Client confidential: Kimberly Allen

By Susan Goldberg | October 13, 2017 | Last updated on October 13, 2017
3 min read


Project manager





I’ve been investing for:

I haven’t started yet!

I’ll be debt-free:

By the end of summer 2018

Investable assets:

About $6,000 in a chequing account, $6,000 in my wife’s RRSP, and $15,000 owed on a line of credit. Between our jobs and Airbnb-ing a room in our rental townhouse, our household income is about $130,000

How long I’ve used budgeting software:

About six months

Whirlwind romance

When my wife and I met, we lived the high life for a year. I was in Vancouver and she was in Toronto, and we flew back and forth to see each other every two weeks. When we spent time together, we certainly didn’t just stay in: we travelled, went out for dinner, bought very expensive bicycles, a car. We used credit cards to get the travel points and a line of credit to pay off the card.

By the time my wife moved to Vancouver, we had no more room on the line of credit. With $17,000 in debt, we realized we couldn’t maintain that lifestyle while paying off the card. Something had to change.


I filed for personal bankruptcy in my early 30s. I’d worked seasonally fighting forest fires for seven years. For the months I didn’t work, I lived knowing I’d make about $35,000 during the fire season. That worked until I stopped fighting fires—but kept spending as though I was going back to [that job]. I racked up about $75,000 in credit card debt. A friend suggested bankruptcy might be a useful option. It was, but I don’t ever want to go down that road again.

You Need a Budget

My wife’s co-worker told us about a website called YNAB, or You Need a Budget. We kind of groaned but gave it a try. The idea is that when your money comes in you give it a job, like paying for groceries or car insurance or vacations. The software links all your banking and credit card data and allocates money according to those jobs. So, for example, when our car insurance comes due in October, the money will be there, waiting for it. When our credit card bill comes in, the money’s already allotted for it. The idea of paying off all our debt is so exciting.

Big changes

Before, it was always like, “Where is the money going to come from?” For the last four months, my credit card balance has been zero. I used to live paycheque to paycheque; now there’s $6,000 in my chequing account. Our line of credit is coming down. We know where all our money is, what we spend it on now and what we’ll be spending it on in the future. My wife and I have merged our finances into a joint account.

Even when we splurge—like on a new bike—it’s right there in the software, so we can’t ignore it or pretend it never happened. We’ve cooled spending on travel, groceries, and dinners out. But the exhilaration of being in control of my money for the first time in my adult life is way better than going out for dinner. And it’s helped our relationship, because money stress isn’t there anymore.

Susan Goldberg is a financial journalist based in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Susan Goldberg headshot

Susan Goldberg

Susan is an award-winning freelance writer and editor based in Thunder Bay, Ont. She has been writing about personal finance for more than 20 years.