How Our Credit Score Went from Low 400s to 823

And We Broke the Paycheck to Paycheck Cycle for Good


Angela Stevens is a Beach Body coach and fitness enthusiast. She lives with her husband and four kids. Learn how she broke the paycheck to paycheck cycle after discovering YNAB back in 2013.

We were a family of six living paycheck to paycheck, and it seemed emergencies were always coming up. Whether it was a car that needed new brakes or a roof that needed repairing, these unexpected expenses left us short on cash. We were always making those dreaded decisions of what to pay, how much, and still put food on the table.

At the time, I was at home raising four kids and handling the finances. My husband worked full time but his income was highly variable from month to month (he worked on a small base salary plus commission). 

I’d tried every budgeting system known to man, including the cash envelope system (which I liked, but found it hard to manage), but nothing ever stuck.

My Lightbulb Moment

In 2013, I stumbled onto You Need a Budget (probably in my relentless search for financial freedom). After watching some videos and attending some of their budgeting classes to learn how to use it, I was hooked. 

When I say the lightbulbs went off—it was more like a fireworks show! The Four Rules made SO. MUCH. SENSE!!! It was like the envelope system, but now the envelopes were virtual. The idea of only budgeting the money you have available was so different from the other budgeting systems I’d tried. It was exactly what we needed with our variable income. 

Making Progress With Our Finances

As we learned to live on last month’s income, those prior emergencies became fewer and fewer until they were nonexistent.

We paid off our credit cards and kept them paid off. Plus, we learned how to plan for those annoying recurring expenses (like insurance, taxes, and vehicle tags). Now when they came due, money was already waiting for them. It felt like we finally gained control over our finances. We were no longer in a constant fight-or-flight battle with our money. 

Life After Six Years of Budgeting

Fast forward to today (it’s been over six years using YNAB): we own two homes, three vehicles, and our credit score is near perfect (a perfect score is 850: ours is 823). We usually have 3-4 months of bills budgeted for in the future at all times. 

I added my student loans to YNAB in April 2019 (I’ve had them for a long time but never bothered to add them because they weren’t in repayment. In April I decided to add them anyway). Since then, my net worth has increased by $17,150.50! Woohoo! There’s a light at the end of the tunnel now with a net worth of just under -$11,000. Perhaps by 2021 I’ll be in the black!!

YNAB net worth report. Breaking the paycheck to paycheck cycle, paying off debt, credit score near perfect
YNAB Net Worth Report (red shows debts, blue shows assets). Black line shows debt reducing over time. So close!

Now We Help Others Gain Financial Control

My husband and I practically evangelize about YNAB to anyone who will listen. We’ve found it can take a bit to break people of the traditional budgeting mentality. For those that have tried budgeting before and it didn’t work, here’s what I now see (and it’s the same things that tripped me up at the beginning):

  • When they set up their budget, they start filling in the amounts for all the bills and expenses. Pretty soon, their bills and expenses are higher than the money they have. But you can’t budget what you don’t have, even though that’s exactly what traditional budgeting tells us to do! 
  • Credit cards are confusing within the app. Eventually they get it, and this video helps a ton!
  • Once people start tracking where their money goes, they’re surprised to see just how much they’re wasting on certain things, like their daily Starbucks run.

After a few months, people are blown away at realizing that not only are all their bills paid, but they’re starting to get ahead! It’s always so amazing to have the people we’ve helped come running up to us excitedly to tell us their bills are paid three months out and they have an emergency fund for the first time ever! 

YNAB literally turned us around from being in debt up to our eyeballs and living from paycheck to paycheck to being completely free from crushing credit card debt. We have a growing savings account, future bills already paid for, a buffer, and an emergency fund—all things I never thought possible before I found YNAB.

At this point, I can’t imagine not having a budget—it truly is the secret to getting ahead.

Angela Stevens is an IT Guru, Fitness Enthusiast, and Team Beachbody Coach. She’s been using YNAB since 2013.