Select Page

5 ways to dramatically improve your finances…beginning NOW

Photo by Martin Gommel

The following is a guest post from Rachel of Porter Coaching.

Note from Tsh: If you hang out with me for an hour, you know I’m a huge Dave Ramsey fan. His plan is the one that led us to become debt-free, and is helping us save tons more than we’ve ever been able to. I get daily emails from readers, worried about their finances and wondering how to live more simply when their financial status forces them to make their decisions. Rachel is a Dave Ramsey certified financial planner, and below, she outlines some of the basic things Ramsey teaches. You might think some of these thing are obvious, but with the current savings rate of Americans below zero, we are not practicing common sense. Yep, we actually have a negative savings rate.  Below, Rachel outlines some of those common sense techniques.

1. See where you’re spending.

Start your plan by writing down where you spend every dollar over the next month. You may be surprised at what you’re spending money on – and how much you’re spending on certain things.

Good reads:

2. Make a budget.

If you’re married, you both MUST agree to it. Once you know what you’re spending and where, create a written budget and stick to it. It’s the most effective way to stay within your means and curb bad spending habits. Be sure to review your expenses against your budget monthly.

Good reads:

3. Eliminate your debt – ALL of it.

The more debt you can pay off, the less interest you will have to pay, and the more you can funnel into savings and investments for the future. Start first with getting rid of all your debt except your home mortgage, which you can begin attacking after you’re saving at 12-15% of your gross income, and adequately putting away money for your kids’ college.

Good reads:

4. Start Saving.

A savings plan helps meet financial goals and provides security. Set aside a percentage of your monthly income as savings. Twelve to fifteen percent is a good target if you’re in your 20s or 30s, and increase it if you’re older and behind on your retirement planning. Make it the first “bill” you pay by setting up an automatic investment. Get out of debt first (except your home), though.

Good reads:

5. Pay with cash.

It’s one of the surest ways to stay out of debt and easily control your discretionary spending. Cash categories should at least include groceries, eating out, clothing, personal care, and “blow money” (personal spending). You’ll save more money and get out of debt quicker using the cash system than practically any other method.

Good reads:

Which of these do you currently practice in your family? Which of these do you want to implement? Can you add any other tips?

Rachel is the founder of Porter Coaching and she is a Dave Ramsey Certified Counselor in the Kansas City area. You can read more of Rachel’s practical insights by visiting her coaching website, Porter Coaching, or check out the Porter Coaching Blog.

Reading Time:

3 minutes






    We were blessed to pay off all our debt before we had children, which was always our goal.

    I think it’s also good to remember that often situations that seem to be about money, aren’t REALLY about money. Sometimes they’re about control or trust – it’s good to tackle that underlying issue as well.

    Jamie´s last blog post…Letting Your Child Save Face

  2. TeriLynne

    We are just began writing down everything we spend and using cash only for the items listed. It has been amazing! In the past three weeks we have already identified spending trends and cut our grocery bill almost in half! Knowing that I can only spend what is in my purse on groceries (and not just swipe that debit card) has kept me focused on the task at hand while I’m shopping. Our big goal now is to get that $1000 saved!!

    TeriLynne´s last blog post…Type A Personality ~ Yep! Another List!!

  3. Chele

    Thanks Tsh! A reminder I needed. I have started reading the book! But not even close to finishing it…working on that!! I did realize that there is no control and some denial about our finances and both need to be worked on! I used to do the write every penny spent (as a matter of fact very many times) but I always forgot by the last few weeks of the month. (Organization needed!!!) I now have a new goal for the month of June! Thank you again!

  4. Elle

    We’re trying to build our emergency fund. We have been disciplined in paying down our line-of-credit (majority of our debt), however, something always seems to come up and we are forced to use the line-of-credit and find ourselves back at square one. That can been both frustrating and extremely discouraging. Hopefully, a decent emergency fund will help in the future.

    Elle´s last blog post…teething

  5. FranticMommy

    I am proud to say we have lived BELOW our means for many years so this last year when we were reduced to one income (mine) and that income was down about 30%, it was not a traumatic life altering event. It’s tight, but we still have money in the bank and enjoy the challenge of getting what we need in the thriftiest way possible. In writing this, I know I am making this sound’s not. There are some days it is majorly high on the “suck scale”, but we are making it work. If you intend to “cut back”, get used to doing without. And stick with it. Most people are good about cutting back..for about a month. Then old destructive habits creep back. Be vigilant and stick to your guns. I know this challenge will make me and better me in the end.

  6. Writer Dad

    Yeah, Dave’s awesome.

    Bottom line, never take your dollars for granted. Like time, they are limited, and you never know when you’ll run short. However, you can’t bank minutes. You can bank pennies.

    Writer Dad´s last blog post…Why LOST is the Best Television Show Ever

  7. Cara

    We’re doing Dave Ramsey too, and we love it. Kind of takes the guesswork out of it. Good overview, thanks!

    Cara´s last blog post…Made in China

  8. Lanyard

    Writing down a list of goods can really help you lower your expenses! It’s proven. I use that method for last 6 months and I can see improvements. I spare at least 30% a month. Good pocket money!

  9. sarah

    We had been living without debt until we bought our car last year. Ridiculously, we *could* pay off the car right now. BUT we both feel the need to keep a certain amount of buffer money, and that would cut into it a bit. Weird, yes. Also, we use credit cards – I have a friend who absolutely always uses his credit card (if possible) so that he can get money back on everything. I think it’s actually a great plan if you are DISCIPLINED. Seriously disciplined. We never use our cards to spend money we don’t have RIGHT NOW. I just don’t like the hassle of always going to the bank to get cash. There’s always a long line, and I often have a small screamer. Plus, I save money by searching for deals online. How would I buy online without a card? I’d prefer not to use a debit card here (for some reason – just paranoia, probably).

  10. lvlc @ FromMomToMom

    We’ve been using envelopes system for a while now… more than two years… But we always used every penny… it was a pain to have those coins in the envelope. So, this month we started to do what the tutorial explains (I never heard or read about it before)… approximate to the nearest dollar and put the change in our son’s piggy bank. He gets thrilled when he gets “money”! I think this method keeps the system simpler than what we used to do. Plus we have an extra way to save! 🙂

    lvlc @ FromMomToMom´s last blog post…Kids Tummy Ache: Aromatherapy solution

  11. Katie

    We love Dave Ramsey too. We started following him right when we got married and I am so thankful. I highly recomend it. It is simple and it will change your life!

  12. Prairie Chick

    We do pretty much all of these, we’re 100 percent debt free and only pay cash, have a savings and investment plan firmly in place, but we are not too tight on budgeting the left over money. It’s just pretty standard where it goes and what’s left over we spend freely (we are not loose spenders though by any means). Another huge one for us has been sustainable living as much as is practical and possible. Raising and hunting our own meat, growing our own fruit and veggies and making our own jams and preserves helped us get out of debt that much faster because it saves us THOUSANDS of dollars every year.

  13. Debra

    I, too, am a Dave Ramsey fan. His advice is really common sense but sometimes we don’t follow it – for many reasons, none of them great. 🙂 Challenges abound when it comes to money and the more control we have over our finances, the better I feel. The biggest thing for us is using cash. We don’t use it for absolutely everthing but always for groceries/sundries, going out and our ‘allowance’ – when it’s gone it’s gone. But it is amazing how after doing your budget (a very crucial part of the financial picture) for a few months you just get used to the amount you have and live with in it. Amazing.

    • lvlc @ FromMomToMom

      You are sooooo right. In the past we earned less, but we didn’t budgeted. Then everything was not controlled and things we needed, things we paid by CC. Now, we earn more, we have less at the end of the month but mostly everything is budgeted for and we are CC debt free! We don’t use it anymore! And as you said, is amazing that by doing this, you get used to live with what you have and not pretend to be something you are not! Is much more than money is attitude! 🙂

      lvlc @ FromMomToMom´s last blog post…Kids Tummy Ache: Aromatherapy solution

  14. Becky

    Great article. Dave Ramsey’s so great BECAUSE his basics are so common sense. We finally started doing a full budget a few months ago, once we figured out a method that works for us, and even though it’s painful at times, I definitely feel more in control of our finances. It helps, too, that we not only figured out “our” system (a sort of electronic envelope system, where when entering a deposit, you divide it immediately into categories), but that we’ve also both got ownership in our budget now. I (as the family CFO) told my husband what I wanted, and he wrote an Excel macro for it. I love it because it works for us, and he’s committed to it because he spent so many hours actually creating it.

  15. Squawkfox

    Rachel is rocking the “get out of debt” game and winning with these tips! Being honest with yourself and “seeing” where you’re actually spending the moolah is how I started on the path to living debt free. Without knowing where the money is going, it’s near impossible to cut costs and keep some for savings at the end of the day. Thank you so much for the mention too!

  16. ctreit

    When we started setting a budget, we reversed the order you are proposing. We set a budget first, that gave us an incentive to record our expenses – all of them, and then we tweaked our budget to reflect our actual spending better and to allocate enough to savings.

  17. Dominique

    Great information on how to reduce debt.
    We too are striving to put aside enough savings for our kids but with the dismissal interest rates it seems impossible to multiply our little savings.

  18. Emma @

    Good tips! Some time ago we started doing exactly that and let me tell you – it gives GREAT results. This way of thinking and living takes some getting used to, but it’s worth it because it leads you to a higher level of financial security. This IS the way to go, I think.

    Emma @´s last blog post…Before And After the Baby

  19. Angie

    We’re attempting to do all of these steps, but we’re not sticking to it very well. Honestly, we’re not diligent enough with the cash ony spending and with writing down when we spend. We’re working on it though and plan on being completely out of debt before our next PCS.

  20. sophia

    We LUV Dave and have taken the course, but have the challenge of an inconsistent, commission-based income. So its feast or famine, and unpredictable. The EM fund comes and goes, so we are still plugging in to see where we can be more frugal and get ahead. It is taking my building another business, and extra income to do that. Still workin on chipping that budget down. It is great to always have Dave’s boundaries to fall back on when we go off on a tangent!

  21. HipMama

    We just finished Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and it has made a huge difference!! We did a budget, sort of, before and we did meal planning, but using all of the principles Dave taught us has made a huge difference. I love this website and will use it often to keep me motivated AND remind myself to not be so serious. Thanks to all of you who post here, it helps me to remember I am a person, not a super person!

Join thousands of readers
& get Tsh’s free weekly email called
5 Quick Things,

where she shares stuff she either created herself or loved from others. (It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.)

It's part of Tsh's popular newsletter called Books & Crannies, where she shares thoughts about the intersection of stories & travel, work & play, faith & questions, and more.