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We Make $37,500 and Are Trying to Get Through Law School Debt-Free

YNAB Money Snapshots

Welcome to YNAB Money Snapshots—where you see a real picture of someone else’s budget and finances. They’re all anonymous, because sharing money is still a squirrelly topic for many, but we think airing them out in the open makes you better with your own money story. 

As you read these budgets, keep in mind that some people make lots of money and some people make a little bit of money, but we know it’s what you do with that money and how you feel about that money means more than any yearly salary. 

See how an office admin and law student in Missouri making $37,500 a year spent their money in July.

About

  • Names: H & T
  • Ages: 25 & 24
  • Location: Missouri
  • Jobs: Office Admin & Law Student
  • Living situation: We’re married, no kids, T is in law school, and we’re financially independent from our parents.

Income: $37,500

Savings: $27,373

  • Savings: $27,373. This is all one chunk of money that doesn’t have specific goals set to it yet. We want to eventually have enough for a down payment or to buy a car when T is done with school, but for now it’s a cushion in case any unexpected expenses come up.

We had our savings built up and ready to go before T entered law school last year. He worked for a year in between graduating undergrad and starting school, and so we put the majority of his paycheck into savings and the other portion of his paycheck to things that we thought would need to be done in the future but knew we wouldn’t have the funds for (such as a new windshield for his car). We not only did this to pad our nest egg a bit, but the to also get used to living on my income to make sure it was feasible. This was all pre-YNAB of course, and it would’ve been so much easier to do all of this with YNAB! Ces la vie!

As crazy as it sounds during the time of COVID, we don’t set aside anything for medical expenses because 1) we are young with no pre-existing conditions and 2) I have a pretty healthy HSA saved up through my employer. 

I would LOVE to use our cushion to pay off our remaining debt, but I can't get T to agree. When it comes to debt, I hate it almost as much as Jesse does, so I'm trying really hard to be patient. :)

Debt: $4,000

  • Loan: $4,000

This was a loan we took out last year for “living expenses” during the first year of law school. Unfortunately, I could not tell you what we actually spent it on since this was pre-YNAB. However, this year we were able to avoid taking out any living expense loans because of YNAB.

Whenever I get three-paycheck months, we try to put that extra paycheck towards the debt, and it should be paid off in about a year (fingers crossed!). 

July Inflows: $2,333

  • H: $1,933; put this towards living expenses and funding the budget
  • T: $400 from summer internship; goes directly to wish farm items

July Budget

Our Savings Categories

Right now my top savings goals are:

  1. Vacation to NYC
  2. A new bike
  3. Next month
  4. Bar prep
  5. Start paying off law school loans early!

Our Month

We just started YNAB in April and it was a bit of a bumpy ride at first (we needed more categories than we initially set up and added things like saving for a new phone, birthday gifts, etc). 

During July, I ended up re-organizing our budget structure. We had started with a “Fixed vs. Flexi” model (there’s a Heard it From Hannah video about it), but then switched to a structure that made more sense for us by having clearer categories such as auto, personal, school, investing/tithe/gifts, etc. 

We overspent on gifts since July is a heavy birthday month for us and we didn’t prepare ahead of time. However, our auto insurance was lower than expected due to some COVID relief so we used those funds to cover the gifts. 

Getting drinks and eating out continues to be a pothole in our road to financial peace of mind. We’re young, and none of our local friends are in the grad school/tight budget phase of life like we are so it is really tough to say no to going out. A work in progress for sure! 

We realized we need a special monthly goal category for bulk grocery trips after going to Sam’s this month. We only go every 6 months or so to stock up on the essentials, but it can add up fast. It was definitely a lesson in rolling with the punches! We used additional funds from the auto insurance category and the utilities category since our utilities were a little lower this month.

Our Story

T and I got married two years ago, and so budgeting together has been a journey. We both grew up in homes that were mindful of spending and passed that along to us, but without any specifics of what that looked like day-to-day. We have rarely had a heated discussion about finances, even before marriage.

T always wanted to go to law school. We looked at schools that would give him a great scholarship knowing that I would work to cover our monthly expenses. Our lofty goal was for T to do law school without accruing any debt. We set our sights on that goal using Mint, came up a little short, and took out a small (for law school) loan for the first year.

Eventually, I got really fed up with getting emails from Mint at the end of the month with graphs that meant nothing since I already spent the dang money. The monthly credit card float started to become a credit card hangover. 

Inevitably at the end of the month, we would get the credit card statement and wonder what the heck had happened. Weren't we diligent? Didn't we try to be intentional about how we spent our cash? So we would scrimp and save, pay off the balance, and a couple of months later the cycle would repeat.

Then one day in early quarantine, I came across a rave post on Reddit about YNAB and decided to give it a shot. I'd been circling around trying it since about a year ago, but was a little wary of a paid budgeting service. And then I realized: I am paying for the service either with my own dollars, or with a company using my data to market credit cards to me.

Once I found out YNAB had a student discount, free webinars, podcasts, awesome videos, etc. I couldn't come up with any reason to not at least TRY it. I guzzled the kool-aid, and now my friends look at me weird when I tell them I'm psyched for a budget webinar. Like so many others, it has completely changed the way we approach, talk, and discern about our money.

How We're Paying for Law School

There are a couple factors going into paying for T's tuition. One is that his law tuition (At Mizzou) is around $23k a year, which is half of the national average. He could have gone to a different school with higher tuition, but that school's rank was minimally better than Mizzou’s, so it wasn’t worth the extra $20k per year in loans for us.

The second is that T had solid grades from undergrad and did really well on the LSAT, and Mizzou granted him a full tuition scholarship! However, tuition increases every year, but his scholarship stays steady and we have to cover the tuition increase out of pocket. We are remedying that this year by switching him to the be the beneficiary on my 529 (I have leftover money from undergrad so we can take out those funds).

Whatever we can’t cover with the 529 in the future we will take out from our savings. We put some money aside each month for his books, which run us about $750-$1000 each semester. 

My Financial Goals

  • Pay back the small loan we took out at the beginning of the year so T can still graduate without any student loans.
  • Take a vacation every year. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just to get away for a week or so is important to us.
  • Work on budgeting so we don’t have to take out any more loans in the future! Do this by only budgeting what my salary allows (YNAB is helping considerably with this!).

I would rate my current financial situation: 4/5

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We Make $37,500 and Are Trying to Get Through Law School Debt-Free