I have a real love/hate relationship with Dave Ramsey.
I'm currently enrolled in "Financial Peace University," a course created by Dave that's designed to help people get out of debt and learn to manage their money more wisely. Dave has become famous for his simple and empowering financial philosophy, and his advice column even runs in the Kansan every week on the business page.
I love Dave because he's so high-energy and passionate about his work that it makes others excited too (and trust me, it's an impressive feat when you can get people excited about filling out a budget).
However, I must confess, sometimes I hate what Dave says because while his teachings are accurate and really do work, they aren't easy to implement and they aren't always fun.
Before I enrolled in Financial Peace University, I thought I was doing a good job of managing my money. I had a budget (sort of) and I didn't go out and blow every paycheck on entertainment or nicknacks I didn't need. However, after the first session of the class, I began to realize how many problems I DID have with my finances.
My "budget" was basically more of a loose guideline of how I was supposed to spend my money. I had my expenses divided into a few general categories with only an approximate guess of how much money I was supposed to spend in each of those categories each month. For example, I was supposed to spend just $50 on entertainment, but what normally happened was that I would pretty much just spend what I wanted to and assumed it was close to $50. If I went $10 over my budget, no big deal, right?
I didn't realize how much money I was wasting each month until I actually sat down and did a "Dave" budget: I planned out every single penny I needed to spend (not wanted to spend) in a month. I was amazed by how much money had just been slipping through my fingers. That extra scarf I picked up at the clothing store, that extra dessert I ordered at the restaurant may not have cost much on their own, but add all the "little" expenses together, and they really whittle away your budget.
Dave also encourages people taking his courses to cut up their credit cards as soon as possible. This didn't make sense to me at first; I mean, everyone has a credit card, and surely you need one to build "good credit." But the problem with credit cards is that it's all too easy to keep swiping and not watch your budget. I got into the habit of swiping my card and telling myself I'd worry about paying for it later (and believe me, when the bill came, I did worry).
Since I'm not exactly mathematically inclined (actually, this is probably an understatement), I thought using a credit card for all expenses was a nice, easy way to keep track of my finances. I didn't have to worry about carrying cash or constantly checking the balance on my checking/debit account. However, I finally had to admit that my "nice, easy way" of keeping track of my finances was actually a "nice, easy way" of overspending my budget.
So, Dave, I'd like to let you know that I've taken the plunge. I'm letting go of my reliance on my credit card, and I've started planning out how I'm going to spend every penny of my paycheck. It hasn't been easy, and Dave promises that his system is hard work and is not a quick fix. But I feel something I haven't felt in a while about my finances, and that's confidence. I have a roadmap, and I know where I'm going.
Dave's motto is, "If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else." He's not against people having fun with their money — just don't make yourself go broke while doing it.
Ashley Bergner is a reporter for The Newton Kansan.