Thank you, Dave Ramsey. You changed our lives!

When I graduated from college in 2006, I got my first “real” job, so I decided to buy my first “real” car. I bought a 2002 Subaru Outback, $15,999, give or take a few. No negotiation, no credit history, no worries, if my Dad would just co-sign with me, a credit union was more than happy to finance it for me. Slightly more than $19,000 later and I was the proud (read: broke) owner of my new set of wheels.

To top it all off, my bank found out I got my first “real” job. Congratulations, Mr. Cook, we’ll set you up with your first credit card with a limit of $17,500… for a kid with no credit history, no first paycheck yet, and no discipline at all when it came to credit cards.

My monthly car payments were $385.32. I remember because I was ticked each month I wrote that dang check to the credit union. Finally, I’d had enough. In January 2009 I talked my bank into giving me 12 months of 0% financing on the zero balance credit card, eating the transfer fee for my car loan, and moved the entire car loan balance onto that same credit card. Thankfully, the elephant of a bad idea had slowly been reduced to $10,885.

Over the next 11 months, I met my goal of paying off my car before Christmas, but it was just the largest evidence of a completely broken personal system. Sure, I lived on a “budget,” in one of the loosest senses of the word…if you call spending $200/month on cable and entertainment on a $40,000 income a “budget”.

When Kara and I were engaged, we started talking about money. Money fights and money problems are the number one leading cause of divorce in America and we wanted to be proactive. Enter Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University.

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I’d heard horror stories about Dave Ramsey. “He doesn’t let you have any fun!” “You have to use cash only in an envelope system!” “You’re going to be broke, abandoned, bald, and probably homeless because you can’t go into any debt!” In fact, a former boss of mine even said, “We’re not going to promote Financial Peace University because people come out of there more messed-up than when they go in!”

Well, we’re completely debt-free except our house, have two months of savings in the bank, and less concerned with financial emergencies than ever. You’re right; we’re just straight messed-up.

Do I believe everything Dave says? Nope. There are still times where I hear Dave talk or read something he wrote and go, “Hmm… Dave, I don’t agree with that.” I’m sure there’s plenty I say where other people don’t agree with me, so that’s that.

What I do believe is in the power of financial stewardship, especially as a follower of Christ. I’m a Christ-follower first and a Dave-fan after that, which means my faith and the finances God’s given to Kara and me are ours to handle very carefully as gifts from God, not just a reward for doing my job.

Whether you’re a Dave Ramsey fan or not, it doesn’t matter to me. I know how much it’s changed my life. We regularly give “Total Money Makeover” to newlyweds we know because we know how much our marriage has changed because of FPU.

Thank you, Financial Peace University, for changing our financial future. We’re on a budget, we have a plan, and we’re never coming off it. Ever. I’ve seen life done without a plan or purpose, especially finances, and we’re never going back.

Thank you, Dave Ramsey. You’ve changed our lives. WE’RE DEBT FREEEEEEE!!!!

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