Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tap, tap, tap...

... is this thing on?

I've run into some sort of mental block where I literally have nothing to say. I've sat myself down at the computer countless times in the last couple weeks, written a few paragraphs, and then decided "Nope" and deleted it all.

My loverly Mr. Dub is snoring. So I'm taking the opportunity to write some stuff that's been on my mind lately.

My good friend R. lent me a book called The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. I know he has a radio show and a TV show and I know he's written several other books. I've never heard him on the radio or seen him on TV or read any of his other books. But I've read this book all the way through now, and here's what I think:
  • He talks in a way that is zealous. He comes across to me as overzealous. He is trying to convert people to his way of thinking about money. I like his way of thinking, don't get me wrong, but I find myself resisting what he's saying because of the way he says it.
  • He has great ideas for people like me who know there has got to be a plan but aren't quite sure which direction to go, and where and how to begin. He gives people a place to start and a plan to stick with.
  • He isn't about "get rich quick" schemes. He isn't trying to get people to buy depressed real estate and flip it in a month. He doesn't want you juggling debts as a way of getting rich and delusionally thinking that that makes you wealthy.
  • He preaches self-control and debt-free living.
  • He hates credit cards and all other revolving types of credit.
  • He talks in a way that is pretty simple to understand.
  • He stresses the need for husbands and wives to cooperate with each other in managing their money.

I have decided that I am going to follow his plan, mostly, for a couple of years and see if what he is selling in his book actually works. ( I am going to change it a bit to fit our family and circumstances.) He outlines several steps in the book, which are:

  1. Get a $1000 emergency fund.
  2. Aggressively pay off all debt but the mortgage.
  3. Get 3-6 months worth of living expenses saved up.
  4. Get investing and saving for retirement.
  5. Get your mortgage paid off.

There are a couple of steps after that but this is what I have my sights set on for now. He says that people who follow this plan conscientiously are done through step 5 in about 7 years. That's quite an accomplishment. I'm going to try it.

I feel like I am a little bit ahead of the game already because we do have some savings and retirement accounts and we have $0 credit card debt. This week I have been working on a budget, which is different than what I've done in the past, which was just recording how I spent all the money. Budgeting is planning how you're going to spend all the money. A budget is going to help me find all available dollars to aggressively pay down our debts, which consist of two car notes and a home equity loan that we took out to replace the rotting wood siding on our house with hardiplank siding. The budget requires that I have a set amount of grocery money. Which requires some thinking and decision-making.

So today I made out a week's worth of dinners menu. This is it:

Friday: spinach pie (quiche with spinach, roasted red peppers, swiss and feta cheeses) and grapes.

Saturday: Vegetable lasagna and bread sticks.

Sunday: leftovers

Monday: pan-seared tilapia and broccoli-rice casserole.

Tuesday: Turkey paninis with spinach and pesto, and apples.

Wednesday: Lumberjack Hash (from the Cooking Light cookbook I got for Christmas!) with fruit salad (diced mangoes, sliced strawberries, and green grapes sprinkled with fresh lime juice).

Thursday: homemade pizza.

I have budgeted $150 per week for groceries, and when I went shopping (with a list!)today for the groceries for this week's menu, and also including other ingredients for breakfasts and lunches, I spent $78 dollars. It is true that I am using some food that I already have in the house in these meals, so I might not be able to get away with that every week. It was pretty fun looking through my collection of cookbooks for ideas and recipes to fill out a week. My old way of meal planning was to mindlessly buy a lot of the same stuff over and over again and make the same meals over and over again, along with regularly running to the store at the last minute to pick up some ingredient I didn't have (and other stuff too that I saw while I was there but didn't really need). I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of the basics of cooking and shopping, and I do have quite a bit of food for my year's supply, but I think this new way will be fun and will cut out a lot of impulse buying. And to be honest I am sick to death of the stuff we always have for dinner. I've bought and also received as gifts a number of new cookbooks lately, and we are going to experiment. FUN!

That is one thing that I have realized about myself this past week: I am an impulse shopper. Even though I think I don't like shopping I spend a lot of money unnecessarily because I don't have a plan. A budget and a written down menu are plans.

So for now I am all on board with this. I do feel that debt is bondage. I do feel quite strongly that I need to do a better job of managing our finances and the other resources we enjoy. I'm glad I now have a plan and some direction.

My good friend R. that lent me the book told me about a bumper sticker she saw: Debt Is Normal - Be Weird.


There are changes coming shortly in my life that will make it difficult for me to continue my "flying by the seat of my pants" lifestyle. I will need to be better organized, and less anxious and stressed (my two favorite states! Not.) in order to succeed and keep my home, my family, and myself peaceful and moving forward.


  1. I love your menus--and we are both there with you on the debt thing. We don't have any. When we got married, we realized that we were relatively close to the "fixed income" stage of life, so we very aggressively started saving and "planning". I guess it has worked out, as even our financial planner is impressed!

    I spend that same amount of money (approximately) on our groceries! I don't know if I spend too much, or if you will discover that you may need to spend more.

    But I am going to try your menus. Please post your menus again.

  2. PS - how do you make the hash? Please email.

  3. Now that the wedding is over (which we managed to pull off relatively debt-free), and Josh's house is sold "on contract", we are looking at finally being able to have some savings. Paying for 2 houses is something neither of us really thought we'd have to do and those two things really drained us the last year. We're doing a budget, changing insurance providers (adding me to his b/c mine kept slowing raising the rates), we've opted not to have the big cable package, etc. The only thing I haven't gotten serious about is the grocery budget... I like your meal planning and buying... I need to incorporate that too.