Student Loans

If you have student loans, you know that they can be complicated. Student loans are often a collection of loans, sometimes managed by multiple lenders. Even if you make a single payment to a lender, it’s common for the lender to split your payment and apply it to several loans. And lenders don't necessarily make it easy to see what you owe, or how your payments are being applied to your various loans!

YNAB can help you gain total control of your student loans and pay them off. When you add your student loans to YNAB, you can see exactly how much each loan is costing you, and you can use the data in the Loan Planner to determine which loans to prioritize in your debt-free plan.

In This Article


Gather Loan Details

In YNAB, each loan will need to be a separate account in order to accurately calculate the interest and total amount that you owe. Since student loans are often a collection of loans, it's helpful to gather the information you need about each loan before you begin adding the accounts to YNAB. This will make the process of creating the YNAB accounts faster, and it will save you time jumping back-and-forth between the lender's website to your budget.

Open a blank document, or grab a piece of paper and pen/pencil. Then, log into your lender's website and write down the following information for each of your loans:

  • Name of the Lender.
  • Current Balance (if interest has accrued, the Current Balance is the principal + accrued interest).
  • Interest Rate.
  • Minimum Monthly Payment (the amount you are required to pay toward this loan each month). 
  • Monthly Payment Due Date. 

Now that you've gathered the information you need, you're ready to add these Loan accounts! Keep your document or notepad handy, and follow the steps below to add each loan to YNAB.

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How to Add Student Loan Accounts to YNAB

  1. Click Add Account in the left sidebar. 
  2. Choose Unlinked.
  3. Select the Student Loan account type and work through the steps to add the Loan account to YNAB. Use your notes to help you set up the account.
  4. When YNAB asks which category you’ll use for payments, choose Skip. Choosing a category at this point will pair that category to this specific loan, and you won’t be able to use the same category for payments to any other loans. Since most student loan payments are split and applied to several different loans, we recommend leaving the loan payment category unpaired.
  5. Repeat the Add Account process for each loan. As you add each Loan account to YNAB, you’ll see them listed in the Loans section of the Accounts list in the left sidebar.

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Making Payments

We recommend adding a Target to each student loan payment category to help you assign money for your payments each month. 

The actual payment process steps vary based on whether you're making a payment to one loan only, or if you're applying a payment to multiple loans. 

How to Make a Payment to One Loan

  1. Add the payment in the Loan account register by clicking click Add Activity.
  2. Click Add Payment.
  3. Enter the amount you'd like to pay. If you have a paired budget category for your loans, YNAB will automatically fill the Payment Amount field with the Available dollars in your Loan's payment category. 
  4. Choose the account, date, and add a memo if you'd like! 
  5. Then, click Save to record the payment. 
  6. YNAB will automatically calculate and apply the monthly Interest Charge to your payment in the Loan account. After the Interest Charge is paid, the remaining payment funds will be applied to the loan balance automatically.

How to Make a Payment that is Applied to More than One Loan

  1. If you make a payment that your lender applies to more than one loan, you’ll need to record the payment as a split transaction in the account that made the payment (i.e. Checking).
  2. In the top line of the split transaction, enter the Lender’s name as the Payee, and the total amount of your payment in the Outflow column.
  3. For each line of the split, choose the Transfer Payee for the Loan accounts and choose your loan payment category.
  4. Enter the amount that was applied to each Loan in the Outflow column. Here’s an example of a split student loan payment transaction:
  5. A split transaction represents a loan payment applied to more than one loan

    In this example, the payment total is $358.01, with $123.45 paid to the first loan, and the remaining $234.56 paid to the second loan.

  6. Tap Save when you're done!
  7. For payments that are split and applied to several loans like this, we recommend creating a Scheduled Transaction. That way, you won’t have to re-create this split transaction each time you make a payment.
  8. YNAB will automatically calculate and apply the monthly Interest Charge for each loan that receives payment. After the Interest Charge is paid, the remaining payment funds sent to that loan will be applied to the balance automatically. If the estimated interest charge is incorrect, you can edit it to match what your lender charged that month by:
    1. Hovering over the estimated charge to click the the pencil icon.
    2. Editing the amount.
    3. Clicking Save.

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Deferment and Forbearance

When a loan is in deferment, interest is not accruing. Set the loan's Interest Rate to 0 in YNAB, and adjust it when deferment ends. If deferment will end on a particular date, you can record that date and the future interest rate in the Notes for the Loan's payment category, or even add these details to the name of the Loan account.

Loans in forbearance are accruing interest, but payments are not being made. YNAB will not add interest to the Loan account without a payment—you will need to add any interest charges manually. 

How to Add Interest Charges Manually

  1. Click the Add Activity button at the top of the Loan account to add an interest charge.
  2. Alternatively, you can adjust the balance each month (or on a schedule of your choosing) by clicking the Update Balance button in the top right corner of the Loan account. 

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