Dave Says: Zero-Based Budgeting and Paying Off Debt | Inspiration Ministries
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Dave Says: Zero-Based Budgeting and Paying Off Debt

by Dave Ramsey

Zero-Based Budgeting Explained

Dear Dave,

What exactly is a zero-based budget?

—Dean

Dear Dean,

Simply put, a zero-based budget is income minus outgo equals zero. If you earn $4,000 a month, and you’re doing a zero-based budget, every item you spend, save, give and invest should add up to $4,000. It’s a method of knowing where every single one of your dollars is going. Most people don’t live on a budget. They just cash checks, write checks, then they look up and wonder where all their money went. Not having a plan, especially for your money, is a bad plan.

List all your income from all sources for the month. Next, list every single expense you have each month. Rent, food, cable, phones, and anything else you pay for gets added to the list. Your expenses vary from one month to the next, which is why you make a new spending plan each month.

Now, here’s where it gets real. Subtract your income from your expenses. Ideally, this number will be zero. It might take some practice, so don’t be discouraged if everything doesn’t balance out perfectly the first few times. All that means is you need to find a way to bring one of the numbers up, the other one down—or both. But whatever you do, don’t spend a dime that’s not accounted for.

If you have a problem with spending more than you make, make some cuts in order to equalize your income and your outgo. Using coupons, cutting back on groceries, or carpooling to work are great ideas to reduce spending. If you want to generate more money, get a second job on weekends or sell some stuff.

You’re the boss of the budget—in the beginning. Once it’s committed to paper, in a spreadsheet, or on an app like EveryDollar, the budget is the boss!

—Dave

 

Use Non-Retirement Account to Pay Off Debt?

Dear Dave,

I have $11,000 in a mutual fund account that is not a retirement account. My wife has a retirement account through her job as a teacher, but I do not have one at all. We’re in Baby Step 2, so should we cash out the $11,000 in the investment account to help pay off debt?

—Chris

Dear Chris,

If this money is designated as non-retirement funds, I’d say go ahead and cash it out. Use the money to pay down debt, and continue to stay focused working the Baby Steps. Get that debt paid off, build an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses, then it’s your turn to start investing.

The quickest way to build wealth is to get control of your largest wealth-building tool—your income. When all your money is going out the door to other people, you don’t have that tool at your disposal when it comes to important things like saving and investing. There’s some math in there, but it’s also about behavior and being intentional. Getting out of debt dramatically shortens the distance between you and wealth.

A lot of people are having some major “never again” moments right now in the wake of COVID-19 and all the other stuff 2020 has thrown at us. They’re saying things like, “Never again will I be broke, never again will I have debt, and never again will I live with no savings to help take care of me and my family.”

You can do this, Chris. Get after it!

—Dave

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Dave Ramsey founded Ramsey Solutions in 1992 to provide “biblically based, common-sense” financial education. He is a best-selling author and sought-after speaker. He has authored seven best-selling books, including The Total Money Makeover. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 16 million listeners each week on 600 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Learn more at DaveRamsey.com

 

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