The day we made-over our finances.

The Total Money MakeoverFor Christmas one year, grandma gave me THE TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER by Dave Ramsey. Since I’d never before received financial advice from my grandparents, I took the book and accompanying note to heart.

Basically, grandma said don’t work your whole life and end up without much to show. When Dave says, “We give the same financial advice your grandmother would,” for me it’s literal.

Dave’s ideas were new to me. Get out of debt? In a country run by credit cards, student loans and car payments as the norm?

It was preposterous. Audacious. Intriguing.

Dave starts by mythbusting. I didn’t know much about “finance” — either grandma’s common sense “read Dave” version or the fancy Wall Street version — but I’d heard the myths. Every day at work.

Dave’s responses made sense. Too much sense for a book about money, which I’d always found dense and full of doubletalk. (And I’d wonder, if I can read Stephen Hawking for fun, why can’t I understand this? I figured some huckster is playing a shell game.)

The rest of the book outlines a 7-step plan from completely broke (can’t buy gas/food) to having your house paid off. Too good to be true, right? Except Dave never claims this will be:

  • Easy
  • Popular
  • Quick

He’s right. Since starting the steps, we have found his advice difficult, unpopular and time-consuming. But we’ve made progress. We’ve paid off cars and student loans. We’re only on step 2.

What’s amazing is when we started, minor events like busted tires BROKE THE BANK. We seriously stressed about how we could afford to replace a tire, and whose fault it was we didn’t have the money.

We took out a personal loan to go on our honeymoon…because otherwise, we weren’t getting a honeymoon.

Now, events like that are just speed bumps. Easily addressed. They used to be the end of the world.

So whatever you think of Dave’s unpopular advice, know that it transformed my life from an unholy mess of constant panic to a streamlined, methodical and responsible approach, where we live by simple rules like…if we can’t afford something, we don’t buy it. (Borrowing doesn’t qualify as “affording.” It’s just a guaranteed way to spend more than the market value of your purchase!)

As unpopular as Dave is amongst “advanced” investors, I find it bizarre that it’s shameful to borrow a car or house or cash from your brother, parents, etc., but we think nothing of doing so from the back for exorbitant fees, and we live entire lives this way — never owning a house or car, just letting the bank own it all while we pay extra for the privilege of maintaining it for them.

Our approach to tackling debt has been slow, because we’ve lacked the maturity and fortitude to make tough choices. It’s taking us longer than if you buckled down for 2 years doing everything right.

But it has been rewarding. I am grateful to both Dave and grandma for the peace and prosperity they’ve introduced to us.

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