#FinLit: The Total Money Makeover

Since starting our debt-crushing journey, I’ve read a couple of the “greats” in #FinLit (a.k.a. famous personal finance books). What I’ve realized is that not all money books are equal. For instance, Your Money or Your Life  was wholly disappointing to me. I found it outdated, somewhat condescending, not practical, and poorly written. That being said, I know a lot of people who swear by it. Well, after reading four #FinLit books…I’ve gotta say, I’m Team Ramsey.

#FinLit Summary

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey is definitely my favorite thus far. I found it engaging, motivating, and I loved that Ramsey managed to teach acceptance over past mistakes and to move on from them – he managed to do it in a way that felt encouraging instead of just yelling at me for being stupid. I also loved the actual money makeover part – Ramsey’s plan comprised of “baby steps.”

The Makeover Part

For those who haven’t read this wonderful book, the plan is essentially seven of these “baby steps.” Summarized, they are:

  1. Save a baby emergency fund ($1,000)
  2. Pay off all debts except the mortgage – using the snowball method
  3. Save a full emergency fund ($10,000+)
  4. Save for retirement (15% of your income)
  5. Save for your kids’ college (or don’t worry about it because you’re a single twenty-something; $167/month per kid for those of you parents out there)
  6. Pay off your mortgage
  7. Get rich (mainly because you should be rolling in savings and compound interest at this point)

The steps are simple, you follow them in order, and you don’t advance to the next step until after finishing the previous one. But his steps work because they are simple, and because they provide tangible results. Your $1,000 emergency fund isn’t just cheap insurance against real life; it’s a visible reminder that you have succeeded, that you can save, that you can be smart with money. The debt snowball is built around quick wins, which give you the confidence to continue. While some may find it cheesy, I found his motivational and upbeat approach (both in the book and in the baby steps) to be refreshing. It’s nice to find someone who acknowledges that the mental money game is half (if not more) of the battle. I’m not going to lie, as someone who had already finished baby step one before I read this book, it definitely made me feel better to know I was basically already on track.

The book also has a lot of anecdotes sprinkled throughout by some apparent successful makeover-ists (we’re making this a word now). I’ve heard that a lot of people disliked these personal stories or thought they were too cheesy. Well, it probably won’t surprise you that I liked them, and I’ll tell you why.

Most of these stories came from people who made nice, normal incomes. They made under the American average of $50,000/year but still had average debt. It was nice for me (someone who doesn’t make much income-wise) to see other people can do this too. That’s part of the theme of the book: it might take you longer than those splashy “I paid off all my debt in 7 months” folks, but you’re going to get there, and you’re going to succeed. Part self-help, part personal finance…this book definitely spoke to me.

All-in-all, I think this is a great primer for someone just starting their personal finance journey or someone who just wants a refresher on the basics. I definitely think it’s a great read for those in the lower income brackets too. The Total Money Makeover reinvigorated me to reach my financial goals and had some good advice on how to save for retirement/future children too. And hey, even if you’re a financial pro, if you haven’t read Dave Ramsey, you probably should just so you can keep up with his popstar-esque following…it’s hilarious.


  • If you’re looking for motivation more than for technical personal finance advice, this book will have a lot of appeal; if you’re looking for specifics on how certain investments work, you might not like this one.
  • If you’re Christian, you’ll probably love this book; if not, either disregard the financial Bible quotes…he’s not preachy, but they are scattered throughout.
  • Apparently his “No Debt EVER” policy is highly debated amongst the masses…I don’t think it matters what you do as long as you’re honest about whether you’ll actually pay off that credit card each month. The idea that one could buy a car, house, or pay for college without debt is awe-inspiring to me and definitely something I want to do now.
  • Others have said these steps are espoused by Ramsey everywhere, and obviously, I just told them to you, but hey, this book was definitely worth checking out from the library…fo’ free.

Happy #FinLit reading folks!



  1. The Total Money Makeover is the one book that revolutionized my finances, which is why it’s my top financial book ever. It was the motivational kick in the pants I needed when I first read it about 7 years ago.

    1. Author

      I loved it! I thought it was going to be kind of unhelpful since I’ve been getting the hang of this debt repayment thing recently, but then I actually learned a lot. I can see why Ramsey gets a lot of heat for his method, but I really liked it.

  2. I realize it’s sacrilegious to admit that I’m a PF blogger and haven’t read Dave Ramsey’s book. It seems to be the reason why so many others have gone into blogging in the first place.

    But it does sound like it’s worth a read.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention.


    1. Author

      I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed it! It was a fun introduction to the world of Dave Ramsey and was definitely motivating. I might not be doing everything the way Ramsey says (I’m aiming for student loan forgiveness so I’m paying only the minimum on those loans), but it’s definitely a good “debt repayment basics” book.

      Let me know what you think if you decide to read any of his books!

        1. Author

          Basically through work. I’m a state Public Defender, so my job qualifies for the Public Interest Loan Forgiveness program ( I’ll need to make 120 monthly payments on an income-based repayment plan, and then I’ll qualify for total loan forgiveness for all of my federal student loans (which is all of them except 1). It still takes 10 years, but for someone who has six-figures in student loan debt (thanks, law school), it’ll be worth it, since I’ll only have paid the small income-based repayment amount.

  3. Although I enjoyed Your Money or Your Life, I also really enjoyed Dave’s book (more so than I thought because I thought the religious aspect would turn me off). I think it’s a great kicking the pants book for anyone wanting to get out of debt..and be focused about it. Good luck!

  4. I am admittedly a big Dave Ramsey fan boy, even though I do not necessarily do everything he recommends. His plan is undeniably a smart way to get out of debt and achieve financial peace.

    Where Dave hits home with readers is in his understanding of behavior and motivation. He routinely states that personal finance is 80 percent behavioral and 20 percent head knowledge, and the results from millions of readers and listeners speak for themselves.

  5. His advice to get “gazelle intense” really stuck with me, as well as living like no one else, “so you can live like no one else.” These quick mantras can provide much-needed inspiration to forgo an expense or put in another hour on a side hustle.

  6. I’ve never read Dave Ramsey’s book but I used to listen to his radio show a lot. I love that he is a huge advocate of taking personal responsibility. Yeah, you may have made bad choices when you were young, but now you know better so own it and move forward. I also like “live like no one else so you can live like no one else.” Even though I only have mortgage debt, I repeat that to myself when I feel like I am falling off the savings wagon.

  7. When I make my daily to do lists, I always list “feed the dogs” as a to-do item. I’ve never missed feeding them yet. And it makes me feel good to check off something. I love that his list kicks off with $1k in savings. That’s so doable and can make anyone feel accomplished and optimistic from the get go.

    I’m looking forward to more book reviews from you ladies 🙂

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