When was the last time you printed out your credit card statement and went through it to see how much you pay for groceries? Gas? Eating out?
Have you ever done that?
The last time I did this, I sat down with a pack of highlighters and spent forty-five minutes color coding each category and then totaling each amount. I was appalled to see how much money we spent purchasing food on our lunch breaks. The very next day when my husband and I went grocery shopping, we bought enough food for us to pack our own lunches. What a savings! I felt like I was pretty good with bringing my own lunch to work, but clearly I was not.
I also noticed that I was paying a lot more for SiriusXM than I thought. For months, I had been blindly paying nearly twice the amount I had thought. “How many other bills have gone unnoticed like this?” I wondered. I went back and printed statements from a few months prior and began highlighting again.
It wasn’t long after this that a friend told me about Dave Ramsey. “This isn’t for me.” I thought. “I am good with money.” I told myself. But then, I took a minute to think of two things. First of all, I remembered going through my credit card statements; maybe being good with money wasn’t enough. Secondly, I thought to myself, “If I am good with money, than shouldn’t I be that much more ahead of the game?” Ultimately, I decided that more information wouldn’t hurt me. So, I read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.
From reading this book, I took away three big ideas.
1. If you have to put it on a credit card, you cannot afford it.
This was huge for me! It took me a while to fully accept this. I apply this idea to large ticket price items. If I can afford the monthly payment, and if I pay the monthly payments on time, then can’t I afford it? But realistically, the answer is no. Payment plans are for people who cannot afford the total in sum.
What about those great deals that offer 0% interest? Those are tempting! Furniture, appliances, and home improvement are the big offenders. I am guilty of charging items in each of these categories. At the time of reading Dave’s book, we had two monthly payments charged to cards with 0% interest. So, what’s the big deal? Big idea number 2.
2. The most important thing you can do is pay off your debt.
Despite being able to “afford” the monthly payment for something on a credit card, and despite not being charged any interest, you are still in debt to somebody. If you lose your job, if you have an unexpected expense, if you cannot pay that monthly payment for whatever reason, you are in trouble. Why put yourself in a situation where you are in somebody else’s debt?
The most important thing you can do is pay off your debt because it means everything you own, you own. It’s yours 100%. Plus, if you pay in full for something at the point of purchase, you aren’t taking on another bill. Don’t you have enough mandatory bills? Why add self-induced bills? When you think of it that way, doesn’t it seem crazy to make that choice?
I was raised to believe that everything should be paid for in cash. My father really instilled this in me. Yet, I didn’t think it was possible. I always thought that my father was preaching the advice of a previous generation. I thought today this wasn’t possible. I thought that now debt is the only option due to increased costs and the recession. If you take nothing else away from this post, hear this: it’s possible.
3. You’ll only be rewarded in the future if you put in the work today.
This is going to require a huge adjustment in your mindset. It will probably mean that you cannot afford most of the things you were planning on going into debt for in the upcoming months. It will likely mean having to put off projects around the house, waiting to make certain purchases, and likely cutting back in some categories.
Now, if you are familiar with Dave Ramsey, I will tell you now I am Daveish. I have come to learn that people who are die hard Dave Ramsey followers are not okay with Daveish people. But, tis I. Dave once said something along the lines of, “Don’t be stupid. Don’t try to change my system because you think you know better. If you knew better, you wouldn’t be here.” So, with this in mind, perhaps I am stupidish.
Regardless, I do not follow his rule of putting 100% of your savings towards your debt as instructed to do so in Baby Step 2. When my husband and I decided to apply the idea of Baby Steps to our finances, we came up with a percentage system for our savings. We chose to put 50% of our savings towards debt. The other 50% would be divided unequally among accounts like vacation and college. (Dave would definitely say no vacations while in debt. But, I’ve got a bad case of wanderlust.)
Within months, we had paid off two credit cards (the ones with that fancy 0% interest) and the remaining loan on my car. It felt great! At that point, we were addicted to paying off our debt. We adjusted our percentages and began taking 70% of our savings for debt. Eventually, we bumped it up to 80%
Did you know the average new car payment in 2018 was $545? Often, a car loan will run for five years. If instead of paying a $545 car loan, you saved that money, in five years you would have saved $32,500. Even if your car payment is only $350, in five years that’s $21,000! That, my friends, is how you pay for a car in cash. You have to intentionally set money aside, in a designated area, to save for things you need (or, when you get far enough in the Baby Steps, want). Doing Math like this makes me realize that I have more money than I think I do. You don’t need a raise. You certainly don’t need a side hustle to add to your already busy schedule. You need to better manage your money! (As did I) Of course your income will determine the length of time it takes you to save. However, it will likely not determine your ability.
Here are some other things we did to add to our debt snowball:
- Cancelled SiriusXM
- Cancelled our garbage service (we also belonged to a recycling center so we were essentially paying double)
- Called our cable company and got our bill lowered*
- Called our cell phone service company and got our bill lowered*
*If you want to save money, ASK FOR IT! Simply calling your providers and telling them you can no longer afford their service will often result in a discount.
When my students say to me, “Thank you for giving me an A!” or “Why did you give me an F?” I always respond the same; I don’t give grades. Grades are earned through hard work (or not).
Yet, when it came to money, I had this same reaction. “Why is our credit card charging us $500 more than last month?” I would think. I wouldn’t know what our bill was going to be because I didn’t check it regularly and because I wasn’t aware of the charges. Starting Dave’s methods has allowed me to be more mindful of my finances and have control over each decision I make. It allowed me to take responsibility for my actions and recognize that many of the purchases I make are choices. I now make smarter choices, though continuous reminders are needed.
6 Additional ways to earn money:
- Sell unused belongings on local marketplace websites (I sold the mirror I replaced)
- Sell clothing and home items on Poshmark
- Earn cashback on Rakuten
- Earn cashback from iBotta
- Sell homemade items on Etsy
- Sell teacher documents (if applicable) on TeachersPayTeachers
Tip: Scroll to the bottom of this page for referral codes. Most sales and cash back websites offer referral programs that will give you a bonus upon signing up or making your first sale and referring others to the site! Most often, the new user AND you both get a reward. This is yet another way to earn more money!
If any of this sounds interesting to you, and you are unfamiliar with Dave Ramsey, I highly suggest reading any of Dave’s books. The Total Money Makeover was the one that inspired me! In fact, I just finished reading it for a second time. It is clear that his method works. I am aware that if I followed his method more strictly, it would work faster for us. But, even in the short time that we have made some of his suggested changes, we have cut our credit card bill in half and doubled (sometimes tripled) our monthly savings. We have paid off 3 out of the 4 of our debts and are on track to be debt free very soon.
No matter what method you choose, choose awareness. Be aware of your finances and be mindful of your money practices. The more aspects of your life you can simplify, improve, and be present in, the happier you’ll be.
Tip: Total Money Makeover was on our library’s digital content app. While I like to support people/companies that I like, I think Dave would approve of finding a free way to read his book! Initially I borrowed it from a friend, then I did a reread through my library.
- Poshmark: Use Referral Code: CARAJOHANNESSEN
- Rakuten >CLICK HERE<
- iBotta: Use Referral Code: OKDBUVV