Slay Your Loans With YNAB’s Loan Planner

A New Feature that Helps You Find More Money for Loan Payoff


Want to find more money to pay off your loans? The new Loan Planner from YNAB can help you save time and money on your loan payoff.

Loans come in all flavors and sizes. Some drive you crazy, others lurk in the corner, and some seem so large they feel like you’ll never pay them off.

In the meantime, loans hold more sway at the decision making table than you’d like to admit: you struggle to save for a down payment, you’re cuffed to a job, you can’t take a chance on a cross-country adventure—all because of those non-negotiable monthly payments.

Wouldn’t it just be great to dig a few holes in your backyard and BAM, you discover a treasure chest of gold coins to pay off those never-ending loans once and for all? 

Well, we’d like to introduce you to your shovel. We’re going to help you find more money to pay off those loans. And get this: the money is already right there in your metaphorical back yard. 

Say what now? We’ve all got treasure chests buried nearby? Well, not quite…but also not too far off.

I’d like to introduce you to YNAB’s Loan Planner. It’s like a treasure map to find your hidden golden doubloons. Let’s get your time (and money) back in your control.

YNAB’s Loan Planner: How It Works

Step One: You Acquire a Loan

Loans generally originate from big expensive things that are hard to pay for in one fell swoop: think cars, college, houses, that sort of thing.

To help you understand the power of the Loan Planner, we’ve got a story to illustrate:

Meet Ellie. Ellie is the very proud owner of a new-to-her car. She immediately named the car Sandy the SUV, and it’s a pretty little zoom zoom with beige leather interior, heated seats, and a retractable sunroof. 

This car was an arrival point. She feels like an adult. While all you saw was her Instagram post holding keys next to a car with a bow, the behind-the-scenes story is that Sandy came with a price tag of $22,000. Ellie will be paying $365/month every month for the next six years to own this car (and her not-too-shabby, not-too-great credit score got her a loan with 6% interest).  

Ellie drives Sandy the SUV home and opens her YNAB budget. There, she adds a new loan account for Sandy the SUV.

Ellie creates a loan account for her car in YNAB
Ellie creates a loan account for her car in YNAB

Ok, cool, so Ellie added an account in her budget. Are you supposed to be impressed? Where are the gold coins and treasure chest? 

Step Two: You See Your Loan in a New Light

Here’s where the magic comes in. When Ellie opens the loan account on her laptop, a screen pops up showing her a more in-depth view of her loan. She sees she’ll pay $4K in interest and has six years remaining. She’ll end up paying over $26,000 in total for Sandy the SUV. Well huh, they didn’t quite spell it out in those words at the dealership—they just highlighted the fairly reasonable monthly payment.

The loan account in YNAB shows time and interest remaining.
The loan account in YNAB shows time and interest remaining.

Step Three: You Start Experimenting

But Ellie is curious: what would happen if she paid a little more on this loan, instead of just the monthly payment? 

So she decides to experiment right in YNAB: instead of simply paying the $365/month minimum, what if she tacked on an extra $100 a month? Thanks to the handy dandy Loan Planner, she sees this incremental extra would save her $1,000 in interest and shave almost a year and a half off the life of the loan.

The Loan Planner lets you experiment with seeing how much time and interest you can save with extra or increased payments.
The Loan Planner lets you experiment with seeing how much time and interest you can save with extra or increased payments.

Step Four: You Take Action

And here’s where it gets cool. Could she actually swing an extra $100/month? She remembers cancelling a gym membership last month and knows she has extra wiggle room. Ellie can immediately put that plan into action within her budget. Instead of budgeting $365/month (her monthly payment), she will plan on budgeting $465/month instead.

Step Five: Your Behavior Starts Changing

Ellie goes about her day, zooming around in Sandy the SUV and a curious thing starts to happen—she starts making slight little tweaks to her spending decisions. A skipped coffee here, an online shopping cart abandoned there. 

The YNAB loan account showed Ellie that every extra $100 she can put toward her loan this month is actually worth $142.64 when paid against her loan: because she’s cutting down on the interest she would’ve otherwise paid. It makes the lure for a new t-shirt seem like a not-as-good deal for her money compared to paying off her car loan.

Are you starting to see how these golden coins could start appearing in your very own backyard? 

But Ellie doesn’t stop there. This month is a glorious three-paycheck month. In the past, the extra money would have been enjoyed but frittered away. But now? She’s laser focused on owning Sandy the SUV free and clear, like the wind in her hair when she’s driving around with the windows down,and oh my we’re getting off track, now where were we?

Right. That extra paycheck. Getting the most bang for her buck. She sees in the Loan Planner that a one-time extra payment from her third paycheck would pay off her loan TWO YEARS earlier. Time is money, my friend. And with this plan, Ellie gets both more time and more money. 

Sending this month's extra paycheck to her loan and increasing her target saves Ellie two years and almost $2K, as shown here in YNAB's Loan Planner.
Sending this month’s extra paycheck to her loan and increasing her target saves Ellie two years and almost $2K, as shown here in YNAB’s Loan Planner.

Within Ellie’s budget, she sees that ferocious blow knocked a full 10% off her total loan. And it’s only the first month!!

Your YNAB will calculate the percentage decrease of your loan balance after payment and keep a running tally of your interest saved.
Your YNAB will calculate the percentage decrease of your loan balance after payment and keep a running tally of your interest saved.

Step Six: You Pay Off Your Loan at Record Speed

Fast forward in time: while Ellie’s original loan payoff was supposed to take six years, she paid it off in a mere two and a half thanks to a little extra awareness, elbow grease, and a trusty little budget. 

The YNAB Shield and Spear

This powerful Loan Planner feature, coupled with your budget, makes up the YNAB shield and spear. While budgeting with the YNAB method acts as the shield protecting against new debt, the new Loan Planner feature acts as a savage spear to drain that loan dry.

The loan payoff timeline is still totally up to you (and if life happens and it takes the full six years, then that’s ok too!). But with this tool, we’re happy to bring you the full awareness and tangible numbers of what your debt payoff dollars can actually do. 

And turns out this hypothetical story of Ellie and her SUV is inspired by true events. While the Loan Planner has just been launched to the public, a few people from our internal team have already been putting it to good use:

Ashley Paid Off Her Car in Eight Months!

“We bought a car in January. Although we were disappointed we hadn’t saved up enough cash, we paid off our car today, just 8 months later! The new loan features made budgeting extra money toward this debt really fun and motivating!”

-Ashley G, Support Specialist, Product Princess, New Mama, and Proud Owner of a Paid-Off Car at YNAB

Kelly Will Pay Off Her Mortgage 12 Years Early!

Or, take this story from Kelly, who increased her mortgage payment after seeing the impact of rounding up on her payments:

“I didn’t realize how impactful a small change could be! We saw if we rounded up on our mortgage payment, we’d save quite a bit of money *and* time. I don’t know if I’m more excited about the $72k of interest savings or the 12 years of time savings, but I do know our future selves will thank us a lot!!”

-Kelly, Product Marketing, Chicken Whisperer, Home Steader, and One Step Closer to a Paid-Off Home Mortgage

Learn how to get rolling with your loan account in this help doc, or join a live Q&A with YNAB teachers to learn how to optimize your budget for debt payoff.

It turns out those forever-long loans can have a shorter shelf life after all. As always, we’re honored to be here with you on your debt payoff journey. If you’re in the middle of it, we hope this new tool can be a tasty mid-race gulp of your favorite fluorescent sports drink and a downhill stretch to give you a burst of energy and momentum. Put that finish line firmly in your sights!

Want to pay off debt faster and haven’t started budgeting with YNAB yet? Try it free for 34 days, no credit card required and find more money for your payoff.

Loan Planner FAQs

Can I use this for my credit card debt?
We love the tenacity, but hold your horses on that. This is called a Loan Planner (not a Credit Card Planner) for a reason. The Loan Planner is best for the following loans:

  • Student loans
  • Private student loans
  • Auto loans
  • RV loans
  • Mortgages
  • Medical debt
  • Personal loans

Credit cards don’t function in quite the same way within your budget, so keep your credit cards off the Loan Planner for now! 

But if I want to, can I set up my credit card as a loan account?

Loan accounts are a great way to track loans, but they are not well suited for credit cards at this time. We recommend that your credit cards be set up as Credit Card accounts in YNAB, instead. The Credit Card account type in YNAB is uniquely designed to help you record and budget for credit card purchases, and pay off credit card debt.

Does this work on mobile and web?

Yes, this feature is available on mobile and web, iOS and Android. However, if you want the full range of features, use this feature on the web. At this time, mobile has a limited view, and we recommend setting up your loan accounts and playing with the Loan Planner in the web view.

Can I change my tracking account to a loan account?

Yes! At this time, the migration process is only available on the web. You can follow the step-by-step migration instructions. Mobile users can create a brand new Loan account to enjoy this feature. 

If you’ve been using Tracking accounts to track your debt, you can change those accounts to Loan accounts! Before you change a Tracking account to a Loan account, we recommend reconciling the Tracking account. Bringing that balance up to date will ensure the new Loan account is accurate.

Want to keep reading about our new Loan Planner feature? Check out this help doc for more info!