Using Hashtags in Your Transaction Memos for Improved Budget Granularity


I take YNAB transaction memos seriously. Seriously enough that maybe I need to seek some sort of professional counseling and/or medication to help me maintain a healthier perspective. Seriously enough that sometimes my wife uses a transaction memo to tell me to chill out:

Date: 06/01/13
Payee: Harts Gas Station
Amount: $1.64
Category: Household Needs
Memo: “Yeah, so what? I bought a Coke.”

Side note: Household Needs? Pretty sure that’s why we have a category called “Kate’s Fun Money”, sweetie.

Side note to the Side note: She picks fights in transaction memos; I wait three months, then give my rebuttal in a blog post. It may be time to evaluate our approach to conflict resolution.

The point is, transaction memos are useful in evaluating past spending and planning future spending. A transaction memo is an opportunity to give the why behind the what and the how much of a transaction – which is useful when you’re transitioning from expense tracking to real budgeting.

So, today’s Pro Tip is to take an extra 20 seconds when you’re entering transactions to add a meaningful memo.

Once you’ve formed the memo habit, you can move on to today’s Super Pro Tip: Using Hashtags in Your Memos for Improved Budget Granularity Without Needing 153 Categories.

*Credit for today’s Super Pro Tip goes to the YNAB team, who thought it up over breakfast during the team meetup back in May.

Check it out:

Back in July Kate and I drove the kids out to Colorado for a week with the Butler family. My brothers, sister, and their families made the trip and we met and Mom and Dad’s place. Good times.

We YNABed our way through the week, recording all the trip’s expenses along with clear transaction memos. But I didn’t have a good way to silo those trip-specific expenses – which would be a great help in budgeting for future trips home. Enter the hashtag (click to enlarge):

#greeley2013

*Those of you worried about that big, negative working balance can be at peace. This card is automatically paid in full every month on its due date. 🙂

Brilliant, right? My #greeley2013 hashtag let me keep all the expenses in their proper category instead of lumping them all into a “vacation” category, which would be way too mushy for me.

Next time Kate and I are planning a trip to my parents’ house, we’ll know our last trip cost us a little over $300. We’ll plan accordingly.

Take the hashtag for a spin. I think you’ll find it’s a great tool for taking your budgetary nerdiness to a whole new level.