Ever find $5 in your pants pocket and feel like you won the lottery? Well, yesterday, I had a similar experience except way better: I found $1,025 that was lost in my budget. Lost, you say? Yes, I lost $1,025 in my budget and then found it again.
It was tucked away in some hidden categories. I strongly urge you to go check your hidden categories right now.
How I Found It
Here’s how to tell if money is tucked in a hidden category. I was doing a little reorganizing of categories when I noticed some numbers at the bottom of the budget screen:
My first reaction was something was wrong with YNAB. (Apologies to our amazing developers – it turns out YNAB was doing its job and alerting me, I just wasn’t paying attention.) I wasn’t over budget and my bank balances were right – so where was that coming from? The only way to find out was to unhide one category at a time until I found it.
How I Lost It
You may remember I took out a short loan (four months, two weeks, three days) for a car last spring. For that period of time, I was hammering any extra money I could find at the loan.
I finally paid it off in the Fall and hid the car payment category. I have a healthy buffer, so I had budgeted a few months ahead not realizing I’d be able to pay it off so soon. I forgot to empty the category in one of those future months when I hid it. HUZZAH! $500 right there! It was literally sitting in that hidden category for MONTHS.
The other $525 was hiding for the same basic reason. Because I’m buffered, I’d budgeted ahead and when I did some reorganizing, I forgot to clean out some categories in future months.
When I found all this money, I immediately reported my finding in our office chat:
That last line from Jesse is GOLD. Isn’t that the truth? $1000 tucked away in categories and I didn’t even miss it.
(On Monday, I found out my car needed a $700 repair, so the timing of my discovery was excellent!)
YNAB was telling me money was there, but I just hadn’t noticed. Awareness goes beyond assigning the dollars to jobs, you’ve got make sure they’re assigned to active jobs and you still need to be engaged and pay attention.
Shortly after my announcement:
Hey, he’s not kidding! He could do anything with that $3.21! He could add it to his vacation category, groceries, anything. Every dollar counts people!
And The Less Exciting Down Side…
What if you check your hidden categories and see a red number?
That means you had spending in a category that you didn’t budget for and then you hid that overspending from yourself. That’s dangerous because it means your budget is no longer accurate. Here’s a super simple example of how this can happen: I have one account with $500. I budget $400 to Category A and $100 to Category B.
Then I spend $200 on category B, so I’m overspent in that category:
I only have $300 in checking, but category A still shows $400 because I haven’t fixed the overspending. Now, if I hide category B…
It looks like I have more money in my budget than I really do. You can’t use Rule Three to fix that if it’s hidden.
Not being known doesn’t stop the truth from being true. ~ Richard Bach
The solution? 1) Unhide 2) Budget to eliminate the overspending 3) Rehide.
I’m hoping you discover gold in your hidden categories, but even if you discover a hidden truth, that’s a win in my book.