I LOVE Dave Ramsey. I really do. Ask my husband. Dave holds a special place in my heart and always will. Even my children know who Dave Ramsey is and regularly recognize his voice when I’m listening to podcasts. Two of my four children were present when my husband and I called Dave’s radio show to perform our Debt-Free-Scream. We still have that audio!
Dave’s book “The Total Money Makeover” was the book that really helped me see the big picture of our life. It’s because of that book that we discerned that debt was holding us back from realizing our dreams. Reading that book began the journey of managing our personal finances. It totally changed the trajectory of our life. And I would NOT be in the place I am today without it!
For those of you who may not know, Dave has a way of teaching about personal finance that is very structured. It has 7 baby steps that are followed in order. If you’ve ever listened to his radio show, you’ve heard that Dave does not support efforts that deviate from his plan – it worked for him, it’s worked for thousands of other people, it’ll work for you. What is missing in the formula, though, is the deeper mystery, the thing that binds the why and the how. The intention.
Paying off debt is a really difficult process, and long and tiring and, did I mention difficult?! It’s lonely, even isolating. I am grateful that Dave does a good job of naming these realities. The baby steps don’t, however, provide space for intention. Or calling. Or purpose. And, without that, there was a point – there were lots of points – where it would have been much, much easier to just give up.
Our sticking power came when we took the baby steps and made them our own. We filled each little step of the “baby steps” with goals and intentions, and it had nothing to do with living the Dream.
We started our married life chasing the traditional “American Dream” for a while. Even while paying off debt we thought “it’ll be so nice to buy what we want when we don’t have any debt!” But, at some point through our 2 ½ year process, we had a transformation. There came a point when consuming didn’t matter to us anymore.
We stopped caring what our neighbors were driving.
We stopped caring which technology was the latest and greatest.
We stopped caring about the “best” (most expensive) schools or extracurriculars for our kids.
We stopped caring who was wearing the most fashionable clothes.
We just stopped caring what our society was telling us to like, to obsess over, to buy!
It’s not like those things are inherently bad – they just weren’t what WE wanted to care about!
Living with intention is a process that asks us to first be still enough to listen to something deep and quiet so that we can hear what our lives might be. With that before us, it’s just a series of small goals set and accomplished over and over and over again – working toward an overarching goal and the big reason you started the whole journey in the first place! One step now, then another step, then another.
John Busacker states in his book “Do less, Be More” that “dreams ignite our spirit of aliveness…when aligned with values, dreams can re-ignite passion and provide the necessary inspiration to thrive at any life stage in any circumstance.”
In other words, we need dreams and goals to give us purpose in the monotony of the everyday – to work towards what WE want out of life, work towards who WE want to be.
While we are still generally following Dave’s baby steps, I notice our success comes from determining our values as a family and using those values to guide our financial decision making. Let’s be honest, after all, most decisions we make these days are financially related – go on that vacation? buy that car? move to a different neighborhood? There always seems to be a financial component to most decisions in American life. What’s different for us, though, is that the horizon line we’re moving toward has nothing to do with financial security or conventional wealth, and everything to do with our family’s values and deepest hopes.
We’ve decided we aren’t going to blindly work towards Dave’s baby steps because they’re the end point. There isn’t a magical number that will make us feel safe and secure. It’s not really about the numbers anymore. There’s just a line – a continuum. Where we’re constantly trying to become better human beings, better lovers, better parents, and better friends. We make the numbers work to help us reach those goals!
So, here are 4 ways we’ve grown beyond Dave’s baby steps:
1. We’ve decided our end goal is NOT to make as much money as possible. Honestly, there is no end goal at all. There is an intention. Our intention is to continue to work towards love and truth and vulnerability and living our life fully and with adventure. But no END financial goal. Our financial decisions are made keeping that intention in mind. Always.
2. Blindly following Dave’s baby steps is like a lemur following the crowd off a cliff. True, this crowd is smaller than most and a majority of the lemurs are heading the other direction to consume some lemur toy made in China, but, it’s still a crowd. And there needs to be intention and purpose for your action. Even a noble action, like paying off debt and becoming more aware of your finances.
3. I think this one goes hand in hand with #1. We began to define our own definition of success. And with that came values, intentions, and goals. Things to really define who we are and what we want out of our short time on this sweet planet. Societal norms and comparisons had to be put away in order to really figure out who we are and what we stand for. Having a million dollar net worth is not our definition of success anymore. Our values and saving habits may lead us to a million dollar net worth at this rate, but it’s not our goal. Do you see the difference?
4. An analogy, if you will: One size fits all clothing ends up with everyone wearing clothes that just doesn’t feel quite right. You know how when you find that perfect pair of jeans that just hugs every curve and you feel like your most true and beautiful self when you’re wearing them? That’s what it’s like for me since I’ve defined my values and made a choice to have my purchasing power reflect those intentions.
All this to say, I’m not going to give you a prescription – one way to fix all your financial problems.
My way takes A LOT of introspection and decision making on your part. But once you’ve made those decisions the later decisions will be so much easier and straightforward. You’ll know, in your bones, whether or not you should buy that new van or dress or go out to dinner, again.
What I will give you is a sequential process of figuring out your values, goals, and intentions – all while showing you budgeting tips and money saving tricks that we’ve learned and are still learning. The theoretical AND the practical.
In short, the Dave Ramsey formula worked for us, but the sustainable sticking power, and our transformation throughout the hardest parts of our journey, was in our personalized vision and goals, and how we articulated those into specific values that continue to guide our decisions.
I’d love to hear about your journey – Dave Ramsey or not – and how you’re personalizing it to give it some sticking power!
Keep up the good work!
P.S. Start working towards intention, and purpose in your life by getting my “Defining your Values Workbook” FREE! It’ll set you on the path towards finding your OWN way and getting off the path everyone else is following!