My thoughts on Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University

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We’re about a month into Financial Peace University, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on how it’s going thus far and some cool stuff I’ve learned.

  1. The Cash System Works! One of the guiding principles of Ramsey’s budgeting system is to use a cash envelope system for your variable expenses such as food, clothing, and entertainment. I’ve wanted to try this for some time now, and I’m amazed at how well it’s going now that we’re actually doing it! Did you know that you will spend 12-18% less if you use cash instead of a debit card? I find we’re definitely spending less because we’re actually SEEING those dollars go in and out of the envelopes. There’s no room for overspending and it’s easier to stay on track.
  2. Make Your Budget Sync with your Lifestyle. For years, we’ve struggled with keeping a budget that works for us. Through the course of this class and our wonderful mentor, Sarah, I realized one fatal flaw: we’ve been trying to budget to a calendar month instead of our paychecks! By simply moving the “month” from the 1st to the 8th (Terry’s payday), a lot of stuff cleared up for us. I think part of the problem was by starting it on the calendar month, it always felt like we were a bit behind and the checkbook was harder to balance.
  3. Make an Allocated Weekly Budget. Once you have your monthly budget agreed upon, break it down by weeks. This was oh-so-infinitely helpful too! So once you agree to spend, say, $400 on food for a month, you break down which weeks you will take the cash out. Perhaps you take it all out on your first paycheck, or you take out $200 on each paycheck. These allocated weekly amounts should then roll up and reconcile to your monthly budget.
  4. You CAN Change your Money Habits. If you’ve been doing not such a great job about saving, you can change that. If you’ve gotten yourself into credit card debt, you can get out of it. If you haven’t communicated with your spouse about your financial dreams and struggles, you can change that. This is perhaps one of the biggest takeaways I’ve gotten out of the class – there is hope to change the things you don’t like about your financial situation. It may mean sacrifice, hard work, and some learning – but you can do it!

I would highly recommend this course – it’s good stuff, and Ramsey does an excellent job of making complex financial concepts easy to understand. He uses a lot of word pictures that really stick with you and illustrate the ideas.

If you would like to learn more, you can buy the Financial Peace book on Amazon for about $13 (hardcover). You can also visit Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University online to find classes in your area, download free forms, and more.

Have you gone through Financial Peace University? I would love to hear what you got out of it!


  1. stephanie says

    My husband and I are taking this class now and it has changed our world! Dave is amazing and I recommend it as well! Your points above are spot on! I agree 100%!!

    • arussell says

      He is such a great speaker, isn’t he? I have gone back and listened to all the CDs, even after having watched the videos!

  2. Ellen Stewart says

    My husband and I are in the class at our church. And we can EASILY say, its one of the best decisions we have ever made. By following his principles, we have gotten a raise!!!!! lol Were much more smart and conscious with our money. Before I lost my job, we were not able to make ends meet, and that was with TWO full time incomes!!!! Now that I’m on unemployment, we have money saved. lol Its crazy, but we’ve learned to be smart and to finally budget lol after saying we would for so long. Dave makes the information VERY interesting and VERY memorable.

    • arussell says

      I would agree with your thought. It’s amazing to me how much money we really have once we’ve budgeted it out, taken the cash out, etc – it does feel like it stretches further! I feel like some of our long-term financial goals are actually do-able now. It feels so good to have a plan.

      Best wishes for your journey!

  3. says

    We took FPU way back in 2006 and it has absolutely TRANSFORMED the way we view and handle money. The only way to make the principles in FPU work is to actually create and follow the monthly cash-flow plan and to not allow yourself to get tricky. Follow the rules and it works, works, works.

    My husband and I also found the key to making the budget work is to have personal money for each of us. It alleviates 99.9% of money arguments.

    I’m so thrilled you both are benefiting from FPU, Angela! Keep us updated with how you are doing!

    • says

      I 1000000% agree with everyone both the Angelas said. There are definitely times in our budgeting that we have tried to get a little tricky and fool ourselves even, but it never works. Arguments happen, money gets erroneously spent and then we’re back to square one. If you stick to the basic principles, it’s amazing. We also have our own personal money, which has done away with the majority of our money arguments and takes away the guilty “How could I spend money on that” feeling.

      I tell anyone who will listen that it has quite literally, saved our marriage. We were on such different platforms when it came to money, this program has made our lives better in just about every way.

      Can’t wait to hear more about your journey!

    • arussell says

      Hey thanks so much Angela! I agree – having personal money here would TOTALLY help. For instance, I have a small craft project I’ve been meaning to do and I’m looking at our envelopes going – this ain’t food, and while it’s certainly MY entertainment, I don’t know that Terry would agree with that.

      I will definitely update more about how the class is going and our own personal progress. In some ways, I’m not fully ready to share our story (yet), but I hope to one day. Thanks for the kind encouragement. It’s nice to hear from someone who’s been down this path!

      • says

        Yeah, add a “Terry” and “Angela” envelope quick. My personal money covers me, the kids and our clothing. My husband’s just covers his personal expenses (clothing, entertainment, hobbies, etc). Obviously, I get WAY more money than my husband each month (plus, I’m a girl…). The best part is that we don’t have to run each purchase by each other. I couldn’t care less how he spends his money because it’s his!

  4. Karen says

    My husband and I are actually teaching the class at our church right now. We went through it almost 2 years ago. His system really works. We are using the cash system, and it is amazing how well it works. We are 2 weeks away from starting baby step 3. We have a long ways to go, but we can’t believe how far we have come in 2 years. I highly recommend it. It has changed our lives. Live like no one else…..

  5. Morgan says

    I feel excited when I see people start the Dave Ramsey program. It is a life changer! We were able to save 10 months of living expenses, and now we are on baby step #4, just turned the 401(k) paperwork yesterday actually! We are also in the process of refinancing our mortgage to a 15 year note, so that we will have no mortgage when the the kids head off to college! That is a slight conflict with the baby steps, as Dave says we should start saving for college before we try and pay the house off, but after reviewing our budget, we feel its best to take advantage of the super low interest rates available right now. We will have no mortgage when our two kids (age 4 and 2) need money for school!
    I should say that it’s not all fun and games, there are things we do (coupon, shop sales, buy used ) and things we can’t do (big vacations, new cars) to make our lifestyle work. We KNOW it is worth it! I look forward to being 41 and having no house payment!

  6. Elizabeta says

    I like what he has to say as well and we have been using the envelope system and that has been good to keep costs down.

    Not to throw a monkey wrench in things, but something else to think about, maybe… My sister has been reading the Rich Dad Poor Dad books (the one called Unfair Advantage) and he talks about the idea of financial independence through creating passive cashflow. I am blown away by the idea that he has about ‘savers being losers’ but it makes sense if you think about inflation.

    • arussell says

      I’m pretty familiar with Rich Dad, Poor Dad and I can tell you some of what he teaches would be wrong for us. While it might be what clicks for someone else, I know we are on the right path for what we need to be doing. πŸ˜‰

  7. Mandi says

    I too have taken Dave’s advice and switched to envelopes. I changed it a little this year from last and added a couple of new envelopes. It has literally changed my life. I need a new pan. My old pan isn’t non-stick anymore after 8 years of nearly daily use. It wasn’t a cheap pan and I want one that will last like this one has. I was at Kohls today and found one similar but I don’t have the cash right now so even though I have a Kohls charge I didn’t buy it. I didn’t budget a pan from this paycheck. The old me would’ve bought it anyway. The new me would’ve felt sick that I had to use my charge card. He really makes you think about money and where it’s going. I’ll let you know when I’m done with Baby Step 2!

    • arussell says

      Mandi – YES!! You hit it on the head with your example. It’s all about those “little choices” – they really add up to something, don’t they? One thing I’ve noticed – less “little treats” for me and the kids. with the debit card, it was easy to take the kids out to lunch or ice cream, or stop in at Starbucks. Now that I realize how much we were actually spending on those things, and how that money could be harnessed so much more productively, it just changes everything! I’m amazed at the amount of money we’ll have saved by the end of our first month – just by switching to cash envelopes.

      • Mandi says

        It really is amazing. There are some months I have over $300 that I didn’t use and can go towards debt. Who knows where it would have gone before? It is a great program.

        • arussell says

          Yes, I am totally SHOCKED by the amount we’ve been able to sock away this month. Good gravy, where exactly has our money been going all this time? Eye opening!

  8. Sheila M. says

    My son, age 22, took the class along with his fiance. He couldn’t stop talking about it….and for a man, that’s saying something. I’m glad the two of them will be starting off their marriage on the same financial ‘page’ so to speak.

  9. marci reynolds says

    We were able to pay off $85,000 in debt in 2 years by doing the Dave Ramsey Plan. It has changed us forever and we are so grateful when we found Dave! Love, love, love that you are doing this, it will rock your world!!

  10. says

    We have been trying to follow Dave Ramsey’s system since the first of the year too and I agree that we spend far less money when we use cash because you are watching your hard earned dollars leave. When I spend on debit/credit it just doesn’t have the same affect that spending cash does. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about your experience with Financial Peace University.

    • arussell says

      There is a part of the lesson on cash flow planning where he talks about pain – do you remember that? He says that it’s been shown that when we use cash our body registers it as pain. This significantly decreases when we use debit, and even more so credit. It makes sense!

  11. dropofrain says

    it is a great program, and this is the way I was raised and had lived for almost 40 yrs. I am in my second marriage now and it is very difficult when your spouse is not on the same side though he understands and supports Dave’s program- but only in theory, not in real life. After trying to “patch holes” in a budget for a year, I finally gave up. My husband would use his debit card (or a credit card) and then “forget” to tell me about it or give me a receipt….or would tell me that he “really needed it and cash envelopes were with you”, etc. It was a nightmare to reconcile everything at the end of the month. I am still hoping that one day we would stick to a budget and would be eventually debt free.

  12. Karen Lynne says

    Dave’s program is incredible. We went hot and cold for many years and took the course 3 or 4 times over a 10 year period. We had some medical bills throw a wrench in the plan along the way, but we stuck with it and didn’t beat ourselves up. Granted, if we would have kept the momentum, we could have done it much quicker, but we are finally DEBT FREE! Praise the Lord! I’d encourage everyone to take this course. Once you purchase the kit, you can retake it over and over for FREE.

  13. Robin says

    As I am reading thru this, its very inspiring. I have a couple questions.. What about the bills that come out directly from your bank account? I have netflix (entertainment) and a farmers co op thing that comes out auto. Do you just “pretend” you put it in the envelope even though it come from the bank account? this is probably a silly question..

    • arussell says

      Not a silly question! We have several things that come out auto = car insurance, my monthly newspaper subscription, for instance. I also pay most of our bills through Bill Pay (like the mortgage and our tithes). We take out cash for the main categories of variable expenses we have such as food, entertainment, and eating out. I have a spreadsheet with our budget on it. I pretty much know what our fixed bills will be, I just determine what I want to do for the variable stuff and in most cases, take out cash. We leave money in our account for gas too. Does this help?

  14. Chip says

    I have a very odd question.

    I work at a church that is interested in putting on this study. However, the budget here is EXTREMELY tight (my desk is a wood door laying across two sawhorses…I’m not kidding). In your opinion is it possible to conduct the study with the leader’s guide and only a few of the participant guides? Paying full price for each guide would be more than double our yearly CE budget.

    • Angela Russell says

      I don’t know – but I can ask a friend that was one of our group leaders! Can I email you privately, Chip?

  15. Cari says

    I am seriously considering taking this class through my church but have a few things that are holding me back. It’s $100 dollars and I live paycheck to paycheck anyways. Is it worth the money? I also was told my a co-worker that it’s suggested you have $1,000 in a savings account in order for the program to work. I only have $375 and sometimes use that money to pay bills. Will the program still work even with the limited savings (this moment between checking and savings accounts, I only have about $500 to last me until the next paycheck)?

  16. Donora says

    I have a question about budgeting… I’m trying to fill out an excel spreadsheet of our debts to see where our money is going. Did you include your monthly bills, ( electricity,water,etc.) since it is part of your expenses, or did you only track financed debt? I can see both ways as being beneficial,but i guess if I’m holding us accountable for our spending, I want to see where all of it’s going ,right?


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