Thanks to DaveCrom01 at this post: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4776#p33398
, I finally got a grasp on budget categories that could really tell me where I have to be and how.
I had already been groping and moving toward this kind of organization, but reading Dave's post really opened my eyes. I took off Dave's alphabetized priority groups and spread around them my own groups, which were more topological or functional.
Anyway, the idea is to recognize that there is a prioritization of expenses: Some absolutely have to be paid every month, or other period; they can be predicted to come around and require paying or else you will be out of a house or have your car repossessed or whatever it is. Then there are some that are also mandatory, but whose exact amounts are variable by whatever cause---seasonally, for example, with heating gas, water, electric. And some that are going to occur, but about which you have more, at least some substantial, control.
I put them into YNAB groups by this prioritization, and kept the functional or topological classes by using a category prefix.
So here's how my categories look. This may be too fine-grained for you, but I really needed to know all the ways money goes outward. YMMV.A - Fixed Mandatory Monthly Expenses
Auto - Insurance
Auto - Loan - Car 1
Auto - Loan - Car 2
Insurance - Long-term care
Utility - Telephone
Household - Pool maintenance
Housing - Association fee
Housing – Mortgage/Rent
Utility - Cable InternetB- Fixed Mandatory Periodic Expenses
Auto - Milestone maintenance Car 1
Auto - Milestone maintenance Car 2
Auto - Oil change Car 1
Auto - Oil change Car 2
Auto - Registration Car 1
Auto - Registration Car 2
Contact lenses, Wife
Driver's licenses (2014, $30 each)
Grooming - Husband haircut
Insurance - AD&D Husband
Insurance - Life - Husband
Insurance - Life - Wife
Household - Cleaning service
Housing - Home insurance
Housing - Trash pickupC - Variable Mandatory Monthly Expenses
Auto - Gas for cars
Auto - Tolls
Debt – Credit card payment 1
Debt - Credit card payment 2
Estimated federal taxes
Grooming - Wife
Utility - Husband cell phone
Utility - Cable TV
Utility - Electric
Utility - Gas
Utility - WaterD - Discretionary Mandatory Monthly (or less) Expenses
Cat care - food, litter, veterinaryE - Contingent Expenses
Auto - wash
Garden and yard
Auto - Repairs
Sprinkler system serviceF - Savings
House down payment
Security reserve fund
VacationG - Discretionary Spending
Gifts - Birthdays, events
Gifts - Christmas
Household supplies & tools
Personal spending - Husband
Personal spending - Wife
Recreation - Dining out
Recreation - Entertainment
(A) expenses are not prioritized at all per se, because each of them has to be paid once a month and the amount will not vary.
(B) expenses are the same, but occur on more frequent or less frequent fixed dates and without varying in amount.
(C) expenses occur without fail, on anywhere from a few days apart to unvarying monthly, semiannually, annually, even every few years (e.g., drivers license renewal), with amounts that are not fixed but within (usually) a range; nevertheless, each has to be done and paid for without fail (or something bad will happen--the electric people will shut off the power, the cat will die, I'll have a huge tax bill on April 15 next year, I'll be unlicensed to drive, etc.).
(D) expenses have a lot of variability to their totals, but will occur and must be paid.
(E) expenses depend on emergent needs, and may not happen in any given period of time, but need to have something allocated to them for that potential need or emergency.
(F) is savings outside the paycheck's automatic savings (whatever one has at the time, e.g., 401k, stock purchase, health savings account, health reimbursement account--all taken out before the net take-home pay that this budget division allocates).
(G) expenses are completely discretionary and highly variable---they can be done without to a great extent and are the least necessary.