Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (Update 2)

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Financial Peace University’s promotional website claims that its participants have on average saved $2700 and paid off $5300 in debt by the end of the 3-month course. Having nothing to lose (except money, and I lose that all the time), I paid my $90 to enroll in Financial Peace University and will tell you all about it here at I’ve Tried That. To read prior posts and updates in the Financial Peace University review, click here.

The second class last night covered cash flow planning. It’s budgeting, but Ramsey calls it “cash flow planning” to give the process a business flavor so that people will take it more seriously. For people like me, that slight change in mindset makes a big difference. Dave Ramsey puts it bluntly:

If you were in charge of managing the finances for the Corporation of You, and you managed money for the Corporation of You like you do for you, would you fire you?

I have to say that I would fire me. It’s the same idea Sabrinasmoneymatters was getting at when she said, “You are the CFO of your Household Corporation.” So, yeah, little shifts.

Last night’s lesson included something that is as close as I ever expect to get to a magic elixir for those with chronic diarrhea of the wallet: a practical system for tracking and controlling money. A way to actually make the budget work, and maybe even to get me to stick to it (the jury’s still out on that one). It’s not a new plan, and it may be a no-brainer for folks who already discipline their money (rather than it disciplining them). The super secret anti-diarrhea system? Envelopes.

It’s simple, really. At the beginning of every month, you plan out when money comes in and give every dollar a name by deciding beforehand where it will go. Straightforward budgeting stuff so far, right? But here’s the magic part: when the money comes in, you take the cash out of the bank and put it in envelopes labeled with your budget categories. The FPU kit included a booklet with envelopes, and my household budget has enough categories that we needed to use some regular ones from our closet. The effect is, for me, magical because it takes the budget out of the realm of the abstract and theoretical and puts it in the realm of the real and practical: I have envelopes and cash in my hands. I can smell it and touch it and watch it as it flows out of the envelopes in the directions we have designated. We no longer wonder where the money went; we now tell it where to go. And that’s a powerful difference. I’m optimistic about the prospects. If we can get this system to work for us, that alone will have been worth the $90. As always, I’ll keep you posted.

Update 1 | Update 2 | Final update

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