When Ready to Assign Is Negative
When Ready to Assign is negative, you have over-assigned. This means you have assigned more money to your spending categories than you have available in your budget accounts. Put simply, when Ready to Assign is negative, you can’t trust your budget!
In most cases, the solution is to move money from your spending categories back to Ready to Assign until it’s a nice, happy $0.00 again. The exception is if your bank account has a negative balance (i.e. it's overdrawn), in which case you don’t have money to move back to Ready to Assign—check out this article for step-by-step help for getting out of overdraft.
If none of your accounts are overdrawn, there are several other scenarios that can cause Ready to Assign to be negative:
- Basic Overassigning
- Past Overspending
- Reconciliation Balance Adjustment
- Categorizing Outflows to Inflow: Ready to Assign
- Stealing from the Future
If you add income while Ready to Assign is negative in the current month or in any future month, YNAB will automatically apply that income to cover the overassigned amount. So if you add income and some or all of it is missing from this month’s Ready to Assign, look for these overassigned scenarios in the present and future months to figure out where that money has gone.
You’ve got $500 in the bank, but you budget $600 for that swanky new luxury bird feeder with built-in squirrel-ejector (because you know those greedy rodents won’t leave a single morsel for your feathered friends if you don’t eject them!). Except you’ve only got $500 and you can only budget money you actually have available, so when you budget $600—BOOM! Ready to Assign = -$100. Gotta move $100 back to Ready to Assign and bring it back to $0.00.
When the month rolls over, any uncovered cash overspending (red) in the previous month’s budget gets deducted from the next month’s Ready to Assign.
Those overspent dollars have left your bank account, so they’re no longer available in your budget. You don’t need to go back to last month’s budget to fix things, though! Just move money back to Ready to Assign in the current month until Ready to Assign is $0.00, and you're all set!
Reconciliation Balance Adjustment
We all have those moments when life gets particularly busy and we don’t reconcile our accounts as often as we know we should. Next thing you know, it’s three weeks later and YNAB says you have $2000 available in your checking account—but you’re looking at your banking app on your phone and you know you only have $1500. So you reconcile the account and make a Reconciliation Balance Adjustment to get things back on track quickly. This pulls the non-existent $500 from your account balance—and from Ready to Assign. You’ll need to move money from your spending categories back to Ready to Assign until it’s no longer negative.
Categorizing Outflows to Inflow: Ready to Assign
Aside from reconciliation balance adjustments (which are automatically created by YNAB), outflows should not be assigned to Inflow: Ready to Assign. Assigning an outflow to Inflow: Ready to Assign will reduce the amount available in Ready to Assign by the amount of the outflow, which could cause it to go negative. If you have an outflow transaction from an account, be sure to categorize it to a spending category (and assign money to cover it in that category). If no category fits the transaction, you can always create a new one.
Stealing from the Future
Boy, this sounds serious! And it is. If you have money budgeted into categories one or more future months, your most current Ready to Assign amount is in the future-est month. If Ready to Assign reaches 0.00 and you assign more money in an earlier month, YNAB pulls that money from Ready to Assign in the future-est month with available funds to cover your earlier budgeting needs. (After all, it's not much good assigning money for next month's rent when you still need to assign money for this month's utilities.) When this happens, the future month’s Ready to Assign turns negative. To get things back on track, move money from your spending categories back to Ready to Assign until it reaches 0.00 again in the future-est month.
To let you know you've stolen from the future in your budget, keep an eye on the Assigned in the Future section of the right sidebar. If Ready to Assign is negative in any future month, you'll see an alert there: