The police officer, school teacher, engineer, firefighter, attorney, doctor, professor, designer, manager and rocket scientist all have one thing in common: they’re killing it financially with YNAB.
Doug is an Information Technology and Finance professional. I’m an Organizational Design consultant. Our story begins with a move. My husband said good-bye to his job in Kansas City to be the Vice President of Information Technology at a manufacturing company in the tiny town of Lamar, Missouri. Our kiddos and I saw this change as the adventure of our lives.
Years earlier, we built the house of our dreams in Kansas, yet sometimes that house caused us nightmares because, though we never planned it this way, it was just a little beyond our means. Knowing that we now had a chance to put those worries behind us, we searched for budgeting software that would help us make the most of the fact that our mortgage in Lamar was half what it used to be. We did not want to succumb to spending our newly available cash. We wanted to save those extra dollars. That’s when we first started using YNAB—five years ago—back when it was just an Excel program. And save we did.
We saved so well, that, when our small-town adventure unexpectedly ended less than a year later (Doug’s employer went belly-up), and he found a position back home in the Kansas City area, we could make a cash down payment equivalent to the entire value of our home in Lamar--half of the value of the new home. We started using YNAB in the good times, but it certainly saw us through bad times, too.
As we settled back in Kansas, we were swept away in an unanticipated tempest. Our oldest son was nearing teenager territory, and boy did we feel it. After trying a number of alternative solutions, we finally came to a compromise we could all feel good about. Off he went to boarding school. This decision felt more like our Last Hope rather than an indulgent extravagance. It’s certainly not something we did without a lot of consideration and even more prayer. However painful, it was the right decision for our family. But the cost of boarding school is like buying two new cars a year. Hello, YNAB! Yet YNAB, alone, did not see us through this financial setback. As Jesse says, “you have to work at it.”
Our radical, new course of action meant a drastic change in our spending habits. We cut out everything we could—piano lessons, new furniture, plans to replace our aging vehicles--and when we couldn’t cut out an expense, we cut back—on groceries and clothes and gifts. Doug started teaching classes at the city college in the evenings. I went back to work. We could not live all of the Four Rules of the YNAB system perfectly anymore. Like Dorothy’s clapboard house, our rainy day fund was carried away in the storm and deposited far away from Kansas. We depleted our buffer (gasp!). We had to borrow money (moan!). But we stayed the YNAB course. It was our yellow brick road.
We celebrated our son's return after three semesters at boarding school (a.k.a. two Focuses and a Prius). A year later our buffer was back intact, our loans were repaid, and we started saving once more. I was able to take a reprieve from work to make sack lunches and be home for the kids again after school. One more year with YNAB and we paid cash to replace the family van. One year more and Doug’s new but used car was completely paid off. Meanwhile, kid number two became a teenager. Boarding school wasn’t her thing, but dance was. YNAB prepared us with cash when costume and recital fees came due and when she was ready for the orthodontist. We never, ever carried credit card debt.
YNAB isn’t just for struggling college students, young families, or people who need to climb out of consumer debt. It’s for anyone who is determined to reach their goals, yet sometimes tempted to stray from their course. YNAB helps us get back on track. If it wasn’t for the YNAB methodology, we might be lulled into a sense of security that would tempt us to spend too much, save too little, and feel too confident that the weather around the corner is all blue skies.