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How Brian and Leann Got Maui’d: A Second Chance at YNAB

YNABers Brian and Leann saved for their dream wedding and grew closer along the way

Sometimes it takes a few tries to accomplish a goal. Back in 1998, I was nine years old when The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came out. I was immediately hooked, battling my way through Zelda dungeons until I got to the absolutely terrifying Shadow Temple. Nine-year-old me was so scared that I put my controller down for seven years until an older version of myself that was less frightened by 64-bit graphics defeated the Shadow Temple and the rest of the game. 

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar when it comes to money. You’ve tried to change how you spend your money, but you quickly went back to your old ways. Maybe your financial situation looked a lot like the Shadow Temple and you weren’t able to face it. Maybe you didn’t have the space to build new habits. Or maybe you didn’t have the right motivation. 

That’s what our friends Brian and Leann needed. A big, exciting financial goal was the missing ingredient they needed to change the trajectory of their financial life. Let me tell you the story of how Brian and Leann gave YNAB a second try. The payoff? A fantastic wedding and honeymoon in Maui after saving for less than a year! 

The Right Motivation

Brian had tried YNAB in the past, but said it never stuck with him because he didn’t follow the method. You see, YNAB is more than just an app, it’s a proven framework for using your money to build the life you want. That method is based on four simple habits. If you use the software without understanding the habits, it’s like trying to beat the Water Temple without the Zora Tunic. You’ll just swim around in circles and end up frustrated. Brian used YNAB only as an expense tracker, which was helpful in some ways but it didn’t give him any real traction, so he soon let it go. 

All it took for Brian to give YNAB another try was the right motivation. In December 2021, Brian and Leann got engaged and immediately started planning a wedding. But they had something a little different in mind. Brian said that since they were both “kinda-sorta older,” they decided to elope to Maui. A wedding in a tropical paradise followed by a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon? Sign me up! They were absolutely stoked! But it was going to be expensive. “In order to do this,” he said, “we were going to have to get serious” about finances. 

Aren't they adorable!?

Brian knew just where to turn. It was time to try out YNAB again, but for reals this time! He spent the rest of his holiday break reading the YNAB: The Book cover to cover before returning to work in January. Now armed not only with the YNAB app but also with a full understanding of the YNAB Method, Brian was ready to take on any financial challenge, including a $30k wedding and a fantastic honeymoon in Hawaii. 

They Gave Every Dollar a Job

The first rule of YNAB is “Give Every Dollar a Job.” You’ll plan how you want to spend (or save!) all your money every time you get paid. And they did just that! 

Brian and Leann spent a couple months tracking expenses and planning their wedding. Then, in March, they made their first joint money plan that included a category for their wedding in November. They joyfully called it “Let’s Get Maui’d!” and crafted a plan that would let them spend less on the things that weren’t important to them so they could say yes to their exciting wedding and honeymoon! 

Brian and Leann set up a “Let’s Get Maui’d” category while still planning for other financial priorities.

Making their plan was not a set-it-and-forget-it activity. It took some trial and error to get everything just right. And that’s okay—more than okay, actually! Adjusting spending categories to match your priorities along the way is encouraged.

They Embraced Their True Expenses and Rolled with the Punches

By summertime, Leann was more into YNAB than he was! Things had been going great, their “Let’s Get Maui’d” fund was growing until disaster struck. Leann’s car needed some major repairs—a new battery, new tires, AND new brakes!? Ouch! Was this going to throw off their plans for Maui? No way.

Brian knew his YNAB habits backward and forwards, so as a part of his plan, he followed Rule Two: Embrace Your True Expenses. Take all those large non-monthly expenses (like car repairs) and break them up into smaller chunks by saving for them every month. Brian and Leann knew their Maui money would need protection, so they had been saving for car repairs since March. 

But this was a BIG repair, and they didn’t have much time to save. This expense was more than their auto repairs category could handle. They could solve this problem, too. They just followed Rule Three: Roll with the Punches. They were flexible and changed their plan based on new information. They skillfully took some money from lower-priority categories (NOT from Maui!) and funded the car repair with no fuss. 

Rule Two and Rule Three had come to the rescue and saved their car, but also protected the highest priority. They could pay the mechanic and still keep saving for the wedding.

The wedding was PERFECT!

The Ultimate YNAB Win

Every single month since that gigantic car repair (we’ll never speak of it again), Brian and Leann watched their “Let’s Get Maui’d” fund grow. They paid for the dress, the “elopement planner,” the photographer, flights, and a myriad of other expenses that arose. In November, they ended up paying for their entire wedding and honeymoon to the tune of $30,000—all, Brian says, without “a single dollar of additional debt.” 

With their dream wedding achieved, it’s back to the mainland and on to Rule Four: Age Your Money! 

One way Brian and Leann can continue their awesome trajectory is to follow Rule Four and start getting ahead on their finances. Rule Four says to age your money—increase the amount of time between when you earn and when you spend. The goal of Rule Four is to fund not only what you need this month, but also what you need next month until you can fully fund next month’s expenses with this month’s income. Following this rule, Brian and Leann can have more meaningful money discussions because they’ll have more space to make decisions. 

What I love most about Brian and Leann’s story is how using YNAB to achieve this big goal helped them improve their relationship! Yes, Brian and Leann saved some serious money and experienced a wonderful honeymoon, but the real win is this big goal led them to set aside time each week to talk about their money. As they did, they solved problems together, practiced thoughtful communication, and aligned their shared priorities. I can’t think of a better way to prepare for marriage than that! 

If you’ve got a big financial goal, make it happen with YNAB! It’s free for a month!

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How Brian and Leann Got Maui’d: A Second Chance at YNAB