Erin Shelley, a 59-year-old living in Flagstaff, Arizona, had a habit of spending all of her money (and then some). Even with a steady job at Northern Arizona University, where she’s worked for the last 23 years, Erin still felt “broke.”
But late one night, while surfing the web, everything changed. Erin said, “Some financial article or blog post mentioned ‘living on last month’s income.’ I thought that was pretty nifty, but wondered how you could ever achieve that impossibility.”
Although she was skeptical—rolling her eyes at “these people getting so excited about some budgeting app”—Erin signed up for YNAB’s 34-day trial. She figured, “Hey, it’s free, so what’s the harm?”
From Eye Rolling to Bankrolling
That was in September 2016. Just ten months later, Erin had dramatically changed both her attitude and her money situation. She’d stepped away from what she calls “the edge” to achieve that “impossible” goal and then some!
In less than a year, Erin had:
- Built a buffer to live on last month’s income (Not impossible!)
- Stopped using debt to pay for life (In her words, “A miracle.”)
- Paid off more than $10,000 in credit card debt
- Increased her net worth by more than 30 percent
- Made saving a habit—and had an emergency fund, plus cash allocated for her true expenses, to show for her effort
- Plus, put herself on track to retire comfortably (possibly before she turns 70!)
Not bad, for someone who assumed that she’d have to work for the rest of her life and use debt to make ends meet, right?
The Difference Was Night and Day
Looking back, Erin laughed at what an onlooker may have thought about her money management skills pre- and post-YNAB: “It’s like a different person took control of my accounts!”
She said, “I’ve always needed a budget. I just chose to ignore that reality, as budgets made me feel broke. Yes, in some cases I was broke, but I didn’t want to know that. I’ve been through the ups and downs of money management. I’ve read lots of books on how to manage money, but … I never could maintain it (just like diets—I know what I should do, but I fight doing it!).”
And Erin’s resistance to budgeting wasn’t doing her any favors: “By the time I discovered YNAB I had over $30,000 in consumer debt, plus a new mortgage. It’s horrible to see my debt history. For every step forward, there was at least one or two steps back … the financial cha-cha. I had those steps down good.”
She explained, “I’d tried to handle my debt, like getting a loan to consolidate my credit card debt, but you know what happened? I charged up the cards, again, and had the loan payment. Ugh. Then I’d try to be more frugal … [and] begin to see progress in paying things down; then I’d need to charge up some stuff because I, um, well … needed whatever I was buying. Cha-cha-cha!”
It was a vicious cycle.
So, What Changed?
When Erin tried YNAB, her perspective about budgeting shifted. She said, “Maybe I stuck with it because I had some early wins. Within a few weeks, I stopped using my overdraft on my checking account. Within a month, I had stopped adding extra debt on my credit cards. Within two months, I built my buffer … [that] was a great feeling.”
She loved YNAB’s method, too—especially Rule One: Give Every Dollar A Job: “It really helped me see the value in each dollar. If I spend this dollar in this category, I can’t spend it in that category. I started looking for more dollars in my life. For example, I finally took advantage of an employee discount for my cell phone service—I could’ve done that years ago!”
By working YNAB’s Four Rules, Erin had a better handle on the big picture, too. She said, “It also made me see what forgotten categories could be funded. Every ‘extra’ expense did not need to be added to credit card debt.”
No Lotto Winnings Required
The best part about Erin’s financial 180? It’s for keeps.
Erin says that, if she won the lottery today, she’d save that money! She said, “[YNAB] changed my relationship with money … I spend less frivolously because I know it may mean moving money around that I don’t want to move.”
And she’s enjoying the payoffs of living within her means: “I thought of consumer debt as something that would always be with me. Now I know that I can stop adding to the debt, and I can even pay it off. [Before YNAB], paying off my house early seemed unlikely. I never had extra money for debt repayment. I can actually see that happening now.”
She added, “I may be able to retire comfortably before I am 70.”
Budgeting Geeks, Unite!
In her own words: “I’m a zealous convert. Suggesting that having a budget is the best thing in the world for helping you handle money seems obvious, but convincing people that it will lessen the stress isn’t as easy to understand.”
If that’s you, Erin highly recommends this post on Steam: “Making it a game really helped me find ways to add money to my categories.”
She went on: “I just love YNAB. I was skeptical at first, but now I’m a believer, and it didn’t take long to become one! I think the best thing of all about YNAB is the peace of mind it brings. I can see how my money is being used every month, and I know I’m fine.”