Book It! The Total Money Makeover

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About a year ago my husband and I got a major wake-up call. We’d been living a pretty easy lifestyle, not too extravagant, but not overly frugal. We paid all our bills on time and kept track of what we spent. We lived month-to-month like most people and thought that debt was a “tool” that needed to be used wisely. So, since frequent flyer miles are so tempting, we charged everything, but made sure that we paid it off every month. Life went on. But, without our realizing it, our cushion called Savings had a slow leak. When we faced a few weeks of temporary unemployment, the cushion was completely flat. And we had to change — a lot.

Enter Dave.

We had heard about Dave Ramsey before, but never really gave him our complete attention. Last summer we started listening to his free podcast and/or radio program and then read the book, The Total Money Makeover. What an eye-opener!

The Ramseys were millionaires and lost it all due to speculation and poor choices with money. They’ve earned it all back and now have a lesson to teach the rest of us. Not only does Dave dispel myths and misunderstandings about money, credit cards, debt, and investments, but he also gives concrete, easy-applied solutions to money problems. The book is subtitled, “A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness.” And that’s the truth!

We were skeptical at first. Shouldn’t we pay off the highest interest debt first? Shouldn’t we leave the smallest debt for last? Shouldn’t we….? But, we realized that he was the millionaire, and we weren’t. We might as well give it a try. And Dave’s plan has proven itself in our lives.

A year ago tomorrow marks the day we stopped using credit cards and started paying cash for everything. We set up an emergency fund, step one in Dave’s Baby Steps, and we were on our way. The very idea of letting cold hard cash (rather than a piece of plastic) slip through our fingers at Taco Bell, StuffMart, etc. made us hold on to our money a little more closely and really think through our purchases. We’ve grown in frugality, and our lives have remained just as rich as ever. In fact, our life is better today than it was a year ago. Not only have we stayed solvent, keeping current with all our bills, on a fluctuating, self-employment income, but we have already paid off over $10,000 in debt! This figure includes paying off our truck — early — and completely eliminating car payments. While frugality takes a little work, we have so much more peace in our lives and our home as a result of this wake-up call. Thank you, God!

So, this is a MOM blog, not a money blog, right? Well, as parents I think we have the great opportunity to bless our kids and grandkids, and on, and on. Learning good money habits for ourselves will help them have good money habits in the future, and Lord willing, that will continue for generations. Plus, if we are more peaceful about our money situation, we will be more Joyful MOMS.

Whether you are good, bad, or ugly with money, I highly recommend your reading this book. You are bound to learn something to help you and your family.

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  1. Do you find it hard to carry around that much cash? Maybe I just worry to much. 🙂 We live in the country 30 minutes to my shopping. when I grocery shop, I shop and shop. I can’t run to the store for a quick item. I can easily hit 5 or 6 stores in one day and shop for several weeks of stuff. I just don’t like carring around $200 or more dollars in cash with me. I need this much for what I buy because I buy alot. I am budgeting and keep track of what I spend but I just am having trouble switching to cash only. I’m I the only one that has this problem?

  2. Good question! We don’t carry “green backs” for everything. We have one account that is ATM only…for my husband’s gas and supply purchases. It gets a set amount each month and I just keep track of where it’s at via online banking. Be careful with ATM since not all stores are “live.” They can send a transaction through days after you make it, so if you don’t keep careful track, it can mean being overdrawn. You can’t assume that it will just reject you when you near zero.

    In general when I say “CASH” I mean that we don’t charge anything. I think that is a big step. And we try to do the green stuff for groceries, spending money, eating out, etc. I have carried the amount that you’re talking about and haven’t really worried about it. But, I do sometimes write checks. I think if you’re really careful with keeping accounts everyday, then ATM/checks could work very well. But, somehow it still doesn’t feel the same as handing over a $20 bill. When my grocery envelope is empty, there’s a definite feeling of “I’m done shopping.”

  3. This is a great book. I actually have it checked out from the library right now. I stopped charging a year ago this past January. We are waiting to pay off hospital bills before starting our debt snowball.

    This book is the one that FINALLY got me to cut up my cards. I actually keep one now just in case I have an emergency and cannot get to a bank to get into my emergency fund but I don’t use the cards for any other reason period.

  4. Excellent book and totally life changing! We found out about Dave AFTER we had bought a used new car and bought a house…sigh. Well, we got rid of the car and bought a van (still paying on it..but when the third little one came along, three car seats wouldn’t fit in the back of our 1986 Toyota Corolla…lol!). We had piles of hospital bills due to an emergency surgery I had in the past year (without insurance!). It was very discouraging at first. Then we slowly started paying off the debts. Now we only still owe on our van and home. We have decreased to one income (my husband’s) and definitely think about “Do we really NEED this?” before we plunk down the DEBIT card!

    Lynn- I can’t carry cash with me because I end up spending EVERY last penny. It’s too hard to keep track in my head and I shot myself in the proverbial foot last tiem I carried $100 for grocery shopping. So I just bring along the debit card and add up the totals as I go. Come home take the receipts and write them into the check register. So, no, you aren’t the only one…lol!

    Dave was the first person I ever heard of who told you debt was BAD and it wasn’t a tool. Why did we end up buying a used new car? Because we wanted to by a house and needed to increase our credit score. We were told by our loan officer that would be a good way to do it. (Plus our car died at the dealership…but that’s another story…lol!) NO MORE! We refuse to get any credit cards or buy any more vehicles that we don’t pay cash for. And we cannot wait to scream “WE’RE DEBT FREE!” on Dave’s radio show 🙂

    Jen-I would encourage you to just let go of all the credit cards. You could see if your bank has an account that could be accessed by a debit card, then you could make your emergency fund a bit more accessible. We just have our emergency fund in our savings account. If we needed to, we could access it from any ATM. I would also encourage you to start the debt snowball. If you wait for the perfect time, it will never come. You have to start somewhere. I truly know how overwhelming hospital bills can be. But include them in the debt snowball. It is so gratifying to see the balances owed going down and reaching your goal becoming more attainable with every check you write out! 🙂 You CAN do it!


    Mrs. Q