Help! Can't figure out how to set up envelope budget in Simplifi

mollyllama
mollyllama Member
edited December 2022 in Getting Started
Before spending time coding a few months of transactions, I had read that Simplifi would work for an envelope budget. Now I am ready to set it up and I have no idea how to do that in Simplifi. Basically I have categories with subcategories under each (I don't put things in the main category.

I thought I would just create a set amount for each subcategory under planned spending, but now I am realizing that you can't just fund it each month like in Mvelopes, and it doesn't keep anything from the previous month in there, correct? 

I wasn't planning on using the bills and subscription part of the spending plan but I am not sure how to get rid of those. 

Will Simplifi even work for envelope budgeting? Can anyone explain how to do so? Particularly if its possible to leave money in a subcategory to accumulate (for example, set amount for Utilities- Heat would be an average of the amount for 12 months, knowing that the bills are higher in winter than summer.)

Thanks for any assistance.

-Sarina

Best Answers

  • DannyB
    DannyB Superuser ✭✭✭✭
    edited November 2022 Answer ✓
    Hi Sarina (@mollyllama ) welcome to Simplifi!  

    In a word, no, Simplifi is not an envelope budgeting tool and will only frustrate you if you are looking to do envelope style budgeting.

    The strength of Simplifi is in it’s Spending Plan but you will need to adjust to how the Spending Plan works which will take some time especially if you are used to what you describe as an envelope method.  I think of Simplifi as a “fixed and flexible” budgeting tool.

    Simplifi’s “philosophy” is to focus on the current month and give you an excellent tool to plan out your month in relation to income and outflow.  The Spending Plan is the core of Simplifi, using recurring income, bills, subscriptions, savings goals contributions and planned spend to give the user a way to plan and track your monthly budget. For this reason, you can’t get rid of bills and subscriptions.

    Unlike Mvelopes or YNAB, you don’t fund your spending categories as you receive income.  Instead, Simplifi anticipates your income for the month based on your income history either through identifying your recurring income from historic data downloaded during set up and/or through recurring income you set up manually.  In the same way, Simplifi will look for your recurring expenses dividing them between bills and subscriptions and deduct these from your income.  You can set up savings goals and include monthly contributions to the spending plan which are then accounted for in the Income after bills and savings section. Once Simplifi has accounted for your “fixed” spending you can take the remainder of your anticipated income and plan out your flexible spending categories.

    Since Simplifi focuses on the current month, it doesn’t include “roll over” of funds from month to month.  You can use Savings Goals to amortize annual, semi-annual and non-monthly expenses.  There are several articles on how to use Saving Goals on the Support Page and there are posts in this forum on how users have set up saving goals to use for these fixed and flexible expenses.

    I have found Simplifi to be a great personal budgeting tool that works great for us.  I hope you will give it a chance, but if, in the end, you are looking for a true envelope style tool you’ll probably end up looking for something else.

    This is an active forum and you can pretty much depend on getting responses to your questions from other users and Simplifi coaches in pretty short order.
    Danny 
    Simplifi user since 01/22
     Budget: a mathematical confirmation of your suspicions.” ~A.A. Latimer
  • Coach Natalie
    Coach Natalie Administrator, Moderator admin
    Answer ✓
    Hello @mollyllama,

    Thank you for posting to the Community, and welcome to Simplifi!

    Although Simplifi doesn't offer a true envelope-style budgeting system, we hope you find the Spending Plan of great use to you. To help you get started, I did want to share our Spending Plan Support Article here, as well as our YouTube video here. Otherwise, @DannyB did a great job outlining Simplifi's budgeting system above!

    Also, we do have some existing Idea posts surrounding some of the abilities you mentioned that I'd definitely suggest checking out, and adding your vote and feedback to if it's a feature you'd be interested in. 

    https://community.simplifimoney.com/discussion/114/add-budget-spending-plan-start-each-new-month-with-the-previous-months-leftover-amount-option

    https://community.simplifimoney.com/discussion/448/varying-recurring-bills-use-average-of-last-six-months#latest

    https://community.simplifimoney.com/discussion/3437/set-recurring-series-amounts-based-on-time-of-year-etc/p1?new=1

    https://community.simplifimoney.com/discussion/1264/integrating-an-envelope-budgeting-option/p1?new=1

    Let us know if you have any additional questions!

    -Coach Natalie
  • Flopbot
    Flopbot Superuser ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November 2022 Answer ✓
    @mollyllama, great to have you as a part of the Simplifi community.  I saw your post awhile back and have been wanting to reply, but I had some work and testing to do first...which is not done.  Over the last 5 months, I've been spending a lot of time trying to find a way to set up an 'Envelope System' in Simplifi and here's a summary of what I've come up with.  First, I'd have to agree with @DannyB that "In a word, no, Simplifi is not an envelope budgeting tool."  I haven't decided yet if I agree with @DannyB that Simplifi "will only frustrate you if your are looking for do envelope style budgeting."

    With that said, here are three possible solutions.  It's important to note that I've only tried #1 with mixed results and I'm still actively tweaking stuff.  I set up #2 today and will live with that for a few months.  I suspect I'll like #2 better.  I haven't tried #3 yet though it seems the easiest of all.  But by nature, I'm a receipt hoarder so I'll try it last.

    I'm pretty sure that Simplifi is flexible enough that I'll find a way that works for my situation and I do intend to keep using this approach for select categories of spending (food & clothes).  Envelope budgeting certainly controls spending and has saved us an average of $250 on food per month in the last 5 months!  Someday, I hope to post my final results.

    From what I can tell, there seems to be three basic ways to set up an 'Envelope System' in Simplifi:
    1. Where receipts play a critical role.  -  You enter every receipt and it shows up on your Spending Plan in Simplifi.  If you miss a receipt, you end up entering account adjustments in your transaction register.
    2. Where receipts don't play a critical role.  -  You can enter receipts like normal, but they don't show up on your Spending Plan in Simplifi.  If you miss a receipt, you - I suspect - still end up entering account adjustments in your transaction register.  [I'm leaning more towards #2]
    3. Where you don't enter receipts at all. -  You don't enter receipts at all and don't keep track of any 'Envelope' transactions.  The money just leaves Simplifi and you stop tracking it from there.  I haven't tried this yet.
    To Set Up Way #1:
    Doing it this way will make the spending on the individual transactions (i.e. your receipts) show up on your Spending Plan.  You will see a balance listed under Accounts that should be roughly accurate. 
    • Create one new Account for each envelope at Settings>Accounts.  Use Add Manual Account and the Banking>Checking account type.  Call it something like "Cash Envelope - Clothes".  DO NOT click "Hide from Reports."
    • At Settings>Recurring, create one (1) Recurring TRANFSER from your Checking Account to your new Cash Envelope Account.  Call it something like "ATM Withdrawal (Cash Envelope - Clothes)".  Put it on whatever schedule you want (weekly, monthly, whatever).  When the time comes, match the transfer to the actual ATM withdrawel FROM THE SYNCED ACCOUNT, not the Manual Account...there's a bug in Simplifi that causes issues if you do it from the manual account side.  This has been a point of some frustration for me - enter @DannyB's quote - so far.  Of 5-7 real world transfers, I've only gotten 1 to go off without a hitch, so far.  However, with a bit of trial and error, eventually, I got all of them to show up properly in their respective accounts, but it was annoying to say the least.
    • When you make a purchase, enter your receipt on the manual account you created and categorize it appropriately.

    To Set Up Way #2:
    Doing it this way will make the original withdrawal from your Checking account show up in your Spending Plan...not your receipts.  You will see a balance listed under Accounts that should be roughly accurate.
    • Create one new Account for each envelope at Settings>Accounts.  Use Add Manual Account and the Banking>Checking account type.  Call it something like "Cash Envelope - Clothes".  DO click "Hide from Reports."
    • At Settings>Recurring, create two (2) Recurring Transactions (1 POSITVE Deposit to your new Cash Envelope Account, 1 NEGATIVE Withdrawal from your Checking Account).  Call them something like "ATM Withdrawal (Cash Envelope - Clothes)".  Put it on whatever schedule you want (weekly, monthly, whatever).  Categorize it appropriately (ex. Clothes, Groceries, etc.).
    • When you make a purchase, enter your receipt on the manual account you created and categorize it appropriately.  Because you clicked "Hide from Reports' at the account-level, whatever transactions you enter here will be ignored from the Spending Plan...you can enter a $5,000 purchase for clothes and it will simply be ignored in the Spending Plan.  The thing that shows up on the Spending Plan is the original withdrawal for $___ which was categorized appropriately.

    To Set Up Way #3:
    Doing it this way will mean you don't have to enter any receipts.  You will not see a balance listed under Accounts.
    • At Settings>Recurring, create one (1) Recurring Transaction (NEGATIVE Withdrawal) from your Checking Account.  Call it something like "ATM Withdrawal (Cash Envelope - Clothes)".  Put it on whatever schedule you want (weekly, monthly, whatever).  Categorize it appropriately (ex. Clothes, Groceries, etc.).
    • When you make a purchase, throw away the receipt!  The thing that shows up on the Spending Plan is the original withdrawal for $___ which was categorized appropriately.

    Sorry, this got so technical!  I'm sure I missed something so let me know if you have questions.
    Chris
    Quicken Desktop user since 2014.
    New to Simplifi in 2021.

Answers

  • Hi Danny, Thank you for such a thorough explanation. It does seem like a well designed site/app and my husband and i would like to at least try to use it. We used to use mvelopes and it became so buggy over the years that we finally gave up. We have been trying to find something since and haven't quite found a really strong envelope budget app since. Hopefully we can make this work. Thanks for the helpful info!
  • DannyB
    DannyB Superuser ✭✭✭✭
    You’re welcome.  If you haven't already, you will want to check out the Support page for articles dealing with all aspects of Simplifi.  
    Danny 
    Simplifi user since 01/22
     Budget: a mathematical confirmation of your suspicions.” ~A.A. Latimer
  • Hi Natalie- Thanks so much for this!! I really appreciate all the helpful info. 
    warmly,
    Sarina
  • Flopbot,

    Thanks so much for the detailed notes and possible ways to use simplifi! I really appreciate it! Such a helpful community.

    take care,
    Sarina
  • DannyB
    DannyB Superuser ✭✭✭✭
    :o   @Flopbot

    Wow, I wouldn't have ever been able to conceptualize, let alone actually figure out, not just one approach, but three ways to approach the question of envelope budgeting in Simplifi.  Way to go!  I withdraw my "will only frustrate you" comment. 


    Danny 
    Simplifi user since 01/22
     Budget: a mathematical confirmation of your suspicions.” ~A.A. Latimer
  • Flopbot
    Flopbot Superuser ✭✭✭✭✭
    @DannyB, oh, it’s still frustrating - just possible.
    Chris
    Quicken Desktop user since 2014.
    New to Simplifi in 2021.
  • DannyB
    DannyB Superuser ✭✭✭✭
    edited November 2022
    Hi @mollyllama

    If interested and for what it's worth, here is a post describing how I now approach my budgeting and use of Simplifi. We don't have a complex budget nor a need to highly atomize our tracking of our spending thus you will see a couple of broad and ambiguous categories in our planned spending categories.
    Danny 
    Simplifi user since 01/22
     Budget: a mathematical confirmation of your suspicions.” ~A.A. Latimer
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