Tracking irregular paycheque deductions in YNAB4

We use You Need A Budget (YNAB) for our budgeting needs. (Aside: we love it!)

There’s a particular way we decided to track my food spending at work that takes me a minute (or three) to remember every time I sit down to reconcile the budget, so I’m recording the steps for me, and the reasoning for anyone else who might want to follow this route.


If I buy food at work, the only way to pay is to have the amount taken off my next paycheque.

This used to cause a problem for us because my food spending was often being tracked against our budget line in the month after I bought the food, since we couldn’t track it until I received my paycheque/stub.

The problem was sometimes even a bit worse since my paycheques are counted as next month’s income in YNAB. This caused problems where I could have bought food in October, but the cheque would come in November, and only be counted towards our December budget.

Our ideal state was to continue counting income as being for the next month, but to count all food spending for the month in which I actually bought the meal.

To achieve this we added an on-budget Credit Card-type account for my cafeteria card at work, so that:

  • YNAB will emulate the “buy now pay later” nature of the cafeteria card
  • food spending is tracked for the month in which it is spent
  • paycheques can be easily counted as Next Month’s Income when they come in
  • when a paycheque comes in, a payment is made to the Cafeteria Card account to cover any food purchases deducted from that paycheque

What this looks like in practice:

  • I buy a delicious stir-fry at work on Nov 21 for $5.95
  • I swipe my physical cafeteria card in the cafeteria
  • I enter $5.95 into YNAB as an Eating Out transaction on Nov 21, paying with my Cafeteria Card account within YNAB
  • when my next paycheque comes out on Dec 4, it is for $994.05 instead of $1000, since the $5.95 has been deducted

When the cheque/paystub actually arrives, I enter it into YNAB:

  • enter the actual amount of the cheque in Inflow (994.05), as a Split transaction
  • first split: as a transfer to the Cafeteria Card account, enter the amount deducted from that cheque for food into Outflow (5.95)
  • second split: put the amount remaining to assign (1000) into Inflow as Next Month’s Income

Entering the cheque into YNAB

I go in this order because as soon as the $5.95 is entered YNAB tells me that $1000 is left, so I never have to actually do the calculation myself to determine what my pay would have been before the deductions.

Why this works for us:

  • spending is tracked in the month of the spend, so we always know how much we really have in our Eating Out line
  • income and spending is accurately reflected, instead of just counting the cheque amount as income when the cheque comes, which would ignore my food spending
    • this means YNAB is showing my true net income
  • I get to avoid the tedium of manually calculating the gross amount on my paystub every time, and figuring out how I’m going to accurately add that and the food amounts weeks after the fact

BTW, the first YNAB link above is a referral link — if you buy using it you get $6 off, and I get $6 from them as a thank you. They have a free 34-day trial you should check out first, though.

EDIT: 30 minutes after publishing this I found out a new version of YNAB is in the works. That new version will deprecate how YNAB currently deals with credit cards. Title now reflects that this is applicable for YNAB4 (and likely 3 — I can’t remember how it dealt with credit cards).

Financial Terms Translation Key (Canadian Edition)

Much of the financial investment and savings advice I come across is U.S.-centric, so I always have to ask myself things like “what’s the Canadian equivalent to a 401(k), again?”

Here’s my reference sheet. Making it public to hopefully help some other Canadians interested in personal financial management.

Note: This is an incredibly basic “equivalence” list. Different laws dictate how each investment vehicle works in each country (and even different states/provinces). This is just how the overall concept of each vehicle generally equates in my mind with many many caveats involved (see the TFSA vs Roth IRA, for instance).

U.S. term Canadian term Definition
IRA RRSP/RSP pre-tax vehicle can hold non-cash investments; annual limit carries over.
Roth IRA TFSA after-tax investment vehicle with annual contribution limit; in Canada it can hold cash and the annual limit carries over.
529 plan RESP pre-tax contributions that save toward education goals of recipient of the plan
401(k) defined contribution pension Wikipedia article
401(a) defined benefit pension Wikipedia article

Terms I have yet to match are left blank. If I miss or misstate something in this table, let me know in the comments and I’ll update it.

237 words on the election

I care more about the institutions of government in this country than the political parties. These institutions are generally structured to protect the citizens and the country, while politicians work within them for their ideological ends.

In my mind, the greatest existential threat to Canada is any government that disregards or undermines our system of government. We can bounce back from most external things, but slow-boil systemic changes will shift the structure of Canada in ways we don’t even realize today.

In this current government I’ve seen a continued and increasing disregard for Parliament and the Supreme Court, including the Prime Minister publicly trying to convince us not to trust those institutions because they have challenged him for breaking or ignoring various laws. There are also the personal attacks to discredit the head of Elections Canada for defending our election laws (i.e. doing his job). And the huge issue of the lobotomizing of our collective public knowledge (see “Vanishing Canada”, in Maclean’s), which, intentionally or not, serves to undermine decision-making in government. (If we don’t have scientific research and data to base decisions on, we’re only making decisions based on political ideology.) Before considering the short-to-mid-term policies that everyone is promising, I had to eliminate Stephen Harper’s Conservatives from the options, because it’s evident to me they do not respect — and are actively undermining — the long-term system we are ultimately electing them to uphold. .:. Cross-posted to Facebook.

on the 42nd general election in Canada

Misappropriated from G.K. Chesterton’s 1926 book on distributionism, this passage struck me as rather appropriate words in the middle of an election. It was the closing to the chapter titled “On a Sense of Proportion”:

If a man wants what he calls a flower-garden he plants flowers where he can, and especially where they will determine the general character of the landscape gardening. But they do not completely cover the garden; they only positively colour it. He does not expect roses to grow in the chimney-pots, or daisies to climb the railings; still less does he expect tulips to grow on the pine, or the monkey tree to blossom like a rhododendron. But he knows perfectly well what he means by a flower-garden; and so does everybody else. If he does not want a flower-garden but a kitchen-garden, he proceeds differently. But he does not expect a kitchen-garden to be exactly like a kitchen. He does not dig out all the potatoes, because it is not a flower-garden and the potato has a flower. He knows the main thing he is trying to achieve; but, not being born a fool, he does not think he can achieve it everywhere in exactly the same degree, or in a manner equally unmixed with things of another sort. The flower-gardener will not banish nasturtiums to the kitchen-garden because some strange people have been known to eat them. Nor will the other class a vegetable as a flower because it is called a cauliflower. So, from our social garden, we should not necessarily exclude every modern machine any more than we should exclude every medieval monastery. And indeed the apologue is appropriate enough; for third is the sort of elementary human reason that men never lost until they lost their gardens: just as that higher reason that is more than human was lost with a garden long ago. — G.K. Chesterton, The Outline of Sanity

Rando Photo 1: Songkran on the Moat (3238)

I have a lot of photos that I do nothing with. That’s not to say they’re bad photos, just that I don’t do much with them once they’re off my camera.

Inspired by an offhand comment by Xeni Jardin, I’m just going to put some out there. Mostly for me, and if anyone else likes them then great.

So I picked a random number – 3238, and checked my hard drive for that photo.

Loi Krathong on the Moat, Chiang Mai (2011)
Loi Krathong on the Moat, Chiang Mai (2011) [IMGP3238]
My wife walked in while I had this photo open, and said “I recognize that — it’s Chiang Mai!” The Flight of the Gibbon banner was the giveaway, even though it’s an attraction we never took in.

This was in the middle of Loi Krathong. While we were there, we were told the whole festival was Loi Krathong — loi being the paper lantern and krathong being the “boats” made of coconut leaves and trunks, holding flowers and candles.

Wikipedia tells me that’s not entirely accurate, with it actually being the confluence of two festivals — Loi Krathong (the floating basket festival) and Yi Peng (the floating lantern festival).

There’s obviously a bit more to the festivals than these rudimentary descriptions, and we were lucky enough to be hanging out with people from our school who explained the personal and spiritual significance of the festival(s). They both generally had to do with cleansing, and letting go of negativity through symbolic action.

Releasing a khom loi (Chiang Mai, 2011)
Releasing a khom loi (Chiang Mai, 2011)

After the description of the festival, we we honoured to make krathongs with our gracious hosts. I’ll post more about that later, as it’s a thing unto itself.

A few more khom loi shots:

Kelly, releasing a khom loi (Chiang Mai, 2011)
Kelly, releasing a khom loi (Chiang Mai, 2011)
Khom Loi (Chiang Mai, 2011)
Khom Loi (Chiang Mai, 2011)

marketing vs. the fine print

There’s a little disconnect between Denny’s nice little slogan on their coffee mugs…

and the disclaimer in their menu whenever you have a choice of egg style:

But remember, it’s always sunny-side up. 🙂



Denny’s U.S. menu


Funny, the menu I looked at welcomed me to Canada’s diner.

Reminds me of a local Wal-Mart flyer a few years ago sporting a maple leaf as the dash in their name and the slogan “Proudly Canadian”.

You can’t just say these things.

M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village is an underrated masterpiece

Todd VanDerWerff, on Vox, putting it out there that contrary to the knee-jerks out there, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village is:

  1. a technical achievement
  2. a well-done commentary on the post-9/11 Iraq War
  3. a good human story

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it an “underrated masterpiece”, but I’ve always been the one guy I know who loves most of Shyamalan’s work because of how he tells great stories of personal human struggles. Starting with Signs, the twists were incidental to the story.

He tells the story he set out to tell. The Shyamalan problem is a marketing problem — the audiences are usually there to see a different story than what he’s actually telling.

I first noticed this with Signs. The hype and advertising around it were for a summer blockbuster (“ILM did the aliens, yo!”), but the movie was about a man’s struggle with faith during a time of personal turmoil.

He’s said as much about his work in an interview in The Independent:

A common misperception of me is That all my movies have twist endings, or that they’re all scary. All my movies are spiritual and all have an emotional perspective. – M. Night Shyamalan

I don’t recall the advertising around The Village, but I assume it was making it out to be a horror-esque movie. I won’t explain the crux of that story here, since my wife hasn’t seen it yet (read the spoilers in the linked article if you want them), but it’s also exploring questions that we all deal with in modern society (as the Vox article articulates well).

Lady in the Water is another movie where you have to take him at his word as a filmmaker. The story is explicitly framed as a bedtime story, and I assume the movie is less enjoyable if you ignore that aspect of it. (It’s hard to ignore — there’s even a prologue that tonally sets it up this way).

The reason I’ve enjoyed his movies is I trust Shyamalan as a filmmaker more than I trust his marketing team. Even with that said, Lady in the Water is the last of his movies I’ve seen (with the unfortunate exception of The Last Airbender). The ads around The Happening pointed at a genre I don’t generally care about, but I should have known better by then not to trust the hype machine around his movies.

I think it’s time to re-watch his canon, and newly watch the ones I’ve missed. Maybe I’ll even find some redeeming factors in The Last Airbender if I go into it looking for his trademark stories of struggle and growth. The source material, Avatar, is chock full of that, but I didn’t go into the movie with that mindset — I was more worried about it ruining a show I loved, which is probably just a self-fulfilling prophecy when you’re looking for things it “does wrong”. (To be fair, I don’t think this movie is fully redeemable, but at least I might find some redeemable qualities in it. I like his movies, but that doesn’t mean everything he does is perfect.) At any rate, I’ll see where a re-watch of The Last Airbender leaves me.

Let the Shyamalan marathon begin!

On the inevitable cannibalization of tech by those who monetize a public good

But here’s object lesson number infinity on how handing over all the software to somebody else with a datacenter is the Law of Unintended Consequence’s best friend.  — brennen, on MetaFilter

The whole thread is quite good (not surprising on MeFi – the corner of the internet where comments are good).