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How We Increased Our Net Worth by 303% in 18 Months

"I Can’t Believe How Far I’ve Come"

Krys was sick and tired of her debt. Despite having a budget for ten years, she seemed to be getting further and further behind. She came to YNAB feeling dejected about her growing debt, but just 18 months after starting she had completely turned her finances around.

Things We’ve Accomplished Since Starting YNAB

  1. Got off the credit card float
  2. Established sinking funds for known expenses
  3. Built a $1K emergency fund
  4. Paid off our credit cards
  5. Got a month ahead
  6. Paid off the home-equity line of credit (HELOC)
  7. Increased our net worth by 303%
  8. Saved more than $18K in less than a year
  9. Paid off the car loan
  10. A few points shy of a perfect FICO credit score
  11. Did a guilt-free renovation on a breakfast nook to make it a more peaceful, serene office spot

Her net worth has flipped from negative to positive.

This chart shows our climbing net worth (orange bars show debt, blue bars show assets).

Her transformation is incredible and happened so quickly in retrospect, but she’ll be the first to tell you it didn’t happen overnight. Here’s her story—or you can read the full play-by-play series in her own words here.

We Could Never Get Ahead

When Krys and her husband started YNAB, they were $20,000 in debt.

“We never got ahead because we were in this cycle of overspending and catching up, that I hardly paid any attention to for far too long. I realized we were not in good shape, but I was ashamed of what I’d let us do, and I buried my head a bit.”

They’d been budgeting for nearly a decade in Mint. But after a raise, they’d inadvertently been living above their means nearly every month since then.

What had started as a seemingly harmless ride on the credit card float turned into a downward spiral after a window needed replacing, a washing machine died, and a surprise appendectomy resulted in thousands of dollars in medical bills.  

“I felt like I had a good handle on our finances. Until I didn’t.”

Something Had to Change

One day, Krys decided to do something about it.

“Have you ever been slapped in the face, hard? Well that feeling? THAT is what I felt when I scrutinized our finances. It HURT. Physically.”

She started using YNAB on November 2, 2019, driven by the pain of looking at her finances, and desperate to turn their circumstances around.

“I’m not HAPPY about it, but our situation is clear to me. And that’s how we start.”

We Started Building Momentum

Within the first month, Krys had paid off $1,500 of debt.

“I thought I knew how we were doing, but this has been so eye opening!”

By the end of December, they had paid off $3,000. A month later, they had built $4,000 of emergency savings—a move that would prove extremely prudent with March 2020 just around the corner.

“Changing our spending habits hasn’t been easy. This sh*t is hard, y’all! But we are going to keep trying.”

I Found My Rhythm

Budgeting is a habit, just like exercising. And for Krys, she found her rhythm in those early months.

Krys’ budgeting routine:

  • Every morning: I spent a few minutes reconciling accounts.
  • Every Saturday morning: I did a weekly review and paid off credit card balances every other week.
  • Last Saturday of the month: I did a monthly review, and assigned money for the next month from the “Income for Next Month” category.

Learn more about setting up a budgeting routine that works!

By March, the second credit card was paid off.

We Got a Month Ahead

After paying off the second credit card, Krys turned her focus on getting a month ahead. To get there, Krys had set up an “Income for Next Month” (IFNM) category, where she put any income earned in the current month. Once the next month arrived, she released money from this category to fund the new month. Every time a paycheck hit, it would go into the IFNM category to be released the next month. This setup created a gap between money going in and going out, which meant Krys was further and further away from the paycheck to paycheck cycle.

I used to harbor such anxiety when it came to money, but that’s all gone now.

By October, they had paid off half their debt and saved more than $18,000 in cash. Every time they got extra cash—whether from a three-paycheck month, a tax refund, or stimulus money, they funneled the money toward their financial goals.  

Things CAN change.

Knocking Off Debt Balances One By One

At the beginning of 2020, Krys had set eight very specific and lofty financial goals. When they paid off their lingering home-equity line of credit (HELOC) in December, it meant every single one of her goals was knocked out despite a very difficult and trying year.

“Literally, I set the goals without knowing how I’d reach them, and found that I can do it all. It’s magic. I don’t know how else to explain it. Magic.”

With their big financial goals knocked out, it meant they were in better financial shape than they’d been in a very long time, and this left her better prepared for whatever the future may hold.

Where We’re At Now

After a wildly successful completion of financial goals in 2020, Krys set up a new list for 2021:

  1. Complete an annual budget review.  
  2. Research banks for savings accounts.
  3. Establish a Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) budget category and spend it all.  
  4. Fund $5,000 in home improvements using cash.
  5. Pay off the car loan
  6. Get two months ahead.
  7. Replenish the college fund.

The first three goals were knocked out by February of 2021.

Thanks to some stimulus money in March, Krys paid off the remaining $5K on the car loan—the last of the nearly $20K debt balance they carried when they started YNAB.  

Life Throws Curveballs

In April, life threw Krys a curveball when her department was outsourced and she was laid off.

“I’m still in shock, but I’m not feeling panicked. I am so, SO grateful to have been so “into” YNAB over the past year-plus, because without that complete financial shift, this would be absolutely devastating for my family.”

Free of financial stress, Krys was able to take a pause and figure out what she actually wants to do.

“I figured out what I want to do next. I want to lead. I want to use my analytical mind to be strategic and big-picture thinking. I want to encourage and mentor others. Now I just need to find the right place to do all that.”

Her strong financial footings gave her some space to figure that out. She didn’t have to rush into a job that wasn’t the right fit.

And that’s not all her budget was able to offer:

“I also need to get a haircut. And some new interview clothes for grownups. And a flat iron to style that new haircut like the cool kids do. What are beach waves, anyhow?”

We have full confidence she’ll knock out that order of business in no time and find a perfect fit for her tenacity and focus.

Financial progress can sometimes feel painfully slow, especially because it’s often made up of tiny daily changes. For Krys, in what might have felt like the longest shortest time—she stacked 18 months worth of tiny daily changes to completely change the trajectory of her financial health.

Just think what you could do.

Get a handle on your finances with the help of YNAB. Create your first budget and try it free for 34 days. No credit card, no commitment required.

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How We Increased Our Net Worth by 303% in 18 Months