Monday, May 03, 2010

W.B.'s Book Report: The Total Money Makeover

Hi, my name is Warren and I like stuff.

The pursuit of stuff has gotten me in trouble three times in my life. Credit cards maxed out, living paycheck to paycheck, fear that the next time the phone rings it'd be some lower life form wondering why the check I promised to mail this morning hadn't arrived by afternoon.

Actually, this third time the situation hasn't gotten nearly that bad yet. The first two times were enough to educate me to the warning signs, but not enough to get me to quit pulling out the plastic. Intellectually I knew debt is dumb — the borrower is slave to the lender — but like a drunken congressman, I couldn't stop.

Dave Ramsey has built a small business empire teaching people to stop and start using money properly. The Total Money Makeover is the distillation of his lesson plan. It's as simple as getting out of debt, writing a budget, saving money and not buying anything you don't have the cash for — but in a world built on instant gratification, simple can be revolutionary.

The key is behavior modification. As Ramsey states, being a recovering stuff addict himself, figuring out how to get out of debt is mathematics, but if everyone who can do the math could do it, we wouldn't be a nation of debtors. His "Total Money Makeover" is training yourself to change your behavior in a series of seven "baby steps." Completing each step gives you a little taste of victory, which builds encouragement and momentum.

Armed with Ramsey's book and his daily podcast (which is one hour of his three-hour syndicated radio show), for the first time in my life I have a small emergency savings fund, I have cut all of my credit cards into pieces and started paying them off — paid the first one down to zero at the end of March, and the second monthly payment should disappear this month. I can see a future where I am earning interest, not paying it, and that makes me eager. And if I can do it — a guy once hopelessly addicted to pulling out the card and buying stuff without thinking — you can manage it, too.

This isn't just a book, it's a lifestyle change and a path to freedom. Find the podcast, find the book, and start your own journey.

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