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 or Faness

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  • I'm so excited to join! I started paying down debt last year, finally getting rid of a $10k personal loan three years early! I've entered my info on line 173 of the spreadsheet. 

    • 2021 Goal: Payoff $34,450 in combined credit card and car loan debt
    • Currently: I have $31,500 remaining as of mid-February - 8% closer to my goal.

    My credit cards add up to $24,842 right now out of $30,000 in combined limits. They were almost all maxed out last year.  My current average utilization is about 82% and my next goal is to get every card under 69% each, then 49% each, 29% each, 9% each, and eventually 0% each. It looks like I'll achieve this around November.

    Once my CCs are down/paid off and my credit score is UP (currently 638/647/650), I hope to qualify for a $20k personal loan. This will allow me to pay off my second car loan completely and pay down the balance of my primary car loan's principal so that I'm no longer upside down on it. With the principle balance down at/below its value, I then plan to refinance my primary car's loan from 7.9% interest to a lower rate.

    I'm super excited to be nearly debt-free! 

    Future goal: Once I only have my primary car loan left and it's down to a lower interest rate, my goal for 2022 is to purchase a home. I'm building up savings in the meantime and dipping my toe into investing. 

    Like 8
  • February Check in another$444.56 off my student loans. Putting me at 39% of the goal for the year.

    Like 5
  • February Check in. I'm not sure where it all came from, but I manged to drop my debt by 1254.97 from this time last month. I'm at 31.4% of beating down my $25.6K from when I started YNAB in June last year.

    Like 5
    • Dave That's awesome!! I was also just looking at my Jan 1 start and my current debt, thinking... where did it go?  Very nice feeling.

      Like 1
    • Dave wahoo!!!

      Like 1
  • Brand new to YNAB and loving it so far! My main goal is to pay off my debt! I currently have $41K in debt ($31K in student loans and a $10K personal loan). My first goal is to pay off my personal loan, ideally as much as possible before student loan repayments kick-in again at the start of October. 

    I'm not sure how aggressive, I should be paying off the personal loan. This is my first month using YNAB, so maybe after a few months to get a true feel of it then I'll start going ham on that loan. 

    How long did it take everyone to find their "groove" with YNAB?

    Like 4
    • TickTock Welcome!!! 馃帀 We're so happy to have you here!  

      That's such a good question.  I really got into the swing of budgeting after probably 4-6 months of YNAB, but even after 5 years, I feel like I'm always adjusting and finding a new groove to my budget!

      Like 4
    • TickTock I'm so glad you found YNAB & are loving it!

      I fell in love with YNAB from day 1 and have been using it for ~4.5 years. I would say that there are levels of gettin' in the groove with YNAB (for me, at least). Beginning to use it consistently was immediate, and I loved tracking what I was spending money on. I had money in savings, so I was already a month ahead. 

      The next level was figuring out that I WAS on the credit card float! I ALWAYS - for years - paid off my CC in full. So when I understood this (maybe 2 months in?), that was an a-ha moment where I began to feel more control.

      I can't remember exactly how long, but there were several months after that where I had enough data of what I was actually spending, and I got my budget categories set. Up until then I was renaming/deleting/adding budget categories, and adjusting the amounts often.

      After that (maybe 6 months in), it was pretty close to autopilot. Up to one year, though, I was adding in annual costs as they came up. 

      When my husband and I married and joined finances, it again took about 3-6 months of renaming/deleting/adding budget categories, and adjusting the amounts as we learned the needs of each person and how to join budgets. 

      We've been married 3 years, and we have goals set on everything and the budget is very quick and easy. We just check it for priorities, enter transactions as we go, and roll with the punches. 

      Finding YNAB was definitely a game changer for me.

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      Orchid Guitar This makes me feel less crazy for renaming/adjusting things constantly! I'm also in a similar situation where I had enough savings to be a month ahead and put money aside for an emergency fund. When did you start working on debt paydown with that?

      I'm almost nervous to start working towards debt paydown even though it's my main goal and reason for starting YNAB. What if I've done my budget wrong is the main thought going through my head. Even though I can see where my money will be spent, I still haven't mentally wrapped my head around it.

      Like 3
    • TickTock 

      Congratulations on being a month ahead AND having an emergency fund! That's wonderful!

      I can hear your eagerness for debt paydown (which I totally get!) in tension with (possibly) your uncertainty about how thorough your budget is - whether or not it can roll with the punches (which I also totally get!). 

      I wonder if an intermittent step might be helpful. For example, you could have a bucket for debt paydown where you virtually put aside your extra debt payments for a month or two until you feel more comfortable with your budget. Then when you're more secure, you could throw all of the extra money you accumulated toward your debt.

      Hannah from YNAB has a video on doing something similar for determining if you have enough money to adopt a pet. It's on their YouTube channel: "Are you ready to adopt a pet?"

      Like 5
    • TickTock I tried it off and on for 2 years but I finally decided that our finances were a priority about 3 months ago and I feel like now things are really making sense.  I don't always like it, but it makes sense!

      Like 3
    • TickTock Welcome to the party!!
      Honestly, give yourself a full year, realistically. You'll be able to have a better and better handle on it each month that goes by, but I would recommend keeping your focus on your true expenses and what is in front of you that needs attention in the beginning. Most people have a tendency to get excited and want to pay down the debt, but they don't realize they haven't fully funded their real normal every day expenses, like groceries, and they have no idea how much those things cost. Until you have a handle on the basic necessities and what is required every month, then it's very easy to end up going into debt because you sent too much money to debt payments and don't have enough left to cover the real expenses when they happen. So be kind and gentle with yourself, and start with a conservative approach. If you're able to blow the lid off that goal, then more power to you. But that's better on your own mental well being than ending up back sliding and keeping yourself in debt because you're stretching yourself too thin trying to pay off the old debt in a hurry. The old debt didn't get there over night, and it won't disappear overnight, either. And that's totally ok. You'll get faster at it as you get a handle on how things work.

      Like 5
  • February Check-In:

    $564.54 to the loan's principal this month so new amount is $16,267.28 remaining on personal loan #1.

    A few big changes are in my horizon as I'm now pregnant and so debt smackdown will not be my priority goal this year like I had in my mind at the start. I more than ever want to be rid of debt, but I'm also really in the mindset now of save, save, save as much as I can to prep for the true expenses that are going to be a major reality soon. I had been thinking of dropping a large amount of my tax refund into the loan but I think instead I'll be squirreling it away for the future. I'm just over the moon and shocked that this next chapter of my life is finally happening.

    I got an offer from my company to either take stock options or cash for the equity. I think I'm going to say yes to the cash now and bank the $6k instead of the potential for more money later should we ever go IPO. I have other stock options from when I was hired that I'll get to still benefit some if we do ever go public but it's always IF that happens and all I'm thinking about now is stocking up as much of an emergency fund as I possibly can before I'm a mom and that money is a guarantee. I might use some for debt, but really all I can think of now is saving everything.

    YNAB is made for rolling with the punches, and I have a feeling my life is going to be much more eventful now that it'll be plus one this year. We'll see how far I get on the debt, but progress is progress. And I'm thankful that I'll at least be able to teach my kid better money habits then I had growing up so hopefully s/he will never deal with debt like I have my whole life. 

    I'm also going to have to rework my whole budget for new priorities as the due date approaches. I bet I'll be cutting a lot of fat that felt priority before out of my expenses because there are some things that felt like a must that I already know now were just a want with this news.

    I also got a 4% raise this year which I'm really grateful for and I'm planning on taking the difference and immediately putting that to saving instead of to debt, but I know once I have a real emergency fund together and true expenses covered, it'll be so much easier to actually pay down the debt to be able to breathe again and I can move it over to debt payments once I feel more solid on my true expenses. 

    Like 5
    • Green Cleric congratulations!!! 鉁

      Like 1
    • Lauren Thank you!!!

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    • Green Cleric Congratulations!

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    • MovingForward Thank you!!!

      Like 1
    • Green Cleric Congrats!!!!

      Like 1
    • farfromtheusual Thank you!!!

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  • Ok, finally got myself straight as to how I'm going to do this.

    I'm smacking down my car loan this year. At the current rate, it should be paid off mid-2022.

    My goal for the year is to pay off $3600. My stretch goal is to pay $3600 + monthly interest (which will obviously be decreasing monthly, so I don't know the exact amount).

    Here's the breakdown of what has happened so far:

    January Loan balance: $5396.87

    January Payment: $300.00

    January Interest: $27.87

    Loan Balance: $5124.74

    Goal: $300/$3600 -> $3300 left

    Here's February's update:

    Loan Balance: 5124.74

    February Loan Payment: 327.87

    Goal: $627.87/$3600 -> $2972.13

    I'll just keep adding the interest onto the next month's payment, in the event that funding gets tight and I need to move that money elsewhere, I'll just skip it.

    I'm pretty pleased with where I am at this point, and happy that the stretch goal doesn't feel out of reach at the moment.

    I am also going to be keeping an eye on the overall value of my truck and if I get the loan down below the value of the truck itself, I may look into selling it and getting something else because the interest rate is higher on this loan vs what is available now. I would also like to reset back down to something with lower miles again (I'm already over 130k on this truck, I've put about 70k miles on it in about 3 years), and heated seats would be an added bonus, plus having real bluetooth instead of half way bluetooth because it's an 09 with first generation bluetooth in it would be a plus!
    So it's possible that this goal will get turned upside down in the middle of the year, but we'll see what happens.

    Like 4
  • February 2021, Line #37


    Week 1:  Both checks applied to the March budget. March is nearly funded. 

    Hubby鈥檚 mom was diagnosed with leukemia; the income replacement fund needs to be boosted ASAP in case we need time off from work.

    Week 2:  Both checks applied to the March budget. We're about 2.5 weeks of Gas & Grocery category from having March funded.

    Week 3:  March is funded, so the remainder of both checks are split between Debt Snowball & income replacement category. $35 additional principal was sent to the truck loan to bring its balance under $30k. That felt good! The rest of Debt Snowball is being saved for later.  Hubby's mom is feeling much better, and her treatment seems to be working, PTL!

    Week 4:  These checks represent the week we stayed parked due to the ice storm across the south. Although the plan was for both checks to be split between Debt Snowball & income replacement categories, the Debt Snowball portion is going to hang out in YNAB until we see the March electric bill.

    Total paid in February:  Minimums plus $221.88

    Like 3
    • Coral Mare I hope you weren't badly affected by the ice storm! I bet it feels good to have March funded right now, too!
      I hope your MIL continues to improve!

  • Alrighty, time to smack down this debt! I have some lofty financial goals this year which includes saving for school next year so I won't being paying off as much debt as I'd like. The overall goal here is to reduce my debt ratio as I'm utilizing 91% of my credit at this point. 


    Current Debt

    Credit Card: $3,263.01

    • Goal is to pay off balance by January 2022 so it won't be $0 by December, but that's because I like nice round numbers for my monthly payments, so ah me. 馃檭
    • Current interest charges tend to be around $60. As my interest reduces throughout the year I'll continue to pay the same amount. This will lower my balance and avoid fluctuations in monthly payments
    • Minimum payment: $350.00 (including interest) + Charges (if any)
    • Projected Balance: $68.25

    LOC: $4,950

    • Goal is to pay at least $50/month until CC is paid off. The idea is to contribute at least something in order to reduce my debt ratio
    • Any additional funds throughout the year may be allocated to this debt or savings so we'll see 
    • Minimum payment: $50 + Interest
    • Projected Balance: $4,400
    • Stretch Goal Balance: $3,500

    Student Loan: $1822.38

    • Minimum payment is $29, but goal is to pay $50/month. Once school starts I shouldn't have to pay anything until I'm done school so we're not going to worry about this too much right now. It's low interest and not a very large balance. 
    • Projected Balance: $1,280 (ish)


    Total Debt Reduction: $4,344.76

    Credit Utilization: 49.6%


    Side note: To me this doesn't seem like a lot and maybe it doesn't other people either, but I'm pretty excited about it. I just finished paying off my second debt management program like 4 months ago which was about $8000 and took me 3 years to pay off. So if I can really get this done this year I will be very proud of myself. 

    Like 6
    • Space Cadet It's always relative, so what is a lot to you could be beans to someone else, or might be overwhelming, you never know. You just have to focus on whatever you need to focus on, and keep going!

    • Space Cadet Wooooo! We're rooting for you!

    • Space Cadet This is all about personal goals, so it is a lot. Good luck on your smackdown! You've got this. 

  • A little bit late to the party but I'm claiming row 183 :)

    Tackling both student loan and part of the mortgage as the only remaining debts!

    Pay $5,400 off student loan for this year which will reduce the debt by 25%. 

    Looking to shave $20,000 off the mortgage by continuing my fortnightly payments and making additional voluntary payments throughout the year. This should shave off another 6 months from the mortgage if I continue to grow my offset at the same rate as last year!

    Like 4
    • cepelinas Let's say you're fashionably late! 馃拑 Welcome!!

      • cepelinas
      • What's the budget say?
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      Dela exactly! Thanks Dela 馃槃

  • February Check In: 

    Chase CC: Paid $333.38  = Current total is $0 !!!!!!!! Paid off the remaining balance on this card and it feels so good to keep seeing that 0 in my account. 

    Discover CC: Paid $205.99 - $50 over my minimum this month. 

    I'm excited to start snowballing my first cc payment to the second and start being more aggressive with my second to get it done by December! 

    Like 6
    • Green Song Congrats on paying off a credit card! It's such an accomplishment and hope it is encouragement to keep going forward!

    • Green Song WAHOO! Having a CC at ZERO feels SO good! Congrats on getting to that step!

    • Green Song Yes!!!! 馃帀 So good!

  • February update:

    Added just a bit to my overall debt this month, mostly due to the timing of payments vs statements. It should remedy itself next month. And hopefully I'll have a much more positive number next month. I've been making good progress so far this year, and my overall online impulse shopping mentality has shifted so much since the start of the year that I can't see any way it doesn't start making a much bigger difference as time goes on. So while I'm not exactly in love with my numbers this month, I'm not allowing myself to get down on myself about it. :)

    Jan. balance: $15,242.63
    Feb. balance: $15,304.92
    Feb. difference: +$62.29

    Total: $645.14/$2500 = 25.81%

    Like 4
    • Orchid Display Such great progress! Keep at it. 馃檪

      Like 1
  • February Check-In

    Loan 1 paid off in February... super excited about! 馃帀馃嵕馃帄

    Derailed the budget slightly after making the payment because I knew I was getting a tax return and I didn't have a clear plan of action for the next milestone.   I put some thought into it yesterday and I think I'm good to go - at least I feel confident about it 馃槈 fake it till ya make, amiright?  馃槣 

    End results of a little wild spending early in the month is that I can't fully fund my wish farm.  I'm actually ok with that being the price I have to pay because I learned a lesson.  And my actual budget is still on plan! I'm going to siphon off the leftovers in the monthly budget - half of the total will go to be 馃惪d and the other half will go to the wish farm.  It's looking like I could have approx $90 left over... so that is nice 馃憣 

    Well tha about wraps up Feb for me...

    Onward ho! Let's get to slaying!!

    Total as of:

    Jan 1: $15,925.65 

    Feb 24: $12,683.55


    Loan # 1: 0.00 (paid off in February)  

    Loan# 2: $8,905.07 (by August) 

    Loan#3: $3,778.48 (by October)

    Like 5
    • Violet Yeti Such great progress - woo hoo!

      Like 1
    • Violet Yeti That's awesome progress! It's kind of wild when you get to the phase of actually getting to decide what to do with extra... that is so novel!

  • Hello, I snagged line 184 and am in for the 2021 Debt Smackdown! I have over $56k in federal student loans that I am snowballing my payments from former debt towards. And with the current 0% interest due to the pandemic, I am seeing real progress. I am also preparing to buy a new house (fingers crossed) this spring. If I can do that, then selling my current home will allow me to possibly pay off my student loan...but saying that out loud (or typing it out loud, if you will) makes me nervous. I have had very good luck in prior debt smackdowns in paying off my car loan, a private student loan, and 0% interest flooring loan, so here goes.

    My goal for this year is:

    • Base goal: Pay off $16k in student loan debt
    • Stretch goal: Pay off all $56k in total, which is like Elastigirl type of a stretch

    I did update with my January payment included. And as a nice extra, my employer just started a program to help pay student debt with a $500 annual payment. It's clearly a drop in the bucket compared to my overall loan balance, but I'm not snubbing my nose at $500. So yay!  

    Like 3
    • Spring Green Rain wahoo! Those are all awesome things! Way to go for pounding those student loans right now while you can!

  • I love that you are continuing paying off your student loans while they are 0%.  While I understand that for some people they need to take the relief whole hog... to be able to knock out your student loans with all going to principal is awesome!  good luck!  

    PS... I sure wouldn't walk past $500 if I saw it lying on the street 馃槈  (my standard response when I feel like maybe the sum isn't so big to get excited about it! 馃槀)

    Like 2
    • Violet Yeti Exactly, and I have a similar saying of "I sure wouldn't through $500 out the window." It's real money!

      Like 2
  • February Update:

    Starting Debt - $98,433.81

    Febuary Paid - $818.31

    Current Debt - $96,360.17

    • Chase Credit Card - $501.10 - $250.55 =$250.55
    • CitiBank Credit Card - $1,371.92 - $344.35 = $1,027.57
    • Car Loan - $13,153.92 - $223.41 = $12,757.10
    • Private Student Loan - $51,323.80 - $438.57 = $51,323.80
    • Federal Student Loan - $31,160.16 (not paying due to moratorium and PSLF)
    Like 2
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