Savings Budget - checking that it tracks real-world savings

Yes, I should have said “Transfer” instead of “Transaction,” where as @aronos says each of the two Transfers happen in different months. This happened across Dec->Jan in my case, and I started the Savings Budget in Jan. It was in a category of transfer type “Transfer” that I accidentally also marked Track->Savings. The issue wasn’t so much that the system should support this as a useful thing to do, but that it was difficult for me to diagnose the mistake, or even to determine that there was a mistake in the first place.

Yes, I think this is the zero based budget idea.

Example: today, in the Savings Budget sheet I can set “Adjust ± Modifies” to “Savings” and enter +1000000 in any expense category. Wala! I now have a million dollars saved in that category, and the sheet doesn’t flag this as unrealistic.

That example is silly, but it exemplifies the potential for data entry errors (that I tend make by hand often) to persist if not caught somehow. So far, my use of Tiller is successful because at most I assign categories to downloaded transactions. I never add/delete/change amounts on transactions. Savings Budget is the first time I’m doing this, so I’m interested in how I can make it error proof.

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A spreadsheet-based system is going to give you a good deal more leash than other things, but nothing is truly error-proof when humans are involved.

If you run that calculation from time to time and compare it to your balance you can see if you’re on track. Making that automatic probably isn’t very usable since we don’t have real-time balances. One great improvement in the Savings Budget over the Envelope Budget is that it tracks those manual changes in the Budget Journal sheet so you have a history of what you did and if you see you made a mistake, it’s a lot easier to find and correct.

We don’t have real time balances in the sense that the Balance History sheet is not guaranteed to be in sync with the Transactions sheet. Agreed. The Balance History data is almost useless for what I am concerned about.

We do have real time balances in the sense that they can be computed from the Transactions sheet.

A possible lower hanging fruit: warnings in the Savings Budget sheet when budgeted income and expenses don’t match, and when pending adjustments put things out of whack.

I acknowledge that most of this is interesting only for zero based budget workflows. If just using the Savings Budget to save up for one or two things I could use it comfortably as it is now.

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I asked for that in another thread and am certainly hoping it’ll be in the final product as well. Keep in mind it’s not even really “released” yet.

I think the entire solution is only really interesting to people who do zero-based budgets for the most part. :slight_smile:

Ok… that makes sense regarding split transfers. I agree with @aronos that modifying the date in the Transactions sheet for one side of the transfer is probably the best solution.

The upcoming Savings & Debt dashboard is designed to address the magical savings problem. The idea is that you can assign a (virtual) savings category to a real world savings account— where the money you are virtually saving should actually exist. The dashboard will help flag problems where virtual savings exceed actual savings. Again, my intent is to document and share the new tool this week. I believe @heather is planning for us to demo it in the Tiller Money Live webinar next week.

As for “warnings in the Savings Budget sheet when budgeted income and expenses don’t match”… this can definitely create imagined/virtual savings. In the Envelope Budget, we developed and deployed the “Rollover Adjustment” concept to quantify this issue (especially for zero budgeters). I’d like to update and improve the Rollover Adjustment concept for the Savings Budget, but, because not all categories must be configured for rollovers, the math appears to be more complicated to me. I’m hoping to solicit your all help in the community on sorting through this… new topic coming soon.

Thanks for sharing your thinking on these problems, @aronos and @matta.

I think all we’re looking for here is a flag saying, “hey, the amounts of your Income Budget and Expense Budget don’t match” rather than anything to do with rollovers. Something to match the Envelope Budget’s:

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I hear you, @aronos. I think there are two separate problems to solve…

  1. If my expense budget is greater than my income budget, I will (appear to) accrue rollovers that are imagined/unfunded.
  2. If my rollovers total more than my actual savings— through many possible failure modes—the rollovers are imagined/unfunded.

You’re addressing the first issue and I think some refinements to the Rollover Adjustment concept are our best bet here. I’ve got some preliminary calculations already built into the template. Just unhide the columns on the right and check the Show Rollover Adjustment box in J3. There are still some/many kinks to iron out but I think a more mature version of this calculation will ultimately solve the issue you raise.

The new Savings & Debt dashboard is intended to address the second issue.


I’ll just chime in to say that I have been using @randy’s recommendation to check the hidden box to Show Rollover Adjustment for a while now to great success. I extended my Categories sheet budget months back to 1/2019 as an arbitrary starting point and zero-summed my budget to date using that field to adjust for any surplus or deficit each month.

Glad to hear it. The existing calculation is ~75% the way there.

There are probably many issues with the calculation but the one I am most acutely aware of is that it will be inaccurate when not all categories are configured to Track Savings. (I think you are tracking all categories, @cculber2.)

I’m working on a new topic in Discussions with my questions. Will share later today.

Here is the new thread about Rollover Adjustment, everyone.

I’d love to hear your input on some of these riddles…

The Savings Budget sheet has advanced quite a bit in the past month, which I really appreciate. I am using it almost daily.

The still hidden “Rollover Adjustment” work has been great and allows me to catch a lot of mistakes. I still have the question I began this thread with, quote above.

I’m also curious about contrary opinions. I’d like to year if you’re using the Savings Budget sheet for zero-based budgeting but don’t care about whether your total “savings” in the budget is close to your cash flow account balances (checking/savings - credit cards). If so, what makes you comfortable with this solution?

On a lark, and to make the point, I gave myself $1,000,000 of savings in my “Miscellaneous” category. There was no warning or indication anything was wrong. That kind of error easily seen, but if instead I make a $500 mistake I’m not so sure…

@matta I will agree that manual savings adjustments aren’t very tolerant of human error at the moment. Rollover savings, or Offset as we are now calling it in the enhanced calculation (budget - savings actuals + all actuals) is policed in the offset error calculations, but savings adjustments, not so much.

I am very careful to make sure my manual savings adjustments are always a balanced set of moves e.x. for every dollar I add as a savings adjustment, I am doing a negative adjustment to another savings category, which I believe is the intention behind having savings adjustments. As you noted, however, there is no error checking in place to keep you honest.

I see two different types of savings adjustments:

  1. Transfer savings adjustments: Moving savings from one category to another, balanced
  2. Seeded savings adjustments: Setting savings already in progress prior to the starting period during initial setup, unbalanced

I believe that the ability to make unbalanced savings adjustments is necessary to achieve that starting state during the initial setup. Perhaps the savings budget script could be updated to handle seeded savings adjustments and transfer savings adjustments differently, or creating a new mechanism for seeded savings altogether and then tighten up the error checking on transfer savings.

Those are my Friday morning musings. :slight_smile:


The savings tracker is very useful. Although instead of having to check one account at a time - is there a way to do reconcile all our accounts together - if the savings account check could include all the accounts in a grid with the last balance, allocated to goals and unallocated - that would be great.


I’m transitioning from YNAB. Is there a way to get the equivalent of YNAB’s “To Be Budgeted” amount—which is how many dollars you have available that have not been budgeted yet?

This goes along with the concept of “give every dollar a job”, which is a zero-based budgeting concept. You can’t give every dollar a job if you don’t know how many dollars don’t have a job yet. :slight_smile:

Note that “To Be Budgeted” can also be a negative number, which indicates that you’ve over-allocated your available dollars.

Hi @reslarson and welcome!

There is indeed a way to see your “To Be Budgeted” amount. If you are using the Savings Budget template, there are two places you can find this information, but they may be hidden by default.

  1. There is a row group around row 4 that can be expanded to show some sparkline metrics. The first metric is the “Budgeted <month> Cashflow” which represents the balance of income that has been budgeted towards expenses, positive or negative.
  2. If you want to see more details on how the sparkline metrics are generated, you can unhide columns J and K. At the top of these columns are the “Budget Health” offsets for the current month and the entire budget.

I hope that helps!

I have found a problem with how I am using the Savings Budget sheet.

I have two categories: “**Automobile” and “Tami’s Automobile”

When I set an expense transaction to the “Tami’s Automobile” category, the Savings Budget sheet subtracts money from BOTH categories. I believe that this is because the system is interpreting the ** at the start of **Automobile as Wildcards.

Note that I changed the ** to ~ , and it fixes that problem but leaves another. The new problem is that the Savings Sheet now keeps both the effects of the **Automobile budget expense transactions and the effects of the ~Automobile budget expense transactions. My guess is that I need to re-install the Savings Budget sheet to fix this.

That is a bizarre problem and I appreciate your diligence in looking into it, @reslarson

One thing you might try… unhide the sheet called Budget Journal. This is where past adjustments are stored so they can be incorporated into calculations. Check if those previous entries still use the old “**Automobile” category.

Note: if you used the Rename Category workflow to change the “**Automobile” to “~Automobile”, it SHOULD HAVE updated the entries in the Budget Journal.

Either way, you may need to make that change manually now.

Let me know if this helps.

I have nothing in the Budget Journal tab. Note that I changed the category names manually–I did not use the Rename Category workflow (as I did not know it existed).

It turns out the the problem is that I didn’t change the category associated with my Transaction. Once I did that, it fixed itself.

Now, how do I get the sidebar up for making adjustments to Budget and Savings amounts?

Glad to hear you resolved that issue, @reslarson. I think the Rename Category workflow would’ve addressed that issue for you. :wink:

Instructions for making adjustments are here.