I get extremely motivated and physically ill when I listen to Dave Ramsey.
I hear these great motivational stories of people paying off $175,000 in debt in a year, but then I feel like an incredible loser when I begin to believe such debt-free success is just not possible for me and my family.
But is it possible?
The fact is this: I’m a huge fan of Dave Ramsey and I believe wholeheartedly in his plan.
I’ve been through Financial Peace University. I’ve read the books. I’ve bought the envelope system. His wisdom — the stuff he calls “advice your grandma would give you” — has changed our marriage (I believe for the better) and helped us tremendously.
When Rin and I were “gazelle intense” (Dave’s phrase) we were able to:
- Save up a small, but effective, emergency fund
- Establish a budget and stick to it
- Operate on a cash system
- Pay off a chunk of debt (including a car) in a short amount of time
- Not have a credit card balance for more than five years
All of that was great! But then, after our time of “gazelle intensity” when we paid off our car and were ready to tackle the rest of our debt, little things crept in to throw us off our debt-killing journey:
- A beautiful new baby!
- A trip to Disney we couldn’t pass up. (We did NOT go into debt for this, by the way)
- A job change
- A move to another state
- A beautiful house that we can’t sell
I began to lose sight of the goal. And when I drop the proverbial ball, I feel defeated. Is it Dave Ramsey’s fault? Yes! No, I’m just kidding, it’s all on me. It’s kind of like the Christian Walk. You know what you need to do and how you need to live, but sometimes you feel you’re just too far gone to rekindle the needed intensity and determination. I guess you could also liken it to a diet, but I didn’t want to use such an offensive word.
The ultimate challenge to get out of debt is your ability to make the sacrifices to get there.
Dave says: “Are you willing to live like no one else so you can live like no one else?”
Are you willing to sacrifice those things that make life comfortable (going out to eat, going on large vacations, buying things on credit, etc.) to pay off your current debt so that you can one day be free?
Rin and I have bickered over this for years. It’s hard to get two strong-willed, opinionated people on the same page. But when we click, it’s amazing. All I can say is that when we’re working through Dave’s plan, all seems to be right. There is no guilt. We know we’re working toward a shared goal and we know we can celebrate once the goal is achieved.
When I’m not working the plan, there is guilt in every frivolous purchase — every new book, cup of coffee, lunch out. If I don’t watch myself, I can be a very frivolous person. What’s wrong with purchasing a new book – especially if it’s a Christian book or one of Dave’s books? What’s wrong with a lunch out with co-workers? You have to network, right? (I’ve budgeted for Whataburger Wednesdays, so don’t judge me there). What’s wrong with buying four baseball cards for $100 when you know that when you open the pack, one of them will be hand-signed by a Hall of Famer?
Dave’s plan has its obvious challenges.
One of the times I felt the worst was when we went to a Springfield Cardinals baseball game with my son’s baseball team. Prior to the game, Rin brought the boys to my downtown office and we had a nice little debt-free-envelope-system-bologna-sandwich-and-potato-chip picnic. Then we went to the game. Once there, it seemed like all the other kids and their parents were buying hotdogs, nachos, BBQ sandwiches, sodas, souvenirs, etc. I honestly wanted to cry because I had to tell my kids that they should be happy that we had our bologna and potato chips. I really wanted to give those things to them. And I REALLY wanted a BBQ sandwich!!! Thanks, Dave. That whole thing really sucked.
One tip I can give to anyone who decides to do the Dave Ramsey plan is to limit the number of times you begin a sentence with “Dave Ramsey says…”
Based on Rin’s response to such statements, I think I’ve used it one too many times. It’s best to say, “Honey, our agreed-upon budget stipulates that we cannot buy bologna at this time. I think generic Spam will be just fine.”
Ultimately, I truly believe that if every family gets on this system, we could see a dramatic change in our lives and in this nation. It’s our job to be financially responsible and to not rely on our government to bail us out. So, while I do get a little nauseous — not because of Dave but because of the challenge — I fully endorse Dave’s ideas.
Can we do it? Are we up to the challenge?
Today is Friday. We’ll live it up for one last weekend and start on Monday. Wait…Monday is Labor Day. We’ll start Tuesday.