Before they got married, Mat and Emily knew they wanted to live debt-free. Mat, 31, a technical director for a local church, and Emily, 36, a senior pastor at a second church, had amassed $56,000 in credit card and student loan debt—and they had a wedding to pay for!
They both agreed it was time: they needed a budget.
We Needed a Budget That Actually Worked
They’d tried to budget before, but Mat and Emily hadn’t found a budgeting solution that felt right. “We had both been budgeting, separately, with limited success. I had only really gotten on the bandwagon after graduating seminary in 2014 and realizing how burdensome student loan payments were,” Mat said. “Emily had been doing it much longer than me, but hadn’t found a software that she really liked.”
Emily said, “Before YNAB, I would do my best at budgeting, but, eventually, I’d fall off the wagon…so I wasn’t seeing much progress on my goals.”
We Wanted to Get Out of Debt
To live their best life, the couple was determined to set their finances straight. Mat said, “Emily and I both knew we wanted to get on a budget and get out of debt.”
Emily said, “Our financial goals were really in line with Dave Ramsey’s baby steps—pay off debt, save an emergency fund, then work on retirement, kids’ college, house, then build wealth and give generously.”
And there was also the matter of their wedding. Mat said, “We both really wanted to pay cash for our wedding.”
So the couple got to work. Mat said, “We budgeted for essentials first (groceries, tithing and gas). Then our monthly bills and, finally, some flex-spending categories that we could each use for whatever we wanted.”
And, in mere months, they were able to pay off their debt!
“We were able to conquer what once seemed unconquerable. In 16 months, we paid off all of our debt—$56,000—and we’re well on our way to saving for our three- to six-month emergency fund.”
Something Finally Clicked
The couple tried YNAB—and something finally clicked. Emily, who’d been frustrated with the rigid month-oriented framework of other budgeting apps, said, “We love how YNAB only has us budget the money we actually have, instead of budgeting all of our expected income for the coming month. The concept of giving every dollar a job actually gives us more flexibility to adjust throughout the month as changes arise.”
“We owe YNAB a TON of credit for creating a simple budgeting app that gave us the tools we needed to take control of our money.
Mat said, “YNAB also lets us be creative when we need to save for an unexpected expense, or when we want to treat ourselves, and still [helps us] meet our savings goals. We can make rational decisions about what categories to take money from to support other categories.”
4 Secrets to Success
Mat and Emily were determined to get out of debt and pay cash for their wedding—but they didn’t lean on motivation to get the job done. Instead, they used that spark of motivation to build four key habits that would take them to the finish line:
1. Make Your Budget a Group Effort
Before they were married, even though they had separate bank accounts, the couple budgeted towards the same big-picture goals. Mat said, “We both really wanted to pay cash for our wedding, so we needed savings goals to help us achieve that.”
After the wedding, they opted to share a joint bank account. Mat said, “We believe this was a huge part of our success. It really helped us see the full scope of our money, avoid fights over splitting bills, and made us feel like a team! We couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.”
2. Leave Space for Autonomy
Even though they share a bank account, the couple makes room for individual purchasing decisions with “flex” categories. Mat said, “These flex-spending ‘accounts’ are really helpful … Every month, we each get $250 to spend however we want—or we can save it for bigger purchases. YNAB made this really easy to manage!”
3. Work to Build New Habits
Mat said, “Behavior was also a huge part of our success. We have reconciliation meetings, at least once a week, and we budget our money, every paycheck. And we still record every single purchase with the iPhone app.”
They also keep their eyes on the big picture, with YNAB’s Rule Two, “Embrace Your True Expenses”. Emily said, “We save for rainy days. Car repairs, home improvements, birthdays, and Christmas are no longer stressful periods. We set goals in the app and save.”
4. Make Time to Talk About Money
To make it work, Mat and Emily schedule time to talk about money. Emily said, “The reconciling aspect is huge for us. It’s an opportunity, every week, to sit down and talk about money. Most of the time, it’s a short conversation. Other times, we get off on tangents and, in those moments, we see new, creative ways to leverage our money to get ahead on debt or save for a trip that we’d like to take.”
Mat added, “YNAB has caused finances to be a positive thing in our relationship, instead of a source of stress. Dealing regularly with our budget together in YNAB brings up so many other conversations about priorities and preferences in life, and it keeps us communicating about those things.”
Happily Ever After
Now that they’re debt-free, Mat and Emily are more optimistic than ever about their new life together. Mat said, “We’ve been able to accomplish our goals so much faster than we thought we could. We feel empowered and excited about our finances and our future.”
And they look forward to paying cash for things like hobbies and travel. Emily said, “We also gave financially toward our church while paying off debt, thanks to the budget, which felt great.”
Want Change? Just Start
If you’ve had trouble making a budget work, Mat encourages you to just get started. He said, “There is no ‘best time’ to start a budget. Just do it. And roll with the punches. It won’t be perfect every month, but the beauty of the YNAB system is that you can adjust as needed.”
Emily added, “Budgeting actually provides you more freedom because you can decide where your money will go!”
Sounds good, right? If you’re ready to start taking control of your money, it’s as simple as downloading an app with a free trial and giving it a whirl. And don’t worry, we won’t even ask for your credit card to start the trial. No commitment here! What have you got to lose?