HomeDebtNo debt free scream here

No debt free scream here

I should have saw it coming. Just as one could have easily predicted Clay Aiken would eventually come out of the closet…

…I should have known my proclamation of debt freedom would be followed by one question, and one question only.

“Are you gonna call Dave Ramsey?”

I was probably asked this by a dozen or so readers via emails, comments, and tweets. So let me address the masses: I have no intentions to contact Dave. It’s nothing against Mr. Ramsey, his show, or his teachings. Actually, The Total Money Makeover kick started my passion for PF. If it wasn’t for Dave, I’d most likely still be in debt.

You’re probably thinking to yourself “If Dave was the major player in becoming debt free, why wouldn’t you want to call in?” Truth is, I’d love to, but there is one tiny thing preventing me from doing so…. I’d be a terrible interview. No, not because I’m socially awkward, but because I didn’t really follow Dave’s plan. Here’s how I envision the DR debt free interview would go…

DR: Hey Ninja, You’re on the DR show.

Me: Hey Dave, I was calling in to let you know, I’m debt free!!

DR: Awesome man, how much debt did you have? And how long did it take you to pay it off?

Me: I was $28K in the hole and it took a little over 2 years to pay it back

DR: Great, making what kind of money?

Me: Well I started at $38k and now I’m making a little over $65K

….and here is where the interview would get awkward…

DR: So did you live like no one else, so later you could live like no one else

Me: Not really. In fact, I bought a motorcycle (with cash), fully funded my Roth IRA, contributed to my 401K, dined out at least once a week, paid for a $4,000 honeymoon, and had enough cash to pay off my debts about 8 months ago

DR: ….click….

And that would be the end of my interview. Honestly, guys (and girls) I won’t be calling DR because I didn’t do what he said. Had I really been on a “beans and rice” budget, I probably could have been debt free a year ago. I’ve never heard a debt free interview with someone that didn’t follow his baby steps…to the “T”.

Most of you know that wasn’t the case for me. At one point, I had $16K in debt, but $23K in savings. If that’s not a DR sin, I don’t know what is. Now that I think about it, my interview could actually make Dave’s plan less appealing. After all, I didn’t cut out fun or entertainment from my budget, I still use my credit card for just about every purchase I make, and I was working baby step 4 before baby step 2, but in the end every thing turned out just peachy. Ya see, even though I wasn’t “living like no one else” (by DR terms), I’m convinced I still have the ability to live like no one else.

While the liberating feeling that would follow a “debt free scream” would be awesome, I felt just as good professing it to you all last week. Heck, I’d even argue it was more rewarding sharing it here since you all participated in my journey. I apologize to the DR cultists, but there will be no phone call from Ninja on the DR show any time soon.

For those of you that are debt free, did you call in to the show? For those working towards debt freedom, do you plan to? If you were me, would you call in?



  1. Nope, I wouldn’t call in either. Had you followed his plan, then absolutely. However, I am guessing you wouldn’t even get past the moderator if you did call in.

    Again, congrats!

  2. Not debt free (yet) but I won’t be calling in for the same reason – I’m not following his plan. His plan is good and he’s very gung-ho about it so I don’t think he’d approve of me going halvsies on my extra money between baby steps 2 and 3 while still contributing to retirement.

    My thoughts on Dave are that his plan can work for pretty much anyone, but it isn’t best for everyone.

  3. I really don’t consider myself “debt free” as I still have mortgage debt. I always found it odd that people proclaim themselves debt free when they still owe people money.

    When the mortgage is paid off, I’ll just jump onto the next thing (kid’s education fund). I really find this debt reduction/wealth building more of a financial journey vs a destination. And journeys have setbacks too.

    Being debt free is a milestone that sometimes gets re-set multiple times in one’s life. If we ever have to relocate to a higher COL area, we will probably go into debt again. If we have to move my mom in with us, we’ll need a bigger place and may or may not have the cash to do so. It all depends on timing. Some things you just can’t predict.

    It’s about making the best decisions with the hand you’ve been dealt. I have a friend who unexpectedly had triplets (she wasn’t on any funky drugs, it just happened naturally). Woah..she was not expecting that, or the medical bills that went along with preemies. But she adjusted fine and the priorities for her are all about having a job with great health insurance for her girls. Everything else is secondary.

    At this stage in life, it’s easy to think that you can plan everything (I know I did), but life usually throws some surprises at you. It doesn’t stop me from trying to predict every possible outcome and what I’d do in case it happened. It’s just how I’m wired.

  4. agree with the other commenters – namely, DR’s plan is a great one, esp. for those who just need some structure and steps to follow, and any deviation would cause their plan to collapse. recently, i was about to give that debt-free scream, when i realized that a family member was in some bad financial straights and i had the means to help out. hence, those final debt payments are on hold as i stockpile cash and pass it along.

    it’s a *luxury* to be able to do this, and i’m so thrilled that i can. sometimes it feels crazy, because i still have that pull of wanting to complete my goals, but without some flexibility, i would be leaving someone i love to fend for themselves; instead, i get the joy and freedom of going, “i have it. you need it. here!”

    once everyone’s settled again, back at it. it’s weird, but somehow having my plan derailed has made me calmer – i’m in a position now, because of my planning and hard work, to help. two years ago, i would have had to say, “sorry, can’t do anything.” what a HUGE, awesome change in my life.

  5. I will be calling in. However we were first exposed to Dave in 2003, it took until 2008 before we even started to try anything he suggests. In January 2009 we jumped into the plan and FPU by the book and since then we have paid off almost $47K
    Totally drinking the Kool-aid and mixing up fresh batches to share with others.

  6. I agree with you, Ninja, because I’m the same way. While Ramsey was really a catalyst for getting my financial butt in gear, he would absolutely light me up for the way that I do things. You see, personal finance is always “Personal,” until you dare disagree with the almighty Dave or do something differently than he would.
    I’m nearly out of debt, I’m contributing to my retirement, I have a ton of life insurance and disability insurance (and I don’t shop around for great prices-because company strength matters-gasp!), and I have a plan to not only ACCUMULATE wealth, but to RETAIN it. (because I just happen to not agree with the 12% theory he throws out there)
    Sounds like I’m still living like nobody else, though!

    As I’ve said before: Congrats on being debt free!

    • “You see, personal finance is always “Personal,” until you dare disagree with the almighty Dave or do something differently than he would.”

      Exactly. And that’s the problem with Ramsey, Orman, Slott, and the rest of these self-proclaimed gurus. Ultimately their main goal is to present themselves as omniscient and to exert control over their followers. Disagree with them, suggest that there are alternatives to their often simplistic and dubious pronouncements, show any sign of thinking or doing research for yourself, and you risk getting smacked down for your impertinence. After all, if there is so much as a chink in the guru’s armor, how much can you trust the rest of their advice?

      • You sound like you have an axe to grind. I totally agree that Dave’s presentation makes it sound like he’s more of an expert than he is (especially when talking details of investing/legal issues), but…arrogant, yes – omniscient control freak? no. He doesn’t do what he does to exert control – and if you’re reading that into what his show, books, ministry is about…then you’re the one with the problem. He regularly switches up his advice based on people’s individual situations. I’ve never heard him ‘smack’ someone down. He does question whether someone is going to follow through with getting out of debt – but that’s usually folks who put up 20 excuses as to why they’re trying to hang onto a car on which they owe $23K while bringing home a $35K income. Or staying in a home that’s 50% of their take home. Frankly, they’re calling his show – why would you expect for him to give out anything other than HIS advice? If someone emailed you for advice, would you tell them something you didn’t believe in? Simplistic, yes – dubious, notsomuch.

  7. as much as i think that there some good advice in there, i do believe that allowing some of life’s pleasures to leak into your debt reduction plan (in a controlled fashion) is a good way to sustain a budget. most people can only be on a strict diet for so long before they break down and clean out the fridge with their face. also, maybe it’s just me… but i think dave ramsey if kind of a douche. p.s. nice clay aiken joke.

  8. We might call in when we pay off the house. If he doesn’t take our call because we haven’t been following his plan to a T, we’ll just call our family and give them the debt free yell. Either way, the outcome is the same. Kudos to you again for getting there at such a young age. What an amazing accomplishment!
    BTW-it is weird that I think of you whenever I hear Travie McCoy’s ‘Billionaire’? 🙂

  9. I’m far from being debt free, just starting out in fact. While I subscribe to some of Dave’s philosophy, I believe that personal finance is just that, PERSONAL. Sometimes we lose sight that a destination can be reached through multiple routes. The outcome is that you took control of your finances, paid off all your debt, increased your savings, and pay cash for the extras like a motorcycle. Congrats!!!!

  10. I hardly think DR would “light you up” for not following his plan. He always tells people “I’m not mad at you” (or more accurately, “I’m not mad atchoo”) for doing whatever they did. He’s not going to call you a twit for becoming debt free in the way that worked best for you. He just wants people to be free from debt and not make stupid decisions that land them back in debt.

    We follow DR’s baby steps very closely. That said, I probably won’t call in to his show when we’re debt free simply because I think it will be nearly impossible to get through, and I have better things to do with my time than wait for a screener to answer a phone, or sit on hold until we actually get to talk to the man.

  11. Nope, I wouldn’t call in. My husband and I are paying off our one remaining car loan in the next 2 weeks and paying off our last debt – the mortgage – in 7 years or less. We have a healthy vacation fund and waste a ton on eating out. We have fun money and splurge expenses. We live on a zero-based budget, but that includes all of the above. Dave Ramsey and I don’t see completely eye-to-eye…

  12. Oh I’m calling in because I want to scream it LOUD and PROUD on national airways…and I’ll probably do it from my front porch so the whole neighborhood knows too but then I’ve always been an AW!

  13. You make a pretty hefty salary. So you can certainly afford a doodad now and again. Just as long as you keep building up your asset column enough to give you that desired passive income, that’s all that matters, eh?

  14. Dave also kick-started my path to debt-free living, but I wouldn’t call in either. I see no reason to celebrate being where I should have all along; but also, I didn’t follow the plan 100% completely either. written budget? HA! Rice & Beans? HA HA!

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