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Financial Freedom, Generosity, and the Power of YNAB: Eric’s Story

How Eric used YNAB to express their true self and find lasting contentment

In the heart of every transformative money story lies a simple, yet profound question: How do you want to spend your money?

This question isn't just about financial transactions—it's about aligning your resources with your values, creating joyful little ripples of positive change that extend far beyond yourself. Today we share the remarkable journey of Eric A., a perfect example of how you can use YNAB to align your spending with your deepest priorities. 

Eric, a 27-year-old software engineer by day and passionate animal rights activist by night, has achieved something extraordinary. With a generous heart and a clear vision, Eric embarked on a six-month experiment to donate an astounding 60% of their pre-tax income in the first half of 2023. This decision wasn't made lightly, but was the culmination of careful planning and building a spending plan reflective of their values in YNAB.

*Bows down. Pauses for applause.*

The journey to 60%

Eric's path to significant giving was paved with intentionality and insight, guided by the powerful tools and principles of YNAB. "Historical reporting on my spending with YNAB was pivotal," Eric shares. It provided the clarity needed to make this bold decision, because Eric was able to be fully aware of their living expenses and identify areas for mindful spending cuts without feeling deprived.

Nothing brings Eric more joy than spending time with animals! (Same.)

Eric made big financial decisions to make this possible, like selling their car and choosing not to purchase a home. But they also made many small decisions like choosing homemade oat milk over store-bought. Through all of the tradeoffs, Eric found joy in simplicity and sustainability. Yet, it wasn't just about cutting costs; it was about maintaining balance.

YNAB allowed me to feel comfortable and grounded with expenses I don’t want to sacrifice, like $500 for tickets to Taylor Swift! Or therapy.

This balance ensured that even as they planned to give away a significant portion of their income, Eric didn’t have to compromise their personal well-being or meaningful experiences.

Eric found hundreds of other little ways to cut costs, and many of those choices led them to better outcomes. For example, they paused “buying new books to catch up on my backlog of 12 books" and "cooking a meal for a friend’s celebratory dinner rather than paying for us to eat out.” Because of this challenge, Eric became more mindful of their spending and found alternatives that they actually enjoyed more than the obvious choice.

"I've found these 'sacrifices' to be sources of joy," Eric reflects, challenging the conventional notion that giving requires a loss.

Through YNAB, Eric discovered that true joy comes from spending in ways that reflect one's values and contribute to the world.

And that’s what makes Eric's story truly inspiring. The choice to donate such a significant portion of their income wasn't just about generosity for its own sake—it was a profound expression of Eric's commitment to animal rights and social change. But taking up this challenge not only allowed Eric to express those values but also to live in a way that allowed them to foster deeper contentment.

The YNAB app lets you build a spending plan that mirrors your life—each category a reflection of your unique priorities.

Giving from a place of total security

When Eric took up this huge challenge of giving 60% of their income, it wasn’t a leap into the financial unknown but a carefully measured step taken from a place of total security. Eric’s approach to giving is rooted in a deep sense of confidence and preparedness. 

I have confidence I'm covered for my true expenses,” Eric says. “If I lost my job—so paused donations—I would still be fine for routine expenses for 3 months and still have true expenses covered, like $3k for the vet and my full medical insurance deductible.

This isn't just about having a safety net. It's about understanding and planning for one's true expenses—those irregular but inevitable costs that can otherwise derail one's finances. This is the heart of Habit Two of the YNAB Method, which says to prepare for non-monthly expenses by setting a little aside for them every month. 

This approach is not just prudent; it's empowering. It means that even in hypothetical scenarios like job loss, Eric could continue to meet their own needs. Essential expenses, like a sudden $3k vet bill or meeting a medical insurance deductible, are accounted for, ensuring that generosity never comes at the cost of personal financial security.

Eric's strategy illustrates a key principle: generosity flourishes when built on a foundation of financial stability and planning. It's a testament to the idea that giving, when done thoughtfully, can be both bold and wise, allowing us to support the causes we care about without jeopardizing our own financial well-being. That’s the power of the YNAB Method. Because Eric acted from a place of knowledge and security, it was easier to be radically generous. 

A Future of Giving and Living

Looking ahead, Eric is committed to continuing their journey of impactful giving, with YNAB as a key companion. “My main goal is optimizing the amount of donations I can give,” Eric says. “Otherwise, since I already have a healthy emergency fund, my focus is retirement savings to slowly get to Financial Independence (but not the retire part).” Eric is working toward becoming financially independent, but rather than retiring early, they plan to keep working so they can continue to give generously into the future.

This six-month experiment has changed Eric so much that they plan to continue radical giving. After a move to a new city, Eric decided to dial back giving in the second half of 2023, but plans to continue giving an astounding 35% of their income! Since this move came with higher living costs, the goal still comes with sacrifice, but every choice brings Eric into clearer alignment with their values.

I've had to say no to several things, but every time I've said no, it's prompted me to reflect on what I really value. For example, rather than a week traveling, I spent a week volunteering and living at a farmed animal sanctuary, my favorite place in the world! YNAB will absolutely be key to continuing to donate in 2024.

How Do You Want to Spend Your Money?

Eric's story isn't just a feel-good tale. It's a call to action, inviting us to ask the transformative question: How do you want to spend your money? Through YNAB, you have the power to align your financial choices with your most cherished values, changing not just your life but the world around you. It’s about so much more than managing money. It's about expressing who you are and what you stand for in the most impactful way possible while finding peace and contentment along the way.

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Financial Freedom, Generosity, and the Power of YNAB: Eric’s Story