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Background:

My wife and I have put a monthly budget together using the Google Drive Budget Template. Pretty standard - Income section and Expenses section with rows allocated in each.

It makes most sense in my head to allocate every dollar within the budget, including savings. I found this older post about Savings being treated as Expenses. In fact, I do exactly what the top commentor said about the 4 main themes of transactions:

  • Income - any money coming in each month (primarily paychecks)
  • Expenses - any money going out grouped by the category of the transaction
  • Deferred Spending - this is "savings" for the infrequent big ticket purchases during the year like Vacations, annual car insurance, annual service renewals, kid seasonal activites, future home upgrade purchases, etc. I have various "savings" accounts broken into these buckets so I can save a little month by month and then withdraw from them at the time when I need to do it when the bill is due
  • Savings - mainly emergency, college

Here is a screenshot of an example template of what I'm doing. It's the planned/actual columns and on the next sheet is are the transactions. Budget Template Example

How do I manage the deferred expenses/savings on my budget sheet? Am I overcomplicating it?
I feel like I'm double counting it if I add it as income. My intent is to make sure I'm tucking away each month so I don't have sticker shock during the month of the expense. However, I want to make sure I'm aware of how much I pull out of each account too so it's not like the money came out of nowhere.

This equation as mentioned in the post makes sense to me but I'm failing at executing how to do this

(income + money out of deferred spending) - (expenses + money into deferred spending + savings)

Thank you very much in advance!!

  • I am not going to give you a direct answer, but you need to do what makes sense to you and your wife. You two working together will have a more dramatic impact on your finances then doing personal financial accounting "correctly". For us, we don't track things down to that level of detail. It is too much work to 100% balance the books or 100% track every penny. – Pete B. Nov 14 '19 at 18:40
  • Do you have the ability to rollover the left over amount to next month? For example, you budget $100 for gas but only spend $80. Next month you budget $80 but carry over the amount from last month so the "total budget" is still $100. – Nosjack Nov 14 '19 at 18:42
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I feel like I'm double counting it if I add it as income.

I think you're misinterpreting deferred expenses. Let's take a simple example.

Say you earn $1,000 this month and next month. Your only expense will be next month for $2,000. So this month you have $1,000 in (pure) income and $1,000 in deferred expenses and everything balances (you should have $1,000 in your bank account or cash).

Next month you also have $1,000 in pure income but you extract the $1,000 you allocated to deferred expenses and count it along side your income as an inflow. You also have the $2,000 expense you planned for, and everything still balances. You now have nothing in your bank account or cash.

So you're not "double-counting" the deferred expenses - you're just tucking them away on paper so that you can extract it later when the expense actually hits.

That said, I agree with Pete that you should do whatever makes sense to you. My wife and I use a separate "escrow" account at our bank that we use to save up for property taxes, insurance, holidays, etc. That way it doesn't get mixed up with our regular spending.

  • Thanks D Stanley! This helps. As I read through all the comments, I think I've pieced together that my brain is confusing a budget and a balanced sheet. Thank you for the clarity. My wife and I are definitely on the same page, but improving the small little things go such a long way – Raf Nov 19 '19 at 14:09
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How do I manage the deferred expenses/savings on my budget sheet? Am I overcomplicating it?

I feel like I'm double counting it if I add it as income.

Expenses are money that you spend some time during the month, right? You spend the Food line item on, obviously, food, and you spend the Mortgage line item on the mortgage company.

Similarly, you "spend" the Deferred line items by transferring the money to a separate account.

For these line items, I would (and do, for a slightly different list, since our circumstances and needs are different) open a savings account (nickname it "Accumulating Deferred Expenses" or some such) at an online bank, and transfer those "expenses" to that savings account at the end of every month.

  • College Savings
  • Emergency Savings
  • Deferred Home
  • Spending Deferred
  • Kids Spending
  • Deferred Car Spending
  • Deferred Travel Spending
  • Deferred Yearly Dues

Create another spreadsheet just for these eight "sub-account" assets, which tracks inflows from your monthly budget and outflows for whatever bills you need to pay.

Thus, some of your bills get paid from your regular checking account, and some bills (those that are less frequent) get paid from "Accumulating Deferred Expenses".

Hopefully I haven't confused you more.

  • Thank RonJon. I mentioned in another comment above that I think I've pieced together that my brain is confusing a budget and a balanced sheet. We do exactly as you mentioned, and your suggestion of keeping another spreadsheet of each of the "sub-accounts" will help as another aiding tool. I probably will do just that. Some might think it might be overkill and I'm not trying to be a CPA, but this process is to help identify, analyze, and improve on my family's lifestyle. Thanks again for taking time to provide me some mental direction! – Raf Nov 19 '19 at 14:15
  • @raf some banks allow "virtual sub accounts" (sometimes called "buckets") for things like this, or even opening multiple savings accounts. I prefer a spreadsheet, though, since I can drive one "account" negative without having the bank hit me with a fee. – RonJohn Nov 19 '19 at 15:57
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I do not use a spreadsheet for our budget, I use Mint (I am not affiliated with Mint, but I would recommend it). But, this advice might still be applicable.

Have a "rollover" balance from month to month

In Mint, I check a box for a budget category and it will automatically rollover used/unused amounts to the next month. So, if I budget $100 for gas then only spend $80, my gas budget at the beginning of next month would show "-$20" spent. This also happens the other direction, where if I spend $120 then my budget for next month would already have $20 used up.

How can you do this in a spreadsheet? Set up a "negative" transaction for each category you want to rollover, on the 1st day of a new month, based on the difference between the amount budgeted and amount actually spent. This will show a negative amount in the "Actual" column for the month. Once you actually pay for that big expense, the amount will remove the negative balance and you will be back at zero.

So in your case, you budget $75 for the kid's spending but you don't have any expense transactions linked to that category. The $75 then rolls over to next month with shows a budget for $75, and an actual amount of -$75. Another month goes by and then you have $75 and -$150 respectively. Then, in the next month you purchase that new item for $300. Your summary for that month will show $75 budgeted and $75 actual expense.

In summary:

  • Month 1: $75 budget, $0 spent
  • Month 2: $75 budget, -$75 spent
  • Month 3: $75 budget, -$150 spent
  • Month 4: $75 budget, (-$225 + $300) = $75 spent

In this case the negative amount would be your "total saved" for any given big expense.

I also do this for occasional home expenses such as oil changes, haircuts, pet supplies, etc. I take the amount of the transaction and divide by the number of months that occur in between each expense. Oil changes - $40 every 4 months, budget $10 a month.

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Budget large items as a fixed amount each month

I budget everything as a monthly expense and pay my savings account until the bill is due. This is pretty similar to the "rollover" method that Nosjack mentioned, but something about the negative numbers isn't intuitive to me. Actually transferring the money makes it work in my brain when I see the budget spreadsheet.

Suppose you have a $1200 expense once a year. Each month, log $100 towards the expense. When you pay the expense, do not log it in your budget a second time because you've already paid it. If the expense turns out to be slightly higher or lower than expected, adjust your final month's cost to match.

For example with a hypothetical insurance bill:

  • January: Insurance: $100 [actually was a transfer to savings]
  • February: Insurance: $100 [transfer to savings]
  • etc...
  • December: Insurance: $100 [transferred previous months to checking and paid the insurance company]

Note that in the scenario above, I made one payment of $1200 in December, but I didn't record that full payment directly in my budget. I recorded it throughout the year instead. I also didn't record transferring money back to checking in December. That's just a mechanical detail of paying the bill, similar to choosing whether to send a check or pay online.

For some items like vacation, I do keep a more detailed budget in a separate place because I want to know how much I spent on vacation food vs. vacation lodging etc. But in my main budget it's just logged as "Vacation" because I don't want the details to clutter my monthly budget.

Keep a Miscellaneous Category

To me, the above method only makes sense for relatively large bills, not for small bills. I'm not going to take a $100 bill and split it into twelve payments of $8.33. Instead I have a miscellaneous category in my budget for items that don't fit neatly into other categories and/or are too small to budget on an annual basis.

The difference between a "small" bill and a "large" bill will depend on your monthly cash flow and how much you spend on other items. For some people it might be better to split the $100 bill into twelve payments if their monthly income is low, whereas others with a high income could easily pay a $500 bill without throwing a wrench in their spending plans.

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