I’m going to venture a guess that if you haven’t heard of Dave Ramsey, Financial Peace University, or the Total Money Makeover, that perhaps you live under a rock. Or perhaps you’re awesome with money and already follow all of his rules without having to read his stuff.
Regardless, everyone who follows his rules loves him. Maybe not at first, but when they call into the radio show to do their Debt Free Scream, they’ve definitely come around.
But Dave Ramsey’s nearly ruined my marriage. From the moment my husband said “I’d really like you to read this book…” as he slipped me a copy of the Total Money Makeover, we were unknowingly in a battle that lasted for over two years.
Here’s how Dave Ramsey’s advice nearly ruined my marriage:
1. He wrote a book that was an easy read and it made even me, for whom numbers, math, and financial planning makes almost zero cents (see what I did there?) understand and get excited about becoming debt free.
This wasn’t the first time my husband had handed me a book and asked me to read it. And truth be told, each time he had handed me a book in the past, I had the best of intentions to read it – at some point. When I wasn’t busy or tired or when I became (poof!) interested in the topic. But I saw how important this was to him, and I knew that if I wanted to put my money where my mouth was when it came to being my husband’s friend and being interested in what he was interested in, then I needed to read the book.
2. We drank the proverbial Kool-Aid and jumped into the first baby step.
Our initial budget projections showed us paying off our mountain of student loan debt in the Fall of 2016. It was January 2012. It was going to take us 4.5 years to get through student loans while my husband worked full-time and I stayed home with our children. It was no small undertaking to walk into a 4 year plan. (Did it take us 4 years? Be sure to read all the way to bottom of the post!)
3. We created a budget.
Before we got engaged, I was offered my first teaching job. While we were heading back from the interview, we used a scrap piece of paper in my truck to guess what things would cost and if I could afford the nicer apartment and the life I wanted to have. But this time, we wrote out a pen and paper budget for each line item for each month.
4. We had weekly discussions about our budget.
*shutter* I hate talking about money. It just makes me so uncomfortable. So to go through all the purchases and account for every dollar made me anxious. But we did it. We celebrated wins. Our emergency fund. Check. Our first loan paid off. Check. Ahead of schedule on the pay off. Check.
5. I started using cash at the grocery store.
I worked at a bank all through college and would leave at the end of the day with almost black hands from all the dirt on money. And I am slightly a germophobe so using cash at the grocery store was not my idea of a good time. But I did it and I realized it helped me see the money I was spending and I really did spend less.
6. We started saying things like “we probably shouldn’t spend money on that right now.”
We were never crazy spenders. But if we wanted to do something, we’d consider what it cost, try to think of a more affordable way to do it, then do it. We didn’t say “no” or “not now” until we started working to pay off debt.
7. We became a commercial for the Total Money Makeover, discussing the envelope system at length at dinner parties and loaning the book to anyone who didn’t immediately walk away from me in the teacher’s lounge when I started talking about becoming debt-free.
We basically became huge nerds. Really over-eager, calculator-wielding, nerds.
8. We went down to one car.
We intentionally moved into the cheapest place we could find within walking distance of my husband’s job and sold our nicer car.
9. We lived with my parents for 18 months.
This one was kind of an accident. My parent’s house was meant to be a 3 months max situation while we sorted out jobs and specific locations for housing. And then it was 18 months. While it was not a free ride from rent or groceries, this 18 months was hugely helpful in getting us out of debt faster.
10. We cashed out my retirement that wasn’t fully vested.
Just when you think there’s no where else to find a dime, when you can’t work more hours, and you can’t sell anything else, sometimes stepping way back and taking a wider look helps. My retirement wasn’t going to be able to do anything for us the way it was so we decided to cash it out and put another huge chunk toward student loan debt.
11. We scrimped, saved, budgeted, borrowed, did without, bought second hand.
My son’s entire wardrobe for the first two years of his life cost me $18. And I don’t have small-statured children. I have children that are wearing 2T’s by their first birthdays. We repeatedly looked at line items. We kept making adjustments to the budget, even if they were small.
12. My husband worked practically two full time jobs.
This was actually the hardest part of the whole thing. When we got to the point where the end was in sight, it just made more and more sense to take extra work for our business to get us closer to our goal. So my husband worked approximately 70-75 hours a week between his corporate job and his business. We didn’t see him a lot and he was tired to his bones. And, we had a colicky baby. And a toddler. And I was sleep-deprived in a way that made me numb. Oh, and my love languages are physical touch and quality time. We were running on fumes in more ways than one.
And while we agree that this was the hardest season of our marriage, our life together, and our parenting to date, we also continually draw from things we learned in that season. Self care. Investing in our marriage. Not letting the circumstance impact how we parent. Asking for help. So many beautiful things came out of that season.
So while most of this list was fairly tongue-in-cheek, the reality is that paying off debt IS really hard. But it didn’t ruin my marriage. Dave Ramsey didn’t ruin my marriage with his 7 baby steps to financial freedom.
On the contrary, even though it was really hard and we had additional challenges besides financial in the two years we pushed hard to get out of debt, we were able to pay off our debt a full TWO YEARS ahead of schedule. June 2014, we paid our last student loan. Since then we have paid cash for a second car and have continued to chase after our very unique dreams for our life, marriage, family, and ministry.
If anything, Dave Ramsey helped to destroy my marriage bubble – the sweet, simple, and sometimes indulgent honeymoon phase that I thought would last until the day we died. Working that hard at a common goal, having hard talks, going over every dollar in and out – none of that is a rosy experience.
It has been steel-wool style sanctification where I see more and more of my junk getting shluffed off and more of what God has for me to do in His kingdom work.
Hard seasons are not the end of the world. They are a place to continually draw closer to Jesus and to learn from.
So now, I can say with a smile on my face : Thanks, Dave Ramsey for ruining my marriage.
Have you ever done something in your marriage, like paid off debt, gone back to school, traveled extensively that completely destroyed your marriage bubble? What did you learn during that time?