How One Family Paid Off $50k & Saved $25k In 30 Months

Written by Lindsey Burgess  |  on


Not that many years ago, if Chris Lee of Canton, Georgia, had enough money at the end of the month to cover his bills, he considered it a win.

He was always one small hiccup away from being in pretty big trouble, but the future? “I just tried not to think about it,” he says.

Until He Had To Think About It

But after three foreclosures on investment properties, and a $50k in consumer debt wake-up call, the future was calling and she was pissed. (And yes, for the purposes of our story today, the future is a she.)

The Lees signed up for Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and started using a pen and paper to track every dollar. This was helpful, but they quickly realized it wasn’t a realistic long-term solution. So Chris started using spreadsheets, but it was hard to stay on the same page as his wife.

And Then He Found YNAB

“It was easy to use, customizable to my needs, and I didn’t have to worry about creating formulas or doing a lot of math.” (Because in most all situations, the less math, the better, right?)

But another big change Chris noticed was the shift from His Budget to Our Budget: “Because I had been the one to actually write out the budget or fill in the spreadsheets, we often referred to it as ‘my budget,’ but when we moved to YNAB and were both participating, it became ‘our budget.’”

And It Made All The Difference

“I remember sitting in my office facing our 3rd foreclosure, contemplating how I got my family into this mess and how we were going to get out of it. I spent a few months just trying different things—no eating out, a shopping fast, reducing monthly bills—and it was all good. But it was just a Band-Aid. The budget was the missing piece that brought healing to our finances and our marriage.”

Once the Lees were truly budgeting together, they were liberated. Not just from their debt over time, but from the attitudes and habits that got them there in the first place: “Once we created the budget, we were free to spend without worry or guilt.”

And That Freedom Changed Everything

In 18 months they paid off $50k debt and then 12 months later, they’d saved $25k for an emergency fund. Here’s how they did it (plus a little free advice):

Crazy Intensity

“We obsessed about every dollar. And we made debt our number one, top priority.”

Sell Everything

Ok, not everything, but a lot: “We sold anything and everything we could possibly live without. Several years later, I can honestly say we haven’t missed a thing.”

Attitude Adjustment

Debt is the enemy: “We’ve changed our attitude about debt entirely. Being able to finance stuff is not the banks doing us a favor, it’s a way for them to make more money.”

Future Focus

“Planning for the future makes life so much easier. Period.”

Start ‘Em Young

“We wish we’d learned this stuff a long time ago. But our kids will benefit from our experience. Our 11-year-old already creates and maintains a monthly budget.”

Today, Chris says his budget has become one of those things—like smart phones, the Internet or Amazon Prime—that you can’t imagine living without. It’s as magical as Amazon Prime, and that is saying a lot.

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?