Total Money Makeover – The Snowball Starts

by Debt Destroyer on August 8, 2008

In part of the interview process I went through to get this cushy gig, I remember being asked what I thought of Dave Ramsey. I had to admit that I heard of him, but that I didn’t really know much about him. I remembered him being featured on “60 Minutes” some years ago, but that was it.

Luckily for me, that embarrassing answer didn’t instantly disqualify me.

And after this past weekend, I can no longer claim ignorance on the Dave Ramsey front. Thanks to THE HAPPY ROCK sending me a copy of Total Money Makeover, I now can say I know Dave Ramsey’s method.

Actually I was already aware of a similar method.

As newlyweds my wife & I attended a couple of adult education classes put on by the Minneapolis Park & Rec Dept. We went to “Sink & Faucet Repair” and “Invest in Your Debt”.

We never repaired our sink(but it did give me the confidence to tackle a toilet issue that arose), and we never really fully invested in our debt either. But it did motivate us to pay off our smallest debt first then apply those payments to the next smallest and so on and so on.

Sound familiar?

Obviously we didn’t stick with this plan, which is why I’m back to square-one when it comes to our debt, but it gave me a background to digest “The Total Money Makeover”. Devour might be a better word because I read it in a day (skipping the success stories).

I was hooked.

The motto “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else,” spoke to me. I cruised through the myths & hurdles, commenting to my wife, “When does he get to the plan?”

Then the plan came and I didn’t put the book down the rest of the night. Like Dave says, it’s not complicated, but very difficult. Too bad I didn’t look into this information after watching him on 60 minutes because I would be in a very different place right now.

But what truly has me fired up about this book is that my wife is now reading it. That alone is a major accomplishment (the pile of books that I’ve recommended her to read and she says, “I’ll get to it” would reach the ceiling), so it shocked me when after I told her she should read this, that she started right away.

And the best part is that it is also reaching her.

Just today she was telling me that maybe you all weren’t that crazy for bringing up the idea that we sell our van. She now sees the mistake we made when we bought it in such a haphazard manner. She’s still not quite ready to get rid of it just yet, but the possibility is now on the table.

Of course I wish I was working so I could really throw ourselves into this method, but this way we’ll be in the right mindset when I do start working again.

From the comments I’ve been getting I’m sure most of you are already familiar with Dave Ramsey and his system. If you are, how about giving a progress report on how it’s going for you. Does his system work for you? Did you need to alter it at all? Has it inspired your own system?

Let’s hear some success stories…remember I skipped the ones in the book.

Until next time,


P.S. For those of you who were like me and don’t know who Dave Ramsey is, check out The Total Money Makeover.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

John August 8, 2008 at 11:05 am

I didn’t have the guts to drop down to a $1000 emergency fund to get rid of all our debt, but I did find TMM incredibly inspiring to get serious about getting rid of our debt sooner rather than later.
I would advise you to go back and read some of the success stories. You might not need them right now, but when you are into the plan, if you get discouraged, go read a few. They are incredibly inspirational and motivating.


M3 August 8, 2008 at 12:27 pm

LOL! If my husband were to read any of the books I’ve recommended, I’d be stunned as well! We’re starting over, too…after years of limited debt, our debt is a mountain. This time, though, husband is committed to paying it off, too. This is a big change from, “You need debt to survive in this world.” Good luck on your journey!


Pete August 8, 2008 at 3:23 pm

My wife and I just went through a Dave Ramsey Class called “Financial Peace University”. I’ve done a series of posts about it on my blog, but it goes along nicely with the book you just read. The whole idea is to get rid of debt (for good) and start down a new road of financial independence, growing wealth, and giving. Dave has lots of great ideas and I highly recommend him to anyone who’s interested. Also, if you’re into that kind of thing he has a daily radio show and itunes podcast that has a lot of good advice on it as well. I suggest checking that out!

P.s. Are you still in Minneapolis? I live in the Twin Cities area.. Small world!


Brian August 8, 2008 at 5:34 pm

My wife and I are huge Ramsey followers, we started our marriage going to the classes and never looked back. We’re strict budgeters and we’ve since paid off $49K in less than two years, including my wife’s substantial student loan. We are now debt free except for the house.

Best. Feeling. Ever.

Yes, Murphy often shows up and bites us in the ass, (recently I destroyed our car and had we had to get a new one) but we have a fully funded emergency fund, so while it sucked, we easily worked through it.

The best part of the whole thing is my wife and NEVER fight about money. So now we fight about stupid stuff, like what to paint the nursery–crap like that.

Dave Ramsey is a blessing. High fives all around.


Sue August 9, 2008 at 2:50 am

I just read the Financial Peace book (available at your local library). Very good book.
The biggest thing to remember is when you pay off a “debt” not to celebrate (more than a little) but to move on to the next debt.
I do wish that once I paid off my student loan debt that I continued to use that money as a snowball payment.

We did snowball payments for both cars and now are working on our mortgage.
Being laid off is no fun but hopefully the time invested in your debt reduction will enable you to float thru the lean times.
It is very easy to spend up to and beyond your salaries. Looks like you already have a good plan for your debt reduction started.


shela August 10, 2008 at 11:56 am

I started paying down debt a bit about two years ago, before I heard about Dave Ramsey. I heard about “snowballing” from a blogger and came up with a plan using an Excel spreadsheet. I did read Ramsey later on because a few bloggers had recommended him.

I had already started a debt paydown plan, but I couldn’t cut down to $1000 for emergency savings as Ramsey recommended. I have kept it around the $3K to $4K level, where I am more comfortable.

I did use balance transfers but kept the snowball amount the same, so the money that I am not paying in interest is going to reduce the debt faster. And I payed down my debt from highest interest rate to lowest, rather than Ramsey’s plan of paying the smallest balance first to gain “small victories.”

Have to admit that I did not find Ramsey’s writing style or the format of the book to be appealing, I nearly put it down because he comes across like a used car salesman.

I started with around $14,000 in debt and now am down to $4300. But that will be gone in another six months or so. I am still using the plan I developed before reading Ramsey, so reading his book did not make me alter my approach. Other people may find his style more appealing than I did and will be more motivated by it.


celticbuffy August 11, 2008 at 3:00 pm

I went through the FPU classes last year, but unfortunately never put what I learned into practice. I’m rereading all of the material again now and have pulled out my envelope system that I received as part of the class. There is a lot of good, common-sense information in what he teaches. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, but also hope that you put it to better use than I did! Although I certainly will now!


Janice August 11, 2008 at 10:50 pm

We think so much of Dave Ramsey that I am now purchasing his books from his website – 10 for $100 and giving them away to whoever wants one. We are debt free but for the house, funding my 401K fully (company matches 50%, no limit) and hubbie’s IRRA, have 6 months emergency fund built up, are giving away money when the spirit hits (often), will have the house paid off in two years, God willing, etc., etc., etc. Life is SO much better than we deserve! We cannot believe how quickly this has happened for us. And yes – the more we get out of debt, the higher our income goes. Dave predicted it, and it happened. This is an amazing way to live. We have paid off apx. $60K since we got married in June of 2006.


John (Debt Defier) August 12, 2008 at 2:03 pm


@John – Don’t worry, my wife is reading all of the included success stories and then gives me the details of each one.

@M3 – Good to hear that your husband is on board. If my wife wasn’t fully invested in paying of debt, I don’t think we’d even be trying this. Also good to hear that I’m not the only one who’s book recommendations fall on deaf ears :)

@Pete – Great job with the summery of FPR on your blog. And I’m not in Minneapolis anymore. We lived in NE MPLS for 4 years before moving back to South Dakota.

@Brian – 49K, that is wonderful! Even better to hear that you only fight about stupid stuff…which in my opinion is the most fun stuff to argue about.

@Sue – You are very correct when you said you need to stick with the plan. We did use our old system to pay off a car early, but then afterwards we just lolly-gagged along, and didn’t really keep the snowball going to other debts. Instead it was more like a gob of slush that occasionally was used.

@Shela – Good for you. I bet that will feel great to be debt free in only 6 more months. I’m still at the stage where I cant’ imagine what that will be like. But its’ fun to think about. I just have to remember to not spend money like I’m already there.

@celticbuffy – Alright thats the spirit! Isn’t it funny how some of us need constant refresher courses in common sense?

@Janice – I don’t know what is more impressive: The fact that you & your husband have paid 60k in debt in only two years, or that your company doesn’t limit their match of your 401K.

Thanks again for taking the time to comment.


Thecpa August 12, 2008 at 7:22 pm


Now you are cooking! Kudos to Happy Rock for sending you Total Money Makeover. Let the snowball roll! He also turned me on to Dave Ramsey in one of his prior posts. My regret is it didn’t happen decades ago.

I was sitting in the eye doctor’s office reading a dog eared magazine and happened on an article about a financial situation similar to yours. The article mentioned two web sites you might check out. I am checking them out myself. One is “thegrocerygame.com” which offers a month trial subscription for $1.00 and claims to save $100’s of dollars per month on the grocery bill with coupons.

The other site is “angelfoodministries.com.” They offer baskets of food stuff at discount prices.

Have you looked on Craig’s list for used vehicles?

Hope this helps. Looking forward to your next post.


The Happy Rock August 13, 2008 at 12:01 am


Awesome. I excited to see some excitement and aggression and your wife starting to get on board. Both are important to changing your behavior and your financial life. I am glad that the book has helped. If you want a huge shot of motivation, accountability, and ideas listen to Dave’s show for free. Hearing those motivational stories in person and constantly hearing Dave repeat the principles makes is quite energizing.


Slinky August 14, 2008 at 5:57 pm

I’m familiar with the general concepts/steps in Dave Ramsey’s plan, but nothing in depth. It seems very geared toward people who are deeply in debt. My impression is that he’s great for people who are just starting to get their finances in hand, and people who don’t have a lot of self discipline. It encourages people to get on the right path with baby steps, and uses small victories to encourage them to stick with it. That’s a great way to change bad behaviors into good habits. I happen to be one of those people that manage their finances very logically instead of emotionally, so I’ve never felt the need to look into his methods.


Kirk August 15, 2008 at 5:29 pm

i have heard of him but i never really got to researching him and his program yet… you seem very satisfied with the book, and the guys here recommend his program too… maybe it really is worth trying…


John (Debt Defier) August 15, 2008 at 11:30 pm

@Thecpa – Thanks for the kind words. This is the 3rd time I’ve heard of the grocery game in a short time. Must be a sign that I better check it out.

No vehicle search yet, but it sounds like we might be looking soon.

@ The Happy Rock – Thanks again for the book! When I get a second, I’ll be sure to check out his radio show too.

@Slinky – Good for you for being on top of your finances.

I’m not sure if Ramsey is more geared towards those deep in debt or not, but I think you are correct about he’s helpful for those of us who are lacking discipline.

@Kirk – If you’re interested in getting out of debt, you should check him out.


Brad January 10, 2009 at 6:47 pm

I have his book and I have to agree with you – it’s great! He really has some great ideas for making money.

So happy the wife finally listened to one of your book recommendations lol :) Lord knows I’ve been trying for years


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