How Ben Paid off $57k & Finally Bought His First Home

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Ben Poppy, 40, is a Senior Systems Engineer who lives in Marshfield, WI. For years, he struggled to gain control of his finances, racking up a five-figure debt in spite of all his effort. Then he stumbled across YNAB. While it wasn’t exactly love at first sight, Ben finally overcome his budgeting challenges and paid off all of his $57,000 debt in just 4.5 years … and, two years after becoming debt-free, he plunked down a deposit on his new home! Here’s his story, adapted from his own words to the YNAB Fans group on Facebook.

How Ben Paid off $57k & Finally Bought His First Home

In late 2011, I was drowning in about $54,000 to $55,000 of debt from student loans, credit cards and other stuff I owed money on. My financial strategy, up to that point, was “I’ll make a bunch of money with my college degree, so just charge everything now and worry about it later.”

Ah, if only “now me” could talk to “then me” … the story would be so much different.

I needed a solution, so I searched and searched for answers—reading lots of books from Suze Orman, tuning into her TV show, reading Motley Fool books, and many others—just trying to get a handle on things. But, even after reading those books and watching those shows, my total debt load always went up.

On a whim, thanks to some, essentially, desperate web searches for financial help, I stumbled upon this website called youneedabudget.com, and wow did my eyes open up. I think I spent the entire weekend reading The Four Rules—and re-reading and re-reading!

I let it all marinate in the ole noggin for a week or so, and then I went back to read through everything, again. I ended up purchasing the software, installing it and started setting up my budget.

The first few weeks, YNAB didn’t entirely click. I hadn’t really bought into the method 100 percent. So, right after Christmas, I spent time reading through everything, again. I figured that the reason it wasn’t all clicking for me was that I’d started budgeting at the end of the year, mid-month, yada, yada. So, I made the decision that January 1, 2012 would be my start date, no excuses … and, of course, I waited until the week after New Year’s to get started.

It took me roughly three full months to finally see my net value go up from a starting point of $57,000 in debt (yup, I added more debt over December, because why not, right?). After that, it took me another roughly four or five months to finally be fully buffered, paying for all of this month’s expenses on last month’s income (so three-fourths of a year to be fully buffered).

Fast forward, to August 2016. In just over 4 1/2 years, I’d finally done it—finally achieved my number one, main goal: become debt-free.

Because I never did a fresh start, and I run both the old desktop-based YNAB as well as the web-based, new YNAB, I have my history for the entire time I’ve been using the software. I can see all the months, in a row, that my net worth went up, as well as the months that I took a few steps backward (usually through my own fault of letting a want outweigh my budget numbers, but always getting back on the horse within two months).

Fast forward to June 11, 2018, about 6 1/2 years since starting my YNAB journey. My offer to purchase my first home was just accepted and, assuming all the inspections and closing steps go off without a hitch, the house will be mine at the end of August! I am beyond excited. I’ll finally have a place to call my home, something that has been a huge priority in my life (in spite of the large portion of my life when I didn’t take the proper steps to make it happen, essentially before finding YNAB).

More importantly, I am beyond grateful for finding the YNAB software, as well as the Facebook group of fellow YNABers. Your thoughtful and considerate insights, along with the vast experience of this group, have helped me in ways I couldn’t possibly put into words. I am deeply humbled by how generous you are with helping others.

A special thanks to the two great administrators of the group, Kevin and Brooke, for taking the time to do a great job of keeping the group clean, considerate and on target, not to mention helping out with questions. You are both awesome people, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Lastly, a final word to any of my fellow YNABers that are struggling to do things the “YNAB way,” hang in there! Stick to the rules! I repeat, stick to the rules! Don’t try to get fancy with them, just stick to the rules.

I was absolutely horrible with my money, and I’ve had to miss out on so many things that I’ve wanted to do because of it (real vacations, family trips I was invited on, but couldn’t afford, sporting events out of town, even a small mini-vacation out of town for the weekend). But now, because I fought through my own struggles with the “YNAB way,” because I swallowed my pride to ask for help when needed it, I have successfully dug out of a huge hole.

Thanks to YNAB and this group, I’m finally able to financially prioritize my wants and needs, as I see fit. Give it time, it’ll come to you too!