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Financial baby steps: save up $1,000 and become debt-free

Finances tend to be on our minds at the beginning of the year.  We want to start the year off right, and we have noble hopes of being financially responsible for the next 12 months. But where to begin?

If we’ve got great intentions but no concrete plan, we won’t go far.

Dave Ramsey‘s “total money makeover” plan works really well for my family because it’s easy to understand.  The steps are clearly explained, and there’s lots of support for sticking to the plan via his daily podcast, radio show, and online forums.

But before we go into this series, it must be said that Dave Ramsey’s plan isn’t the only plan.  He’s the first to admit that nothing he teaches is new (God’s and Grandma’s advice, he calls it), so while I explore his plan on this blog for the next few weeks, please keep in mind that the most important thing here is fiscal responsibility — not bowing down and worshipping Dave.

The Baby Steps

Dave breaks down his total money makeover plan into “baby steps.”  You follow them in order, and you do them completely.  In simple terms, the baby steps are:

1.  Quickly save $1,000 as your beginning Emergency Fund.
2.  Pay off all your non-mortgage debt using the Debt Snowball method.
3.  Save 3 to 6 months of expenses, completing the Emergency Fund from step 1.
4.  Invest 15% of your regular household income for retirement.
5.  Create a college fund for your children.
6.  Pay off your house.
7.  Build wealth and give.

Today, we’re looking at steps 1 and 2.

Baby Step 1

Photo by Miemo Penttinen

The most important thing in the total money makeover is to be debt-free, but you can’t do that without a safety net.  So the first step is to quickly save $1,000 as the beginning of your Emergency Fund.

If you’ve already got more than $1,000 saved up, you’ve done this step.  Proceed to step 2.

If you don’t have $1,000 yet, do whatever you can to get it as fast as you can.  Sell stuff on eBay.  Have a yard sale.  Don’t eat out for a month or two.  Spend no extra money anywhere — put it all towards the Emergency Fund and live on beans and rice.

The safety net is purposely small.  It’s just large enough to cover minor setbacks, such as heating repairs, car maintenance, or sudden medical issues.  If it’s too large, you won’t be as “gazelle intense” during step 2 — a healthy fear is a good motivator, in other words.

Baby Step 2

Photo by kamshots

Once you’ve set aside $1,000, your next step is to pay off all your non-mortgage debt.  This includes credit cards, home equity loans, vehicles, student loans, medical bills, and bank lines of credit — everything.

If you originally had more than $1,000 in savings, use the remainder for your debt.  It’s a scary feeling, yes, but if you’re saving it while still holding on to debt, you’re basically “borrowing” that money to stay in debt.  It’s not yours — you need to pay it to your creditors.

(The only exception to this is when you see “storm clouds” on the horizon — the main income earner in your household is laid off, there’s a baby on the way, things like that.  True storm clouds, not things like Christmas or vacation.  If you see storm clouds, then continue beefing up your Emergency Fund, and just pay the minimums on your debt.  When the clouds pass, use all but $1,000 in your Emergency Fund on your debt.)

Prioritize your debt payments using the Debt Snowball method.

Keeping a Budget

It’s essential to stick to a written budget each month, no matter what baby step you’re on.  Our family prefers to use a zero-based budget, based on Dave’s recommendation.  Create a new budget each month; don’t make some lofty “master” budget in hopes of each month matching your plan. We tried that for a long time, and it never worked.

Use pen and paper, Excel, or budgeting software.  Our family’s preference is Pear Budget because of its simplicity, support, and clean interface (and it’s created and run by a family who happens to be loyal Simple Mom readers).  It’s well worth the $3 monthly fee.

Use cash with a basic envelope system so that you don’t accidentally spend more than you intend.

If you have more expenses than income, that either means you need to increase your income or decrease your expensesThe most important expenses are food, shelter, and lights, so make those your priorities. If you don’t have enough money, don’t pay Visa before you pay your mortgage note.  The credit cards will scream and insult you, but that’s all.  Ignore their calls.  Essential living takes priority.

For More Inspiration

I highly recommend tuning in to Dave’s daily radio showcheck for local times.  If you don’t have access to it live, like me, then you can listen to the first hour for free on his podcast.

If you’d like more one-on-one accountability and support, the Total Money Makeover forums are a great place.  I was on there during baby steps 1 through 3, and it was very helpful.  Worth the monthly (or annual) fee.

Take Financial Peace University. If there’s not one near you, you can take it online.  My husband and I did it online, and it was great.

Read blogs who advocate debt-free living. Some of my favorites are Money Saving Mom, Being Frugal, and Gather Little By Little.  There are a lot.

Next Monday, we’ll explore baby steps 3, 4, and 5.

What are your thoughts about being debt-free?  Do you have any questions?  Any words of wisdom to share?

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. steadymom

    That looks really great, but I hate to see “Give” not listed until #7!

    In our house we’ve made that as much as a priority as possible, and the rest of our finances have always fallen into place–I think the giving is much of the reason why.

    (It could be that the details of Dave Ramsey don’t actually leave giving out until then–it just looks quite black & white when listed as bullet points!)

    .-= steadymom´s last blog ..How to Choose Books for Your Boys =-.

    • Tsh

      Thanks for pointing that out, Jamie. Dave advocates giving the entire time you’re working the baby steps, particularly tithing. And then, when you’re debt-free and are able, to give above and beyond your tithe. Step 7 means “giving like crazy,” for lack of a better term. Giving tons away.

      Does that make sense? Hope so…

  2. Angela

    Great summary of the program. We started our Total Money Makeover a little over 2 years ago and with hard work and dedication paid off about $85,000 in 21 months. Now we’re working on Baby Steps 4, 5, and 6. It’s such a great feeling to be debt free (except for the house) that we are constantly sharing our praise for this program with other people. I think the two hardest parts are writing down every penny and being honest with your partner about where it is going. The hard work has not only improved our bottom line, but has greatly improved our marriage.

    Good luck to every one out there! May this be the year you find your inspiration and become DEBT FREE!!!!
    .-= Angela´s last blog ..Cleaning up =-.

    • pam shensky

      awesome!!! i am inspired. i have reached a point in life where peace of mind is alot more important than any “thing”. p.s.

  3. Laura

    After hearing many friends raving about the Dave Ramsey plan, it’s great to see it sketched out here in easy-to-follow steps. Our debt right now seems so unsurmountable — mostly student loan debt — but it’s kind of inspiring to think of actually paying it off. Wow, that would be pretty life-altering! 🙂
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Serious, Precise, No-Kidding-Around Cooking =-.

  4. Christina

    I am a huge fan of Dave Ramsey. Our resolution is to get rid of our debt ASAP – we have our second child due to arrive in March and we’d like to purchase a house this year. We are on step #2 – and hopefully will be out of debt by spring!
    .-= Christina´s last blog ..Winter Boredom Busters: Free & Cheap Family Outings =-.

  5. Jennifer

    Thanks for this post! My number 1 goal this year is to get my finances under control and buy a house. Hopefully I will actually be able to accomplish the house buying in the next month or so. I have been looking at the Dave Ramsey plan and have heard great things about it but I guess my question is, is it something that I can do on my own without paying for Financial Peace University or would you say that paying the money and actually going through the classes is the way to go? See, I don’t have any credit card debt, no car payment, etc. just a student loan. Other than that I am essentially debt free. My biggest problem is budgeting, I just can’t seem to hold on to the money. We eat out constantly, buy things on impulse and generally watch the money fly away. I’d love to take the classes and have looked online at the schedule many times the past few weeks, I guess I just question whether that $119 is something I should just put to the side for the house payments that should be starting soon or for my emergency fund. Thoughts?

    • Tsh

      Yes, you can totally do the plan without FPU. We only had school loan debt as well, but taking the classes was still worth it for us. That said, I’d recommend checking out his book at your library and listening to his radio show. All free. 🙂

    • Lindy

      Dave’s class isn’t going to tell you how to live in order to save money (i.e. how to be frugal, etc.), but I will tell you this: he will motivate you to change your ways by demonstrating how great your life can be if you do so. He will inspire you and help you realize that no amount of stuff or convenience living right now is worth the peace of mind and quality of life you will have in the future by simply exercising some self-discipline and persistence right now. Another thing it does is help you and your spouse, if applicable, get on the same page in regards to finances and have the same goals. That alone is worth the $119….you will benefit many times that!

  6. Aimee

    I was introduced to Dave Ramsey through one of your earlier blog posts and began voraciously reading his columns, books, and website. Love his common sense approach and that he’s challenging what has (unfortunately) become the American way of life which is to live beyond our means.

    That said, I am curious if you have followed the steps exactly as written. We have a really hard time putting paying off student loans with a low interest rate above finishing our large emergency fund and aren’t willing to not save for retirement. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why he says it but I tend to think that some of the steps can be done concurrently. Thougths?
    .-= Aimee´s last blog ..2010 goals =-.

    • Tsh

      We more or less follow his plan, though we continually saved for retirement during baby steps 1-3 (a low 7%, though). Yes, school loans have small interest rates, but it’s still debt. Once you get those payments out of the way, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can finish your EF. After we finished step 2 (only school loans for us), we anticipated it taking 8 months to finish our EF. It took 4. I think we really underestimated how much our monthly school loan payments were costing us! 🙂
      .-= Tsh´s last blog ..Financial Baby Steps: Save up $1,000 and Become Debt-Free =-.

  7. Elisa | blissfulE

    I would like to know more about this: “Create a new budget each month; don’t make some lofty “master” budget in hopes of each month matching your plan. ”

    Does this really mean you and your husband renegotiate your budget each month? How difficult is it to make these monthly changes in Pear Budget?

    Also, if you remember back when you first started using Pear Budget, can you give some pointers on how you made sure all your money was in there to begin with, so you could go forward with zero-based budgeting? I guess I’m finding startup more complex than I first anticipated; we’ve been using a spreadsheet for years but have never successfully accounted for every penny. Any guidance would be much appreciated!

    • Tsh

      Yep, we sit down once a month and review next month’s brand new budget plan. Honestly, it stays more or less the same, but it’s still a new budget each month, because there are changes (even if they’re minor). Check out the links to my posts on budgeting I mentioned in that paragraph, for more information and ideas.

      I’m not quite sure what you mean by “making sure all your money was in there to begin with.” Could you elaborate your thoughts here? Thanks. 🙂
      .-= Tsh´s last blog ..Financial Baby Steps: Save up $1,000 and Become Debt-Free =-.

      • Elisa | blissfulE

        Whew – it’s a relief to hear that your budget stays basically the same. Oh the tears I shed when we were first setting up our budget. We’ve been tweaking it ever since, and it sounds like that’s what you guys do, too.

        My question about “making sure all your money was in [Pear Budget] to begin with” is just me being lazy… We have various accounts and I assume to start out zero-based budgeting we’ll have to put the different balances from different saving and checking accounts in as income sources to start with (we’re expats so things are a bit complex). Is that clearer? Probably the wrong place to be asking the question, but any help pointing me in the right direction would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • Sarah (@

      Hi, Elisa!

      Charlie and I have tried to make PearBudget as far away from complex as possible… I’m going to try to answer your PearBudget-related questions, and let me know if you have any others!

      The budget that you create will be automatically filled in for the next month, and the next month, etc — but then it’s super easy to change any of the amounts you’ve budgeted, if you find that your numbers were ‘off.’ PearBudget shows you what you spent in that category in the previous month, so you can easily compare while you’re planning.

      Also, PearBudget’s focus is on planning what you hope to spend, tracking what you do spend, and then reviewing how it all went, as opposed to tracking what’s in each bank account you might have. I think this is what you might mean by “how you made sure all your money was in there to begin with”? So instead of entering in all your “totals” from savings accounts or your checking account, you would start with one number: what income will you and your husband bring in *this* month? Then you plan every cent of THAT amount, to make your “zero-based budget.”

      I hope this makes sense? Tsh, this is a wonderful post… we so appreciate your sound, grounded financial advice (and also the PearBudget mention!)


      • Elisa | blissfulE

        Hi Sarah – That is a radical concept – having a budget that is that month’s income vs that month’s expenditures. Fantastic! My brain feels lighter already.

        But what happens when you want to make a larger purchase that you’ve been saving for since before you started Pear Budget? Would I just not enter it in Pear Budget, or would I enter some money with an income source “savings account” and then put the amount in? Or am I making all this too difficult? We just bought a house so there’s a lot of large expenditure going on here at the moment.

        Thanks again for your help!

        • Charlie Park

          Hi, Elisa!

          To answer your “what happens when you want to make a larger purchase that you’ve been saving for since before you started Pear Budget” question …let me give some background on how PearBudget works.

          There are two main types of expenses in PearBudget — “monthly” and “irregular”. Monthly things, like groceries, or your mortgage or rent, start fresh each month. But irregular expenses are different — you don’t necessarily spend money in these categories each month — things more like “Christmas” or “car maintenance” or “vacation savings”. With this type of category, you would choose an amount that you want to budget for it over the course of the *year*. Then PearBudget helps you figure out how much to set aside each month, so that come December, you’ve got a good chunk set aside for Christmas (for example).

          Let’s say, for the sake of easy math, that you wanted to save $1000 for a vacation, and you’ve made that an “irregular” category. And let’s say that you’ve already saved $300 before starting to use PearBudget. When you finally *spend* that vacation money, you enter in the amount spent, and PearBudget subtracts that number from the amount you had budgeted and set aside. But let’s say you want to show an extra amount available (that $300 you’d already saved) [this is the answer to your question]. You can enter in a “receipt” of NEGATIVE $300. PearBudget says “Okay. She ‘spent’ -300, so we’ll add that to what she’s set aside.” (Remember arithmetic class: Subtracting a negative amount is the same as adding.) So if you had set aside $300 before using PearBudget, and you’ve saved $100 since using PearBudget, PearBudget will tell you that you have $400 available, and that you have $600 yet to save up.

          I know that’s a little complex, but I hope this makes sense! I promise: It is much easier to follow if you’re looking at the program on your screen. Please know that you can totally try PearBudget for free for a full month, to see if it will fit your needs (and there’s no need to enter any credit card info for the trial)!

          Also, if you (or anyone here) has any questions that you’d rather ask by e-mail, please feel free to e-mail either me or Sarah (, or replace ‘charlie’ with ‘sarah’). Or send us a tweet: @pearbudget. Or post another comment here. Whatever’s easiest!

          Thanks for reading through all this! If I haven’t scared you off from asking other questions, please don’t hesitate to ask more questions!

          • Elisa | blissfulE

            Oooo, a negative receipt. Too easy, thanks!

            I really appreciate all three of you – Tsh, Sarah, and Charlie – for getting back to me so quickly and clearing up my many questions! Everything is a LOT clearer now.

            Happy New Year!

  8. Rana

    I’m looking forward to starting out fresh. I have been wanting to get debt free and have an emergency fund. Thanks for setting this up in simple steps to follow. I would like to try the envelope system. We sorta do a new budget every month, but I would like to see how the zero budget works. Thanks for the tips Tsh.
    .-= Rana´s last blog ..I’m so excited! =-.

  9. Denise

    i love these posts. thank you
    .-= Denise´s last blog .. =-.

  10. Melinda M

    We’ve been on the plan since February of 07. We should be debt-free by the end of this year (except the mortgage). I am so incredibly thankful for Dave Ramsey’s ministry. It has revolutionized the way we think about money. My DH used to dread talking about money. Now, we can have that conversation…and he’s as enthusiastic (if not more so) about this plan as I am. (I’m the nerd, he’s the free spirit).

    One misconception that people seem to have about a zero-based budget is that you have to spend all of your money (or take your checking account down to zero). No. What it means is that every dollar has a name – it may not all be spent, but it has a purpose and isn’t just lying there waiting to be wasted on something unplanned.

  11. lynn

    Tsh – you totally read my mind. My New Years resolution is to start Dave Ramsey and get thru steps 1-3 by years end – a big goal. Actually we only have 1 car loan & a home equity (that will be the hard one). What benefits do you see to the Pearbudget program vs. regular excel, etc.

    Love your ING accounts by the way – I just set up a whole bunch when you last posted about them!!

  12. Kasey

    I love Dave Ramsey’s method. It works, and makes a lot of sense. We have read his books, and now are doing great!!

  13. Princess Leia

    We’re almost ready to pay off our last non-mortgage debt (a school loan) and are VERY excited about it! We are blessed in that we didn’t have a _whole_ lot of debt to begin with, but it’s still VERY nice to be almost “done!” Bonuses have been great for knocking out entire debts! I can’t say that we follow Dave to the letter, but we do follow the general concepts and learned a LOT as we listened to FPU during the last weeks before our wedding (a gift from my sis-in-law).

    2010 will be the year that we save up our emergency fund and a down payment for a bigger house! Just the thought that we’re almost there takes away SO much stress!

    It hasn’t always been easy to live differently from our friends, but it’s worth it!
    .-= Princess Leia´s last blog ..Christmas Day =-.

  14. Dustin | Engaged Marriage

    I love seeing others spreading the debt-free message and living Dave’s plan! My family paid off $58,500 in debt, and I have written about how important I feel “family financial freedom” is with regards to having a great marriage.

    I look forward to your summaries of the next baby steps!
    .-= Dustin | Engaged Marriage´s last blog ..Some Old Posts for the New Year =-.

  15. Tracey

    We are on Baby Step Four and I have to say that one of the best parts of being debt-free is the freedom to make important life decisions without money being the first consideration. I look forward to one day having our house paid off, which will be our final release from the burden of debt!!
    .-= Tracey´s last blog ..Personal Goals for 2010 =-.

  16. Vicky

    I like Dave’s baby step as it gives me direction, but like you said to each his own and I “modified” his baby steps because I wanted to have my total EF in place b4 purchasing a house and like Amiee I have a hard time pay off a 4% student loan when I could be earning more then 4% in my retirement accounts. Here are my steps. Maybe it will help people come up with their own if they don’t completely agree w/ Dave.

    1. 6 Months of expenses in Emergency Fund
    2. Save up $XX for down payment
    3. Invest 15% of regular household income for retiremnt
    4. Pay off Student loan
    5. Create a college fund for your children.
    6. Pay off your house.
    7. Build wealth and give.

    This is the year that I ratchet up retirement to 15%. I am confident I can meet this goal and optimistic that I will find some extra $ to send to the student loan as well. Wish me luck : )

  17. karissa

    So glad to read this today, I just re-read Dave’s book and sat down a few nights ago to crank out a new budget. Last year held so much change for us that we shelved a lot of things like budgeting, not good. I’m excited to have a plan and to move forward. I didn’t realize he recommends paying of line-of-credits as well, I had clumped that in with the mortgage in my mind since it was used to add a room and bathroom. Good reminder!


  18. Heather

    I was so excited to see this post! I’m posting a link to this post on my frugal blog. I love the Dave Ramsey plan – it’s so straightforward. No gimmicks, no complicated formula. We’re back on Baby Step one because our car needed a new engine (hooray.) – but it was such a blessing to have that $1000 from Baby Step one there when we really needed it. Anyway, we’re one paycheck away from having the fully-funded emergency fund and we should be completely debt free by April. Can’t wait!

    Anyway, keep spreading the word about Dave Ramsey – I can think everyone can benefit.
    .-= Heather´s last blog ..Lovely Links: New Year’s Day Edition =-.

  19. Lyndsi

    Thank you for posting this, you did an awesome job in outlining the DR plan!
    My husband and I are scheduled to call into the Dave Ramsey show this Friday to share our debt free story! We paid off over $85,000 in 35 months.We have three children and my husband is a teacher. If you want my full story and tips feel free to visit my blog!

    To steadymom: Dave does encourage giving along the way of ALL the steps! He encourages people to continue to tithe during all the steps, if that is what you believe in. Step #7 is really to Give like no one else and to really be able to do amazing things!!

    I LOVE to see other people striving towards financial freedom! I can’t wait until we are on baby step #7!
    Debt is Normal, Be WEIRD! 🙂

  20. a thorn among roses

    great post…and i do love how dave ramsey says and does things. it’s honest and makes sense. we have been using this model for a long time, but with the new year and a new review, it’s time to revisit! thanks!
    .-= a thorn among roses´s last blog ..not me monday =-.

  21. Cynthia

    One of my goals this year is to get a better handle on budgeting. But what happens when both people in your household are not on the same page. I’ve read a lot about the envelope system and would love to give it a try, but my other half seems to have a really hard time wanting to try it out. How do I convince him that this would help us out in the end and would move us a step closer to spending less and eventually getting out of debt.

  22. Sheila

    we did FP University a few years ago and it helped set our priorities. We paid off all our major debt (exc. mortgage) and build up ER funds, retirement and set aside $$ for kids college. We have strayed some (have a CC now with small balance) so I need to take 2010 and get back to a budget and stick with it. Also, Cynthia, not sure how to comvince partner to use envelope system. We never used it b/c my husband hates to carry cash. He puts everything on debit card.

    Also, Dave Ramsey has good info for kids to in case you want to get your little ones into saving & giving mode early on.

  23. Corn

    We are on baby step 2….just finished Dave Ramseys course in December and it has changed our life and way of thinking… cards are a bad word in our house right now! I was excited to see this on your blog, very important message 🙂

  24. Dee

    My husband always insisted we pay everything in full – when we have enough to buy a car, we paid in full. Every month, pay credit card – singular – in full. that will keep you in check! It has kept us in a good place by making it so we don’t buy what we cannot afford. And we keep an emergency fund, which helps us feel secure. I think your tips are a good starting point for anyone figuring this all out.

  25. Christine @ Live to Learn

    We love the Dave Ramsey method in our home! We have been listeners for many years and our kids listen right along with us. We download the program through iTunes and play them in the car or around hte house on the ipod. It gives up ample opportunity to discuss debt and being slave to the lender. We hope to raise financial savy children, all 6 of them, who will be good stewards of what God has given them. PS We’ve been debt free, except for the house, for 3 years and have paid cash for 3 vehicles and a $20,000 home addition since that time. It’s amazing what your money can do for you when it’s not going to creditors. 🙂

  26. Barb

    My husband and I have just recently decided that we NEED Dave. We live for our “zero-based budget”. I love sitting down and seeing excately where our money will be going. We currently are working on baby step 1 and should be done by the end of Feb. We are participating in “eating from your pantry challenge” and that is freeing up $200 this month. I am so glad you are writing about this subject, it is perfect timing. Blessings!

  27. Jennifer

    We were debt free except the mortgage when we took FPU. It was so worth it, even though we were already on BS 3. We learned so much and it motivated us so much that I am thinking about taking it again. It is just finding the time. Maybe we will do the online course you mentioned. Thanks!

  28. Melissa

    Hi Tsh,

    I tried to follow you on Twitter and says that I am blocked?? Help! Any advice?

    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..Design Girl Giveaway =-.

    • Tsh

      Huh… No idea why! I’ll look into it and let you know!

    • Tsh

      Melissa, what’s your Twitter handle?

        • Tsh

          Alright, you’re unblocked! Sorry about that. I’ve had a recent bout of spam infiltration on Twitter, so I used a program to eliminate some of those users. I think it threw in some non-spammers into the mix. Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

  29. Debra

    We love Dave Ramsey. Thanks for that great post. And you have gotten some great responses. Budgeting is really key. We are on baby step 2 (car is what’s left). I saw someone made up their own baby steps. While I like the way Dave has outlined his steps we all need to do what we’re comfortable with and what works for out families. He has proven his way works but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way. I think the big thing is having a plan, going over your budget each month and realizing what your goals are. And being flexible. Being aware is so important. I am amazed when I hear people say they don’t know what their house payment is or what their mortgage balance is or how much they spend on such and such each month. How can you NOT know? It’s so important. Thanks again for such a worthwhile post.
    .-= Debra´s last blog .."Why… =-.

  30. Julie

    Thanks for this post. Finances will be a big focus for my husband and I this year, as my maternity leave pay runs out and I plan not to return to work (if possible). We haven’t lived on one income before, so it could be interesting.

    Regarding the retirement savings, we have compulsory superannuation payments (I think you call it 401K) of 9% in Australia. I was wondering whether this is included in Dave’s recommended 15% retirement saving or whether he refers to 15% of take-home pay? Thanks

    • Tsh

      He means 15% total, no matter in what way it comes. So if your company does a match of up to 3%, for example, bringing you to 6% (their contribution and yours of 3%), then you need to add an additional 9% to total 15%. It doesn’t (and shouldn’t, really) be in your 401K — you can open a separate Roth IRA account, which in America has better tax benefits.

      So in your case, I’d say Dave would recommend adding 6% once you’re on baby step 4, but obviously keeping your required 9% through steps 1-3.

      Make sense? Hope so! 🙂

  31. Cara

    This was an excellent summary of Dave’s Baby Steps. I just finished reading Total Money Makeover last month, and I”m excited to work through the baby steps. We’re still on Baby Step 1, and already some unexpected hospital bills popped up. We’ve got a LONG road ahead of us, but I’m looking forward to working hard to get to our goals!

    I think it is important to review your budget monthly and make adjustments as needed. It can be really difficult to come up with a master budget. Even if things don’t change much from month to month, I think reviewing the budget regularly is important.
    .-= Cara´s last blog ..Winter Sensory Tub and Snow Dough =-.

  32. Chele

    Hi Tsh! It’s been a long time since I’ve been by. I’m glad I came by. I needed this reminder. Although we are struggling right now because my husband is currently laid off … we were planning on starting these steps by Dave Ramsey this year and I totally got off track. So glad God sent me by here! 🙂
    .-= Chele´s last blog ..Introducing Goal Gathering Monday =-.

  33. Claire

    Great post! I’m not sure that Dave Ramsey’s plan is the right one for my family, but these ideas are a great place to start the conversation between my husband and I. I love your idea of having a month-by-month budget. That seems so much more possible than making a plan for the whole year. I am definitely going to look at your previous posts on budgeting.

    By the way, I also tried to follow you on twitter and was told that I was blocked by you. I hope I haven’t done anything offensive. My twitter handle is irishgal99.

    • Tsh

      You’re unblocked now, too. No, nothing offensive! I recently used a program to clean out my spammers, and I think it inadvertently threw in some non-spammers. Sorry about that.

  34. NicoleS

    Tsh –
    I found your blog just before the holidays & can’t get enough. I’m learning a lot & gleaning a lot of good ideas from you.

    I am planning to go to the library tomorrow to look for Dave’s book. I understand people can customize their own baby steps, but am wondering what your suggestion would be:

    Our son (only child) will be college age in 2 years. We have very little saved for his education, but do not plan to fund his education entirely (We each put ourselves through school, though we had student loans).

    DH & I have approx. 23 years before retirement.

    What’s the best way to quickly build the college savings (after the first couple of baby steps are met).


  35. Whitney

    After reading this post a few days ago, I started the free trial with Pear Budget. I love how simple it is and I know we will continue using it. Thanks for the great post!
    .-= Whitney´s last blog ..I’m Bookin’ It! Are you? =-.

  36. Emily Geizer

    I’m so glad to see you addressing this very important aspect of living simply and staying sane.

    I am so grateful to have stumbled on Dave Ramsey’s plan about 5 years ago. It allowed on things we didn’t imagine possible. While we haven’t started building wealth yet, his plan and our budget did allow me to stay home with our young children on a very small income.

    Thanks for sharing in the same simple, tangible way that Dave has mastered.

    .-= Emily Geizer´s last blog ..Did I Get it Wrong? =-.

    • Tsh

      I know it can seem that way, but he actually takes lots of callers on his show where both people work. He helps them work it out.
      .-= Tsh´s last blog ..Financial Baby Steps: Save and Invest =-.

  37. Boliath

    I do not agree with all of the article btw.

  38. Lyndsi

    I just posted a comment on that article you posted. I think he gives the one income/stay at home mom/ single parents, etc., stories a lot to inspire people. If one-income families can do it, then ANYONE can!! It is for inspiration. We started the Dave Ramsey plan (and did about half of it) while we were both working full-time and paying childcare. His “example” budgets really are just that, an example to get you started. He acknowledges that every family is different! Please don’t be discouraged and disappointed because you do not have the exact same story as some of the people in his book. He has many, many, more every single day on his show and there are all kinds of people that have followed his plan with all different circumstances and backgrounds!!
    .-= Lyndsi´s last blog ..Tips for Safe Water =-.

  39. Emily Geizer

    I posted just before you about how Dave’s plan helped me stay at home. But having a parent at home is not a requirement! In fact, it’s no secret that you will build wealth faster with two incomes rather than one.
    My only point was that I thought it would never be an option for me to stay home, which was my wish. my dream. Once we got on a very stringent budget and knew the details of our monthly expenses we were able to take control of our finances instead of our finances controlling us.
    .-= Emily Geizer´s last blog ..Bringing Meaning Back to Manners =-.

  40. Chelsea

    I can’t thank you enough for your posts on this subject! I do have a quick question, however. I’m following a few other blogs that are going into the Dave Ramsey steps in depth, too. One such blog mentioned that if you have more than $1000 (in savings OR in investments), you should use that to pay off debt. She mentioned that you should sell off your investments and know that you’ll be able to re-stock them later. Is this correct? We have quite a bit of money in investments, but very little in savings as we’ve drained our savings recently to purchase a home. Should we sell off all our investments even though we’ll be losing money? Thank you so much in advance!
    .-= Chelsea´s last blog ..It’s a love story. =-.

    • Tsh

      Yep, that’s what Dave would say to do. It’s more important to get out of debt than to hold on to investments. When you’re debt-free, you start saving up money fast.

  41. paulette

    hi – i’d never thought about that once you had the 1000.00 in savings and have over that amount, too, that you’d use the additional to pay down debt.


  42. Heather

    I am trying couponing right now. Getting reading to blog about my first real savings after about 3 weeks of couponing. I have started on the emergency fund but we have tried before several times. I can’t seem to get it built up to 1,000.00 to get the debt snowball rollling. I get the momentum them my hubby doesn’t. It not that he doesn’t want to he just doesn’t get excited and determined like I do. He feels like he works and works and never gets to spend on anything he wants cause it all goes to bills. Then I loose my momentum and give up especially on the shopping trip for groceries or things we need.

  43. Lindsay

    Hi Tsh,
    What Dave Ramsey book would you recommend to start with?

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