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Book Review: The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

book review

Dave Ramsey is a best selling author of many popular self-help books about getting your finances together. He’s inspired many with his simple, no-hassle philosophies on how to manage money. He also has a radio talk show called the Dave Ramsey Show, that you can listen to anywhere you listen to podcasts. He even started his own company built on his financial philosophies called Financial Peace University. Dave Ramsey and his colleagues have loads of resources you can find helpful in your own personal money management journey. Whether you are managing a household or a small business, Dave Ramsey has the financial advice you need to be successful and smart with your funds.

Today we’re going to take a focused look into one of Dave Ramsey’s most prolific publications, The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. You’ve heard of fitness journeys and makeovers that change your style into something fresh and new, but Dave Ramsey takes all that and puts a financial spin onto it. With Dave Ramsey’s baby step plan you can exercise your financial abilities in ways you never thought possible and finally get into shape where your wallet is concerned.

What Kind of Book is The Total Money Makeover?

book cover

The Total Money Makeover is written as a self-help book. It’s even been compared to popular self-help books like, Your Best Life Now and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People because of the reader-friendly way it is written. It’s an engaging book with lots of real-world examples and stories from real people who have actually gone through Dave Ramsey’s baby steps and seen results. These short anecdotal stories throughout the book help all of Dave Ramsey’s concepts make clear common sense.

The book also includes a lot of motivational help along with the tips and advice. One of the biggest factors that holds people back from taking full control over their finances is the proper motivation and encouragement to make necessary changes to their lifestyle. Dave Ramsey helps with that too, giving you the fresh outlook you need to understand your goal and the rewards you can gain.

Dave Ramsey is also a Christian, so his books often have a religious undertone. So you may find him referencing Bible verses every so often in this book, and tackling religious views and practices with regard to money as well.

What’s in the Book?

The Total Money Makeover is essentially a step-by-step guide for how to go about your own personal money makeover journey. These steps are based on Dave Ramsey’s key money philosophies. Dave Ramsey has strict beliefs about not ever using debt, loans, or credit cards. He believes that our society today is too dependent on credit and that true financial freedom only comes when you live a completely debt free life. So the first steps in his plan are all about helping you get out of debt, and then setting you up to never get into debt again.

Simple and straightforward advice.

Dave Ramsey’s book became so popular probably because of how easy it is to follow his clearly set plan. Each step is specific enough to leave no doubts about what exactly you need to do, making his plan one that anyone can follow and find success. It also helps that he is never vague about his advice, but rather he is extremely straightforward, open, and honest.

Dave Ramsey has no get-rich-quick schemes. He’s more about using honest work, responsibility, and common sense to reach your goals. So you won’t find any crazy secrets to financial stability and success in his book, you’ll just finally learn to implement the basics in a way that really works.

A change in perspective.

Another reason people enjoy Dave Ramsey’s teachings is because he doesn’t pretend that money is what brings happiness. He’s realistic and believes that money is a tool to create stability and contentment in our lives, not the secret solution to all our problems.

He eloquently tackles many mental barriers and misconceptions many of us have about money, and works to not only change your behavior with money, but your perspective about money as well. One thing he talks about a lot is getting over the need to “keep up with the Joneses.” Often in life we compare ourselves to others in unhealthy ways, and sometimes those comparisons can lead us to make poor financial decisions for superficial reasons. So, when you read the Total Money Makeover be prepared to gain a whole new outlook on the purpose of money, and break free from comparing yourself to others.

The Money Makeover Baby Steps:

The main event of this self-help read are the baby steps the reader can take to reach financial peace and freedom. You can read a more detailed article about each of the 7 baby steps that Dave Ramsey will go through in this book, but we’ll go over a quick outline of those steps here too.

Emergency Fund

The first step in Dave Ramsey’s 7 step plan is to basically get your financial life in order. The road to stability starts by setting up your finance in a certain way. This begins with setting up an emergency fund. You can start with at least $1,000 in your emergency fund but eventually you’ll want to work your way toward having at least 6 months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund at all times.

Debts

Once you start getting your emergency fund in place, it’s time to focus all other monetary efforts toward annihilating all your debts. He goes into more detail about this in the book. For example, he suggests you start with your smallest debts first and work your way up to your larger ones. He also recommends you save paying off your mortgage for last. But eventually the idea is to throw everything you can at your debts until they are all completely wiped out.

Build Wealth

Now it’s time to build wealth and continue saving. Since Dave Ramsey argues you should pay for everything in cash, continually building up your financial stores is an important aspect of the Dave Ramsey lifestyle. You have to have enough in savings to cover all your costs completely with cash.

In the book Dave Ramsey goes into more detail about what savings you should prioritize. He advises that you first complete your 6 months’ worth emergency fund if you haven’t gotten there already. Then he suggests you work toward saving for retirement and (if you have kids or plan on having kids) your children’s college funds.

Things You Can Do Differently:

Dave Ramsey’s primary goal in all of this is to help people get out of crippling debt and stay out of it. But there are modifications you can make to his more rigorous financial plan.

You can choose how much you want in your emergency fund.

If you’re a college student then putting aside even $1,000 may be more difficult for you. But that’s ok! Just put aside what you can. Even just adding $5 to $10 a month into an emergency fund is better than having no emergency fund at all.

Likewise, if you’re more settled in life it might be easier for you to put even more than $1,000 aside into an emergency fund. It really doesn’t matter how you do it, what matters most is that you start accumulating that safety fund in order to be more prepared for surprise expenses in the future.

You can still use credit cards and loans.

Dave Ramsey may believe in using only cash to pay for things but there are advantages to using credit cards and installment loans. When used responsibly using credit can help boost your credit score and get you the things you need to have a comfortable life. Credit cards can also provide lots of perks outside of boosting credit scores. Some credit cards come with special points that can go toward paying for things like groceries and traveling. So long as you understand your limits and include loans and credit payments in your carefully calculated budget and financial plans, you’ll be just fine.

Should I Read This Book?

You may now be wondering whether you should give this book a read or not. You should definitely read this book if . . .

  • you are in debt
  • you have trouble managing your money or realizing where your money goes
  • you have trouble making a budget

If you are looking for a book with more specific details about financial topics (like investing, or small businesses) then you should check out Dave Ramsey’s other books that go more in depth on complex financial topics. The Total Money Makeover doesn’t expound upon these topics too much since it was written more as a beginners guide to Dave Ramsey’s financial baby steps.

 

READ MORE

Check out some other helpful reviews about Dave Ramsey’s book, the Total Money Makeover:

Review: The Total Money Makeover

The Total Money Makeover Review

Goodreads


The Best Books by Dave Ramsey

dave ramsey books

Table of Contents:

Dave Ramsey is a New York Times bestselling author, and a radio show host on the The Dave Ramsey Show. You can find his books wherever you buy books and you can listen to his radio show wherever you listen to podcasts or the radio. All of his books are also on Amazon, where you can find the kindle versions for your e-reader, or audiobook versions so you can learn all about finances on the go.

When getting into Dave Ramsey’s books people often wonder which book they should start with? If you want to read Dave Ramsey’s books in order there are a couple routes you can go. You can read them in the order he wrote them, or read them in order of the things you learn in each book.

Dave Ramsey’s Books in Chronological Order:

If you want to read all of Dave Ramsey’s books in order, you can follow this master list of all his books so far.

1992 – Financial Peace

1993 – Dumping Debt: Breaking the Chains of Debt

1998 – The Financial Peace Planner

1998 – More Than Enough

1999 – More Than Enough: The Ten Keys to Changing Your Financial Destiny

2000 – How to Have More Than Enough: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Abundance

2002 – Cash Flow Planning: The Nuts and Bolts of Budgeting

2002 – Financial Peace for the Next Generation

2003 – The Total Money Makeover

2003 – The Great Misunderstanding: Unleashing the Power of Generous Giving

2004 – The Money Answer Book

2008 – Relating with Money: Nerds and Free Spirits Unite!

2011 – Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money

2011 – Dave Ramsey’s High Performance Achievement: Accomplishing the Extraordinary

2011 – EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches

2014 – Smart Money Smart Kids

2014 – The Legacy Journey: A Radical View of Biblical Wealth and Generosity

Dave Ramsey Kid Books: Life Lessons with Junior

kid books

4.38 stars on Goodreads

Life Lessons with Junior is a series of children’s books written by Dave Ramsey. In them he goes over all the most basic concepts of money management. Following Junior’s adventures can teach your kids all about monetary responsibility in clear simpler terms they’ll understand. He goes over everything from spending, debt, saving, work, giving, contentment, and integrity. Don’t miss out on gracing your household shelves with these great childhood reads with life lessons your kids will keep with them all their lives.

Smart Money Smart Kids

smart money smart kids

4.26 stars on Goodreads

Smart Money Smart Kids is a book that Dave Ramsey wrote with his daughter, Rachel Cruze. It is a book that teaches parents all about how to teach their kids about money. Part of good parenting is preparing your kids to be responsible, independent adults someday and a big part of being an adult is knowing how to manage your money. In this book Dave Ramsey and his daughter will tell you all about how to raise kids who are smart about their money.

If you’re looking for something from Dave Ramsey that can specifically help your teens, check out his article, “A Teenager’s Guide to Building Wealth.”

Dave Ramsey also has a great recommendation for a college 101 bundle that includes Debt-Free Degree by Anthony O’Neal and The Graduate Survival Guide by Anthony O’Neal and Rachel Cruze.

Financial Peace

financial peace

4.31 on Goodreads

Financial Peace is one of Dave Ramsey’s first books, but he has since revisted the book, renaming it, Financial Peace Revisited: New Chapters on Marriage, Singles, Kids, and Families. This newer edition of his first book now includes more information for married couples, singles, children, and families. This book is also where he introduces the KISS rule, which stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” It’s about getting out of debt and staying out of debt and the idea that you should use contentment to make your financial decisions. It also goes over how to manage money flow and investing.

One of the primary keys to understanding your finances and being able to take control of them is to manage the flow of your money. A lot of people just let money flow as it does, not really thinking too much about where it’s coming from and where it disappears. But if you learn to take full control of where all your funds are going then the problem of disappearing funds won’t happen to you and you can find financial peace.

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

total money makeover

4.28 stars on Goodreads

A large part of what makes makeovers so fun is the joy of reaching your goals and having a different life and a different you at the end of your journey. But have you ever thought about going on a similar makeover journey with your finances? Dave Ramsey will show you how.

The Total Money Makeover may be one of Dave Ramsey’s most popular books. He talks about some of his most famous money tips all while debunking myths about money. He brings a simpler, more straight forward approach to money management that anyone can understand and utilize in their life, no matter their financial situation. Dave Ramsey says that this book can work every time, all you have to do is follow his steps.

Complete Guide to Money

complete guide to money

4.44 stars on Goodreads

In this comprehensive guide Dave Ramsey goes over all his basic financial tips and lessons—How to Budget with Dave Ramsey, how to save, how to get out of debt, how to invest, mortgages, insurance, marketing, bargain hunting, and giving. Anything you want to know when it comes to money, you can find in this master guidebook.

The Money Answer Book

money answer book

3.82 stars on Goodreads

The Money Answer Book is a quick read with questions and answers to more than 100 common money questions! It’s a fast guide that goes over budget planning, retirement planning, shopping tips, saving for college, giving to charity, and so much more. If you need something you can quickly leaf through to find the answers you’re looking for.

How to Have More than Enough: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Abundance

more than enough

4.11 stars on Goodreads

How to Have More than Enough is the newest version of Dave Ramsey’s earlier book, More than Enough. Once you have gotten out of debt, he has more down to earth advice about building wealth. Dave Ramsey’s perspective is unique because he doesn’t just talk about monetary wealth, he talks about having a wealth of happiness. He takes it a step further by talking about finding wealth in relationships and in your family. In this book he goes through 10 traits you need to be prosperous in life beyond your financial situations.

EntreLeardership

entreleadership

4.21 stars on Goodreads

In EntreLeadership Dave Ramsey talks about how he built his company, and how to be a strong leader. He talks about how to grow as a leader and the questions you should ask yourself in order to develop yourself. This book has doable, step-by-step guidance to follow to become a better leader and watch your business grow as you do.

He talks about inspiring and unifying your team, handling your business finances, and reaching your business goals. If you are making your own business and you need some pro tips about leadership, this book is what you want. But you can find great insights in this book no matter what you are doing with your life right now. If you are a parent you can use it with your family or at work you can use it with your coworkers! This is because leadership is really all about functioning efficiently as a team and reaching your goals together.

What Books Does Dave Ramsey Recommend?

We’ve talked all about books that were written by Dave Ramsey, but what about books that Dave Ramsey recommends? There are many other great financial reads you can find on Dave Ramsey’s website. You can also read more about Dave Ramsey’s steps to reach financial steps by reading, “Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps.” Here are just a few book suggestions from Dave Ramsey:

Dave Ramsey’s Book Club

If you’re interested in really tackling your finances with Dave Ramsey’s sage wisdom you can actually join Dave Ramsey’s official book club! All you have to do is create an account on his website and then join the book club (fees may apply). Then, at the beginning of each month you’ll receive Dave Ramsey’s book club book of the month in the mail. You’ll also get an email with details about when the live book discussion will happen on the private book club Facebook page along with a study guide to use as you read.

For more answers to any questions you may have about the Dave Ramsey book club, just visit the book club’s FAQs Page.

 
Dave Ramsey along with his many inspiring books have helped a lot of people get back on their feet financially. You can take on his financial fitness challenge too and manage your money like never before.

Another way you can get some needed financial help is to take out an Installment Loan at Check City! Installment loans can help you stay on top of your bill payments and avoid late fees, which can really hurt your long-term financial goals.


How to Budget with Dave Ramsey

dave ramsey budget

Table of Contents

Step 1: List Total Income
Step 2: List Total Expenses
Step 3: Plan Your Spending
Step 4: Keep a Record
Free Budgeting Worksheets

Everyone wants to have more power over their money and be at the mercy of strict finances less. What many people don’t realize is that the key to financial freedom is a strong budget. Budgeting gets a bad rap sometimes as being too time consuming, or by restricting your finances too much. But all you need is these 4 steps to make a budget, and once that’s done, you’ll find yourself getting out of debt, saving more, and becoming more financially free and comfortable in the long term.

Dave Ramsey has an article named, “Learn How to Budget” on his blog where he briefly outlines his simple 4 step process to creating a blog. So stop living in the monetary moment, and start living for the financial long term—it really is worth the 5 minutes it’ll take you to go through these 4 steps and create your own simple budget.

Step 1: List Total Income

total income

Dave Ramsey’s first step to creating a budget is, “Write Down Your Total Income.”

The very first step to creating any budget is to list all your sources of income and add them together to have a total income amount at the top of your budget. Dave Ramsey recommends that you use what he calls “take home pay” when adding up your total income. Take home pay refers to net income rather than gross income.

Net Income: Net income refers to your total income after taxes. It is sometimes called “take-home pay” because this is the amount that actually reaches your bank account after taxes get taken out.

Gross Income: Gross income refers to your total income before taxes.

You can find out your take home pay by finding the percentage of income tax for your state and subtracting that percentage from your monthly income.

Make sure you include all sources of income, including any second jobs, any freelancing, or side gigs.

Step 2: List Total Expenses

expenses

Dave Ramsey’s second step to creating a budget is to, “List Your Expenses.”

List all of the regular expenses you have every month. This includes anything and everything you’re your mortgage, utilities, rent, insurance, HOA fees, groceries, gas, subscriptions, clothing, debts, phone bills, etc.

One of the best ways to determine what all your regular expenses end up being is to look at your bank statement for the past month or couple of months and find the average amount you spend each month on everything.

Step 3: Plan Your Spending

spending

Dave Ramsey’s third step to creating a budget is to, “Subtract Expenses from Income to Equal Zero.”

The type of budget that Dave Ramsey suggests you make is called a zero-based budget. This is when your income minus your expenses equals zero. So every single dollar you make goes to some kind of category listed in your budget, not a single cent is unaccounted for. This is a good budget type because every single dollar you make has a purpose.

You do the most math in step 2 of Dave Ramsey’s budget plan. Divide up your monthly income into all your different expense categories until you reach zero. If, at the end of your budgeting calculations, you are above zero then you have funds that could still be going somewhere, like to the emergency fund. If you are below zero you have to reduce expenses somewhere so you don’t end up losing money each month.

Step 4: Keep a Record

record spending

Dave Ramsey’s fourth step to creating a budget is to, “Track Your Spending.”

Now you just have to keep track of all your transactions to make sure you stay in the budget guidelines you created for yourself in step 2 and 3. Figure out the best way for you to keep track of all of your transactions so that you can make sure you don’t go over in any of your budgeting categories.

There are a few ways you can keep track of your spending. You can use any number of budgeting apps, a detailed checkbook, another form of paper note taking, the cash envelope system, the cash wallet system, or prepaid debit cards.

Budget Apps

Dave Ramsey suggest you use the EveryDollar app as your budgeting app.

Checkbook

Using checks can make budgeting a lot easier. Every time you write a check a copy of the check gets written on the slip behind each individual check. By keeping these personal check receipts you can keep perfect track of all your transactions. You can also use the section in the back of your checkbook to jot down the details of all your spending.

If you want to learn more about the advantages of checks and how to balance a checkbook check out these helpful articles, “How to Write a Check” and “6 Advantages of Using Checks.”

Notebook

If you don’t want to use checks, you can still use a paper recording system to keep track of all your spending. You can find notebooks that are ready for this purpose on Amazon by searching budget workbook or expense tracker notebook.

Cash Envelope System

A cash envelope system is when you divide your cash up into different envelopes that are then assigned specific purposes. For example, you could have an envelope for bills, another for groceries, and another for gas. This way, you can only use those strict cash amounts to make purchases. The cash envelope system is a great option for those who have a lot of difficulty staying on budget and not overspending.

You can even purchase envelope systems on Amazon as well by searching cash envelope system where you’ll find envelopes and filing systems you can use to keep your cash organized.

Cash Wallet System

Another way to use the cash envelope system is to use a wallet with enough cash dividers for all your budgeting sections. These cash system wallets are helpful because you can keep all your cash organization neatly zipped up in one wallet. You can also use your wallet for your cards and checkbook as well.

Free Budgeting Worksheets

Tracking your spending in a way that works well for you might be the most taxing part of budgeting. But with these tips you can make recording expenses a breeze.

Some other things you can use to make budgeting even easier is one of Dave Ramsey’s budget forms. Any of these budget forms from Dave Ramsey’s website are free to use and can help you budget and plan.

Specifically his Monthly Cash Flow Plan can help you go through the steps and organize your funds according to Dave Ramsey’s easy money flow plan.

If you need a more simplified version of this budget form you can find it with Dave Ramsey’s Quick Start Budget.

 
Budgeting doesn’t have to be a colossal pain, and it doesn’t have to make your life sad and restricted. In fact, using a budget can be your key to long-term financial freedom.
 

READ MORE

Are you a college student in need of some budgeting help? Check out this article, “Budgeting for College Students 101.”

Read another article all about how to make budgeting easy, “Budgeting in 4 Easy Steps.”


Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps

dave ramsey baby steps

Are you trying to get out of debt? Do you want more financial stability and freedom? Are your finances one of the bigger stresses in your life right now? If any of these sentiments apply to you then Dave Ramsey’s 7 baby steps might be just what you need to cure your money blues.

Table of Contents

Step 1: Start an Emergency Fund
Step 2: Focus on Debts
Step 3: Complete Your Emergency Fund
Step 4: Save for Retirement
Step 5: Start a College Fund
Step 6: Pay Off Your House
Step 7: Build Wealth

Dave Ramsey is a guy who, through personal experience, was able to get out of debt and find financial peace of mind. He is now a financial expert with courses and books to help the everyday person get in control of their finances.

The best place to start when trying to regain control over your finances and achieve a full “money makeover” is to start with his 7 step plan. This plan has 7 baby steps that you follow to reach more financial stability and get to the point where you can start building wealth.

Step 1: Start an Emergency Fund

car maintenance

The first step in Dave Ramsey’s 7 step plan is, “Save $1,000 for Your Starter Emergency Fund.”

One of the main reasons people struggle with money is because necessary emergency expenses (like medical bills, car bills, or home repairs) come out of nowhere and drag you deeper and deeper into debt. But if you are preemptively prepared for these surprise expenses then they won’t take you off guard again.

So the very first thing you should do when getting your money in line is to get an emergency fund started. Save up an emergency fund in a separate bank account, until you have at least $1,000 in the account. This will be the start of the emergency fund that will keep sudden necessary expenses from plunging you into deep debts because you weren’t prepared.

Step 2: Focus on Debts

debts

The second step in Dave Ramsey’s plan is to “Pay Off All Debt (Except the House) Using the Debt Snowball.”

The snowball method that Dave Ramsey refers to here means that you start by paying off small debts first, and work your way up to the bigger debts. Debts can include paying off your car, credit card debts, and student loans.

First, make a giant list of all your debts, every single one, except for your mortgage if you have a house. Then, put your list of debts in order from the smallest debt amount to the largest. Then you go through knocking out each debt by eliminating the smallest debts first and working your way up to the largest debt last.

Step 3: Complete Your Emergency Fund

medical bills

The third step is to “Save 3 to 6 Months of Expenses in a Fully Funded Emergency Fund.”

Now that you’ve gotten all your debts out of the way, it’s time to finish your emergency fund. You can use the same money you were using to pay off debts each month and put it toward your emergency fund until it has enough to cover 3 to 6 months’ worth of expenses and bills. Then you’ll really be prepared for anything.

Reasons to Have an Emergency Fund

  1. If you lose your job.
  2. You won’t have to worry because you’ll have enough to last you 6 months. This will give you the time you’ll need to find a new job.

  3. If your car breaks down.
  4. You’ll be able to pay for the necessary repairs, the tow truck, or even for a new car in some cases.

  5. Medical bills.
  6. Don’t let your health and necessary medical bills keep you from staying afloat financially.

  7. Home repairs.
  8. If something happens to your home you’ll be able to fix the problem rather than living with it.

Having an emergency fund is THE key to keeping you out of debt in the future. After getting yourself out of debt, an emergency fund is what will keep you from getting back into debt in the future.

Step 4: Save for Retirement

retirement

The fourth step in the Dave Ramsey plan is to, “Invest 15% of Your Household Income in Retirement.”

After your debts are gone and your emergency fund is taken care of, it’s time to start seeing to other important savings like a 401K. Dave Ramsey recommends you take 15% of your gross monthly income and put it toward a retirement fund each month. To figure out how much you should be putting into your retirement fund each month, take your monthly income and multiply that number by 0.15.

Step 5: Start a College Fund

college funds

The fifth step to Dave Ramsey’s plan is to, “Save for Your Children’s College Fund.”

Avoiding student loan debts can be one of the biggest factors in staying out debt as a young adult. If you can pay for your kids college tuition then you’ll ensure their financial security in the future, as they’ll better be able to stay out debt. Dave Ramsey recommends using either a 529 college savings plans, or an education savings accounts (ESA). Talk to your bank or credit union about setting up these accounts for these specific purposes.

Step 6: Pay Off Your House

mortgage

The next to last step in this 7 step plan is to, “Pay Off Your Home Early.”

Put all the extra monthly income you have into your mortgage so you can finish paying it off early. After this step you will officially have no debts whatsoever! All of your earnings will go to you instead of getting drained away in large debts and payments.

Step 7: Build Wealth

wealth and legacy

Finally, it is time to, “Build Wealth and Give.”

Congratulations! Once you’ve reached the 7th step in Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, you can start focusing on building your wealth and leaving a legacy. Don’t forget to keep and maintain those financial safety nets like a healthy emergency fund, retirement account, savings account, and college funds.

Now you are officially in charge of your money rather than it being in charge of you.

Financial freedom is possible for you! Everyone can do it and Dave Ramsey’s 7 baby steps can help you get there. Dave Ramsey also has other resources that can help you implement this plan. You can participate in Dave Ramsey’s program, books, and podcasts.

You can take the actual course with Financial Peace University.

Dave Ramsey also has a free customized plan and assessment that you can do right now, in just 3 minutes!

Listen to the Dave Ramsey Show anywhere you listen to podcasts or radio.

 
Dave Ramsey’s 7 baby steps to financial freedom can help you with so many aspects of your life. They can help you decide when to buy a house or help you get situated for saving for a house. It’s a checklist program that can help you get rid of loans and debt (like student loans), or even help you get to where you can budget for a wedding.

Another way you can get some needed financial help is to take out an Installment Loan at Check City! Installment loans can help you stay on top of your bill payments and avoid late fees, which can really hurt your long-term financial goals.
 

READ MORE

Browse Dave Ramsey’s online store for more great financial resources to help you on your financial journey.

Read more helpful articles on the Dave Ramsey Blog

Learn more about the debt snowball, “How the Debt Snowball Method Works.”

Read Dave Ramsey’s full article on his 7 baby steps, “What Are the Baby Steps?

Stay out of debt through college by using these tips, “How to Stay Debt Free through Grad School.”


How Much House Can I Afford?





Maybe you are a first-time home buyer and have no idea what you are doing, or maybe you’ve bought a home before, but this time you want to make sure you are being financially savvy in your decisions. Either way, there are so many things that go into buying a house that the overall process can be daunting. But by understanding how to budget for a home, and taking advantage of your local financial services, you can tackle the house-buying world and how it applies to you on an individual level.

The process for buying a house is not going to be the same for everyone. We all have different financial situations, incomes, salaries, bills, debts, expenses, and spending behaviors. We even all have different desires, wants, needs, and hobbies that go into how we spend our income and will therefore also affect our buying options when looking for a home. All of these variables should be carefully weighed and considered as you embark on your home-buying journey.

First let’s go over some key home-buying terms that you will want to be familiar with . . .

Definition of Key Terms

For an even bigger list of terms and definitions that you might need to know when buying a house, see the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Home Buyer’s Dictionary Page.

The Principal

The price of a home can also be referred to as the principal, especially by mortgage lenders. It refers to the base cost of the home, and does not include interest, fees, or closing costs. Many people use mortgages to pay for their home, meaning you’ll want to figure out how much mortgage you can afford when shopping home prices.

Down Payment

The down payment on a home is whatever the buyer can pay of the total price upfront. The less money put down in the beginning, the higher the interest rate on the mortgage will be, and the more the buyer will have to borrow from a lender. But the more you can put down in the beginning, the less you will have to borrow, and your interest rate will be lower as well. It is always advisable to pay as much for the house upfront as you can.

Homeowner’s Association Fees (HOA)

Some communities will be part of a Homeowner’s Association (HOA). Communities with an HOA are part of a planned community that often comes with communal benefits and amenities, like a pool, or snow ploughing. HOA’s also often come with certain rules for those who live in that community—rules about lawn upkeep and such—so make sure you understand the requirements and benefits of the HOA before committing to a house in their neighborhood.

Property Taxes

Owning a home and property will require you to pay property taxes each year. The percentage you pay in property taxes will depend on the location and value of your home. When looking in different locations for your home be sure to also look into what the property taxes are like in that area.

Mortgage

A mortgage is the loan and payment plan you go on with a lender to eventually pay off your home. Unless you can afford to pay the entire price of the home upfront (100% down payment), you’ll need to take out a mortgage with a lender to help eventually pay off your home through monthly mortgage payments instead of all at once.

Mortgages come with different time periods to pay back the loan. There are 15-year mortgages, 30-year mortgages, and a 5/1 Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM).

  • For a 15-year mortgage your payments are going to go up more and more each year and your payments are going to be higher in general. But you’ll pay less interest overall and pay off your mortgage quicker.
  • A 30-year mortgage is going to allow for smaller payments, but in the long run you will pay more in interest, and it will take longer for you to pay off your mortgage.
  • A 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage is another kind of 30-year mortgage, but your interest rate stays the same for the first five years of the loan. After that initial five years, your interest becomes subject to whatever market changes there are for interest rates.
Homeowner’s Insurance

Homeowner’s insurance is insurance for your home. It can protect you when disasters, natural or otherwise, affect your house. It can even cover some of the costs for damages caused by natural disasters or crime. It can also protect your possessions in these same scenarios and help you to replace whatever was lost or stolen. It is not illegal to not have homeowner’s insurance, but many lenders will require it. There are two kinds of homeowner’s insurance:

  • Cash-value coverage will help cover the costs of damages when they occur, but won’t usually be enough to rebuild your home should you need to.
  • Replacement-cost coverage is insurance that will cover the total cost of your house if you should ever need to rebuild it due to disasters. Most advisers will recommend you get this kind of homeowner’s insurance since it covers more.
Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

PMI stands for Private Mortgage Insurance. It is a form of insurance that lenders use to reduce their risks when a borrower can’t afford a down payment of at least 20 percent. Your lender will require a PMI when they are lending you more than 80% of your home’s total value. PMI is also a very costly form of insurance, but there are ways to get rid of it later by refinancing.

Interest Rate

Interest rate is a percentage of money added to your loan as payment to the lenders for borrowing a home loan from them. The interest rate you get on your mortgage will be determined based on your credit history and score. Usually the interest rate will be included in your monthly mortgage payments.

Credit History

Your credit history comes from your credit report and shows your history of paying debts and bills. It is meant to show how often you are on time or late in payments and your overall level of responsibility with your finances. Your credit history and score are what lenders will look at when deciding the interest rate they will put on your mortgage.

Credit Score

Your credit score differs from your credit history in that it is an overall score calculated from your credit history to show how much of a credit risk you are for the lenders. Instead of looking at an entire credit report or history, lenders can simply look at this score to get a quick, overall idea of your credit’s well-being.

Gross Income

Gross income refers to your total income before taxes.

Net Income

Net income refers to your total income after taxes. It is also referred to as “take-home pay.”

Understanding Mortgages

When applying for a mortgage, there are four main factors listed below that lenders will consider and that will influence the kind of mortgage and interest rate you can get:

  • Your income
  • Demands on your income, like debts, monthly bills, loans, and other expenses
  • Your credit history
  • Your credit score
Types of Mortgage Lenders

There are also five general categories of lenders that you can get your mortgage from, and each one comes with its own pros and cons.

  • Federal government agency lenders
    • Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
    • US Department of Agriculture (USDA): These mortgages can be for homes in more rural areas. The USDA can also be used to rebuild and rehabilitate old properties that qualify.
    • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): These mortgages are for veterans. You can even use them to make your home more accessible.
  • State government lenders
  • Nonprofit lenders
  • Local lenders, banks, and credit unions
  • Larger banks and lenders

The 5 Steps of Buying a Home

Step 1: Look at Your Credit Score

When starting the house hunt many people like to begin with the fun part by getting on Zillow and browsing for the perfect home. But you can’t figure out how much house you can afford on Zillow. If you are serious about buying a home, then you should look at your credit score before you start looking for a home. While looking at your credit score you will want to keep your eye out for the following:

  • See where your credit score is at—how good or bad it is.
  • Check your credit report for any errors and have them corrected.
    • Get on this now because if you need to correct your credit report, the changes will take some time, even months, to correct.
  • Look for ways you can better your credit score.
    • Figure out the reasons your credit score is lower than you want and develop plans to fix those issues or habits.
    • Paying down your general debt will also help your credit score.
Step 2: Do Calculations and Budgeting

The big question most people want to know when looking for a home is how much can I afford? There are many methods for figuring out your own budget for buying a home. Which method you choose will depend on what feels most comfortable for you. But in general, financial advisers will tell you to spend 2.5 to 5 times your annual salary on a home. Again, it is ultimately up to you where you decide to land in this range.
Method One: Based on Your Savings
People are generally advised to pay at least a 20% down payment. In order to figure out the amount of house you can afford based on what you have saved for a down payment, use the following equation:

Method Two: Based on Your Annual Income
If you want a quick estimate of the amount you can afford for a house, below is an easy calculation you can do based on your annual income.

Method Three: the 28/36 Rule
The 28/36 rule is a recommendation that your budget has no more than a 28% front-end ratio and a 36% back-end ratio. Lenders will look at both these ratios to decide your mortgage loan, so it is important to understand where you stand according to this ratio because this is how most lenders will decide what you can afford to borrow from them. When budgeting for a home, you can use this ratio to see if you meet these requirements and to see how financially ready you are to buy a home.

  • Front-end refers to your total housing payments (PITI) to income ratio.
  • Your total housing payments is not just referring to the Principal, but also the Interest, Taxes, and Insurance (hence, PITI). This front-end ratio means that you should not spend more than 28% of your monthly gross income on your total monthly mortgage payments.

  • Back-end refers to your total debt to income ratio (DTI).
  • This back-end ratio means that you should not spend more than 36% of your monthly gross income on debts. Debts include credit card payments, child support, auto loans, student loans, and any other debts you may have.

Dave Ramsey’s Advice

Dave Ramsey has influenced and guided a lot of people in their financial affairs with his knowledge. Below is some of his basic advice for buying a home:

  • Pay a 100% down payment in cash when you can.
  • Choose a 15-year mortgage over a 30-year mortgage.
  • Keep your mortgage payments (plus insurance and taxes) no more than 25% of your take-home pay (net income).
    So unlike the 28/36 rule, Dave Ramsey advises that your front-end ratio be no more than 25%, instead of 28 percent. He also advises that you use this percentage on your net income, or take-home pay, rather than your gross income, because this will better reflect the money actually going to your account after taxes.
What to Remember When Budgeting:

The Mortgage:
Just because a lender qualifies you for a certain amount that does not mean you should use it all. How much mortgage you can qualify for is very different from how much mortgage you should use. The maximum loan amount that your lender is willing to let you borrow, does not reflect your personal budget and what you actually want to be paying each month. This is why being able to do your own budgeting and calculations is important because then you can see and decide for yourself how much you are willing to borrow.
The Down Payment:
When preparing to buy a home, what you really want to be doing is preparing for the down payment. The higher a down payment you can afford the better.

Your down payment should be at least 20% of the total price of the house. But, you can find loans that accommodate lower down payments if that’s what you require:

  • Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration, the USDA, and the Department of Veterans Affairs are just a few options for low down payment mortgages.

Other Costs and Fees Associated with Buying a Home:

  • Closing costs and fees. Some examples of what may be included in the closing costs are appraisal fees, loan fees, attorney fees, and house inspection fees. Closing costs and fees will vary and depend on local tax laws and the cost of your home. If you want to estimate how much your closing costs might be, they generally range between 2 and 5% of the cost of your home.
  • Taxes, insurance, and HOA fees for certain neighborhoods.
  • Home maintenance, upgrades, and repairs: Homes need regular maintenance, remodeling, normal upkeep over the years, and repairs when emergencies and damages suddenly occur.
  • You’ll need to potentially buy appliances, furniture, and decorations.
  • You’ll be responsible for paying all your utilities, which can include, heat, electricity, water, sewage, trash removal, cable television, and telephone services.

Your Other Financial Goals:
Buying a home is a big financial goal and dream in life, but you probably have other financial hopes and dreams as well. Don’t forget to factor these in as you budget and look for a home. Some of these other goals may include general savings, saving for retirement, buying a new car, raising children, paying for their college, starting a business, vacations, trips, and any other hobbies, interests, or personal endeavors that may also require a place in your budget.
Know Yourself:
It is important to understand the kind of spender you are. This is another reason doing your own budget for your future house is a good idea, because then you can thoroughly be aware of your spending habits and therefore be more realistic when it comes to budgeting in a mortgage as well.

But you also need to be mindful of how you handle debt. For some people, being in a certain amount of debt can be stressful, while others don’t mind it so much. Be aware of whether having a larger mortgage on your hands is going to bother you or negatively impact your internal well-being. This will also factor into what you decide to do financially about budgeting for a mortgage.

You can also hire a personal financer to look over all these factors for you and take a more personal, detailed look into all of the many costs involved for you individually. Hiring a professional may be wise if you do not have the time or patience to look into these variables yourself. It is less wise to rely solely on a lender’s analysis because they will only look at income and credit history, and not consider your personal, bigger picture.

Step 3: Find Your Agent

Buyer’s Agent
A buyer’s agent is the kind of agent you want to be working with directly because they are meant to work with the buyer (you) and will thus work to get you the best price you can get.
Seller’s Agent
This is not who you want to be working with directly because they will be trying to get the best price for the seller. Though usually the buyer and seller agents will mediate offers and agreements and work alongside each other in that way.

Now it’s time for the fun part—the home search! After you’ve done all your budgeting and have all your ducks in a neat, planned-out row, you can begin to search for the home that fits your wants, needs, and budget!

Remember all the budgeting calculations you did above when you are filtering in your price range. It’s recommended to select a price range 10% above and below your calculations as a cushion when you are searching.

What to look for in location:

  • A healthy economy: low unemployment rates and good incomes
  • A good real estate market: look at whether the homes in the neighborhood are selling well, meaning they sell close to or above their asking price.
  • A healthy community: look for a range of ages in the residents and families nearby.
  • A good school district: even if you don’t have children, being in a good school district will help your home retain its value and make selling your home easier should you need to sell later down the road.
Step 5: Enter Your Contract and Close the Deal!

Once you’ve made your choice you can work with your agent to make an offer to the sellers. If all goes through, your agent will draw up the papers and officialize a closing date, which is usually 45 to 60 days after the offer was accepted by the sellers.

When entering into a housing contract you will first want to make sure you have the following common contingencies in your agreement. This means that your contract relies on these personal requirements being met first:

  • obtaining a mortgage
  • getting a home inspection

Buying a home is a big deal and naturally you want to be as knowledgeable and savvy about the basics as possible. By applying these basic rules you will know how to buy a home in the smartest way possible.


READ MORE
Visit the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for seminars and counseling about buying a home.


Visit the HUD’s common questions page for even more answers to your home-buying questions.


Use an online “How Much House Can I Afford” calculator to plug in your numbers and quickly see how much house you can afford.


Listen to NPR episodes about home-buying to learn more about the home-buying world.


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