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“Money is the number one issue that causes couples to argue.” So says Toni Coleman, renowned psychotherapist and relationship coach… and, well, pretty much everyone I’ve ever talked to about marriage – ha!

One of the things I’m most grateful for in my marriage is that my husband and I have always been on the same page about money… but what if that’s not you and your significant other? Are you just doomed?

NO! Sorry-not-sorry for the all caps, but you’re 100% not doomed. There are some incredible resources out there to help you both get on the same page and change your future with money, and one of the best ones I know is Dave Ramsey’s book Total Money Makeover.

In his book, Dave condenses 20 years of financial teaching and counseling into seven organized, easy-to-follow steps that will lead you out of debt and into a total money makeover. It’s a plan designed for everyone, regardless of income, age, or religion (though Dave himself is a Christian).

Total Money Makeover can help you:
— design a sure-fire plan for paying off ALL Debt
— recognize the 10 most dangerous money myths
— secure a comfortable nest egg for emergencies
— radically change your life and your family’s legacy

Sounds good, right? But so do a lot of things. To show you what an impact Dave’s principles can have on real couples, I reached out to a few readers to share the effect this book has had on their marriages and financial future. I hope these stories inspired you as much as they did me — these ladies (and gents) are rocking it!!

Who they are: Ashley and Josh
What Dave’s principles helped them accomplish: They have paid off $18,700 of debt in four months using the snowball method. Their goal is to be 100% debt free in two years.
How they did it: Gazelle intensity! Ashley started a side business (on top of her full-time corporate job) to help pay off debt, and Josh has picked up two extra jobs (one in the evenings after work, and one on the weekends), to help accelerate their debt snowball. By the end of July, they will have paid off close to $23,000!
Their biggest takeaway from the book: “The most amazing thing we’ve gotten from following Dave’s model is unity. Dave talks about the fact that when you and your spouse are both focused with gazelle intensity on ONE goal together, you become more unified than ever, and that has rung true for us.”

Who they are: Bethany and Kent
What Dave’s principles helped them accomplish: Sticking to a budget on smaller salaries (she’s a teacher, he works in ministry at a summer camp), including putting over $1,000 a month toward student loan debt.
How they did it: “Making a budget and following through with it was a HUGE eye-opener. If we didn’t have a budget and stick to it, I can guarantee that we’d just blow that money on food, clothing, and other material possessions, none of which we actually need.”
Their biggest takeaway from the book: “Working towards a common goal has strengthened our marriage and our faith. While my husband has always been a man of few possessions, I definitely have not. I want the beautiful home, the nice and newest clothes, and the coffee treats. Because we only use cash for personal spending, I don’t have a way to exceed my budget. It forces me to not look for satisfaction or happiness in material things, but seek satisfaction in the Lord.”

Who they are: Diana and Kyle
What Dave’s principles helped them accomplish: “The “baby steps” outlined in Total Money Makeover helped us pay off $30K of debt in less than a year and build an emergency fund that now always holds at least $10,000. That emergency fund is for true emergencies–we have a separate short-term savings account we use to save money for hospital bills, replacing a car, etc.–so we’ve never had to dip into it. It’s amazing to live with margin and without a lot of financial stress weighing heavy on our marriage.”
How they did it: “We started by tracking everything we spent so we would have enough understanding of our expenses to create a budget. We had no clue what we were spending–it was eye-opening! (Read: Horrifying.) Then we created a budget, tracked every dollar we spent, and got a little radical about our spending. Surprisingly, it was fun in a weird way. We felt really united as a couple tackling our debt together and became creative and resourceful about achieving our goal.”
Their biggest takeaway from the book: “We still love Dave’s famous encouragement that, ‘If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.’ It’s tough to live below your means when most people around you don’t, but patience and contentment pays off! To us, this quote doesn’t mean that if we live frugally now, we’ll get to enjoy a plush life when we’re older; it means that we will get to give radically because our own financial needs won’t be a concern anymore.”

Who she is: Jennifer
What Dave’s principles helped her accomplish: Jennifer had the margin to follow the call to work in ministry (her dream job!) because she no longer had student loan debt from an expensive graduate degree.
How she did it: “My Dad has been a Dave fan for many years and gifted all of my siblings with his book upon graduating high school. A few years later, though, I found myself signing on the line for $60,000 worth of Master of Architecture loans. After graduate school, I found Total Money Makeover again and finally put it to use. I paid off all of my student loans in under two and a half years by taking on a second job (which provided me free housing) and throwing all of my money at my loans.
Her biggest takeaway from the book: “I’m very thankful for the financial freedom I have now. It’s allowed me to finally say yes to the call to work in ministry that’s God has been placing on my heart for a while now. I know if I were still paying my student loans each month I wouldn’t have been able to consider the career move (financially, yes, but also from the guilt of switching while still paying for that grad degree!).”

Who they are: Britt and Dustin
What Dave’s principles helped them accomplish: They paid cash for their entire home renovation ($180,000 over about three years). “It was an old home that had caught on fire and we naively bought from a family member not having a clue what we were doing – it needed to be entirely gutted.”
How they did it: “Several years ago we took the leap and started working with a financial coach (who had learned under Dave’s principles initially) to get us headed in the right direction. It only took a few phone calls of us connecting together with him to get a better understanding of the purpose behind organizing our finances better. Since then, we’ve made a zero based budget every. single. month. Which just blows my mind, considering my husband was anything but excited about the concept of a budget from the beginning. Now it’s just a habit: it takes us five minutes on the last day of every month, and I don’t foresee us stopping anytime soon.”
Their biggest takeaway from the book: “Dave’s principles have changed us as individuals, changed our perspective on marriage and truly being a team, and allowed us to pay cash for everything we do now. We simply don’t buy it if we can’t pay cash, and we believe that’s the best thing for us and what we ultimately want for our life and our family.”

Ready to get your own financial house on track? Total Money Makeover is available wherever books are sold in physical, audio, and e-book form, and it makes a great gift for an engagement party, bridal shower, or newlywed couple. Buy it here on Amazon, and grab a few accompanying freebies right here!

This post is sponsored by Harper Collins. Thank you for your support of the brands who make Southern Weddings possible!

emily Written with love by Emily
6 Comments
  1. avatar Lindy reply

    I LOVE this article! (I’m a bit of a Dave Ramsey fan, and while I’ve never read the Total Money Makeover, I have listened to a LOT of his podcasts. They motivated me while my husband and I were completing Baby Step 6, which we just finished last week! Woohoo!)

    • avatar Emily reply

      My husband and I are huge fans of his Entreleadership podcast! So much good stuff even if you’re not a business owner!

  2. avatar Lauren reply

    I originally gained insight into Dave Ramsey through Emily’s personal blog and borrowed the book from the library. I was able to pay off $5,000 in credit card debt with his principles! Love this post!

  3. avatar Emily B. reply

    I too borrowed the audio book from the library and ended up listening to it twice since it was so good and had so many good nuggets of information. Year to date I’ve paid off $6,800 towards my car loan and have vowed to never finance a vehicle again. So happy to see other women so fired up about personal finance!!! Thanks Emily for a great post!

  4. avatar Emily M. reply

    What a great post! I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey, and really believe his approach allows couples to grow in new, financially-healthy ways! My fiance and I love his podcasts too!

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For Southern Weddings V9, we asked a few of our wisest, most creative, and just plain fun friends how they celebrate their anniversaries. From simple takeout dinners served on wedding china, to trips back to honeymoon destinations, and everything in between, their ideas spanned every timeframe, budget, and tradition we can think of. Whether you’ll be celebrating your first anniversary or your fifteenth this year, we hope these ideas inspire you–we’ll be sharing a new one each Sunday!

Jen Dillender

Every year, we make a point to get out of town for a few days to really celebrate our anniversary well, usually in the North Carolina coastal town where we got engaged. Getting away helps us to truly disconnect from the noise of everyday life, and unwind enough to really look at each other face to face! We love music and driving through our beautiful state, so every year, we make a new anniversary road trip playlist to enjoy along the way. We also make it a point to stop for the best NC barbecue while we’re on the road! While we’re there, we make and eat great meals together, and have at least one fun and different adventure (last year, we rode horses on the beach!).
– Samantha Ray of Lula Hair + Makeup, married 4 years

Written with love by Southern Weddings
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Our most astute readers might recognize Jillian and Hayden from our most recent print issue, V9, and I’m thrilled to be showing you even more images today the blog! My favorite part of their home tour? While it’s not their forever home, it’s evident the two of them are doing a wonderful job at living intentionally and joyfully right where they are. And their dog is pretty cute, too :)

The couple: Jillian and Hayden Pottkotter
How many years have you been married? Two
Where do you live? Houston, Texas

Tell us a little bit about your apartment. Why did you choose to live there? Our apartment has two bedrooms and is in an established neighborhood tucked away in the middle of Houston. We found this “diamond in the rough” completely by accident when we were looking for a park to take our dog to when we first moved to the city. We would go on walks every evening, dreaming of being able to live in this area that we had fallen in love with. We like that our complex is an older, smaller community in the middle of a “normal” neighborhood, filled with families, pet owners, and frequent get-togethers among neighbors. We even have a nightly “Yappy Hour” where we walk our basset hound, Watson, to the park to romp around with other residents’ dogs!

What are your favorite things about apartment living? What are the biggest challenges? One of the things we love about apartment living is how cozy it is. We did not have a ton of furniture or decor when we were first married, so it would have been very daunting to move into a large space right off the bat. Apartment living enables us to utilize every space, making our home more comfortable and livable! One of the biggest challenges about living in an apartment is not having a yard or garden for ourselves and our stir-crazy dog. We so look forward to one day having immaculate gardens and a yard to call our own! There are also many things we cannot change about our apartment, such as our giant mirrored wall or the small windows, but we are thankful for lessons in contentment and the gentle reminder that material possessions aren’t worth yearning for anyway. At the end of the day, what matters the most is who you share your home with, not your 80’s jazzercise mirrors!

Which room in your apartment is your favorite and why? We see the most life lived in our living room, which is what makes it our favorite room. Whether it be spending time with our Young Life high school friends, relaxing with a glass of wine and The Office at the end of the week together, or our friends coming over to watch college football (gig ‘em, Aggies!), this room embodies exactly what we imagined our home to be. We prayed that our home would be a place where people would feel comfortable, valued, and welcomed. We hope that our living room will always be a place for this!

Tell us about the process of moving in together. Do you have any tips for blending your two styles? Luckily, we have pretty similar taste when it comes to what we want our house to look like. I have also been fortunate that Hayden has trusted me when it comes to decisions about decorating; I defer to him when it comes to maintenance. I think the most important thing we have learned is to share our vision, listen to each other’s opinions, and decide on details together. We won’t make decisions without consulting one another and making sure that we will both love the outcome.

What most makes your apartment feel like home? We love that many things in our house hold a memory or sentiment—from the sand dollars found in the ocean on our honeymoon to the vintage oar from my grandfather’s home on Lake Superior—these things tell the story of who we are as a couple and truly make this apartment our home. We both desire a “collected home,” not filled with things we could have bought from a store, but a home filled with meaning, stories, and character.

What are some of your dreams and plans for where you live over the next five years? We plan to stay in our apartment for the next two years, until I finish medical school. Our future is uncertain with regard to where my residency will take us next, so we cannot really make any concrete plans until then. No matter where we end up, we would be thrilled to buy a fixer upper and spend time making it our own. We would love to stay in Houston, but would also welcome a new adventure with open arms, as long as we get to do it together!

Photography: Kimberly Chau | Styling: Jennifer Laura Design

Written with love by Jess Metcalf
1 Comment
  1. avatar Wynelle Cowdery reply

    Absolutely adorable. So proud of you both especially Hayden as I was his Spanish teacher and he was an awesome student.
    I wish you both all the best. Keep up the great work! So creative and welcoming. Blessings and a big hello from England!

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