Targets align your budget with your financial goals and give you insight into your progress on those goals. This article will explain the variety of target types at your disposal, and show you how to create, edit, and delete targets in your budget.

In This Article

Target Types

There are six types of targets: three for spending categories, one for debt payments, and two for your Credit Card Payment categories.

Needed For Spending Target

  • Weekly: Assign and spend up to this amount each week. You can also choose which day you would like your week to roll over. For example, set a goal to assign $100 for groceries each week by Friday. You’ll be prompted to assign money until you’ve satisfied your weekly goal total for the month—this will be based on how many Fridays are in a given month, (and in the first month you create the target only, how many Fridays have already passed). 

Category Examples: Groceries, Date night, babysitting, housekeeping, work lunches, or any other category where you spend money on a weekly basis.

  • Monthly: Assign and spend up to this amount each month. For example, set a target to budget $300 for auto insurance each month and spend up to $300 in a month. 

Category Examples:  Utilities, Dining Out, Gas/Fuel, Transportation, Childcare, and most monthly variable expenses.

When using Needed for Spending targets, if you don't spend all your assigned funds in the current month, or longer target period, the remaining amount will contribute to the next target period once the month rolls over.

  • By Date: Assign and spend up to this amount by a given date. For example, set a target to assign $1000 for birthday presents by December and spend from those assigned funds each time you purchase a gift leading up to that date. YNAB will prompt you to assign a certain amount each month to stay on track to meet the target amount. You can even choose to repeat this target, up to every two years. Since there can only be one target in any given category in a single month, the new target period will start the month after the previous one ends, even if the target date is prior to the end of the month. 

Category Examples:  Holidays and birthdays, vacations, home improvement projects, subscriptions, insurance payments, a new baby; any expense that you'll be partially paying for before the target period ends.

Monthly Rollover Fun

When using Needed For Spending type targets, any leftover funds from the previous period that are still in the category will fund the new target period once the new target period arrives

For example, let's say that you have a $500 Monthly target in your Groceries category. It's the 27th, and you've bought all of the groceries you need for the month (no one will notice you forgot the Flamin' Hot Cheetos again ...right?). When you check your budget, you still have $75 left in your Groceries category.

If you check next month's budget, you'll still be asked to assign $500 in order to meet your target; YNAB doesn't know if you'll spend the remaining $75 before this month ends. As soon as the new month arrives, you'll only be prompted to assign $425 in order to meet your target, because the $75 still in the category now counts towards the total target amount of $500.

If you have a repeating spending target by date, any amount left over from the previous target period will count towards the new target once the month rolls over (and so will any spending!) so make sure the end date you set for that target is in the month you'll be spending the money so that the completed target doesn't count towards the new target period once the new target period starts.

Savings Balance Target

Set an amount to have available in a category, with or without a date! If you choose to set a date, YNAB will prompt you to assign money so that you will have that amount available in that category by the given date. If you choose not to set a date, there isn't a way to be off track, so there won't be an alert if you're short of your goal. You will, in both scenarios (date or no date), see your progress when you select the category. For example, set a target to have $20,000 budgeted for a house down payment and YNAB will help you track your progress.

Category Examples: house down payment, new car, new furniture, emergency fund, auto maintenance, home repairs, medical expenses, computer replacement, many large one-time purchases.

Monthly Savings Builder Target

Assign this amount to the category each month to build your savings. For example, set a target to budget $400 each month towards a new car, so that down the road (pun intended), you have funds ready for it when you need them.

Category Examples: auto maintenance, home repairs, medical expenses, building up a savings category (known expenses with a variable timeframe and amount needed). 

This target also works well for set expenses, where the amount is the same every month, like rent/mortgage, monthly bills, gifts, investment account contributions, etc. This is especially true if the bill is due at the beginning of the month, because it will prompt you to assign money to the category (to save up for next month's bill) even if you've paid this months bill.

With both the By Date and the Savings Balance (with Date selected) targets, the set month will be included in the monthly calculation; YNAB will expect you to budget by assigning money towards that target in the set month. If you'd like to have the full balance set aside by a given month, you may prefer to use a Savings Balance target, and set the target month as the month prior to when the funds are needed.

Monthly Debt Payment Targets

Assign and pay up to this amount towards a loan or debt. If the budget category is paired with a Loan account, the target will include the debt simulator calculator right in the budget inspector, but you can also use this target in categories that are not paired with a Loan.

If the Category is Not Paired with a Loan Account - If the category is not paired with a Loan account, choose the monthly payment due date, and this Target will repeat automatically each month, prompting you to assign that amount to the category. This target type can be used with any category to prompt you to set aside the monthly payments on a loan.

If the Category is Paired with a Loan Account - When a budget category is paired with a Loan account, the debt calculator becomes accessible in the budget inspector. Assign a set loan payment amount and YNAB will calculate the payoff date. Or, choose a payoff date, and YNAB will calculate the monthly payment needed to meet that debt-free goal. YNAB will also calculate how much interest is saved, and how many months early you can pay off a debt if you increase the payment amount.

Any debt added to the loan account means you’ll need to delete and create a new Debt Payment target, since this type of target doesn’t take into account any new debt added after the target is created.

Credit Card Payment Category Targets

  • Pay Off Balance by Date targets calculate a monthly amount to assign in order to pay off your credit card debt by a certain date. The amount will adjust if you are making slower or faster progress than your original plan!
  • Pay Specific Amount Each Month targets help you assign a certain amount toward your debt each month, without having a specific payoff date in mind.

Target Alerts

Once you’ve set your target, you’ll notice that the target will have an icon letting you know your progress for completing your goal, and whether or not you’re on track. 

Clicking on a category shows a yellow pie chart icon along with a full breakdown of target progress on the far right side

The progress icon will appear in yellow if you’re off-track this month and it will appear as a green check once you’ve assigned your target amount. Try using targets to create a budget template. Budget faster—while keeping your priorities in mind!

Targets and Refunds

If your target is not showing met even though there is more in the Available column than the target needs, it may be due to a refund. Refunds (inflow transactions categorized directly to the spending category) aren't counted towards a target, because the assumption is they were counted when the funds were originally assigned to the category (before being spent, then refunded). Once the target period rolls over, any refund money still in the category will then count towards the next target period. 

Creating a Target

Select the category for your target.
In the right sidebar, click Create a Target.
Select the type of target.
Fill in the details of your target.
Click Save Target. You're done!

Editing or Deleting a Target

A good budget is a flexible budget, and that includes the ability to change your target amount. You can edit a target type or amount to reflect a change in your priorities, delete it altogether if you’ve reached it, or if it no longer aligns with your priorities at all.

To Edit a Target - Select the category that the target is in, and click the Edit button in the right sidebar. From there you can change the type, amount, or due date of the target, if applicable. Click Save Target, and the changes will be reflected in the Inspector (the right sidebar), and in your budget category.

To Delete a Target - If you want to be rid of that target altogether, you can delete it (and create a new one, if you'd like) as well. Select the category, then click the Edit button in the right sidebar. Click Delete (to the left of the save button), and that category will be target-less, ready to be created anew!

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