I have a copy of Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover. I bought it several years ago, and have had it out on loan more often than it's been in our bookshelves.
Recently, I re-read it for a pick-me-up.*
It does make a lot of sense, in a lot of ways--for one, it says that money problems aren't caused by money, but by behavior. And by a lack of understanding of one's own behavior, a lack of understanding of the difference between need and want, and a lack of knowledge of how to make (and a lack of discipline to keep) a budget.
I learned to budget watching my mom stretch $366 bucks per month (child support) to cover rent, utilities, and non-grocery incidentals (soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, toilet paper, etc). I learned, early, the difference between needs and wants. Yes, we did get a car with a loan (paid a 5 year loan in a bit less than three years), and yes, we messed up with credit cards (to the tune of less than a thousand dollars total). But those were all paid off before we decided it was time to have kids. And we've never done the same stupid thing twice. And won't. Because I don't like paying interest.
The thing that struck me this time is that, in Ramsey's baby steps,** saving for retirement comes before saving for the kids' college. I...yeah, that was something I'd gotten backwards.
Right now, though, I have a couple more immediate short-term savings goals. I want a new roof before I start putting money back for retirement. And I'm almost there. Once the roof gets repaired/replaced, I'm really planning on doing as much as I can to put as much into retirement as we can afford.*** Because security is something I've always stretched for. And having enough money to take care of things that need to be taken care of is security.
However. The last step...giving money away. Ramsey says that the most fun you can have with money is giving it away. I honestly...can't see that. I'm not sure I'll ever be very willing to do very much of it. I have a very hard time wanting to help the terminally stupid, and it seems like most of the country is terminally stupid. And it has been really, really apparent, this entire year.
*First: debt is not one of our problems, and has not been one of our problems for a very long time. Second: the testimonials always make me cheer for other people--something that I usually find it hard to do.
**Dave Ramsey's baby steps: 1. Save $1000 for a baby emergency fund. 2. Line your debts up from smallest to largest, pay minimums on all but the smallest; pay that one off. Then roll the payments from that one into the next smallest. 3. Save 3-6 months of expenses as a fully-funded emergency fund. 4. Invest for retirement. Ramsey recommends 15% of the gross income. 5. Save for kids' college funds in a ESA or 529 account (if possible). 6. Pay off the mortgage. 7. Live and give like no one else.
***We have paid off the mortgage, so that's no longer an issue. However, we're still paying tuition to a private school, and will be for about...eight more years for both, plus one more for the youngest. And that eats a LOT of savings.