A Date Night That Pays Off Debt

Make money talks a relationship ritual and live debt free together!


Dillon, a software engineer, and Carly, a corporate recruiter, of Crofton, Maryland, graduated from college in 2015 with a hefty $105,000 of student debt between them. Luckily, Dillon knew all about budgeting and had an idea for a date night tradition that pays off—literally.

A date night that pays off...debt!

Just six months prior, Dillon was nervous that he wouldn’t have enough cash to last until graduation. He said, “I realized that I didn’t have a good grip on my finances. I needed to stretch the money I earned at my summer internship to last through my senior year.”

So, like so many YNABers, he geeked out on personal finance and stumbled across YNAB to help make his savings goals a reality.

Dillon recalls, “YNAB’s Four Rules immediately stuck with me after watching the first of the live courses. The tool was presented in such a way that made it incredibly easy to use and pick up the methodology. I felt relieved, like I finally had control over my money instead of it controlling me.”

His partner Carly, on the other hand, was a bit skeptical and resistant toward starting a budget… at first.

How to Persuade Your Wife to Start Budgeting Together 101

When they moved in together after graduation, Dillon persuaded Carly to watch some of YNAB’s classes and do the free trial. She agreed and thought YNAB made sense, but she wasn’t quite as eager as Dillon.

So, like any die-hard YNAB Budget Nerd, Dillon started dropping money management wisdom like it was hot.  His persistence wisdom combined with experiencing her first two big YNAB wins, Carly started to see a glimmer of hope. Ah, this is what it would be like to live debt free. 

YNAB Win #1: Her Budget Came to Her Rescue

Dillon said, “About a year or so into budgeting and tracking shared expenses, Carly needed an urgent medical procedure. We got slapped with an out-of-pocket bill of $700.”

Carly remembers telling her friends about the bill and their incredulous reactions. They couldn’t believe she had the money to pay the bill outright, no problem. Dillon added, “Thanks to our emergency fund, it didn’t even impact our month-to-month expenses or ability to save money.” No medical debt to pay off meant less financial stress!

That’s when it really clicked. Carly saw the value of their budget for herself.

YNAB Win #2: They Celebrated Financial Successes Together

Hopefully, emergency medical expenses don’t factor into persuading you or your spouse to budget, but consider the power of Dillon’s persistence and proof. He didn’t stop budgeting, even when Carly wasn’t fully on board. He kept at it (the budgeting, not the badgering).

Plus, teamwork is important to them. Dillon said, “We both knew from the get-go that managing our finances together and having a joint account was important to us so we pay off debt, get ahead, and live the lifestyle we wanted to.”

So, Dillon took the lead on their budgeting efforts and started with the smallest balance. Together, they managed some huge wins for their debt payments and future savings goals:

  • In 1½ years, they paid off $20,000 in auto loans.
  • In 3½ years, they paid off $85,000 of their student loan debt.
  • In 3 years, they saved a $14,000 emergency fund.
  • In 1½ years, they saved $14,500 to skip the credit card and pay cash for their wedding (which they did).

Dillon said, “Since migrating to YNAB just three years ago, we’ve increased our net worth by 337.5 percent. I truly believe that out of all the services and products that Carly and I use, YNAB has—without a doubt—made the greatest impact.”

All that progress toward living debt free, plus they’ve already created targets to pay off their remaining student loan balance! Let’s just say Carly has successfully converted to budget life…and she actually looks forward to their weekly YNAB Date Night.

The Secret to Their Success: YNAB Date Night Pays Off

These days, Dillon and Carly have a standing date with each other and a welcome third wheel: their budget. They made Thursday night money talks a relationship ritual! Every week, they meet to reconcile, check their category balances, roll with the punches, and take note of their progress towards important goals. 

Dillon said, “Picking Thursday for our YNAB Date Night was definitely strategic! We chose Thursday because it gives us a chance to evaluate how we did throughout the week and make adjustments for any weekend plans, while preparing for the following week of shared expenses.”

They meet in the evening after work, and it only takes about ten to twenty minutes to chat through their budget categories and get on the same page. Add a glass of wine and charcuterie, and it feels even more special to pay off debt and reduce money stress. 

Dillon is generally more interested in their bigger-picture goals. He said, “I like to stay on top of replenishing our emergency fund, maximizing retirement account contributions, and saving for longer-term goals.”

Carly’s interests, usually their shorter-term priorities, add a nice balance to YNAB Date Night conversations. Dillon said, “Carly is particularly good at preventing me from getting so focused on long-term goals that I forget about rolling with the punches on our month-to-month expenses. For example, if we’re planning a trip to see friends or family during this month, she’ll point out that we need to adjust our social or fuel categories, which keeps us from overspending.”

They make a great team, hashing out their priorities together and giving every dollar a job.

Joint Accounts or Separate Accounts?

There’s another ingredient in their debt payoff secret sauce: combining their accounts without sacrificing personal choice. Dillon and Carly share one budget in YNAB, with three major sections:

  1. Shared Savings & Expenses
  2. Dillon’s Savings & Expenses
  3. Carly’s Savings & Expenses

Dillon said, “For our shared expenses and savings, we split the costs/contributions at 60/40, as that’s fairly close to our proportions of income together.”

The couple shares joint checking and savings accounts, but they keep their individual credit cards (which get paid in full every month).

Dillon said, “We learned early on that YNAB doesn’t know or care what money is in what account. After we got engaged, we decided to stop fighting YNAB and move all of our money into one account. It made life easier, and there was no reason not to split expenses.”

This arrangement works out great, allowing Dillon and Carly to manage money as a team while still having individual flexibility. He said, “After we cover our joint expenses/savings, we each get the remaining amounts of our individual incomes to budget toward our individual expenses and saving goals. This gives us both a lot of freedom and has worked incredibly well for us.”

Life Feels a Lot Different When You’re Debt Free

Dillon and Carly credit their huge successes—paying off more than six figures in debt, building an emergency fund, and funding their wedding in cash—to sticking with their budget. Dillon said, “We are fortunate to have well-paying jobs. However, without YNAB, I am positive that we would be nowhere near the financial position we are in now.”

He added, “Being able to live debt free and save for the things we care about, like vacations, new furniture, or trips to see our college friends, feels great.”

After they finish paying off the last bit of those student loans, their next big goal is saving for a down payment on their first house.

YNAB Date Night Pays Off

If you’re facing a mountain of your own debt, Dillon offered these words of reassurance: “YNAB has been invaluable to us. It has taught us the core foundations of personal finance and has guided us through just starting—when we had no money and what seemed like an insurmountable amount of debt—to now, where it’s more of a blueprint for our long-term goals. We have no problem covering the things that are important to us, and it’s such a relief.”

Things won’t always go as planned and nobody’s perfect, but persistence can lead you to your own proof of the pudding! Just like it did for Dillon and Carly.

He said, “We may miss a YNAB Date Night every now and then, or go a few weeks without reconciling. But in the long-term, we’ve been able to hold ourselves accountable and stick with it. We’ve realized that consistent money management plays a huge role in our happy, successful relationship.”

Ready to see what it’s like to live debt free with your loved one? Give it a shot with YNAB’s trial. The first 34 days are on us.