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From Hopeless to Zero Credit Card Debt

“I have freedom with my money that I’ve never felt before.”

Abigail is a public health nurse in Richmond, Virginia. For years, she felt as though her money was the boss of her …

She said, “It was a dark time. My only relationship with money was that I needed it to live. After I paid my rent, bills, etc., I would freely spend on whatever I wanted. Trips, shopping, dining out … until I ran out. Then I’d wait for my next paycheck to arrive.”

By the time that she and her husband were married in 2015, she began to worry.

Abigail said, “I’d racked up a fair amount of credit card debt, and it kept creeping higher. After we bought a house, adding even more debt, we realized this problem was only going to get worse. I said to myself, ‘I am always going to be in debt. I should accept it now.’ This was a low point.”

Worse, their finances had become a point of sensitivity in their relationship. Abigail said, “We tended to place blame with the other if one of us made some random large purchase, instead of seeing the reality that we just didn’t know how to use our money.”

Lifesaver, Please & Thanks

That’s when they turned to budgeting. Abigail was reluctant because, she said, “I’d only ever tried Mint, which I hated. It made me feel more out of control because it only told me what I’d spent after-the-fact. I kept setting up goals and never met them because it did not teach how to wisely use my money.”

Lucky for Abigail, YNABers spread a lot of love for YNAB—a source of many, many warm fuzzies for Team YNAB (thank you!). Abigail explained that a friend had introduced her …

She said, “My friend Greta uses YNAB and rightfully bragged that she paid off her credit card in a short amount of time. This was the message I needed to hear! I immediately signed up.”

Operation Zero Credit Card Debit

Laser-focused on paying off their own credit card debt, Abigail and her husband got to work. Their monthly gross income is roughly $6,500 per month, which includes her nursing salary ($50,000) and income from their framing business ($17,000 last year). They also see some variable income from her husband’s photography business.

… but they didn’t settle for simply paying off the credit card debt. Together, they:

  • Paid off the entire $8,000 balance on the credit cards
  • Paid off $10,000 in student loans (more than half of their total student loan debt!)
  • Paid off $7,000 in back taxes for his photography business
  • Saved up $9,000 in case of emergency
  • Paid off both of their cars—$7,000 on his Jeep (they sold it and downgraded to a car they could buy in cash) and $3,000 for her car (they paid the 5-year loan off in four years)

Abigail said, “Once we realized we actually WERE paying off our debt, we got excited. We sold one of our cars and got a cheaper one to get rid of a car payment. We more quickly paid off our other car. We aggressively started to pay off my remaining student loans. We’ve got a few months living expenses saved up! This all happened in only two years.

She added, “We try not to take too much money from his photography business if we can, with the goal of living off one income, plus the frame shop.”

What a Difference Two Years Can Make

She went from feeling hopeless—that they’d be in debt forever—to paying off $35,000 in debt in two years and saving another $9,000! Abigail credits the big change to her initial spark of excitement. She said, “Within the first month, we saved $500 just changing our spending habits.”

Like so many new YNABers, Abigail and her husband quickly discovered that their dining out budget was a major drain on their financial wellness. She said, “The month before we started YNAB, we spent $1,200 dining out. This is hard to admit. Now, we suggest cheaper places to eat or an alternative, like meeting up with friends after dinner—no one actually cares! We still eat out, but we stay within $400 per month for both of us.”

It helped, too, that Abigail had seen her friend’s joy over paying off her credit card. But the biggest turning point was simply a new set of habits. She said, “We were both totally disorganized about money before. Now, we have our budget as the authority. We both look at it frequently, run reports, and make plans based on it. It facilitates easier decision-making for both of us regarding weddings, vacations and dinners out. YNAB helps us feel united.”

$1 Tacos = True Happiness

Looking back, Abigail said, “When I was forced to see how I spent my money, I was ashamed, sad, and I felt like an idiot. YNAB helped me carefully assign my money to the right categories and gave me a reality check about how I should be spending my extra cash.”

Now when they go out, instead of a $50 per person dinner, she and her husband often opt for $1 tacos (which taste even better, if you can believe it, when you’re obliterating your debt—as if tacos need an excuse to be delicious).

They still budget for fun, like the trip to Italy they took last year, but Abigail and her husband have grown fond of the control they enjoy with their money. She said, “Now, I view money as a tool. I see the value of an extra $10 bill I find in my pocket, but I also have a better idea of how much my time is worth and say ‘no’ to things that aren’t valuable. I have freedom with my money that I’ve never felt before.”

Money Freedom for All

If you’re after financial freedom, Abigail offered this: “You are the only one that can change your financial situation, whatever it is. Even if facing your reality is depressing, living without a plan is worse. I wish all of my debt was paid off right now, and I could fly to the Bahamas, tomorrow—and sometimes that gets to me. But, I know where I’m at with my debt, I can see my progress, and I have a plan going forward, and that is priceless. It gives me so much hope!”

Try YNAB, free, for 34 days and see what she means. Once you’re signed up, check out this video that will walk you through setting up your YNAB budget.

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From Hopeless to Zero Credit Card Debt