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Why we budget, don’t follow the norm, and why you should also!

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Like many Americans, you may be struggling with debt, over spending, and fear what’s coming in the mail (you know, collections or much worse). I know that’s how we were just a few years ago.

For a long time, we lived pay check to pay check. We never understood where our money was going, why we never seemed to have anything at the end of the month and why it was so hard to pay even the essentials. Yet on paper, we were making a decent living.

The cost of living in our city was relatively low, aside from the boom of the housing market and cost of rent soaring through the roof. We just couldn’t understand it.

We made poor decisions, financed or leased vehicles we should have, bought a first home because it seemed the norm (more on that later) but the reality is, we did everything WRONG.

Who is Dave Ramsey

In 2014, we were at our lowest point. I decided to leave my former job as a Web Application Developer at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital to pursue a start-up with a former colleague. We had projects lined up, things seemed positive but with all honesty, we had NO clue what we were going to do with our income and survival. We had 2 children, a 4 year old and a 3 year old, and our nerves were torn.

We attended our church, Bayside Community Church one weekend after I left and there was a guest speaker. Dave Ramsey. I had heard of him, but didn’t know a whole lot. He was kicking off Financial Peace University.

Financial Peace University helps you take control of your money, plan for your future, and transform your life.

After hearing him speak live in person, my wife and I knew we needed to take this course and learn everything we could. The premise was surrounding several baby steps:

  • Baby Step 1 — $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund
  • Baby Step 2 — Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball
  • Baby Step 3–3 to 6 months of expenses in savings
  • Baby Step 4 — Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
  • Baby Step 5 — College funding for children
  • Baby Step 6 — Pay off home early
  • Baby Step 7 — Build wealth and give!

We completed baby step 1 within the first week or so. As of this writing we’re in baby step 2. We have paid off all our consumer debt (beside 1 car note) which included over $10,000 in credit cards and have already paid nearly $3,000 in student loans and $15,000 on our car.

Our student loans are all broken down so we are attacking them smallest to largest in terms of our snowball debt and so far we on fire and gazelle intense.

What does Gazelle Intensity mean and how did that term come about? In Dave’s book, “The Total Money Makeover” which is a follow up to Financial Peace, Dave explains it like this: “when you’re in over your head with money problems, you need to work as hard to get out of debt as a gazelle works to run from a cheetah”.

In the past 3 years we’ve paid a total of over $30,000. Now that doesn’t seem like much, but my wife and I have decided to be even more intentional and focus even stronger on our debt. we are attacking this with Gazelle Intensity!

How do we do it?

We budget at the beginning of every month and are intentional about where out money goes. We focus on our 4 walls, then necessities like food, utilities, etc, then debt, then everything else.

Shortly after taking Financial Peace University (FPU), I realized a calling from God. My purpose. Everything I have done led up to this. I was meant for more than just software development. I was meant to help others reach a goal of becoming debt-free, inspiring and giving hope, and changing lives. As of this writing, we have a TON of debt we’re still attacking, the remainder on the car note (looking at potentially selling and finding something cheaper that is easier to pay off faster), and a large amount of student loans (around $135,000) as I have my masters degree.

Following this plan can help us get out of all that debt in about 5 years! Way BETTER than 20+ years!

We do a 2-step process. We first write out our budget on paper. This allows us to really think about the needs, wants, desires for the month, what sinking funds we need to focus on.

A sinking fund is any additional savings fund you decide to set money aside for — such as car repairs, home repairs, gifts, etc. And you can choose to put this savings wherever you like.

Once we complete our paper budget, we then add all of it to our budgeting app. We use the app every dollar and are plus subscribers that easily allow you to link your bank accounts for real-time tracking and you can track everything down to the penny. This really helps us know where everything goes. It’s available for iOS, Android and Web. Do you have to use an app? The answer is no, and you may already have a favorite app or technique for your monthly budget, but we have found that whenever we swipe our debit card, we immediately add it to the app. We know where it was spent, how much is left in each category.

A peek at every dollar and how we track

Budget Resources

There are tons of other resources from Dave Ramsey, including the paper budget forms we use. There are a ton of budget forms and resources available to help you get started but we’ve found Dave Ramsey’s resources the best and easiest to get started with. You can find them here.

Budgeting resources from Dave Ramsey

Don’t follow the status quo or act “normal”

The status quo will tell you debt is normal, having credit is good, a credit card is fine. Using other people’s money is the way to get things done. These things will bring you down and hurt you in the long run. Do I think some people can manage a credit card, maybe under some circumstances, but most people think, “oh, I’ll just charge it” and then forget about it and that’s the biggest issue. That’s why we follow what Dave teaches. Points won’t make you rich!

Dave talks about aiming for a 0 credit score, defy what the status quo says. I think this mindset, while hard, works. You will be free from bondage and truly live life to the fullest.

Proverbs 22:7 (NIV), “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”

As Dave says, “Live like no one else, so later you can live and give like no one else”.

Romans 13:8–10 says “8 Owe no man anything, but to love one another, for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”

When all our debt is gone and we’re free from that bondage, we’ll have freed up over $3,000 — $4,000 extra that we can do anything with. We can save and pay cash for the car we always wanted, take the trip we never go to, invest like never before, and give generously to those who need it. We are in a particularly good situation right now as we don’t have a mortgage. We do have rent but we don’t have to worry about everything that comes with owning a home. We will be waiting until we can save 20% and get a 15 year fixed mortgage as recommended by Dave in his plan!

A book I picked up from Dave Ramsey which is from his daughter, Rachel Cruz, is the book “Love your life not theirs”. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but this book was created to help us get out of the mindset of comparing our live’s to others.

I know for one, I am subject to this. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — social media makes it so easy to fall into this and makes it difficult to want to be different, or as I believe, normal.

We have grown up with misconceived thoughts and ideas that living this American dream meant being in debt, buying what you can’t afford, spending money recklessly, and not being intentional with what you do.


If you are overweight and want a healthy lifestyle, you workout, eat healthy, follow a plan. If you are learning a new skill, changing careers, or wanting to do something different, you follow a plan to learn what’s needed.

It’s no different with debt. If you want to live a life debt free, free from worry, free from the anxiety of where your money goes, free from living pay check to pay check, free from the “status quo”, then make a plan and be intentional. Create your budget, and experience the comfort knowing you have hope and one day you can “live like no one else”.


  • Financial Peace University (find a church that teaches it and get involved with community or in the least order the kit and do it at home!)
  • The Total Money Makeover book — the next step, goes into more detail and the next step in the process after FPU
  • Love Your Life, Not Theirs — a book by Rachel Cruze that focuses on being content with your life and not following what others do. Those lives you see, the glamorization on social media — they are probably broke 🙂
  • Retired Inspired — a book by Chris Hogan helps you learn how you can be inspired in your quest for retirement and living the life you’ve always wanted!

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