Determined to start their new life together on solid financial footing—long before they would take their actual 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.
It wasn’t without sacrifice and loads of patience, but in Tracy’s exact words, “IT WAS SO WORTH IT!”
Here’s how they did it.
After some deep breaths, they sat down with their freshly minted YNAB budget and dug in. Step one was to set up their bank accounts in YNAB, using direct import to grab their current balances.
With money to budget, Tracy and Dan started to customize categories, thinking through their priorities and plugging in numbers. There was an immediate shift: “Even just giving every dollar a job that very first time felt so different than anything we’d done before.”
By giving every dollar a job, Tracy and Dan were acutely aware of the finite amount of money available and what they wanted it to do. They were close to their money in a way that provided control they’d never known.
When you use Rule One and Give Every Dollar a Job, life doesn't simply claim your money. Instead, you'll decide on priorities first, then assign dollars (only the ones you have right now!) to those priorities until each dollar has a job. Because your money is going towards your highest priorities, your spending has to clear a higher bar.
After their initial budget was created, it was time to put their plan into action. Tracy and Dan would update their accounts with a click of a button and assign the new transactions to various budget categories.
They’d also use the YNAB mobile apps to check their budget category balances when out and about in order to make sure that they weren’t going over budget.
Once we started using the app on our phones, it really took things up a notch,” says Tracy. “If I’m at the store or in a restaurant, I can double check what funds I have available and make an informed decision about what I can or want to spend. No excuses, which I love. And sort of hate...but it’s so good for us!
Totally in sync about their priorities and flush with newfound awareness, something crazy happened—Tracy and Dan started making different decisions, better decisions.
It was working! Next Tracy and Dan outlined some concrete goals: paying off credit cards, saving for the wedding, booking a honeymoon (and paying cash for that too). By breaking down big goals into sizable chunks they could see exactly how and when they’d reach the finish line, all without forecasting money they didn’t have yet.
Rule Two, Embrace Your True Expenses, combines the power of thinking ahead with taking action here and now. Whether expenses happen like clockwork (rent), feel impossible to predict (car repairs), or are just far-off dreams (cash for a wedding!), they are all part of your true expenses. The key is to prepare a bit at a time by treating them all like monthly expenses.
They also set up most of their bills as scheduled transactions, which helped them stay on track, they always knew what was coming next and could prioritize around it. It also left more time for wedding planning—you know, the fun stuff.
Between goals for all our wedding expenses and scheduled transactions for everything else,” Dan says, “it was always easy to see, right in the budget, what was most important. It made the actual budgeting easy.
Things didn’t always go exactly as planned, because, of course not (and that’s OK!). When they under-budgeted or overspent (and hey, both happened), they rolled with the punches by taking money from other categories that had money to give. And most importantly, they kept budgeting!
Rule Three means you Roll with the Punches, whatever comes your way. Your budget is a plan – but plans change, and your budget should too. Spend more than you expected on dinner out with friends? No need for stress. Just take some money from clothing. You haven't failed at budgeting, you've adapted with the best of them, and your money is still lined up with your priorities.
Paying down debt while also working toward paying cash for their wedding sounded like a dream at first. But by paying down their credit card debt strategically using debt goals in YNAB, Tracy and Dan were starting to get ahead. YNAB was helping them budget smart, they always knew exactly where they stood and how they were doing.
As a result, they were making major progress on their goals, they were putting money away in all the right places, and they could see their money getting older and older.
“At some point, it almost became addictive. Ok – it did. I became 100 percent obsessed with being debt-free and watching my Age of Money soar!” explains Tracy.
Rule Four reminds you to Age Your Money. When you increase the time between receiving your money and spending it, you're more secure, more flexible. You're breathing easier. If you're implementing the first three rules, you'll be aging your money before you know it. When your money is about 30 days old, you can officially say goodbye to the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.
Today, Tracy and Dan are saving, saving, saving—first, a six-month emergency fund, and then a down payment. Tracy says she knows they can save for anything they want their lives to be, worlds away from where they were, drowning in debt, less than two years ago.
For Tracy, it was all about 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 it’s amazing how much flexibility we have now. And how you divvy up your money in your own budget is completely up to you! It’s all about priorities—yours!”