The Official 2021 Debt Smackdown

Welcome to YNAB's 2021 Debt Smackdown!

Happy New Year! 2021 is going to be a good one, I can just tell - or we can will it to happen 馃槈

With over 500 participants and more than $4.2 million in debt payoff, 2020 was absolutely incredible for the debt smackdown group! I know some of us are still left with debt to knock out in the new year or you're joining in for the very first time. Either way, you've come to the right place. We'll use this group for accountability and support as we crush some (or all!) of our debt in 2021!

First, a quick shoutout to BritishMuseum - they have hosted our debt smackdown for the last few years and became DEBT FREE at the beginning of 2020! What an impact their work has made on this community!

If you want to pay off some debt this year, here's how it works:

1. List the amount of total debt that you owe. 
This step is to give you an awareness of your current debt situation. Feel free to share, this forum is a safe and nonjudgmental place. You can also decide to keep this information private, you don't have to post your total here if you are not comfortable doing so. 

2. Post in this thread the total amount of debt you would like to pay off during the 2021 calendar year. (This part is required.) 
Feel free to break down the amounts by credit card/type of debt. Also, if you have a specific plan or some ideas on how you plan to pay down the debt, you can post that too. Maybe your plan will spark some ideas for others on how to tackle their own debts!

3. Post monthly on the 2021 Debt Smackdown Sheet to track your progress. (required)
Claim a line on the spreadsheet, and post your total debt to be paid off, and the monthly amount that you send off towards it. Some people track their total payments and don't account for interest, some people account for principal only. The method you choose is up to you!

4. Check in monthly in this thread and report on how your debt smackdown is going. (required)
We'll be testing out some reminders this year when the month rolls over because we want to hear everyone's progress! Bookmark this thread and sheet so you can find it quickly at the beginning of the month!

If you come across this challenge later in the year, no worries, you can always jump right in. Just put zeroes in the months where you had not joined the challenge yet, and start in the month you join in.

Pro-tip: You can use ctrl+F (or command+F on a Mac) to search the spreadsheet for your name when the sheet gets filled up.

Last year, we paid off over $4million! Let's make 2021 even stronger!

In the event you have any issues with the sheet - please tag or DM Veronica

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  • April check-in: $1,961.95 paid toward debt (includes P&I)

    Re: debt paydown, my main focus is to reduce my cc debt as much as possible this year, balancing that priority with funding my True Expenses. My two cc's with larger balances are at 0% for the next 16 months. The third cc with the smaller balance should be running out of the 0% promo it had within the next month or two. Thankfully the interest rate on that one isn't too terrible. Last I checked the rate was around 8%.

    Part of me feels frustrated and like it's TAKING FOREVER to pay off my credit card debt. Then I look back over the past few years, and in March 2018 when I started getting serious about stopping accruing cc debt and paying it off my high balance was $26k+. Woof. And I need to remind myself that while I'm still working on paying it off, I'm thankful that in addition to reducing the cc balance by $10k I also paid off my car loan early, bought my first place, and made good progress on saving for true expenses and created a income replacement fund (in case of job loss) that has about 1.5 months of pay in it.

    On a lighter note, I do like when the debt moves into the next thousand down. Looking forward to seeing a total cc balance outstanding of $14k after making May's payments.

    CC1: $1,513.15

    CC2: $8,075.00

    CC3: $5,462.00

    Total: $15,050.15

    Like 7
    • Hot Pink Admiral That's some big progress while also managing some big life events, so kudos to you for that! You didn't get into debt overnight, and so it doesn't disappear overnight.

      Like 1
    • Hot Pink Admiral  There are definitely many times I get frustrated that the debt payoff is taking forever, too. Especially when I look at how far we have to go. What usually helps me, too, is doing what you did: taking inventory of ALL of the things we've accomplished during that time period (not just debt paydown, but cashflow, as well). It usually helps me breathe a little easier.

      Like 2
  • ~April Check In~

    2021 Debt Smackdown Goal: $16,487.60
    Line 151

    Jan:    $    456.25     
    Feb:    $         0.00
    Mar:   $         0.00
    Apr:    $   647.60

    $1,103.85/$16,487.60 = 6.7%

    Back on the board! Feels good to get some momentum going again.

    I overspent a fair bit in my "just for fun" categories this month, so this still isn't as high as it should be, but I'm going to try and avoid using credit cards altogether this month to try and keep that overspending in check. I have been able to pay off my credit cards in full each month so far, but it's a big drag to have to cover spending retroactively when I get paid (and not in the spirit of YNAB).

    On another note, I am also further ahead in funding May than I ever have been starting the month! It feels amazing. I have also been able to continue funding my true expenses, including saving for a LOT of education-related purchases in the next few months. And lastly, because my debt is very low interest, I've been investing a little in my TFSA every paycheque, which I hope will build healthy habits going forward.

    Like 6
  • 馃悾鈽傦笍  April Check-In   鈽傦笍馃悾


    After doing our taxes, we ended up with a refund, so the chunk of change I'd set aside to pay my self-employment taxes on my side hustle went straight to debt this month.  I'm now 59.4% of the way to my goal for 2021 and we are only 1/3 of the way through the year!

    Debt pay down progress in 2021:

    • April: $5207.18
    • March: $3038.60
    • February: $3094.69
    • January: $3923.86

    Current Standing

    • Credit card debt remaining: $10,392.62
    • Student loans: $20,121.18 (in covid forbearance)

    Total progress in 2021: $15,264.33 paid off

    Total debt paid off since starting YNAB (11/2019): $39,325.46!!

    Like 7
  • May Update: Paid $750 towards debt. 

    So this month we ended up trading in our small car and our near-death truck and buying one new truck (I work from home and other family live with us and it was frankly silly having so many cars). So that changed the equation on our debts, and for the moment I've removed the car loan from the debt goal list and will be focusing on paying off my old student loans instead. Once those are paid off (which will feel like a Christmas miracle all on its own), then we'll reassess the car loan and probably finish paying that off then. It was a good decision for us (and a good trade deal - it completely paid off the remaining debt on the car and allowed us to only need to make a very small down payment) and of course wouldn't really have been possible without the budget...buying a new truck is not something we would have considered in our wildest dreams even a few years ago. So despite adding to the overall debt load somewhat, I feel good about it!

    Like 6
    • Turquoise T-Rex I love those strategic moves! Way to go!

      Like 1
    • Turquoise T-Rex Ditto what farfromtheusual said! Strategic budgeting moves are always good moves.

      Like 2
  • I'm so excited to report we're 43% of the way toward our original goal (on track for April would be 33% of goal). More on my personal thread here:

    Like 7
    • Turquoise Drill Wooo!!! You're making amazing progress! 馃帀

      Like 1
  • April check-in - paid $1082.01 towards my personal loan. 40% of the way to my goal! Even though I planned to have it paid off by end of year, I'm hoping to have it gone by the end of September - right before student loan payments kick-in again. Then I'll be able to utilize my debt snowball to tackle those even faster than planned.

    Like 4
    • TickTock Awesome!!

    • TickTock Yesssss, the debt snowball! Amazing progress. 馃帀

    • TickTock Yepppp I'm doing the same - trying to get this credit card paid off before I have to add on my student loan payment! You're so close!

      Like 2
  • My goal was to be below $40,000 by April 30, 2021.  In April, I  was blessed to put $5861.10 toward my student my balance is $34,481.54.  May 31, 2021 goal, to be below $30,000.

    Like 7
    • Sky Blue Wizard Awesome!!!

    • Sky Blue Wizard That's huge! I love how you're making goals for each month. Excellent motivation. 馃帀

  • hi everyone! it was a quiet month for us -- not a lot in, and tried very hard to have not a lot (unplanned) going out. just a kind of regular time, i guess!


    paid this month: $270.95

    paid this year: $20,853.52 (61.95%)

    remaining goal: $12,806.48

    Like 5
    • Harriet Regular is not a bad thing! You're still making progress and that deserves a little celebrating. 馃帀

      Like 1
  • Happy May Ynab's.   This month is both my daughter's birthdays so it tends to be a high spend month but I will not use credit cards this year and have enough budgeted to get them the gifts they want.  

    I was able to pay $800 towards the debt.  The Fed refund is still pending but when that comes I will have a good amount to pay towards the debt.  Like last year, my goal is to keep ahead of the debt and not create more. Business is picking up so that will be a blessing for 2022.  :-) 

    Like 8
    • Pink Mermaid Congrats for having their birthday funds budgeted! That has to feel really good!
      We're still waiting on my BF's fed return, it's been since the beginning of March and it still says pending on their website :( Not sure what the hold up is this year, but that money is already ear marked in our wish farm and I'm ready to put it to use!

    • Pink Mermaid So, so good!!! 馃帀

  • April Update! I paid $2400.84 on the mortgage in April, which reduced the debt by $2,212.90. Staying the course, feeling good!

    Like 9
    • BenB wahoo congrats!!

  • March & April Update

    It's been a topsy turvy few months and I realized I had forgotten to update in March. So I'll cover both here.

    March Debt Payment - $118 (Just the minimums)

    April Debt Payment -  $2038

    Total Debt Payed in 2021 - $3396

    Remaining Debt - $6375


    Work has been quite busy and I got a raise in April that kicks in at the end of this month. 

    Unfortunately, my living situation has taken a turn and I'll be moving at the end of the month.  Thankfully, I have a friend who needs a sub-letter through September but it's hard going into living situation knowing it's only temporary.  I am weighing my options as to if I should buy or continue to rent once my sublet is over. 

    For that reason and because my two CC i'm paying down are at 0% interest, I am going to stick to paying the minimums until I know what my plan is.  If I do end up buying, I'm still going to try to pay the cards off by the end of the year, I just want to keep as much liquid capital on hand for the lender to see.  If I decide to rent for another year.  I will use what I've saved up to pay the whole thing off in one go.  

    We'll see how this goes.  Trying to be prepared for anything to happen at this point. 馃し鈥嶁檧锔

    Like 4
    • Little Green Ghoul Best of luck with your situation!

      Like 1
    • Little Green Ghoul Great work already thinking through your situation! Sending good luck as you prepare to move and decide what's most aligned with your new priorities. 馃槉

      Like 1
  • May check in. This month I've hit my debt for a total of $1210

    Like 4
  • May- $750 to federal student loan for total of almost 58% toward goal!  May has been real "spendy" for me, and I've WAM more times than I can count, but no new debt and I've still been able to send some funds to true expenses, but not as much as I'd like.  In June, I'm going to focus on cushioning that up a bit more.  Happy summer....hope all are well ;)

    Like 4
    • Sweet Tangerine that's a great accomplishment! (And I hear you on WAMming...)

    • Sweet Tangerine 58% to goal?? So good! That's some amazing progress, my friend!

      Like 1
  • Catching up again鈥 March was a big month, then things slowed down in April and May. I鈥檝e started a new job, and school has been kicking my butt. I will be taking two whole weeks off to visit with some family, and then back to school and work again. My progress on debt paydown has slowed significantly, and I think it will continue to stay slow through the rest of the year. I am prioritizing saving money to pay cash for school (no more loans 馃槴) so that I鈥檝e been socking away most of my 鈥渆xtra鈥 money for that. I paid my summer and fall tuitions in full (yay!)鈥 So there鈥檚 progress there at least, even if debt paydown feels like a standstill.

    2021 Starting Debt: $67,989.14
    March Debt Paid: $2,034.97
    April Debt Paid: $643.27
    May Debt Paid: $401.79
    Current Debt: $61,015.79
    Debt Smackdown: $6,973.35 / $17,000 (41.02%)

    Like 4
    • zoebby Slow progress is still progress! I know that can be tough when it feels slow, but you're already at 41% of your goal and that's something to celebrate. 馃帀

    • zoebby The fact that you're able to make progress AND put away money to pay CASH for school is AWESOME. Way to go!

      Like 2
  • Belated April progress report on my battle against the student loan beast:

    As of March 31, 2021: $182,753.71

    As of April 30, 2021: $181,438.59

    Notes: Regular monthly payment resulted in principal reduction of $1,315.12. Wasn't able to make any extra payments. Total reduction of principal in April: $1,315.12.

    Year-end goal is to get the balance down $41,000.00 (from $190,958.60 starting place on January 1, 2021) to just below $150,000.00. With a $9,520.01 reduction so far this year, I'm now about 23.22% there.

    Like 3
    • Slate Blue Pilot Keep chugging along!

  • Have had an eventful May, so am doing an early update!

    As of April 30, 2021: $181,438.59

    As of May 15, 2021: $174,877.15

    Notes: Regular monthly payment resulted in principal reduction of $1,319.44. Was able to make extra payments of $5,242.00! Total reduction of principal in May: $6,561.44.

    Year-end goal is to get the balance down $41,000.00 (from $190,958.60 starting place on January 1, 2021) to just below $150,000.00. With a $16,081.45 reduction so far this year, I'm now about 39.22% there.

    Like 5
    • Slate Blue Pilot Woah, that's a huge leap! Amazing! 馃帀

    • Slate Blue Pilot AWESOME!

  • Finally updating again after not really posting for the past few months.

    Since I'm only paying for my auto loan and my student loans are still on pause, I've only really been concentrating on consistently paying $500 each month on my auto loan instead of the minimum $318. It's been so constant that I've been paying this off that I almost didn't really feel like updating for the past three months.

    On the bright side, I haven't added any new debt and I've been doing a much better job saving these days.

    Like 7
    • Royal Blue Cyborg  Awesome! Though staying tenacious can feel somewhat mundane at times, it's very cool to acknowledge the progress you're making鈥攁nd your commitment to not adding new debt. Congrats!! 馃帀 I hope you celebrate!

      Like 2
    • Royal Blue Cyborg Way to go, that's a nice chunk extra that should shorten that loan up nicely! It might be mundane, but it's still progress!

  • May Check-in


    I paid $963.24 of principal off my student loans this month. That put's me at 63.85% of the goal for the year! Only a thousand dollars left  and I will be out from under one of the  servicers!

    Like 4
    • Turquoise Griffin awesome!!!!

  • May Check-in 

    Personal Loan #1 down to $14578.50. $458 paid to the principal this month. My lowest so far this year. Being more cautious with money to the loan as I figure out new expenses. 

    I've officially moved but have not started to get the new utilities bills to see how much that's going to alter my budget yet. Trying to maintain the cautiousness mentality until a few months in and feeling more secure. Likely only minimum payments for a bit which means I probably won't reach my goal of having personal loan #1 paid off by the end of the year, but still, time to get as close to it as I can while planning for a baby. 

    I did get a pay bump for my location move but as rent is higher here, it didn't really increase enough to cover that change either so like I said, still figuring out new expenses, trying to be careful with spending as we get used to this. 

    I had to buy a washer and dryer plus a refrigerator with the move as well. Will need to pay that off in 6 months before I start dealing with interest so have that extra on my plate as well. 

    Like 3
    • Green Cleric It sounds like you're balancing many plates right now. Great job staying on top of your personal loan with so many competing priorities that are all important!

      Like 1
    • Dela Thank you! It feels like a juggling act some days 馃槀

      Like 1
    • Green Cleric Kudos to you for being present to the changing circumstances and allowing yourself some breathing room. That will save you SO much in the long run! Congrats on the move, too!

    • farfromtheusual Thank you! Such an undertaking to move and handle everything, but I'm feeling a lot better about it than I would have a few years ago. 

      Like 1
      • Violet Yeti
      • Violet_Yeti.13
      • 6 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Green Cleric Re-assess, adjust, and carry on.  I get your pain at the idea of not reaching a goal you've set for yourself (just had a little of that happen to me) - but you're doing what is right for your situation and you have the flexibility to do that.  That's pretty awesome if you think about it!

      Like 1
    • Violet Yeti Very true! It's all about perspective. I keep reminding myself of that, even being able to adjust is a huge win compared to my situation before I got more serious. Even if a goal takes a longer, the end is still in sight. 

      Like 2
  • Hi - I just started YNAB in April this year - I'm line 211. Hoping to pay off 15,000 in credit card debt this year!

    Like 9
    • Francini Welcome to the party! You're among good company!

      • Violet Yeti
      • Violet_Yeti.13
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Francini get it!

    • Francini Welcome to the party, my friend! 馃帀Cheering you on!

  • May check-in: $915.14 paid towards my personal loan this month which makes it officially more than halfway to my goal for the year! I still have roughly $3200 left to go. I did find out my rent is increasing in July so I'm having to adjust my budget to cover that. I'm hoping I'll still be able to aggressively pay off my loan, but it may not be as fast as I originally hoped. 

    Like 4
    • TickTock You're already ahead, though, so that gives you wiggle room with your goal, which is awesome. Bummer on the rent going up, but hey, you've got a budget to sort out how that's going to work! Thank goodness, right?

  • Almost forgot to update for May!

    Loan Balance: $4219.70

    May Loan Payment: $322.61

    Current Loan Balance: $3917.52

    Goal: $1593.86/$3600 -> $2006.14

    (If you're paying attention you'll notice that somehow my math was wrong before, so the total left has jumped, but I'm still well on track, so I'm not worried about it, just annoyed at my fat fingers!)

    Still chipping away with that wee bit extra. I'm thinking I might just start adding another $25 since the interest is so low at this point it's barely noticeable in my budget. Then there's that part of me that's like hmm, maybe $25 AND the interest... Ehh, it doesn't really matter in the long run I expect. I'm pleased with my progress, and with the fact that I've even got the extra to contemplate! THAT is a good feeling!

    Like 9
  • May check-in:

    April balance: $14673.53
    May balance: $14641.08
    Difference: -32.45

    $1308.98/$2500 = 52.36%

    Progress has been slowing down a bit these last few months. Garden season. I really need to be better at planning for that true expense throughout the year so it doesn't hit me "out of nowhere" like it usually does. But still managed a tiny bit of pay down despite it all. And I'm happy enough with the percentage of my pay down vs where we're at in the year. Hoping I'll be able to keep things at the very least at this level, but odds are better I'll be able to start making more progress as we move into summer/fall. I got this. 馃槑

    Like 5
  • May check in - a little slower than the other months but I am really trying to concentrate on the true expenses and saving for our November vacation.  We also had to buy summer clothes for all the kids and we seemed to eat out a little "too" much this month.  Thinking to do the 34 day challenge next month ...


    Paid off $308.50 to my credit cards in May.  A couple more months and my one credit card will be paid off!!!

    Like 6
  • May 2021, Line #37


    Week 1:  Tithe, then June鈥檚 3rd Weekly Chunk. Now June is 75% funded.  The rest goes to debt snowball (car).

    Week 2:  Tithe, then June鈥檚 last Weekly Chunk. Now June is 100% funded.  $1000 to the debt snowball category, & the rest goes to July underfunded. Since we鈥檙e taking some time off in May & June, we鈥檙e getting ahead.

    Week 3:  Tithe. Top off July so it鈥檚 50% funded, & the rest goes to Debt Snowball (car)

    Week 4:  Tithe. The rest goes to the debt snowball category (car) [smallish checks due to camping last week; used 16 hrs of PTO each]. 


    Hubby鈥檚 mom has stayed out of the hospital all month! Treatment is going well.


    Total paid in May:  Minimums plus $3875.18.

    Miles driven for work: 18,543 miles

    Like 6
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