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 and Create a Category Group

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 create the YNAB accounts faster, and it will save you time jumping back-and-forth between the lender's website to your budget.

Gather Loan Details

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

Create a Category Group

Each Loan account in YNAB will have its own paired payment category. Pairing a category with a single Loan adds the Debt Simulator and Record Payment button to the Budget Inspector (the right-hand sidebar in your budget). We recommend  creating a Category Group in your budget to organize these payment categories.

Using a Category Group will make it easy to see your payment progress in the Reports, and you can collapse the Category Group in your budget when you'd like a simpler view. Creating a Category Group for the student loan payment categories before you begin adding the accounts to YNAB will make the process of adding the accounts faster!

Using One Category for Student Loan Payments

If you’d prefer to budget for your student loan payments in just one category, you'll first need to follow the steps below to add the accounts,  creating a new category for each student loan along the way. Then, you can delete the new categories. This will remove the paired categories from your loan accounts, allowing you to use a single category for your payments! Check out Unpairing a Loan Account from a Budget Category to learn more about this process.

Add Student Loan Accounts to YNAB

Now that you've gathered the information you need, and created that Student Loans Category Group, 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:


Click Add Account, then click Unlinked.


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.


When YNAB asks which category you’ll use for payments, choose  create a new category and add the category to the new Student Loans Category Group.


Repeat the Add Account process for each loan.

When all of your Loan accounts have been added to YNAB, you’ll see them listed in the Loans section of the Accounts list, and their categories will be in the Student Loans Category Group in the budget:

The student loan accounts have corresponding categories in the budget

Make a Payment

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

Making a Payment to One Loan

If you make a payment to a single student loan, you can add that payment in the Loan account by clicking Add Activity > Add Payment.

YNAB will automatically fill the Payment Amount field with the Available dollars in your Loan's payment category. Choose the account, date, and add a memo if you'd like! Then, click Save to record the payment.

YNAB will automatically calculate and apply the monthly Interest Charge to your payment. After the Interest Charge is paid, the remaining payment funds will be applied to the loan balance automatically.

Making a Payment that is Applied to More than One Loan

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).

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.

For each line of the split, choose the Transfer Payee for the Loan accounts. YNAB will automatically choose the payment category for each Loan! Enter the amount that was applied to each Loan in the Outflow column. Here’s an example of a split student loan payment transaction in a demo budget:

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.

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.

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.

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, so a Balance Adjustment will be needed each month to add the accrued interest to Loan account's balance. Click the Update Balance button in the top-right corner of the Loan account to adjust the balance.

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