I’m doing something wrong but I don’t know what

So I have 1 account, and 7 envelopes, scheduled to reset every 2 weeks (when I get paid). When in the ‘edit budget’ screen, I have my income set to match the amount for each envelope, and the bottom right says ‘Available 0’ in green. I am manually entering line items, using the free version. I have gone through my spending up until when I downloaded the app, and added those expenses manually so each envelope is reflective of my current IRL spend moving forward.

When I originally made my categories, I had one that I decided to remove. I fixed the Income Estimate, and added 2 more categories. Since I deleted one of the envelopes, I now have that exact amount in an ‘unallocated’ category, that I cannot delete or clear; when I click into it, I get an empty screen; refreshing does nothing.

Additionally, I don’t understand how the math is being math’d. I’ve added 150 to a category that I have up until now no reported spending in for my two week block. I just added a $24 purchase, and the bar and language in that envelope is telling me I’m in the negative, which is impossible because 150-24≠put me into negative spending. But the bar is red, and there’s a prompt under it about negative spending.

My assumption in using it is that I’ve defined an amount for every envelope, and a cadence at which it refreshes, and the math on each envelope has to match a set income. Then, when I record a purchase manually, it subtracts that amount from the envelope total, dwindling it down until I hit 0, and if I overspend, highlighting that behavior in the negative. I’m doing everything expecting that, which feels obvious as to how it should work, and yet I’m not getting the outcome I would expect, and I have no recourse to troubleshoot, as the math all works right—it’s just the app isn’t translating it in a way that makes sense.

This seemed like the simplest app for manually tracking spend against a budget, doing the math for me so I can pay close attention to spending and adjust as envelopes dwindle. But so far nothing is working the way I would expect. Can someone clarify where in this workflow I am creating the error? Or is this a known error in the app? Thanks~

I’m pretty sure you’ve created (some?) envelopes but not filled them–thus the -$24 in an envelope with a $150 budget but no money inside. Creating or editing a budget doesn’t assure that there will be money available–it needs to be added separately. Think of physical envelopes with dollar amounts written on them; I write $25 on the outside (the Edit Budget function), but if I haven’t actually put the money inside (the Fill function) I can’t spend it.
The fix is twofold–first, do an Envelope Transfer from the Unallocated “envelope” (it functions as an envelope, but is carved out a little differently) into an existing but empty envelope, that is, one with a budget but no money (like the aforementioned $150 envelope with a negative balance after a single transaction). Then, adjust your scheduled Fill instructions to include money in the newly created envelopes with each Fill. Your actual income isn’t considered in the math–only the Fills and Transactions. It’s up to you as a user to know how much you have for a Fill, so if your income is consistent you can schedule these in advance but if it varies, you’ll want to vary your Fills as well (or schedule the smallest possible Fill and allow the remainder to sweep into your Unallocated envelope for later use where needed.)
All of your envelopes should have a green line showing how much money is currently in the envelope–that line extends all the way across if the envelope is at or over its budgeted value, and shorter if not, like this:
Screen Shot 2023-01-07 at 10.19.36 PM
I filled our envelopes at the beginning of the month and we haven’t spent anything on Dining Out, Gas or Groceries yet, but we have had expenditures from Entertainment and Fixed Expenses. The tick marks show where we should be at this point in the month, assuming even spending. Our fixed expenses seem way behind because I record the mortgage there and it comes out on the 1st, but that’s fine for me and doesn’t impact our budgeting.
Long story short, just transfer money from Unallocated to any empty envelopes, and adjust your Fills to match your newly revised budget.
Edited to add: You can only Fill as much money as is in your combined Accounts without going into the red in Unallocated. For some people that means adding money to their envelopes with each payday; for others with a cushion large enough to cover the expenses of a full budget period, it’s possible to fill them all at once on the first day of the new cycle.
I hope that helps!

Hi Tiffany, thanks for the information! I think where I was getting caught up was in the fact that creating an envelope does not automatically fill it, which was a behavior I was expecting.

I do have another question for you, and this could be ignorance on my part on how the basis of the system (envelope) works. I filled our envelopes on the first day I started using the app, set our budget, filled them, and set the cadence for when the envelopes would refill (for me, this is the 15th and the 30/31st [last day of the month]). Unfortunately, we still had some ‘bad’ spending habits carrying over from the week that we weren’t using the app, but I wanted to log everything so we understood where we were and where we want to be. This resulted in us having MANY of our envelopes overspent (but even so, made us more aware as we moved towards our new budging system). I expected that on the 15th, the math would clear out and we’d start fresh; however, I logged into the app this morning and it looks like it bases the amount in the envelope not on clearing out behavior from the previous period and refilling, but by applying the math to the previous behavior and leaving you with what’s left.

While I understand where this is coming from (I figure the app is assuming I’m ‘borrowing’ from the future), I feel like the lack of functions to control this is going to make it unusable for me. For us, and I assume a lot of other people like me, we want a method to keep us honest in how we’re spending in a pay period, but that number is still fluid. If I’ve overspent my personal budget for the month, I simply pay out the difference from my personal savings (same with my husband). If we have a purchase to make that would ruin our budget (for e.g.; this last week our fridge broke and we had to purchase a new one), we decide how to divide the payment up and pay it off immediately from the shared credit card it went on, effectively wiping it from ‘spending behavior’.

I appreciate how the app wants to be smart for me, but to keep me as a user I need a function I can choose to say “at the end of the month, tare to 0 and refill the envelopes”. When I think conceptually about an envelope, it CAN’T exist in the negative—I can’t spend what’s not there. But the app let’s me do that, and then carries that over into the new month as though I haven’t done something on my end to bring everything to 0 before I get paid again. Does that make sense?

Right now, to make the application work for me, I will need to delete ALL the transactions every month so that my math gets back to 0, regardless of my spending during the previous period, because for me (and I’m assuming other people that don’t live paycheck-to-paycheck), every month I get the same amount of $$ to use. I literally just want to use this to track down spending in a visual way to keep me honest, and to open a channel of communication for how me and my husband want to handle overages when they happen (as in the past, we’ve simply shrugged and paid, which we have the ability to do, but was dramatically impacting our ability to save, which is our goal now and with using the app). As someone with ADHD, having the history over a 2-week period of time, bucketed out, is a game-changer because it gives me an immediate view on my spending, and helps curb my impulsive behavior when I can see where I stand and where I want to go. I have online banking, but the interfaces on those applications (major banks and lending services) don’t do a good job of bucketing my spending, and leaves me with having to constantly do math to understand where I am in a cycle, which is just a high enough barrier for entry that I will stop doing it and fall back into bad spending habits. So you can see how something like this is really helpful, but still introduces a layer of complication that seems, from my POV, like it should be toggle-able…unless you only want this application to work for people that have very strict budgets with no wiggle room.

I’m not sure if you work for GoodBudget or if you’re just a power user, but I’d love if the developers would consider someone like me as a persona, because the app is so close to being the place where we would monitor all our spending, but the level of manual work I need to do to ‘hack’ it right now (when simply creating a setting that makes each period exist in isolation of the others) would be exactly what I needed. Thanks!

I don’t work for Goodbudget but I feel your pain! And I’ve been using it for several years so I think there’s a very easy solution to your situation (as I understand it), which you hinted at, and it’s already built in.
The process you’re looking for is in the Fill instruction. It sounds like you fill your envelopes twice a month but you want them to start fresh each time (and you may know this, but you can have envelopes on several cycles–your housing and utilities might be in a monthly budget while your discretionary envelopes are bi-monthly).
In order to “reset” your envelopes at the beginning of each cycle, just schedule Fills for those dates (you can have several Fills at any given time) and be sure to carefully look at the way the envelopes are toggled (many people find that the toggles seem backwards, so an Add button looks more like Set and vice versa).
For envelopes that you want to reset each time, switch the toggle to Set. This will add whatever amount is necessary to make the amount in the envelope equal the value you’ve entered, which would normally be the budgeted amount. For example, if you’ve only spent $40 of the $50 you’ve allocated to Coffee, the next scheduled Fill will add $40 so that the starting value is back to $50. If you’ve overspent and are $10 in the red, it will add $60 to be sure you’re starting at $50 for the next period. Is that what you’re looking for?
There may be some envelopes that you WANT to carry a negative or positive balance. If you “borrow” from next month’s entertainment envelope but want to be sure your spending is within budget overall, you’d leave that one toggled to Add with a specified amount. That means you’ll have less to spend in the next cycle because you’ve “borrowed from yourself” and are now paying back that “loan”. Your (-$10) would still get $50 added, for a net of $40 which sounds like what you’re seeing.
I also have an envelope for annual expenses like subscriptions, taxes, etc. For those, I’ve determined the necessary monthly value and I’m scheduled to Add that to the envelope so that the balance builds up until I need to spend it.
You’ll probably need two different Fills; one every month on the 15th and one every month on the 31st. You can set these up differently as well; maybe you want to use Add for your discretionary budgets mid-month so you can have some flexibility, but Set for the end-of-month fill that prepares your envelopes for the next cycle. You have the flexibility to do either/or, or any combination of the above.
Finally, as far as envelopes in the negative, you’re very right that if this were cash in paper we couldn’t spend what isn’t there. But Goodbudget would encourage you to move money between envelopes to manage that, just like we’d do with cash. Need gas but don’t have any money? Might need to transfer some from the Coffee envelope, or from Savings. (btw, I love your explanation of “shrugged and paid” which is how we’ve managed our budget for years, lol).
And really finally, since it sounds like I budget the same way you do, I would highly recommend putting your Savings Account into Goodbudget with an Envelope to match. For example, if you have a Savings Account with $10K, be sure you also have a “Savings” Envelope with the same amount (don’t forget to schedule a Fill from New Income for the interest payment). It’s definitely an extra step to manage them that way since Envelopes and Accounts aren’t directly linked and any transfers will need to be reflected as both Account Transfers and Envelope Transfers, but that way you can also see how often you’re drawing from savings to cover expenses or conversely how much growth you’ve been able to achieve by staying on budget.
One Last Edit: You can only fill as much money as is represented by the total of your combined Accounts; if you go over (and it WILL let you) you’ll have a negative Unallocated balance meaning you’ve filled envelopes with money you don’t have. You have to decide if you’re ok with that–from a pure accounting perspective it’s not ideal but if you have a system (like “shrugged and paid”) that can manage that you’re able to leave it that way. It’s why I like to have my Savings in Goodbudget, so I can make those transfers as needed but the filled savings envelopes assure that it’s not sitting in Unallocated looking like a windfall.
I hope this was helpful–I’m happy to clarify anything that doesn’t look right or make sense!

Another note about Fills: you can only influence future behavior; once they’ve posted to your account, they won’t recalculate figures if you go back and make changes. You’d need to either 1) manually adjust envelope balances for the current period and then change the scheduled fill to the desired behavior, or 2) create a new, one-off Fill to make the adjustments all at once. If you only want to change some envelopes in a one-off Fill, be sure all the others are toggled to Add $0. Otherwise you’ll have a real mess on your hands and will need to delete the entire Fill and start over!