month. I filled my envelopes and what I expected to happen was all the money in those envelopes from last month would disappear, but it didn’t and I want it to so I can what is being spent this month. I’m sure I’m doing something silly but not sure the route to fix it. I filled all automatically from unallocated. What did I miss? I’ll going to head over to help to read the instructions again.

So I’ve been reading and trying and I’ve really hosed myself up. What I want to happen is on the first of each month my envelopes auto fill and as I spend and attach the spend to each envelopes, that envelope number goes down. I think this is how it’s supposed to work anyway. I tried filling envelopes from unallocated and chose set. That didn’t work and my unallocated doubled. The unallocated was wrong in the first place but now it’s really wrong.

I’ll keep reading and watching videos but I think that’s causing more harm.

Also I have deleted some envelopes.
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Lisa

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Posted 2 months ago

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Tiffany Kucifer

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Hi again Lisa! I'm glad you're sticking with it--like you, I had some initial trial-and-error learning but it's working for me now and I'm sure it will get there for you too!

You're right that as you spend money from a budget envelope, the money in that envelope goes down. GB has a helpful little tick mark on the "money" bar to tell you where you are in reference to where you "should" be in the month.

It sounds like your struggle may be tied to the fact that an envelope fill and a budgeted amount are two different things (I too learned this the hard way!) For example, my monthly budget for gas is $300 and $200 for unexpected expenses.  I have my monthly, routine envelope fill that puts $300 in my Gas envelope and $200 in my Unexpected envelope. But when I change that, (let's say gas is really costing $350 so I change to just $150 in unexpected allocation), I have to change BOTH the budgeted amount (under Add/Edit Envelopes) AND the monthly fill (under Scheduled Transactions). Then on the first of the following month GB fills each envelope to the newly budgeted amount using the newly modified Envelope Fill, adding whatever is necessary from the Unallocated money I've deposited throughout the previous month to get it there. (This might mean a negative Unallocated balance too, if you don't have enough to fill all your envelopes.)

Also, when you delete envelopes whatever money is left over gets put back into Unallocated. It's money you had earmarked for something specific, but since you're no longer budgeting it for whatever that was, it's now available for whatever else you want to spend it on. The transactions don't go away, but the excess funds are still considered viable.

I am really confused about your filling from Unallocated and that amount doubling. It's a positive number, but twice what it was? (If it's a negative number it makes sense, but I don't think that's what you meant.) I've tried to recreate it in my own GB but I can't. Do you have recurring income that's also adding to Unallocated? I'm sure it's something simple but I just can't put my finger on it.

Once everything is squared away you might need to create one weird "Adjustment" transaction to get your Unallocated balance back in line, but save that for later when everything else is humming along.

So, TL:DR summary: Your income from the last month should ideally leave enough in Unallocated to fill one month's envelopes. You "Add/Edit" each envelope to show your budgeted amounts. You create or edit a monthly "Fill" to Set each envelope to that budgeted amount, and as you spend money that green line gets shorter until, on the first of the next month, it resets.

I hope this helps. I applaud you for sticking with it! I am such a firm believer in GB (it's really changed how we spend and save money!!!!) that I want everyone to have a great experience with it. :-)
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Lisa

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Tiffany, thanks for the things to ponder and try. If you are not affiliated with GB, you should be, you have excellent customer service vibe and helpful tips. I’ll report back in some time. Thanks again! GB, Tiffany should get an awesome prize because it is unfortunately kind of rare to be nice out of the kindness of your heart. :) you all are wonderful humans that I’ve listened to or worked with. I like being a part of this vibe.
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Telt1910

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Tiffany & Lisa,

Adding on to Tiffany's needing to change both the budget amount and the envelope fill: You can change the fill without changing the budget amount.  This is especially helpful when the change is temporary (i.e. need extra Gas this month for a car trip). 
Personally I use fills that I save for future uses (QuickFill).  The budget amount is just a guideline for me. I also fill some envelopes as needed/when possible.  For example, I reserve my credit card cash rewards and measly interest on my bank account for Christmas Gifts. I get paid every 2 weeks, so things that are only paid every so many years, such as passports and driver's licenses, come out of the 3rd paycheck twice a year. 

Hope that helps.

Z
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Tiffany Kucifer

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Great points.  I have an Annual envelope for that kind of stuff with a little monthly allocation, but I'm surprised at how many things are now populating that envelope! I use it for passports and licenses, but also car registration, yearly subscriptions, the landscapers for the winter lawn, etc. Admittedly, I also have a spreadsheet to keep track of all that but geez, that stuff adds up!
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Telt1910

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One of the features of Goodbudget that I like the most, is the ability to mix and match time periods. I get paid every 2 weeks, but my expenses are weekly (groceries, gas, lessons, paper subscription, etc.), monthly, annually, every 4 years, every 10 years, and as needed.  I put my paychecks in Unallocated, and promptly fill my weekly envelopes with the needed weekly amount x 2.  This has 2 advantages:  (1) I can keep better track of my weekly expenses, and (2) the money left in Unallocated tells me what I have left to fill the other envelopes.  
(1) This is a great win in my Body Care department (Groceries, Household Goods, Personal Care Goods & Services envelopes).  In the past with monthly budgets for these items bunched together, we struggled with thinking that there was money left, when really it was the buildup for that extra week in the month that pops up every so often.  I also separated them out into separate envelopes, because we'd spend money on household and personal care, and not have enough left for food. 
I have also implemented the rule that for most of these envelopes, I do not buy more than a month's worth.  The 20-roll TP might be cheaper per roll, but if the pack lasts more than a month, I am essentially paying for next month's purchases with this month's money.  Do that with enough items, and you come up short.  On the flip side, if I underspent in these categories, then I can maybe take advantage of a sale and buy more than a week/month's worth.
I am not saying that you need to be as specific as I am with my envelopes (I have 63 envelopes, down from 71), but these are some ways you can help yourself if you seem to run into the same kind of problems. I was forced to penny-pinch due to a pending divorce, hence my being so precise with my income. I have literally less than $3 left over at month's end.  Goodbudget was heaven sent at a time when I really needed it most. I've used Quicken, YNAB, Mvelopes, YNAB again, and Excel in the past. 

Have a great week,

Z  
(Edited)
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Tiffany Kucifer

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Wow!! 63 envelopes! I think my biggest struggle with budgeting was always having too many envelopes; now I'm down to just seven monthly (Fixed for everything with a regular monthly payment, Gas, Groceries, Household, Entertainment, Dining Out and Unexpected/Intermittent), and two annual "real" ones (Vacation and Annual Expenses). (I also have some dedicated to savings so that THAT money won't look like available dollars in Unallocated.) I can't imagine juggling 63 envelopes! Hat's off to you!
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Lisa

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Hey everyone, Lisa here, still struggling. I think what I need is help with the actual work flow. I am not sure what to do first or how to automate anything yet. The way my brain works. I conceptually understand what we are doing but the steps are alluding me.

So let me go through them:
1. I get paid, add them as income
2. Attempt to fill envelopes. Much like Tetl1910, I have many envelopes because I want to keep track on a more granular level. What I expect to happen is I get paid, I fill my budgeted envelop, let's say gas per month is $500, so I budget that and then when I go fill, should I use Set or All? Set seems like what  need but it doesn't seem to reset the amount for each month so when I expend money on gas it may be calculating way over $500 so I have no idea how much I've actually spent for the month. So I am royally screwing something up by trying everything and I'm not sure how to fix it. I will spend some more time reading and trying to find the points I am clearly missing.

Thanks!


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Tiffany Kucifer

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Hi Lisa, I'm glad you're not giving up! I found that early on it can be a little frustrating to set everything up, but then the tweaks become minor and it runs like a well-oiled machine. :-)
So, you get paid and add the income to Unallocated, right? Now you have a pile of money in there from which to fill for the coming month. If you're not a month ahead it's ok; you'll still follow the same process but either go negative in your unallocated (so you're budgeting money you don't have yet) or as GB suggests, only use what you actually have to either partially fill envelopes in stages or pick and choose which ones get funded.
Assuming you have a month's worth of funds, you now create a "fill from unallocated". Say you have $5,000 in your Unallocated allotment from paychecks you've deposited. Your budget distributes that money throughout your envelopes per your instructions, but you have to decide how much you actually have for each envelope. You may WANT to spend $200 on entertainment, but if money is tight you might only have $100 left for that envelope after you've budgeted for the stuff you NEED.
"Set" vs. "Add" has more to do with the way you spend the money in that envelope. For example, if you don't usually use all your Travel money every month and want the leftovers to still be in Travel for the next month, you'd use "Add". Now, say you budgeted $500 for Travel, but you only used $300. If you "Add" $500 with the next fill, you'll now have $700 to spend. But if you "Set", you'll just go back to $500 at the beginning of each cycle, and the leftovers go back into Unallocated. It's also good to use "Add" if you want to "borrow from yourself" from a later month. Say you had those $200 in Entertainment and you REALLY want great seats to an upcoming event, but they're $250. You buy them, and put your Entertainment envelope $50 in the red. If you "Set" Entertainment, you'll go back to $200 for the next month and never make up for the money you intentionally overspent. But if you "Add" $200 to your -$50 envelope, you'll only have $150 the following month so you will have made up for the big purchase earlier.
In your example, to "Set" the gas budget will add however much is necessary to get it back to your budgeted amount. If you budget $500 and spend $400, "Set" will just add $400 to the envelope to get you reset for the next month. But if you budget $500 and spend $600, "Set" will have to add all $600 back to get you to $500 for the next month (so you have to figure out which envelope you're going to underfund the next month).  With the same setup, "Add" will add $500 no matter what, but since you were already $100 in the hole you'll only have $400 for gas the next month.
As far as actual spend, the reports on the web can give you that info, and can drill down to a very granular level, which can help with your long-term budgeting as well.
I'm sorry this is long but I hope it helps!
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Tiffany Kucifer

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Me again with one quick question after re-reading your question--do you Fill all your envelopes at the beginning of the month (or whatever your budget period is) or do you fill throughout the month as you get paid? I realized that could have a BIG impact on your use of Set vs. Add.
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Lisa

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I was trying to fill at the beginning of each month. If we can use reports for granularity then maybe I do lessen the amount of envelopes we use? I'll think about that. So right now, I am a large positive unallocated amount of money, all my envelopes are red and way over the monthly budgeted amount because I open one transaction up and I see the payment form last month and this month. I am going to play with 1 envelope right now and see how it behaves. 
(Edited)
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Karisa Russell, Official Rep

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Hi Lisa, 

I would also add to what Tiffany is saying and say that whether or not you have a buffer in your budget also influences which fill option you can use. 

For example, if you're budgeting your income down to the dollar, and there's no wiggle room, then you might consider using 'Add.' That way, any overspending from last month means you'll pull back on spending this month, so things even out. 

But, if you have a bit of a buffer, then you can more freely use 'Set' to clear out any overspending. 

If you need more help with the actual fill process, take a look at our Getting Started Video on filling here: https://help.goodbudget.com/customer/en/portal/articles/1043754-step-4-fill-your-envelopes

Hope that helps!
Karisa
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Tiffany Kucifer

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Does your Unallocated balance match the money you actually have that hasn't been spent or budgeted? By design, Unallocated will equal 1) the money you have in the bank/on hand, minus 2) the money remaining in each envelope. So if you have $3,000 in the bank and have budgeted $1,000 in a Rent envelope, $200 in a Gas envelope, $500 in a Grocery envelope, and $300 in a Utilities envelope, (but haven't spent any of it yet) your Unallocated balance should be $1,000. As you spend from the envelopes, the Unallocated won't change because you've already accounted for the spending when you Filled your envelopes. It only changes when you make a deposit to it, or use it for a fill.
If you have lots of red after a fill, it's probably because you were already behind by more than your "Add" amount. If you have enough of a buffer you can "Set" your envelope instead which basically starts over at your budgeted amount (assuming the Set Fill is equal to your budget of course).
Using a fill instruction that "Sets" every envelope (if you have enough money) is a good way to sort of reset your budget at the beginning of a period.

One drastic way to do a "cheat" reset (hopefully you're not at this point yet!):
1--Do a Fill from Unallocated and "Set" all your envelopes to $0. Everything will go red but you'll fix it in a minute. This will also send all your available money back to Unallocated.
2--Compare your Unallocated balance to the actual money you have available in real life. Make sure you don't count any money for transactions that you've put in GB but that haven't cleared yet.
3--Add an income transaction to your account to make Unallocated match your real money. If it's showing more than you actually have, add negative income, not an expense/credit (GB lets you do this!). If you're managing multiple accounts, you may need to handle each account separately in order for the whole Unallocated to be accounted for.
4--Do another "Fill" and put the amount of money in each envelope that you've budgeted for the remainder of this period.
5--Now your Unallocated will show the money you'll have left over at the end of the month (before any income), and each envelope will show the amount of money you have left to spend this month.
6--On the 1st of next month, do a "Fill" using either "Set" or "Add" for each envelope as you see fit, to get you prepared for the coming budget period.

Like I said, this is drastic but it should help get everything back on track without having to completely start over.

Very last clarification: at the beginning of the month, you're doing a "Fill Envelopes" instruction, right? Not using the "Add/Edit" button next to the total of your envelopes?
Tiff
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Karisa Russell, Official Rep

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Hi Tiff, 

Thanks for providing all of these details! 

I just wanted to clarify point #3 about adding income (or negative income) for those that are reading.

Adding income will adjust your Account balance, which is fine if your Account balance is wrong. But if it's not, then adding income will make your Account balance incorrect. 

If any Account balances are wrong, try manually updating your Account balance instead. Adding income will artificially inflate your income on the Income vs. Spending report. You can adjust your Account balance on the website by clicking on Add/Edit on the Accounts tab and then updating the Current Balance. 

If you are having issues with your Unallocated being too high or too low, you can try troubleshooting that here
(Edited)