Dave Says: How to stop continually falling back into debt

Dear Dave,

I’ve gotten out of debt before following your plan, but I always seem to fall right back in. I find myself spending more than I mean to whenever I go out shopping or running errands. I’m tired of all this, and I want to stop busting my budget and get control of my money once and for all. Do you have any advice?


Dear Patrick,

Years ago, when I lost everything financially, there were two or three extremely strong emotions that spurred me toward change. Probably the biggest emotion was fear. I was scared to death I’d be broke for the rest of my life, and not be able to take care of my family. Don’t misunderstand me, though. I don’t think you should ever live your life in fear. But a reasonable, healthy level of fear where some things are concerned can be a fantastic motivator.

Another emotion was disgust. I realized the way I had been living and handling money was stupid. So, I made a proactive, conscious decision that I was going to change, and things were going to be different. The third emotion was contentment. You know, advertisers try to make us believe our lives will be better, and we’ll be happier, if we just go out and buy their stuff. I can tell you from personal experience when this idea is crammed down your throat every day, it can warp your perception of contentment and happiness. Lots of stuff does not equal lots of happiness.

If you’ve tried several times, and are still falling back into the same old trap, maybe you should approach your situation in a practical, day-to-day way. Stop going places where you’re tempted to spend money on silly things. When you go out running errands and shopping, make a list of only the bare necessities, and take along just enough cash to pay for them.

Spending money on a bunch of stuff you don’t need, and probably don’t even really want, isn’t going to bring you contentment. It’s just going to bust your budget, and put you in a financial hole that will, sooner or later, become very difficult—if not impossible—to dig your way out of!


* Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books, including The Total Money MakeoverThe Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 16 million listeners each week on 600 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Follow Dave on the web at daveramsey.com and on Twitter at @DaveRamsey.