Many of you have heard of Dave Ramsey. If not, he's the Financial Peace University founder and author of Total Money Makeover. He's been touting success stories all over the country, helping people to get out of debt and become wealth builders. My husband and I were in desperate need of his help. At my husbands request, I am going to give you a rather vague but slightly detailed outline of our financial situation 3 months ago. Our back story…We've been married 9 years this coming October. We both went to private colleges before getting married which we financed partially. My husband owned a brand new compact car when we were wed, and 4 months later bought me my first new (also compact) car. We both had more than one credit card with balances. So you can safely assume that we started our marriage in debt. We currently pay rent to a mortgage company for our 2005 town house. I guess that's what a realtor would call a home owner. S-man was blessed with a very nice (small company) job a month before we were married and is still working for the same company, although it's now gone global. So we were instantly able to afford a nicer lifestyle than some newlyweds. I worked for a while full time and then part time before staying at home full time. I'm currently building a part time home business and raising our two young children. (Oh, and blogging occasionally of course!) We always said that my income was "bonus money" as it helped us save for down payments on the house, the cars, and whatever other small niceties we wanted. S-man got a modest raise almost every year until the economy tanked in '09. Thankfully, he was not laid off as his company lagged far behind some of the other industries that were seeing major financial decline. But things were still tightened up a bit for us. When our second child was born in 2009, I did not go back to work. We knew it would be even tighter, but we were willing to "sacrifice" a little so that I could stay home. Had we no debt, this would have been a piece of cake! Hindsight is 20/20 huh? Fast forward two years almost exactly and we arrive at today. We still are paying college loans, still have two (bigger) car payments and now have more than a few credit cards each. Oh, and the mortgage of course. Typical American family. We had bought into a lot of the money lies/myths that retailers, bankers, "experts" and friends all spout. I'm not trying to justify or excuse our spending as necessary or ignorant. We don't have $40K cars, our house is very small by most standards, the only diamonds I have are on my wedding ring, and our one TV is 32"…and we don't have cable! There are a lot more things I could mention but I would digress…Just saying that our lifestyle didn't explode in many of the ways that it could have. There were a lot of other things that I would have loved to have that I didn't buy because it was simply too much. I have rarely paid full price for something, and always look for a great (not just good) deal for everything. I make a LOT of household stuff myself, including cooking from scratch. (More healthy too!) Our daughter is in cloth diapers because I hate paying $40+ bucks a month for disposables. We like to live simply as much as we can. For a while it seemed that we were managing our debt just fine. We would finance, say, our new washing machine because of that "interest-free six months" snare and, we're not dumb so we'd have it paid for well before the six month deadline. It simply started to catch up with us when the economy went bust and I stopped working. The price of gas skyrocketed, food prices went up, we had another mouth to feed and no raise came in December of that same year. So on and so forth. Our financial situation did not look great starting this year, or for the past two years if I'm really honest with myself. We needed someone to yell "Cheetah!" in our face, to wake us up to the reality of our situation. There were predators everywhere and they were eating our hard earned money every month. (More on the "cheetah" a little later) Enter Dave Ramsey. I don't know where he's been for the last nine years, but I didn't know who he was until recently when some friends showed us a short clip from his intro sessions at Financial Peace University. It tickled my ears a little but I soon forgot about it and then I saw his name start popping up everywhere. I finally got serious and asked to borrow my friends FPU packet and my husband and I sat down to watch it. We laughed, we cried, and then we realized how much we needed his help. We wanted financial peace so we got serious about it and took a long hard look at our checkbook. We have used Quicken since the day we were married, so I have more than a really good idea of our past mistakes, profits/losses, etc. As unorganized as my house may look on the average day, I'm an immaculate bookkeeper. (Borderline packrat) Quicken would glare at me every time I clicked into the program, I had some many things going on. Dave warned that we were going to have some knock down, drag out fights as we worked out a budget for the first two months and I think we managed to avoid that simply by already knowing, as a couple, our finances; shortcomings and all. We'd never had a realistic stick-to-it-budget though, EVER. S-man is a techie so he instantly started creating spreadsheets and formulas galore mimicking Dave's worksheets and planning guides so that we could climb out of the huge hole we are/were in. It's not a pretty picture when you stand back to see how deep the pit really is. This is where we get vague, (or just a little more private) since so much of my story thus far had been pretty detailed. We won't be debt free (minus the house) until the end of 2013. That's two whole years. We are aggressively attacking our college, cars, and CC debt with $2k per month. We will end up paying only $8,000 in interest compared to the path we were on before. Yes, that's still a lot! You're free to do the math yourself if you are so inclined. What's left over is simple living expenses plus the mortgage and our charity tithe. Every anticipated dollar is accounted for along with any emergency that "Murphy" brings our way. (Ramsey's Baby step #1 is getting an instant emergency fund of $1,000 set up) We know it's going to rain, and we are preparing our umbrella. Think we are crazy yet? Let me tell you what we are looking forward to in the future. We will never finance a car again, we will pay cash. We will never finance a home with anything other than a 15 year fixed-rate mortgage, we will pay cash for our children's college by saving ahead of time, and we will have a nest egg for retirement in which we can have fun, buy what we want, and GIVE our money away too. Dave has taught us how to do this with blood, sweat, and tears thru his 7 baby steps…It's not a get-rich-quick scheme, and no I didn't even pay for his book. I won it from a blog entry! I'm going to make this a series for the next few months of posting so that you can watch our journey. If you'd like to learn more about Dave Ramsey, here's his website. www.daveramsey.com We are only in baby step #2; The Debt Snowball and we will be here for a while. But already there are some really neat things happening to our checkbook. I'll leave you with this… I have one card in my wallet; my Credit Union debit card. Everything else underwent a "Plastectomy" I have NO way to run up more debt so this time I have no possibility for failure. Dave Ramsey quotes a verse from Proverbs about how the gazelle runs from the predator with intensity, and he compares that to saying that we should run from credit cards as if they were cheetah's. (The gazelle's only predator) So if the money's not there, I can't buy it unless I put it in the budget and save. It's go-time! If you still think we're crazy, let's make a coffee date for five years from now. We can chat about this more then. You in?