Total Money Makeover ~ A Back to School Necessity

During a recent trip to Target I couldn’t help but notice all the “Back to School” necessities aimed at college students. There were comforters, mini fridges, storage containers, gizmos and gadgets any college student cannot live without. Missing from the array of essentials was one of my favorite books, The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.

For many kids, college is the first time they will be living on their own, and having to make choices without mom and dad looking over their shoulder. College (although this happens in high school too)  is also where kids are bombarded with credit card applications and encouraged to begin living a life beyond their means.

Face it, college kids are broke! College is expensive and most people are taking out loans just to pay for school. This is not the time for kids to be spending wildly on delivery pizza, weekend getaways, and the latest electronic fads.

According to a recent USA Today article:

A new study to be released Monday by Sallie Mae, a college-financing company, finds that the average undergraduate carried $3,173 in credit card debt last year…

If you know someone who is starting college or even a high school student, I would encourage you to spend the $15 and buy this book as a gift a young adult. Had I read this book when I was in my twenties instead of my thirties it would have saved me a ton of debt and stress! How I would have loved to been investing money in my twenties instead of paying interest charges on a credit card.

I opened a discussion over that BlogFrog about college and debt. I would love to hear your opinions!


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  1. I was just talking to my 19 and 21 year old about this book the other day. I told them I wanted them to read it, so they can learn to stay out of debt now and not wait until it’s to late!

  2. Dave has a curriculum aimed towards high schoolers that DS17 took at co-op last year…He is the most tightwadish (is that a word) guy I know as a result….

  3. You make a very good point I will have my girls read this before they go off to college too. They really need to learn from my mistakes.

  4. I agree! This book should be a prerequisite for getting into college.

  5. But if we put that book next to the other “necessities”, the college student wouldn’t buy the other “necessities”. Although the store would make a sale on the book, they would lose a consumer of useless junk. (:

  6. TheHappyHousewife says:

    very true!

  7. TheHappyHousewife says:

    Yes, I purchased the high school curriculum this summer. We will be using it next semester. Can’t wait!

  8. Amen! The Total Money Makeover should be a college reading requirement! They should teach a class on it, too 🙂

  9. Oh absolutely! One of the greatest books ever! I wish my hubby and I had read it BEFORE we got married years ago. But thankful, nonetheless, we have read it. We were given this book right before our second child was born and shortly after were able to attend a Financial Peace University Class. I think this book should also be required reading in pre-marriage counseling! 🙂

  10. I second the recommendation for this book! Unfortunately, I didn’t read it until after college and so both my hubby and I have student loans and credit card debt. Yuck. I like to think I would have made better choices if I had realized how much it affects me now. But at least the experience has made me very smart and careful with my money these days!

  11. Yeah, DH and I already discussed it and I think we’ll be giving our younger siblings (in college) The Total Money Makeover for Christmas. 🙂 We didn’t read it until earlier this year. But we should have!

  12. The book is for sale for $9.99 from right now! I bought a 10 pack when they were at that price so now I have a gift stockpile. 🙂

  13. TheHappyHousewife says:

    Amber- Thanks so much for finding a better deal on the book! It is a great time to stock up for Christmas!

  14. Suze Orman has a great book geared toward young people as well. And why do people think student loans are a bad thing? I graduated 15 months ago with under 10k in loans. The difference in salary that I make in a year makes up for that and I am paying off my loans.

    Also, one can preach and try to show others what not to do but sometimes those “lessons” are lost because people need to live their own lives and learn their own lessons. So while it may be helpful for a young person they may not “get it” until after they make their mistakes no matter how much they read or how many lectures they listen to. Hindsight is always 20/20 and its one of the most powerful teachers.

  15. I love this book! I purchase it for every HS graduation and marriage event I attend. I have also started sponsoring people to go through FPU. Dave Ramsey’s ministry is great!!

  16. I think someone should pick up the display or a bunch of the books and set them in the area with all the ‘Back to School’ stuff. Maybe the kids would pick it up on their own. 😀

  17. I think it’s brilliant to have someone read that book BEFORE they’re swimming in the deep end with sharps nipping at them. We will make it required reading sometime in late high school for sure!

    Dave Ramsey is one of my regular podcasts.

  18. We love Dame Ramsey and are going through his book and work book. What an eye opener! I respect how he put it,he just lays it all out and that’s that and I like that.

    His ideas are easy to follow,they are to the bone but good.

  19. @ChristinaP… I think student loans aren’t always bad, but most of the time they are. You’re blessed to only have 10k worth. Between my hubby and I, we have $42,000 in loans and neither one of us actually graduated. For both of us, life got in the way and we had to drop out. So now we have almost $400 in payments every month and neither of us have a degree to show for it. Part of the problem was that we both started college with no idea of what we wanted to study and thus wasted several years taking classes we probably didn’t need. I have 110 credit hours and no degree, and probably 1.5 years worth of full time classes needed to fulfill degree requirements.

    Sure, the above scenario isn’t what everyone faces. But it’s common enough. For some people, like yourself, the degree was a good idea. For others, especially those who aren’t sure of what they want right out of high school, it’s an expensive lesson that may not be worth it.

    For what it’s worth… my hubby is in the computer industry now and doing really well. In his field, you can either get a degree or you can earn certifications and work your way up. We’ve paid maybe $1,000 for his certification tests and he’s making just as much as those who have the same amount of experience and a college degree. So for my hubby, college wasn’t worth all the loans.

    Hope that gives some insight into why student loans aren’t always the best idea for some people! 🙂

  20. TMMO is one of three books we give as a wedding gift. It never occurred to me that perhaps that needs to be our new standard high school graduation gift?!
    We have a lot of “woulda, shoulda, couldas…” but are grateful that with help from Dave’s TMMO & FPU, we’re on the right track now!

  21. What a great gift idea for grads! My mother used to give high school grads a laundry basket full of detergent and fabric softener and a roll of quarters which I thought was cute, but this is even better.

  22. Great idea! Unfortunately, this is something that parents just do not teach their children. Financial responsibility is so important but it seems our society would rather be frivolous. Which, of course, is why we are where are right now. But that is another story. LOL

  23. I am finding that we’re running into negative comments when we mention that our son might live at home (to maximize use of his college money) during his first year or two of college. When I think back to my miserable year in the dorms (three roommates in succession, one with an abusive boyfriend), I wonder why dorm life is supposed to be such a “growing” experience…

  24. TheHappyHousewife says:

    Interesting that you are getting negative feedback. I lived at home and was able to save a lot of money by making that choice. I think college is a growing experience whether you live at home or on campus! Just ask all the freshman who finished their first week at AACC. 🙂

  25. Hi Toni – this is an excellent topic. We have three teens in out house and money (spending it, earning it, saving it, giving it away) seems to always be a topic of discussion. I am putting this book on my must-get list! Thanks!

  26. @ Cassandra: To clarify, I’d like to tell my story. I waited until I was 24 to go back to school and I decided that if I made the choice to go to school, I would finish it all the way through a Bachelor’s degree. I really didn’t want to go to school because I knew the commitment it would take but I had 6 years of Accounting experience under my belt and decided that I would major in Accounting since I liked it. Also my future career plans (and income earning potential) depended on getting a BS.

    I got through 4 years of college in 4.25 years by going to night school. I started at the local community college (aka junior college) and then I transfered to a state college that had a local satellite campus for their school of business. The 10k was just for the state school and that was for 1.5 years. For community college I paid out of pocket and got grants through the school so fortunately I don’t have any debt from that degree. However, student loans were not an option at that school being that it was part of the Seattle Community college district and they were cut off from that funding in the mid 90’s (default rate was too high).

    I also worked full time during the day up until my last 2 weeks of school when I was laid off (no biggie, I had already started a job search). I had to work hard to balance my life and I had absolutely no free time (aka no social life which can be hard on a 20-something).

    I guess my point is that college is not for everyone and/or timing is the key. My husband started taking classes at the community college shortly after we met (I was in my 2nd year) but after a year he was not making a lot of progress and I told him to quit because he was wasting money. Like your husband, mine is also in the computer industry so I completely agree with your point.

    I think the course of study is another huge deal. Too many people (at least in the Seattle area) have liberal arts degrees and that is just as valuable as a HS diploma lol.

    Have you contacted your school (or a college nearby) to see what it would take to finish your degree, even if its in general studies? I had a friend do that and its better than nothing. Even if you take one class at a time and pay for it out of pocket, at least you would finish.

  27. I think that’s ridiculous that others would think you are doing the wrong thing by allowing your son to live at home for the begining of his college experience. Granted I started mine at age 24 and I was living on my own, I can say that I don’t feel like I missed anything by not living in the dorms (probably because I have OCD tenancies and living with others would bug me).

    My husband and I agree that if our child(ren) decide to go to a local community college, they could live at home rent free provided they were getting good marks and had a part time job to pay for their other expenses.

  28. What a great gift for a college student! We just had 2 that went to college from our church about 2 weeks ago. I think I might try to see about getting this for them. 😀

  29. We just started our own Total Money Makeover and I couldn’t agree more with your post! I so wish that I would have found his book before college or that we would have received it as a wedding gift! Great site and I look forward to coming back often for more frugal tips!


  1. […] I recommend stocking up on The Total Money Makeover at this price. They make excellent wedding gifts or Christmas gifts, and read why The Happy Housewife thinks they should be required college reading material. […]

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