My Three Tweaks to Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover System

Is the Total Money Makeover Too Hard?

I often hear people getting discouraged by the Total Money Makeover system because it’s quite aggressive. The steps seem daunting and takes an extremely long time to complete. It can often feel like you have to put your life on hold until it’s done.

When I read the book, I was young and eager for a challenge. So, while I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the steps, I had already made up my mind when I started that I was going to tweak them to suit me.

Before I go through my changes, let me tell very quickly what the Total Money Makeover system is.

It’s a system designed to lead you into financial freedom by using seven baby steps.

Total Money Makeover Baby Steps

  • Step one is to create a $1000 emergency fund as fast as you can.
  • Step two is the debt snowball where you list off all of your debt, except your mortgage, from smallest to largest and pay them off in that order. This step focuses on “gazelle like intensity” to get rid of your debt by throwing all of your excess cash towards your debt.
  • Step three is to fully fund your emergency fund with 3-6 months worth of expenses
  • Step four is to invest 15% of your household income towards retirement
  • Step five is to start saving for college if you have children.
  • Step six is to pay off your home early, if you own a home.
  • Step seven is to build wealth and give generously.

How I Changed the Total Money Makeover System

The first way I tweaked the TTM system relates to the $1000 emergency fund in baby step one. 

Living in a big city, I could not fathom taking all of money I saved over the years and putting it all to my debt and only keeping $1000 for an emergency. So I created a savings account and labeled it emergency and put in $1000. Then I took another portion of my money and put it towards and kept the rest in a general savings account. I needed a larger cushion to fall back on than $1000.

The second way I tweaked the system was in baby step number two. 

In the book he pushes people to repay their debt with gazelle like intensity. Many people downsized their homes, moved back home with family and cut out everything but the necessities. I decided moving back home didn’t make financial sense for me, because I had a good deal with my co-op. And I kept some luxuries like cable and a monthly clothing budget of $100. I knew I would want to continue to shop, so it just made sense to set money aside for that purpose. Additionally, I did not want to be miserable during this step because if I was, I knew wouldn’t stick to it.


The third way I tweaked the TTM system also relates to baby step two. 

In the book he recommends that you do not contribute to your retirement account while you’re on baby step one and two. However, my job offered a match of up to 2% on your 403B. So the only way I would get the match was to contribute 2% of my own money, which I did, because I didn’t want to pass up on free money.

I really wanted to share this because whether or not you follow Dave Ramsey or Suze Orman, you don’t want to give up on a system just because it seems to hard. No one is going to get upset with you if you don’t follow it to a tee.


So the best thing to do is to figure how to make it work for you so that you to can live a life of financial freedom.

TMM Tweaks

FUNDRISE | Real Estate Investing

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About Kamilah

My name is Kamilah and I am a native New Yorker of Caribbean descent who is passionate about helping you learn how to invest and build your net worth by sharing easy-to-follow YouTube tutorials that will help you take control of your money and set you up for financial success. But this wasn’t always my story.

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