When Tracy and Dan fell in love and got engaged, it was all rainbows and unicorns and credit card debt. Financially speaking, the honeymoon was over before it even started.
Determined to start their life together on the right (debt-free) foot—long before they would take their actual wedding vows—they made two commitments to each other:
I, Dan, promise we will not finance one penny of our wedding.
And I, Tracy, promise we will pay off all our consumer debt before the big day.
Based on their financial histories to this point, this was a complete and total shift, and seemed, what’s the word, oh yes, impossible.
“Before YNAB, I would consistently run out of money well before my next paycheck and charge my way to payday. Before I knew it I was paying $1,600 in minimum debt payments and all my cards were maxed out,” says Dan. “It got to the point where I was losing sleep at night.”
And things weren’t much better for Tracy: “I was terrified of looking at my bank account online. I would frequently overdraft and often couldn’t make my student loan payments. I was anxious and ashamed but didn’t know what to do about it.”
They made some half-hearted attempts to change, but it wasn’t working.
“I tried writing out a budget and using the envelope system, but I was still just making minimum payments and bought a brand new car during this time,” says Tracy, shaking her head. “Clearly, I hadn’t really faced the reality of my situation yet!”
Finally, Dan and Tracy sat down together and over the course of a couple days, plugged all their information into Mint: “It was a step in the right direction but I couldn’t change my budget from month to month and the automatic updates made me feel like I didn’t need to pay attention. So, I didn’t.”
When they got engaged, they had upped the stakes and knew, for reals this time, something had to change.
And a complete shift of the universe as they knew it.
With YNAB, Dan and Tracy, had to think through their priorities and goals, before they entered a single digit or spent a single dime.
“It was easy to manage spending and save for future goals, because we could see, in real-time, exactly how much money we had to work with. We could see how cutting back on certain things, would allow us to prioritize more important things.”
And in just a few months—cue the applause—for the first time in their lives they weren’t living paycheck to paycheck.
They began paying off credit card balances and aggressively saving. It felt amazing.
“At some point, I just got debt-free obsessed, and crafted a plan to pay off my brand new, one-year-old car before the wedding, just 12 months away,” explains Tracy. “Everyone thought I was nuts. But I did it!”
It wasn’t without sacrifice (hello, living with the parents!) and loads of patience, but in Tracy’s exact words, “IT WAS SO WORTH IT!”
The Future Looks Bright
Today, Tracy and Dan have no consumer debt and they’ve saved $25k in order to pay for their upcoming wedding (and honeymoon!) with cash. And there is no looking back. Current priorities include saving, saving, saving for a six-month emergency fund and then a down payment.
Tracy says, she knows they can save for anything they want their life to be. And that is a pretty rock-solid outlook for a brand-new marriage.
When asked what they would want to tell someone still on the fence about budgeting, they didn’t hesitate: “YNAB has taught me that money doesn’t solve your problems,” says Dan. “You need to be in control of your spending before real change can happen.”
For Tracy, it was all about the freedom: “Budgets get a bad rap. People don’t want to budget because they think it’s going to restrict them in some way, but how you divvy up your money in your own budget is completely up to you! It’s all about priorities—yours!”
Your Next Step
Budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. So what do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress?