The Total Money Makeover

Author: Dave Ramsey

Published: The edition I listened to was published on September 11, 2003
Dates Read: January 12-15, 2017

My Rating: 3 Stars

Book Summary from Goodreads:

Respected financial expert Dave Ramsey offers a comprehensive plan for getting out of debt and achieving financial health. Against a playful backdrop of fitness terminology, Dave gives solid, hard-hitting advice needed to make your goals a reality. Filled with both the “hope” and the “how-to,” “The Total Money Makeover” includes: Useful worksheets and forms Readable and informative charts and graphs The four factors that keep people from getting in shape financially Photos and amazing stories from people who have succeeded following “The Total Money Makeover” plan

“The Total Money Makeover” is a necessity for everyone in need of a financial makeover. Readers will learn to live by the “The Total Money Makeover” motto: “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”

My Review:
**Warning in advance, this is going to be a LONG review! I did not realize it until I started writing it!

I had heard of Dave Ramsey years before and one time sat in the first class to learn about The Financial Peace University. I was in my mid-20s at the time. But the $100 cost for the class turned me away. $100 is a lot of money now and it was a lot then! Looking back, I wish I had been able to participate.

I first participated in Financial Peace University in 2012. The church I went to at the time offered it for FREE for the members of my young adult Sunday School Class. I am so glad they did! It sounds cliché, but Financial Peace University really did help to change the way I think for some things! I was getting married in 2013, and unfortunately my fiancé was not able to attend as he lived over an hour away, the class was on Sunday evenings, and he worked every other weekend.
At the beginning of each new year I try make sure that the Total Money Makeover is one of the first audiobooks I listen to so it can get me all excited for the upcoming year. I am a Dave Ramsey fan, but do not agree with everything he says. I will go into that later in this review.

A lot of what Dave says is common sense and he even says that. It’s just a matter of actually realizing it for yourself and making it work! Even though I have listened to this book on audio multiple times, I still find myself learning each year. At the beginning of The Total Money Makeover, Dave first gives us his story of how well off he was and then talks about how he had to go bankrupt. He shares his story so we can identify with him. He explains how he came up with his seven steps to becoming debt free. Dave then goes into various debt and money myths. Again, these are mainly common sense, but they are still good to hear.

Then Dave goes into the steps of The Total Money Makeover. He warns you to not do the steps out of out of order or it will not work. The steps are:

  1. Set aside $1000 as an emergency fund
  2. Pay off all debts except the house using debt snowball
  3. 3-6 month emergency fund
  4. Invest 15% into retirement
  5. Save for college for your kids (if you have them)
  6. Pay off the mortgage
  7. Build your wealth and GIVE!

Other things that Dave mentions:
Buy a car with cash, then put whatever the payment would have been into savings. Over time you can pay for a new car with cash!

Make a budget each month, down to every dollar. Every dollar will go somewhere.

Do not use credit cards. Dave does not like credit cards at all. Use cash or debit for everything. Using cash ‘hurts’ when you have to hand it over.

The envelope system. Every payday take out the cash and put it in envelopes for a specific purpose. Once the money is gone from one envelope that is it, unless you take out money from another envelope. This system works great, especially for grocery shopping. We put a lot of my paycheck in envelopes and it really does work. My husband and I realized we were buying a lot more in groceries when we used a card versus cash for food. Using cash really does work! I try to use cash for everything except for getting gas. You are more aware of what you are spending by using cash.

About the audiobook: Dave narrates The Total Money Makeover. I always enjoy when the author reads their own books. They can get the points across that another narrator may miss. As Dave reads the book, you can tell he is passionate as he hates debt and he wants everyone debt free, BUT at times he comes off as condescending and it is as if he is talking down to the listener. The Total Money Makeover also seems aimed to more of the upper middle class and higher. He talks about how you should be able to get that first $1000 within a month and have your debts paid off in 18-20 months. This is not the case, if it was then my husband and I would be debt free right now! Not everyone can get that $1000 saved in just a month, maybe we just are not as “gazelle intense” as Dave wants us to be. It seems as if he forgot about the lower middle class or lower than that with The Total Money Makeover.

Some things I don’t agree with:
Dave says you you should work the job that you love. Most people do not have that luxury. These days people are just happy to actually HAVE a job. I would love to have a job I loved. This blog has become a non-paid part time job and I love it! I wish there was a way to do it full time and actually get paid (other than getting books for free… I love that!)

Dave says to have a joint checking account. This would not work for me and my husband. Without going into details, when we first got married we had to have separate checking accounts. Now we do not want a combined account. The way he manages money and the way I manage money are so different. We would mess everything up and might likely have negative balances! But, we actually talk about money and trust each other. It is not a problem for us to have separate accounts. I know that won’t work for everyone.

Most emergencies can be handled with the $1000 as you start your makeover. That was not the case with my husband and I. Just after out first year of marriage and around my birthday our washing machine died. About three weeks later and around my husband’s birthday our stove also died. We also had to replace part of our roof that was leaking into the house. We needed a new lawnmower as ours was dying. And if that wasn’t enough, about 1 ½ years ago we had a pipe collapse that had to be replaced. This was very expensive. $1000 emergency fund doesn’t cover this and we are still working on paying this off! Our issues are not from spending for things we want, it is things we need.

Dave does not like credit cards, and that is why most people are in debt. They overspend trying to “keep up with the Joneses”. I will keep my credit cards. Granted, almost all the time I use cash now, except at the gas station. If we had gotten rid of our credit cards, we would have been trouble with everything that was mentioned in the previous paragraph, most of all the collapsed pipe.

Despite some of my issues with the system, The Total Money Makeover is recommended. Parts of it are working for us, maybe it will work for you! It’s time to “live like no one else”!