• Expanded Baby Steps

    While Dave Ramsey’s Seven Baby Steps have formed the map to financial freedom for many, the members of the forums have used their experience to expand the basic steps into ‘turn-by-turn’ directions.

    0.1: Commit to never borrowing money ever again, other than possibly a house.
    Getting out of debt and remaining debt free is the underpinning of Dave Ramsey’s plan for financial peace. That begins with a commitment to never borrowing money. Dave does make an exception for mortgages that fit certain criteria.
    0.2: Talk with spouse and get him/her on the same page as you concerning finances.
    It is possible to have success with a reluctant spouse, but it is a more difficult journey. Starting the conversation with why you want to do this plan is more likely to be successful. It is also good to be willing to make sacrifices on your ‘wants’ to show your commitment. If your partner doesn’t fully commit at the beginning, start without them. Your early success might just convince them to jump in.
    0.3: Do a written budget.
    “A goal without a plan is just a dream.” A written budget, unique for each month, tells your money where to go and serves as the plan to achieve your goal.
    0.4: Temporarily stop all retirement contributions.
    Retirement savings are very important, but this is accomplished further along in the Baby Steps. Dave’s plan is all about focus, and you have other goals to focus on first.
    0.5: Get current on all bills.
    If you are behind on any bills, you should focus on catching up first. This may entail getting a second job, selling some items for quick cash, or, cutting out some lifestyle choices such as cable packages or restaurant trips.
    Prioritize your budget to pay for your shelter, food, utilities, basic clothing, and transportation costs, but always seek ways to reduce these expenses.
    0.6: Get health insurance.
    Medical bills have long been a leading cause of bankruptcy; many families are just one hospitalization away from financial chaos. While insurance is no guarantee of health, it will help keep the expenses manageable.
    0.7 Get Life insurance.
    Life insurance is one of the most inexpensive ways to provide financial security for your loved ones in the event of your death. Dave recommends a term life policy, separate from your employer, at 10 times your annual salary.
    0.8 Amputate 'toys' if they will keep you from quickly completing the snowball.
    Toys are items like boats, all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, or any other fun item that has a monthly payment or may require a significant amount to operate or maintain. If you can’t reach debt freedom in 24 months or less, you should consider selling these toys.
    0.9 Cut lifestyle and/or take a second job if saving a Baby Emergency Fund will take more than 30-90 days.
    Much like the advice in BS 0.5, you should find ways to make more money and/or cut your budget to quickly save up your Baby Emergency Fund. Maintaining these changes throughout your journey will speed you through the baby steps that much quicker!
    1.0 Save $1000 in a Baby Emergency Fund.
    If your income and expenses are significantly lower than average, you may consider a smaller Baby Emergency Fund. If your expenses are significantly higher than average or you’re a single income family, you may consider a larger Baby Emergency Fund.
    1.1 Chop up your credit cards.
    Remember, you’re not acquiring any new debt so you don’t need those cards anymore.
    1.2 Sell any vehicles that you can't pay off within 24 months.
    If you can’t pay your vehicle off in the time frame, you might consider moving down in car even if you have to take a loan on the lesser vehicle. Borrowing is allowed when trading down as it’s not new debt, but lowering an existing debt.
    1.3 Consider raising insurance deductibles and dropping full coverage on paid for cars.
    A deductible of $500 or $1,000 may significantly lower your insurance payment. And, with your Baby Emergency Fund savings, you know you can cover the deductible!
    2.0 Pay down your non-mortgage debt using the snowball.
    All of your focus and your extra funds go to paying off your debts from lowest to highest. Quickly paying off your small debts gives you a psychological boost and applying that debt’s minimum payment to the next debt will have your snowball gaining momentum.
    2.1 Start car replacement sinking fund.
    If you’ve been driving a beater or you traded way down in car, you may want to think about your next vehicle. As you’re no longer borrowing money, you need to save up for that next car in a savings fund. This step will usually run concurrently with the next step.
    3.0 Save 3-6 months of expenses in an emergency fund.
    Now that you’re debt free, it’s time to boost the emergency fund. What budget items you include and how many months’ worth of expenses you save up will depend on your situation.
    3.1 Start furniture or other non-essential stuff sinking fund.
    Just like the car replacement fund, there are often other items you’ve put off while paying off debt and saving up your full emergency fund. Prioritize these items and begin saving up to pay cash for them.
    3.2 Move up in car if you still feel the need to.
    It’s time to go car shopping with the sinking fund you started in BS 2.1.
    4.0 Contribute 15% to retirement.
    As mentioned above, saving for your retirement is important and it’s now time to start. Dave recommends saving 15% of your household income towards retirement. Which accounts you fund, and in which order, will depend on your situation. You may want to consult with a tax and investment specialist.
    4.1 Take your first vacation since finding Dave.
    But, you must pay cash for it—no new debt, even for Disney!
    4.2 Save up 20% for home purchase OR pay down existing mortgage to the point you can drop PMI.
    Dave’s plan calls for a minimum of 10% down but, by making a 20% down payment, you can avoid the extra expense of PMI.
    5.0 Save for kid’s college fund.
    If you have children and you wish to pay for some, or all of their college education, saving a little every month makes it possible. Research what saving plans are available to you and choose the best for your situation.
    6.0 Pay off house.
    This is often the largest debt and largest payment a family has. Chipping away at the debt can cut years off the mortgage, leading to true financial freedom.
    7.0 Live like no one else since you have lived like no one else.
    All the hard work you’ve done to pay off all your debts, save for emergencies, pay cash for your needs and wants, and prepare for your future pays off in this step. You now get to live—and give—like you’ve always hoped.

    Some of these steps will not apply to your situation, some will be simple to complete, and others may be more challenging. Focusing all your energy on one step, moving to the next only after completion, will lead you to Financial Peace.

    If you are new to Debt Free Fanatics, and want to learn more about techniques for getting out of debt, we encourage you to register and participate in our forums. Our members have been managing their money for years and are happy to offer advice and instruction on how you can manage your money better and get out of debt.