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10 surprising side effects to money management

This post was first published on June 5, 2008.
I love reading your blogs full of excitement about looking into Dave Ramsey’s concept of financial freedom. The idea of a “total money makeover” truly has been eye-opening and freeing for our little family. We never relied heavily on debt, but we still never thought we could actually be financially fit. It always seemed like something other people were able to do, but not us.

You know what else? Working this plan has provided other unexpected side effects. And they’re wonderful. Here are a few:

1. My husband and I both work out our finances together. I’m still the budget maker and bill payer in the family, but since we make the decisions on how the money is allotted, we have to make the time to communicate, come to an agreement, and project our monthly financial plans. We’re more unified in our marriage than we’ve ever been.

2. We eat healthier. Again, this has never been a major issue, since I prefer cooking from scratch, but because fresh ingredients are cheaper (in the long run) than boxed food, we eat well. And we eat frugally! I’ll write more on our monthly menu plans in the near future.

3. We have less stuff. Because every dollar is accounted for in our zero-based budget, we know whether we have the funds to buy that random coffee cup or candle. More often than not, we don’t even want that kind of clutter-fying stuff because we have written down financial goals. And those are far more important than those cute dessert plates at Target. Every cent counts.

4. Because we have less stuff, our home is easier to clean. Our small amount of storage space (in our one closet) is mostly well-organized, we know where things are, and surfaces are basically empty. This makes cleaning much quicker.

5. And because we have less stuff, our home is also more visually serene. It’s a simple place without much clutter, so it’s usually peaceful.

6. We talk about money with our daughter. Sure, she’s only 3, but she can understand basic concepts. She’ll be aware of our family’s financial goals because we’re okay with talking out loud about money with her. It’s not a taboo topic, because money’s not scary to us.

7. We’re actually aware of where we are financially. We know our net worth. We know exactly how much we’ll have set aside for Christmas this year. That’s a great feeling. Such peace.

8. We have goals – financial goals – and they’re reachable! It might take awhile, but I don’t doubt we’ll have 6 months of expenses in savings, at least a 20% down payment for a house, and plenty for retirement when the time comes. Knowing that they are possible breeds excitement about the future and contentment in the present.

9. We have some money to spend on whatever we want, guilt-free. In our monthly budget we’ve allotted a small amount for each of us to spend on anything at any time. Passing by a Starbucks and craving a latte? If I have personal money left still in the month’s budget, I can buy one without feeling like I’m blowing cash on stuff I should be using for the electric bill. It’s in the budget.

10. I know more financial stuff. Before my introduction to Dave Ramsey, Roth IRAs, escrow, mutual funds, ESAs and 529s, and even sinking funds were really confusing. But because he targets the average American with little financial knowledge, it’s simple enough for me to understand. And cooler than that, I actually enjoy flexing my financial smarts. I feel in control because I get it.

I’m not saying all this to specifically advocate Dave Ramsey. I’m just encouraging you to take control of your family’s finances. But I also want to convince you that you can understand money – and Dave Ramsey just might be the best teacher for you.

And if you find a workable plan for handling your money, you might also be surprised to find other unexpected blessings flowing your way.

What’s the hardest part of money management, in your opinion?  What’s been your experience with budgeting, good or bad?

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  1. Kerri

    I love Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University!! It’s really helped in our life. My biggest difficulty was having my husband stationed in Germany on an unaccompanied Air Force tour for two years…and I lived in our house in the states for that time. It was hard to keep things paid and on time! We had a lot of confusion — I finally let my husband pay things through our bank online and trusted for the best. It kinda worked…and for those things he couldn’t do, I was sure to let him know what I was doing to get bills paid. We’re pretty debt free except for student loans, house mortgage and car. All thanks to FPU and Dave Ramsey!

    Kerri´s last blog post…Lessons from "Marley and Me"

  2. Ron@TheWisdomJournal

    I think the most surprising side effect is peace of mind. People “think” they know what it feels like, but 99.9% really have no idea the freeing power of having your finances under control.

    It really was a surprise, even though I knew I wanted it.

    We went to a Dave Ramsey seminar long before he was nationally known and began implementing his ideas way back then. I’ve fallen off the wagon a few times, but I’ve always gotten back up and on it!

    Ron@TheWisdomJournal´s last blog post…The 12 Days of Christmas: Day Twelve – 12 Things I’ve Learned As A Blogger

    • Gretchen

      I never knew how freeing it could be to live on a budget! The first time we did our Dave Ramsey budget, it was a little painful to get it all down on paper, but the first time I paid the bills, I couldn’t believe how freeing it was – – I knew exactly what money to put where! I didn’t have to feel guilty about choosing one bill while leaving another late or unpaid….instead of dreading the bill-paying, I’ve come to enjoy it because I know there’s a plan!

      Gretchen´s last blog post…Merry Christmas from the Magruders!!

  3. Mary

    My husband and I attended Ramsey’s Financial Peace University the year before last. Every couple who attended with us agreed that unity as a couple was the number 1 benefit!! We’ve made more progress in the last 18 months than we’ve made in the previous 20 years of our marriage. Dave Ramsey ROCKS!

    Mary´s last blog post…Virtual envelopes …

  4. Carla

    I love number four and five. The less useless stuff we have, the easier it is to clean the house. No carpet, (hardwood floors all over) no drapes, no clutter = less dust and less stuff to move around, clean, laundry, dry-clean, shampoo, etc.

    Carla´s last blog post…Green and Chic Blog | What is it?

  5. CC

    I totally agree with the children understanding money better. My 5 year old seems to get it. He knows that when the envelope is out of money, we’re done. Food, stuff, everything. Done.

    and he has his own envelopes too!

    CC´s last blog post…Treat them kindly

  6. mandy

    Thanks for posting! I actually found the post a couple of months ago. I started listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio a months or so ago and received his book for Christmas! It is not always easy to quiet the wants but but gaining control, I think is necessary and helps you realize that you can gain control in all areas of your life!

    mandy´s last blog post…Daily Planner

  7. Stephanie'sMommyBrain

    We love Dave! A couple of years ago I went Christmas shopping with 2 friends. They were talking about the “disagreements” they were having with their husbands over Christmas spending and that they knew their husbands would NOT be happy when they heard how much had been spent on our shopping trip (this was before we ever got to the store!). This was my first taste of how freeing and peaceful living on a budget is. I knew exactly how much I had to spend because my husband and I had already settled that and saved the money. I enjoyed my shopping with a guilt- free attitude. My friends did not.

    The hardest part of living on a budget for me now is resisting the urge to dip into our budget surplus (savings) to cover my overspent envelopes. In 2009 I plan to switch to cash only (instead of debit card) for those budget items. Hopefully that will help.

    Stephanie’sMommyBrain´s last blog post…Joseph

  8. do it yourselfer

    my husband started listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio, then we got the Total money makeover and both read it. We were in tons of debt and couldn’t afford the home we were in. We moved into a smaller home and started chipping away at our debt. At the start of this year, we were completely out of debt. It is exciting to save for something. I just saved for and bought my Nikon D60. Something very fulfilling about saving for it. My kids are learning to save also. love your blog and look forward to meeting you at the conference.

    do it yourselfer´s last blog post…Are you a Taker Downer OR Keeper Upper?

  9. Alison

    I’ve had the same response to Financial Peace University. Having a financial plan for the first time really has made a difference in my peace of mind. Some of my friends who took the course felt oppressed, like they were being forced to give up more than they wanted to, but for me, it feels like freedom–I’m telling my money where to go instead of wondering where it went.

    Alison´s last blog post…Week in Review, 12/21–12/27

  10. Karen

    We read Total Money Makeover and attended FPU 2 years ago. After 16 years of marriage and more financial laziness than I care to admit, we finally have peace. It is indescribable to those who don’t yet have it. We have a lot left to pay off, but we are doing that with a plan and without incurring one additional cent of debt in the last few years.

    But, like you mentioned, the very best effect has been our communication. Not only are our finances in order, but our good marriage has become great. We sit down twice monthly to “do the budget”. In that time, we discuss kids and their activities, plans for the coming month, goals for our family, and dreams for debt-free living.

    We are requiring the couple we’re mentoring for marriage to do FPU and have a plan BEFORE they marry so they will start with the tools we wish we’d had- both financial and communicative.

    Karen´s last blog post…Way to Go, Kjersten!!!!

  11. Martha @ Better with Less

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    I completely agree that cutting back and focusing on financial peace makes life so so much better – the whole subject of my blog!

    I also really think that if you can focus on looking at improving your quality of life via cutting back, it makes the day to day sacrifices seem more like little gifts instead.

    Thanks for the great content and Happy New Year!


    Martha @ Better with Less´s last blog post…Show more love for less money

  12. 3mily

    i don’t follow Ramsey’s program (not because i don’t like, just because i don’t know much about it) but the “side-effects” you are talking about are so true. thanks for a great (motivating) list.

    3mily´s last blog post…20 qualities of power-moms

  13. Nancy D.

    Wow, I think my husband and I actually have your same side effects. We’re all about budgets!

    Nancy D.´s last blog post…A little homesick

  14. Keya

    I really like you imput on this one. Specifically because you stress the ability to become “financially free” without necessarily earning a ton of money. I’ve been introduced and gotten involoved in the Home Business industry (MLM/Network marketing specifcally) with the hopes of becoming financially free. and while I think that there is potential to those kinds of businesses, the really key to financial freedom is in living within your means. Whether those means are a small single income, or a multi-million dollar income earned from a home based business. My husband and I have started to do more with less. Me not buying prepackaged foods including cake mixes, packing lunches for him, making homemade pizza instead of ordering out, and taking the extra from that and putting it itno a savings account. I haven’t use a credit card in a year, all because of a budget and this year my bank actually paid me a match just for saving money. Not bad.

  15. rachel

    Do you actually do the envelope system? I love Dave Ramsey, but I have a hang-up on this.

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