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12 Best Personal Finance Episodes from the YNAB Podcast

We recently put together a list of our favorite YNAB podcasts and split them out whether you're a new to budgeting or well-seasoned. But while we were at it, we noticed the podcast isn't strictly budget talk—listen close and you’ll find it’s bursting with personal finance gems and advice. We’ve waded through the many (many) episodes of the archive and picked out some highlights that are light on the budget-speak and heavy on tried-and-true money wisdom.

Money doesn’t have to feel messy. Check out our comprehensive guide on how to simplify finances.

1. Pay yourself first.

When you make money, you want to be playing for keeps. And when you really think about it, you’re the only person that can actually pay yourself. Your employer? They just provide the cash. In this episode, Jesse talks about the importance of saving a portion of everything you make so you can put your money to work for you.

2. Live below your means.

When you live below your means, you might find that more opportunities magically start appearing. What gives? In this episode, Jesse explains this concept with a story that's close to home. When the opportunity first presented itself to build out YNAB as a software, he realized his decision would’ve looked completely different had he and Julie not been living below their means.

3. If you have debt, attack it with all you’ve got.

As a company, YNAB doesn’t often tell you how you should spend your money, but in this episode, we get a rare glimpse inside Jesse’s brain about how he would order financial priorities (*spoiler alert* debt is the priority that he thinks people mix up the most). 

4. Break the debt cycle for good by building a savings buffer first. 

When you’re staring at a big pile of high-interest debt, it’s so tempting to want to pay it all off as soon as you can. But is that really the correct route? Jesse dives into why saving a buffer is the crucial first step in a debt paydown plan. 

5. Don’t let a car siphon away your wealth.

If you want to know where most people commonly overextend themselves financially, look at their house and look at their car. But when you over-purchase on a vehicle, it means the level of stress in every other area of life rises—all because of a car that stretched you too thin. In this episode, Jesse dives into how a car can be a wealth-sucking parasite and what to do if you find yourself in this situation. 

6. Debt doesn’t just steal cash from you, it steals your ability to take risks.

There is a gap that exists between what you spend and what you make—Jesse calls this the opportunity gap. This gap gives you the financial cushion to take risks—to take a dream job that might not pay as well (yet), or a cross-country move to be closer to family. Debt eats away at that gap to take a leap and makes the jump a whole lot bigger and more intimidating. And that idea that you are stripped of the ability to take a risk—what could be costlier?

(This episode is part of a four-part series on the true cost of debt. See the written out version of this post along with links to the other episodes here.)   

7. Save early, save often.

Jesse loves the financial independence (FI) movement. In this episode he talks about how he’s sowing the seeds of financial independence with his kids by making them save 50% of the money they make. Listen in and you’ll be challenged in your own perceptions of what’s “good enough” when it comes to saving, and it might just spur you toward your own financial independence.

8. Sometimes saving for the sake of saving just isn't worth it.

When you’ve been a faithful budgeter and grown your wealth, there comes a time when exercises in frugality might actually be more work than they’re worth. Jesse talks about when he recently went through a season of penny pinching (which involved unscrewing half the lightbulbs in a chandelier to save on electricity despite running a successful and profitable company), and how he had to eventually question his trade-off in saving a few dollars when he could be spending that time and energy working on the business for a higher ROI.

9. Learn your financial order of operations by taking cues from the experts.

When former YNAB blogger Mark posted about his current financial priorities, the list looked like this (in order):

  1. Build one month buffer ($5,100)
  2. Save 3-Month Emergency Fund ($15,000)
  3. Pay off all debt other than the mortgage on the house ($72,000)
  4. Finish his basement + other house projects
  5. Pay for kids’ college
  6. Save for retirement

Jesse (who is also a very good friend of Mark’s), took that list to task and gave some feedback about why he might organize it a little differently if he were the one choosing it:

  1. Build 1 month buffer
  2. Pay off all non-mortgage debt
  3. Finish saving your emergency fund (another two months) 
  4. Save for retirement (at least 15%. More if you can)
  5. Split between kids’ college and the basement

Listen to him explain his sound reasoning behind the reorganization and take notes for yourself in this episode.

10. College debt is an option, not an essential.

It’s no secret that student loan debt is unbelievably heavy on so many graduates. Jesse talks about talking to your kids about all the options available to them when they’re looking at college, ways to avoid debt, and looking at that decision through a new lens. 

11. Before moving, take stock of all the costs.

When you land in a new place: buy a new home, rent a new apartment, the number that sticks in our mind the most is its on-paper cost: the first/last/security deposit, or the cost of the down payment. But don’t forget the extra margin required that can be best explained as “the cost of settling in.” Jesse lays out some of the forgotten costs in this episode to get you better prepared financially for a move.

12. Is there such a good thing as good debt? Sure. Though it also can become bad if you aren't careful.

When you’re looking at debt, what classifies a good debt vs. a bad debt? Well, can this debt fantastically and reliably increase in value over the lifetime of that asset? In this episode, Jesse lays out some things he might see as good debt (the list is quite short) and how you can decide for yourself what you see as a good vs. bad debt.

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12 Best Personal Finance Episodes from the YNAB Podcast