Make Sense of Your Spending Across Multiple Accounts With the Transfer Category

One of the benefits of Tiller is that you can link multiple financial accounts to one or more Tiller Sheets. However, having transactions from multiple accounts funneling into your Transactions tab can get a little confusing if you use one account to pay off a balance or transfer money to another account, and both are linked to the same Tiller Sheet.

So how do we manage this without double counting that money as spending or income? In comes the “Transfer” category. You’ll notice the Transfer category on the Category Setup tab of the Tiller Standard Template. It’s really useful for managing your transactions that may seem like duplicates.

Paying off that laptop

For example, back in December I purchased a new laptop for my small business. I purchased it by signing up for a Barclaycard through Apple so I could get the deferred interest and pay it off over time. After my Barclaycard account was approved, I added it to my business finances Tiller Sheet, and the purchase of the new laptop was the first transaction that came into my sheet. I categorized this purchase as a business expense.

I set up automatic payments from the Barclaycard account and every month a chunk of the total amount is debited from my business checking account and credited to my Barclaycard account. From the Tiller Transactions tab this might look like a duplicate transaction. One shows up as a positive and the other shows up as a negative. It’s important to pay attention to the “Account Name” column in this scenario. The credit (positive number) represents a transaction for the Barclaycard account I’m paying off, and the debit (negative) is for the business checking account.

I categorize both of these transactions as a “Transfer” because I already counted the total amount as a business expense when I made the purchase originally. I don’t want these payments, which are just transfers between my accounts, counting toward my monthly spending and budget totals. By categorizing them as a transfer they will cancel each other out, and I will essentially ignore them in my reporting.

The same scenario would apply any time money is transferred between accounts. If I need to move money from my business checking account to my personal checking account I’d count it as a transfer. I haven’t actually spent the money, I’ve only moved it from one place to make it available in another.

As a rule of thumb, if you’re moving money from a checking account to pay off a current balance on a credit card or other short term account, we recommend you categorize the payment as a Transfer between accounts. Assuming both accounts are in Tiller, you’ve already captured and categorized the individual transactions as the money was spent, so paying the balance on the credit card is simply a transfer.

For example, buying a coffee with your credit card gets tracked with a spending category like “Dining Out” or “Discretionary” when you make the purchase. Then, paying off the credit card at the end of the month is a “Transfer” between your checking account and your credit card.

What about payments to home or auto loans?

For longer term debt, like a house or a car that was purchased once and is paid off over many months, we recommend marking the payment leaving your checking account with a spending category like “Housing” or “Auto”, and marking the money credited to the mortgage or auto-loan account (if that account is linked in your Tiller Sheet) as a Transfer. Alternatively, you can choose not to link your mortgage and auto-loan accounts to Tiller, and then you won’t have to mark the corresponding credit into those loan accounts as a transfer.

Have you used the Transfer category? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or via the live chat window on our website.