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My Experience Starting YNAB (Day 24)

My Journey Paying Off $20,000 of Debt and Getting My Money in Order

This is the second installment of Krys’ story: see the first post here. Over the coming weeks, we're going to follow along on her progress on eight financial goals she's set for herself. This post was originally written in November of 2019: during Krys’ first month using YNAB. 

Let's talk about where we are today, 24 days into life with YNAB.

I've watched a couple dozen videos, listened to a few podcasts, read nearly all of the articles, and combed through the forums for nuggets of wisdom and advice.

I set up an initial set of categories that I have already revised at least 20 times. I've budgeted, spent, WAM'ed,* budgeted more, spent more, and WAM'ed more. I've hemmed and hawed about how to handle the credit card float, the debt, and sinking funds (or "true expenses").

*WAM'ed stands for whack-a-mole(d) - some delightful jargon created by our community to refer to moving money from one category to another.

Where We Started

As I mentioned, the day we started YNAB we were nearly $20,000 in debt. I didn't mention that we only had $300 in our emergency fund, or that we had "borrowed" from savings earmarked for our daughter (a painful admission, I assure you). We are living paycheck to paycheck, riding the credit card float, and even living a bit beyond our means.

Our Goals

  1. Get off the credit card float (fully fund this month's expenses while paying the minimum on credit cards).
  2. Start contributing to sinking funds for known expenses.
  3. Start building the $1,000 emergency fund.
  4. Pay off the first credit card (small amount: entirely medical-bill related).
  5. Pay off the second credit card (relatively small amount: credit card float and car repairs).
  6. Get one month ahead (age our money 30 days).
  7. Pay off the home equity line of credit (HELOC or LOC) that we took on to replace our window.
  8. Pay off the car loan.

Current Status of Goals

  1. Get off the credit card float except for the car repairs. ✅
    We met goal number one this month! Because this is a three-paycheck month for me (I'm paid every other week), I was able to fully fund this month with the first two paychecks, and have the last paycheck work like a typical end-of-month paycheck, to handle the first half of next month.
  2. Started contributing to sinking funds ✅
    I added money to sinking funds for Christmas gifts, annual fees (Costco, Amazon, YNAB, and car tags), ice skating lessons for my daughter, and travel expenses for the holidays and a girls' weekend.
  3. I didn't contribute to the emergency fund.
    Because I started acting before finishing researching, I used some of this month's extra paycheck to pay down some of our debt, right before the car broke down (*grumble*). This means the cash we would have used to pay for the car repairs had already been spent bringing down our medical debt. It’s not a bad thing, but not how I'd have chosen to spend my money, if things could have worked differently, since the medical bills are at a lower interest rate than the car repairs.

What's Next

In looking at the next two paychecks and what we spent this month, it looks like we are still living a bit beyond our means, so I'll be adjusting our Dining Out and Grocery budgets down to accommodate. 

I also don't seem to have enough to contribute to the emergency fund, but I DO have enough to contribute to our sinking funds for a wide variety of true expenses, so that is refreshing.

The feeling of being lost before YNAB compared to the feeling of relative control that YNAB offers is so compelling. I *thought* I knew how we were doing, but this is *so* eye opening!

The First Month of YNAB Taught Me A Lot

This first month using YNAB taught me about myself, about my family, and about where we need to improve planning and communication. It taught me about our spending habits, and about my tendency to indulge even when I know better. It taught me about the credit card float, and why I can't just look at the checking account balance to know if we have money for something.

I do have a question: what would you suggest I do about the sinking funds vs. emergency fund? Keep the money in sinking funds, or skimp on those to boost the emergency fund first?

Krys asked, and the forum answered! We really liked how @xgirlmama answered this one!

@Xgirlmama said, “I'd get to a $1000 emergency fund as fast as possible and then deal with the sinking funds. If you have your $ spread thinly among 15 different categories you won't feel like you're making any progress. Or, an emergency will hit and you won't be prepared. That's what I did anyway and I feel like just putting that out in the universe ("I am SET in an emergency!") kind of makes it less likely to need it.”

(Great advice. Now back to Krys!)

In general, I feel like it has been a really successful start here. I have seen a lot of people say that it only gets better with time, which is really exciting. I'm still thoroughly disappointed in myself for allowing us to get into the debt we are in, but the clarity I have now into our actual situation continues to empower me to do better from now on.

I need y'all to keep me honest. My daily choices will benefit from knowing that I'll have someone looking over my shoulder. 

I'm counting on you guys. 😉

Krys is enjoying working from home during the lockdown, because she loves spending time with her husband, daughter, and three pets. She's been using YNAB since 2019 and has been documenting her journey in paying off almost $20,000 of debt. When she's not budgeting, she enjoys reading, watching Marvel movies, and learning new languages. She also possesses a fierce love of bacon and sarcasm

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My Experience Starting YNAB (Day 24)