Save Money with The Total Money Makeover

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fondant cash envelopes on a debt-free cake

The Debt-Free Cake

This past month has been a busy one for me with travelling, house guests, and a generally busy family life. I read only one complete book over the last five weeks, but it was a good one: The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.

I first read and reviewed this book several years ago when our family was in debt and wanting to get out. Today we are debt-free, thanks to God and our following the principles outlined in this book. It was wonderful to reread the book that got us started on the road to changing our money habits for the better. What a trip down memory lane!

As I mentioned in my first review of The Total Money Makeover, author Dave Ramsey outlines  the steps to take toward establishing financial independence and building wealth. This is not a “get rich quick” book as Dave points out in the first chaper. Rather, it’s a call to sacrifice and a challenge to rethink money and how it works — or doesn’t work — in your life.

You’ve heard me before wax eloquent about these financial principles which helped us pay off $18,000  in consumer debt. Today, I’m going to address how this book has challenged me in thinking about where we are right now.

A Review of The Total Money Makeover from Someone Who’s Debt-free

When I read TTMM two and a half years ago, I was close to despair. Quite honestly, getting out of debt was all I could hope for. I wasn’t concerned with “building wealth.” That’s like going mountain climbing when you’re stuck deep in a valley of quick sand.

The stories in this book as well as Dave’s no-nonsense approach to money gave me hope. And today that I’m on level ground, it’s given me hope for the future, hope for more financial security, hope for enjoying a few luxuries, and hope for giving.

With this view of the landscape, here are just a few nuggets I took from this book, based on where we are today:

Being debt-free is good, but that’s not the end of the journey.

Make financial goals to be wise with your money: to save (for retirement, college, and home), to enjoy, and to share with others. Chapters on each of those topics inspire me to press on. The race ain’t over!

Saving for retirement needs to be a priority.

Yes, I trust that God will care for us, but I think that He has also provided the means today that will provide for the end.

Money is not bad.

The love of money is. Don’t be greedy, but be wise. Good people should work hard to earn money and do good things with it. I laughed out loud on the airplane when I read, “If we all abandon money because some misguided souls view it as evil, then the only ones with money will be the pornographer, the drug dealer, or the pimp.” Makes sense to me.

Don’t make college out to be bigger than it should be.

Plan as best you can, following the baby steps. But remember that it’s okay to ask your kids to contribute to the kids’ education, but don’t teach them a debtor’s way. Loans are not necessary. Working hard is. (I can say this because I worked my way through college. I did take one small loan but that was because I lived overseas and my visa did not allow me to work.)

It was wonderful to reread this book now that we’ve completed Baby Step 3. We’ve got a large, fully-funded emergency fun, a car fund and the beginnings of a house fund. Reading past this step was like getting a burst of energy in the middle of a foot race.

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  1. This past month I fiocused on finishing a few books…I am famous for having several tomes going at once and never quite getting back to them. I completed “The Hole in Our Gospel” by Worldvision CEO Richard Stearns (great, inspiring read) and am almost done an anthology of short stories about children in Africa, “Say You’re One of Them” by Uwem Akban. It is challenging but so beautifully envisioned. For fun I slipped in a great “girlfriends for life” story called “Firefly Lane” by Kristin Hannah. If you liked the movie Beaches you will love this book. It is long but a great story and a quick read nonetheless. I read TTMM a few Januarys ago but we have come to the realization that we need to get gazelle-like again about our finances so I am pulling it back out! Can’t wait to see what everyone is reading!

  2. I just finished rereading “There is No Me Without You,” by Melissa Fay Greene is the biography of an Ethiopian woman whose life was devoted to caring for Ethiopia’s orphans and find them families. It is an amazing story of love a perseverance.

  3. Thanks for this reading “challenge.” I saw your post last month and sat down to write some reading goals for myself. We ended up starting the same way: by rereading a Dave Ramsey book.
    Thanks again for the encouragement to set some goals for myself.

  4. My goal is to read 42 books this year, and today I finished #6. I love young adult reads, so many of my books have been those. I did just finishe The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society which I absolutely adored. I love that you’ve provided a place to talk about what we’re reading and get great ideas from others.

    On the Dave Ramsey topic…I totally want to read this book but don’t want to spend money on it. I keep hoping to find it at one of our thrift stores. Alas, I guess I’ll have to use my swagbucks or something.

  5. Thanks for this post! We started our Makeover in late 2005 and paid off over $32,000 debt and have now built an emergency fund, too.

    We were so inspired by Dave and his Baby Steps that we now coordinate his Financial Peace University at our church and have graduated well over 100 families. Not a week goes by that we don’t hear from one of “our families” about their progress and how grateful they are for FPU.

    Our Makeover changed not only how we view our money but how we communicate in our marriage and how we work toward goals together as a family. We’re so thankful for finding Dave and for the opportunity to manage our blessings according to God’s plan.

  6. Thank-you for starting this link-up. It has provided a lot of encouragement to set and fulfill a reading goal, and at least so far, has kept me excited about it!

    Sounds like I need to read Dave Ramsey’s book. A lot of that advice is exactly what our family needs.

  7. I’ll have to write a post about this later but had to share my favorite books. Debt-Proof Living by Mary Hunt is a great book I read over a year ago. For pleasure reading, I loved all three of Judy Baer’s books: Sleeping Beauty, The Whitney Chronicles, and The Baby Chronicles. They are Christian Chick Lit.
    As for upcoming books, I have quite a lot of books on my list and have started several different ones. My list has His Needs, Her Needs, Dare to Discipline, and For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men.

  8. I am reading from my own bookshelves… many books I have bought at yard sales and put there for another day… so I am shopping my home book store! Currently reading “The Time Traveler’s Wife”.

    On the subject of college … while I agree with your philosophy, it is nearly impossible to work your way through school these days. My husband was able to work and earn his way through 7 years of school, so we know the principle… but our son’s “public school” education is slated to be about $100,000 (he goes to school in 2011) and I doubt any teenager can earn that in 4 years if he could even find a job out there right now (Most adults can’t). We have saved since his birth and will be able to cover a good bit of his costs, but our savings have been destroyed by the economic meltdown and the fact that the vehicles we chose to put money into were not as productive as advertised 16 years ago. So I guess the moral of this story is… do the best you can with the understanding that no one can predict the future.

  9. I’m glad you’re doing an update! I’m still reading about the presidents, but am taking a little break. I need some lighter reads after working my way through LBJ!

  10. I was challenged as I read your reading plan and Crystal’s over at I’ve been reading quite a bit, but it’s quickly become blog-reading and other things on the computer. Nothing like some time away from the old laptop with a good book in my hands. I made a reading plan for the year and am in the thick of “The Omnivore’s Dilemna” by Michael Pollan. Definitely an informative read, and well written. Very interesting if you want to know more about where your food comes from.

  11. Good insights! I need to read it again (I’ve also read it twice- once at the beginning of our own journey, and once a couple years after). I’m probably due for a refresher course of my own!

    I so agree that Dave’s writing is a call to sacrifice, and to completely change the way that you think about money. It’s been so transformational in our lives, too. It was amazing to go there with you at Blissdom, and it did my heart good to see you give him that pic. 🙂

  12. I wasnt sure where to put this sorry….but am still wondering if you will share the household/goals/etc forms or book you made for yourself for keeping track of the books and everything else? HELP? I cant keep focused

  13. Love Dave Ramsey’s principles. 🙂 I’ve read TMM twice.

    I’m a little behind on my reading goals, but plugging away nonetheless. Just finished “Desolation Island” by Patrick O’Brien, which is the 5th book in the Aubrey/Maturin series. I enjoy these books…and I’ve learned a lot about sailing and the British Navy during the Napoleonic wars.


  14. I am an avid reader. My children and I make weekly trips to the library, and I always make sure to check out a book for myself. Now we are snowed in, so I’ve been reading quite a bit!

    As for getting out of debt not being the end of the journey – absolutely not. In fact, it’s just the beginning. I never started out in debt so from the time I graduated college, I have been building up my savings – for retirement, our home, our children’s college fund, vacations, and emergencies. I have a blog that details how to build up your savings and take advantage of savings’ vehicles – it’s more than cutting coupons! Good luck with your journey!

  15. I’m not quite as big of a non-fiction reader as I probably should be. I started reading Seven Habits for Highly Effective Families, but it was too big a project to tackle in the time the library will let me keep the book. So I gave up on it, and read Dr. Laura’s The Care and Feeding of Husbands instead. Also, to break up the non-fiction with a good novel, I picked up The Undomestic Godess from the library. Great book if you’re a fan of Sophie Kinsella!

  16. I’m so glad you got to meet him too!!!

    Last month, I read “Same Kind of Different as Me” and it blew me away (in a very good way). Awesome book, fast read and opened my eyes to a few things!!

    I’m more of a self-help/non-fiction type of book reader, so I may get Beth Moore’s new book.

    It was great to meet you finally!! Love that I have a real-life connection with *my cake lady* now 🙂

  17. I’ve read Give Everyday Chance by Max Lucado and now I’m reading it again doing the study questions in the back. It’s helping me to get my focus on God and not my last eleven weeks of my surprise pregnancy. I recommend it to stay postive in mothering and all of the above.

  18. I’m sorry for doing three separate links in your Mr. Linky, I’m not trying to be spammy, I just do book review posts week by week so I didn’t have a way to link just one. Next month I’ll do a single post linking them all so I only have to link up once on your page.

    It’s great to read everyone’s reviews and get ideas for books to add to my list!

  19. Please forgive my boldness, but I would like to suggest you read my own book, BARGAIN JUNKIE: LIVING THE GOOD LIFE ON THE CHEAP. I have been a lifelong frugalista and have managed to wear nice clothes, furnish a lovely home, educate my child, and travel all over the world without breaking the bank.