Our legs were shaking a little bit. Our hands, too. Maybe our voices, even. No, definitely our voices. We coughed and swallowed a few times to clear our throats. Cough. Swallow. Cough. Swallow. We stood next to each other, close enough to hold hands, but we didn’t. We weren’t sure if we were supposed to. To our left, a large studio television camera with long legs stared at our profiles. Its master wore all black, oversized earmuffs, and a kind smile. To our right, the producer held out a microphone and gave us his last instructions. I’ll count down from five, we’ll go live, I’ll ask you a few questions, and then I’ll do this motion with my hand when it’s time to wrap up. He swirled his finger in the air to demonstrate. We glanced at each other, gave ourselves the what-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into-now eyebrows, and looked up with enough time to see the countdown. Five. Four. Three. Two. One…
We were streaming live on The Dave Ramsey Show online.
When we got engaged six years ago, Amy’s uncle gave us Dave Ramsey’s best-selling book: The Total Money Makeover as an engagement gift. He told us, “I’ve made a lot of mistakes with money in my life, and I wish more than anything I knew this stuff at your age. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did. If you’ll do what Dave teaches in this book, your life will never be the same.”
When we think about the watershed moments in our marriage, the critical tipping points and forks in the road that led us to where we are and away from where we could’ve been, that moment was the first and most impactful for our young marriage, because personal finance bleeds into every area of a marriage and has the power to strengthen it or suffocate it. In fact, money fights and money problems are the number one cause of divorce in America. We didn’t want to be a statistic.
So, when we sat down at the beginning of our first month of marriage almost five years ago, we agreed that, for the rest of our life, we’d write down a budget before each month begins, on paper, on purpose, as Dave Ramsey says, telling every dollar where to go instead of wondering where it went. In doing so, we realized, maybe for the first time, at least in the practical, non-theoretical sense, that a budget wasn’t just a set of numbers or a fifth grade math equation. It was a declaration of our family’s values and a vision for how we want to live life. It was a plan for our future so we could have a future. Because, like Dave Ramsey says, if we’re willing to live like no one else, then later we can live and give like no one else.
In those early years, after we’d made our budget for the month, we’d faithfully follow Dave’s system. We’d go to the ATM, get cash for our expenses like groceries, and fill our labeled envelopes. A few times, we even ran short at the end of the month, got all the way to the checkout aisle, and returned some items that we couldn’t afford. Once, we literally had to decide between shredded cheese and tortilla chips. (We kept the cheese, because it was the most versatile and we could do the most with it. Obv.) Experiences like those changed us. Disciplined us. Empowered us. Because even though we didn’t have a lot, we had control of what we had, and that brought peace and stability to our young marriage.
The interview lasted less than two minutes from start to finish, and we were relieved to be d-o-n-e, but thankful for the chance to share our story with the large audience of people who watch Dave’s show online. A lot of people have asked us from seeing the photos on social media if we were on camera for our debt-free scream. We weren’t, although we got to see another couple do theirs while they were there, and it. was. awesome. Since we were blessed with Dave’s book before we got married, we never went into debt. One of the producers in the lobby was intrigued by our story, and next thing we knew, they were shining lights on our faces and talking about microphones. In the interview, we were able to talk about how his principles and plan made it possible for us to transition from our day job as teachers to our dream job as photographers without a single cent of debt… not even one measly business loan. And what a blessing it’s been. Truly.
Visiting Financial Peace Plaza to meet Dave Ramsey has been on our bucket list since we got married five years ago. So, when we found out that we’d be in Nashville last week, we emailed Dave’s office and scheduled a visit to watch Dave do his radio show live from the studio in his office building. To say Jordan is a Dave Ramsey fan would be the understatement of the decade century all time. He’s more of a fanatic and was giddy like a schoolgirl from the minute we arrived. Like a schoolgirl. Like how Amy would react if she saw Britney’s Vegas concert at Disneyland with a special guest appearance by Justin Timberlake and Olivia Pope.
Dave schedules time during commercial breaks to greet the small group of people who’ve gathered in the lobby to watch and meet him. So, of course, we were some of the first people in line with our camera to get a photo with the man himself. We didn’t even know what to say when he shook our hand. He’s such a big personality. He’s DAVE RAMSEY! We maybe got our names out and where we were from. Maybe. And when Dave said, “You guys wanna take a picture?” it was music to Jordan’s ears. The funniest part about this photo of us with Dave, is that you’ll notice two things. One, we made him the infamous #demossandwich. Had to, right? Two, we didn’t touch him. We weren’t sure if we were allowed, like he was the Pope or President. In fact, just before the shutter fired, Jordan’s arm got halfway up behind Dave’s back before he thought better of it and stuck it in his pocket! Didn’t want to get too fresh with one of our heroes!
Thank you, Dave and the entire team, for being so warm and welcoming. The experience of standing in the place where so many people’s lives and family trees changed forever has us more inspired than ever to, as you say, live like no one else, so later we can live and give like no one else.