Ok, so I don't REALLY hate Dave Ramsey... :) If you aren't aware of who he is, you are missing out. He is a financial advising guy who shoots it fairly straight. Here is his webpage if you'd like to learn more. And, yes, he is one of those people whose first and last name I use every time I mention his name.
I don't agree with the man 100%. However, he has a fairly "common sense" approach to life and money that many of us just overlook.
Dustin and I went through his Financial Peace University starting in January 2007. Since then, we have been able to do some amazing things we otherwise wouldn't have done. During these few years, we have worked, taken time off, been in school, between jobs, and just experienced a lot of life's bumps and bruises.
We have also paid off our 3 year old car, our "water refining system", my master's degree, Dustin's associate's degree, and a private undergrad loan of mine. We also paid down our house some when we refinanced for a lower rate and a 15 year loan. (In addition to this, we also did some fun things.... we remodeled the bathroom and the laundry room, redid the kitchen floor, fixed the foundation leaks, built a grape trellis, redid our landscaping, purchased a corn stove, and did the baby room.) I'm not tooting our own horn here. I'm just saying, if you haven't heard of him, it is well worth your time to try it out. We don't make loads and loads of money-- this has just made us very aware of where our money goes so we can make more intelligent decisions along the way. It is amazing how funds disappear when you aren't paying attention.
It isn't automatic. You have to budget and plan. We have monthly budget meetings where we look at what we've spent that month, what we've saved, and where we are going next. Without Dave Ramsey, we wouldn't be in this place. We still have my bachelor's degree to pay off... and in a "let's not listen to Dave Ramsey" moment, I enrolled in a doctoral program using loans. (shhh).
It takes a few months to really get into the swing of things. We still tweak and change our budget just about every month. Life happens and things change-- the budget needs to change with it. We aren't quite as strict as maybe we should be at times. But, we have made great progress and have still enjoyed life along the way. I am proud of what we have done and am glad that we're in the place we are. Dave Ramsey's motto is something along the lines of "Live like no one else so you can live like no one else". And that's the truth. No credit cards here. No living beyond our means. No eating out as much as we'd REALLY like to. But, I don't really feel like we've had to make huge sacrifices along the way.
If you're curious or have questions, please feel free to email me or leave a comment. I am by no means an expert.... but I am a cheapskate who LOVES to save money so we can spend it on fun things :) (mainly on remodeling projects!!) It isn't always fun. Sometimes you'll love Dave Ramsey; sometimes you will hate Dave Ramsey. But, I know that the decisions we make now will pay dividends later down the road.
We actually just paid Dustin's degree off last night when we finished our December/January budget meeting, so this is fresh on my mind. And, it is so rewarding to be able to mark something else of the list!!