I just had a birthday. I am now uncomfortably close to 40 and I mostly don’t want to talk about it.
But over dinner with our best friends this weekend, we were, of course talking about it, and we agreed that, in spite of the impending number, we would never go back.
Because I’m (a lot!) wiser than I used to be. I have learned things—the hard way—the kinds of lessons that you can only learn by living them. I am really comfortable with who I am. I know how to play to my strengths and make self-deprecating jokes about my many weaknesses. I choose my friends, I love my kids and I dance like nobody’s watching. (I also really want you to know that last one was a joke.)
There are a lot of things I’ve learned by failing and getting back up. But I’ve also learned that there are some things, which you will keep failing at—just again and again, at great expense—if you don’t teach yourself another way. Finances are one of those things.
If no one taught you how to manage your money, chances are you won’t just pick it up through osmosis. You—no matter how young or old—are going to have to commit to learning a new way.
And when you do the hard work, open yourself up to new ideas, ask questions, and learn some new habits, you will learn and change and grow. You will be battle-worn and stronger, ready for whatever life throws at you next.
And the lessons you learn the hard way, will stick with you and—in the best possible way—become part of your story forevermore.
Like Liz & Ron…
Liz, 39, and Ron, 40, of Oakley, CA, have such a story. They struggled and stumbled and tried to do it on their own for a long time. And then they found YNAB, learned a new way—one that really worked—and turned it all around. Here, in Liz’s words, is a little slice of their life and journey toward financial peace:
Money Was Always A Struggle
“So, where do I begin? I guess from the beginning. My husband and I have been together for 20 years—since I was 18 years old! We spent our whole adulthood together and never figured out how to manage our finances.
About five years ago, we hit a wall. We were financially stressed and stuck—sinking in bills, tons of debt, car payments, mortgage, and three small kids. The normal financial burdens most people our age were dealing with, except we couldn’t keep up. We exhausted all our options for getting out of debt and decided to file for bankruptcy. We simply felt we had no other option.
We were determined—like never before—to learn how to do things differently, and never be in debt again.”
Control Changed Their Outlook, Finances & Relationship
“We found YNAB and within just a few months, we had completely changed the way we thought about our money. Within six months, we felt like we were in total control of our finances. We were looking forward to our budgeting meetings (once a week during that time). We were laughing together and enjoying ourselves while we budgeted! We gave every single dollar a job and saved for everything—even if it was just a little bit here and there.
Expenses like our car registration, we divided into 12 “monthly payments” and saved a little bit every month. We saved for our kids school events, factoring in snacks, pictures, equipment, and registration fees. We saved for every facet of every holiday.
We took several family vacations—all paid for in cash.
Of course, there was a learning curve, and we changed categories every which way, moved money around, and often “rolled with the punches,” but we were always saving. Anything left over, we’d put into our six-month emergency fund.
For the first time ever, we weren’t living paycheck to paycheck anymore and it changed everything.”
But Life Is Still Full Of Surprises (Just Not Stressful With A Budget)
“Fast forward to the beginning of last year, we discovered we were going to have a 4th child.
We immediately created a “baby items” category. We estimated how much we would need up till the baby was born, divided by 9 months and started saving diligently. We started putting money into our “diapers and wipes” category when I was three months pregnant. This couldn’t have felt more different than when we’d had our other three children. It felt amazing.
At almost the same time—after nearly four years of saving—we reached our six-month savings goal.
And not two months later, our van broke down. Turns out we had to replace the whole engine, but we weren’t stressed because we had our emergency fund. Then our baby was born, and there were some unexpected medical expenses—but we had a category for that. Our water heater broke—but the home maintenance category was funded. Then I had to go to the hospital, and we were able to fly a family member out to help with the kids and the house, while I was recovering. And we just found out that our roof has a leak and needs a major repair, but through all of this, we have never had to stress. The money was there.
We love repeating Jesse’s words, ‘You don’t save for IF an emergency happens, you save for WHEN an emergency happens.’
Money Can Bring You Together Instead of Tearing You Apart
Our journey was not about learning not to spend money, but rather how to spend money. We now have freedom to do what we want with our money and with our priorities front and center, we can plan for the short-term and long-term future.
Before YNAB, we were always stressed out and fighting about money; we were convinced we were a lost cause and we’d never get ahead. Now, we aren’t afraid to talk about money, because it has become an everyday, positive topic that has strengthened our relationship and forever changed our outlook on life.”
Words For The New (Or Non) Budgeter
I asked Liz what she would say to someone who was currently stressing about money, or avoiding living on a budget. Here’s her unedited encouragement:
“START USING YNAB NOW! Stop living paycheck to paycheck. Start small and take baby steps and ask for help! We find that so many people are afraid to talk about money or budgeting and don’t want anyone else to know what they spend their money on. But there is no shame—we all have different priorities! With just a little guidance from YNAB or someone who has used YNAB, and experienced all the financial ups and downs we’ve all experienced, you can learn to live life with zero financial stress.”