Diary of an (Eventual) Budgeting Success Story: Part Three—WWJD?


Time to check in with Carrie Hart, who is five months into this whole budgeting thing. It’s slow and steady—except when it isn’t steady—but change is in the air…


If you are new to the blog here is a quick recap to get you up to speed: Carrie Hart, a 44-year-old mother of two from Traverse City, Michigan, recently quit her job to pursue a life-long dream of doing overseas volunteer work.

After years of collecting debt, living beyond her means, and “avoiding anything related to actually learning how to manage money like a grown-up” – Carrie went searching for some help. She agreed to let us follow her for a year, her first year, of budgeting in real life. Here’s a little bit about her backstory and how she fared in those first few months.

When we last left Carrie in August she was contemplating a Fresh Start, here’s where things stand today:

YNAB: Well, did you do it? Did you Fresh Start?

CH: YES!

YNAB: So, I take it that went well?

CH: It felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I realized I had been avoiding my budget because I just couldn’t get the thing to freaking balance. I was all like, “What are my dollars even doing? They don’t have jobs!” 🙂 But the Fresh Start was like a reset, that reminded me how much budgeting alleviates anxiety.

YNAB: It’s so true, isn’t it? I feel like the Fresh Start is a great opportunity to sort of re-evaluate everything. Did you guys have that experience at all?

CH: Completely. After reworking the numbers, I decided to pick-up a part-time job at my gym—a place I’ve loved going to for the last three years. The plan is for my paychecks to go directly toward debt. Although with a new job and new schedule, meal planning sort of fell through the cracks and we spent more eating out. But we are adjusting and back on track!

YNAB: That sounds like a great plan. You’ve been at this for nearly half a year now, do you feel like being aware of your money has had an impact?

Carrie: I can’t believe it’s been that long! Due to some unexpected out-of pocket medical expenses, we haven’t made as much progress on our debt as I had hoped. But I feel more educated than ever before and as I slowly apply small principles I’m learning from Whiteboard Wednesdays—they are a huge help to me—I know I’m in the driver’s seat. That is a good feeling.

YNAB: Those little changes will add up! As we move into the holidays, will you do anything differently this year, you know, now that you are a budgeter? 🙂

Carrie: Totally. We have already talked to our extended family about how we won’t be giving traditional gifts this year. We’re making coupon books, for one special quality time activity to do each month—together—as a family. The gift of quality time! And we’ve budgeted for the things we’ll buy for our immediate family, which feels great. But just in case, we put our credit cards on indefinite “hold” so we aren’t even tempted to use them!

YNAB: The gift of quality time—I love it!

Carrie: Right? Recently, instead of going out for my in-laws anniversary, we went on a family hike. It was awesome! We made it to the top and the view was gorgeous! I couldn’t help but associate that with climbing out of our little mountain of debt. It will be hard, and we might want to quit, but once we get there, it will feel incredible!

YNAB: Look at you with the budgeting metaphors! YNAB is sinking in!

Carrie: HA! It is! I honestly just learn so much from Jesse!

YNAB: He has that effect, doesn’t he?

Carrie: It is just such a shift for me. But I know we are making progress. Like a few months ago, I realized through my medical insurance I got a discount on pet insurance. I looked into the particulars and it was $55.57/month with a one-time, annual, $100 deductible. And I thought, “WWJD? What Would Jesse Do?” I actually did! I knew if something happened to our dog Jake, I wouldn’t want to charge it, so I signed up. And wouldn’t you know it, he swallowed a paddle ball. We had to take him for emergency surgery, which would have cost nearly $2k, but our $100 deductible saved the day!

YNAB: That is awesome! The planning for a rainy day and WWJD, which I will laugh about for a little while here… 🙂 Excited for you guys to keep moving on this path and look forward to checking in again soon!