Modified Dave Ramsey Baby Steps

Modified Dave Ramsey Baby Steps

If you’ve ever done some research into the world of personal finance, you’re most likely familiar with Dave Ramsey. Or, you’re at least familiar with some of his work, like the 7 baby steps to taking control of your money. In these steps, Ramsey proposes the steps he swears by to let people build an emergency fund, eliminate death, and build wealth from that point on. The process goes beyond financial security or financial independence—it guides you to a place of financial abundance.

But one thing about these steps is that they’re very specific. Because Ramsey is so confident in his method’s success, each step is particular, with minimal flexibility. For people living a very conventional life (Ramsey himself is an evangelical Christian, and his beliefs coincide tightly with his methods and viewpoints), I have no doubt they work well as-is. But, for those of us with more nontraditional lifestyles, a set of modified Dave Ramsey baby steps, with space for customization, are in order.

Looking for some more personal finance tools? Check out some of the best apps to manage your money!

The Original Dave Ramsey Baby Steps

Ramsey’s original baby steps are specific and for good reason. His confidence in the method stems from his success rate: per his site, “It works every single time!”

Baby Step 1

Save $1,000 for your starter emergency fund.

Step one gives you a safety net in case of the (inevitable) crises that will pop up as you make your way through Ramsey’s plan. Without this step, the first emergency to arise can quickly send you deeper into debt.

Baby Step 2

Pay off all debt (except the house) using the debt snowball.

For step two, you set out to pay off your credit cards, student, loans, cars, and any other debts, save for a mortgage. The debt snowball method entails paying off your smallest balance, then putting what you would have paid towards that debt to the next-smallest. Ultimately, you’ll end up paying more in interest than with other debt pay-off strategies, but it will keep your motivation the highest along the way, encouraging you to continue your debt payoff plan.

Baby Step 3

Save 3-6 months of expenses in a fully-funded emergency fund. 

Once you’ve paid off your non-house debts, you can afford to give yourself further peace of mind. With three to six months’ expenses saved, you’ll be ready for a larger emergency than your initial starter fund can handle.

Baby Step 4

Invest 15% of your household income in retirement.

You shouldn’t have to work forever if you don’t want to. By saving 15% of your gross income toward your retirement savings will help you be secure as you age.

Baby Step 5

Save for your children’s college fund.

If you have children or plan to, saving for their college fund as early as possible will make your life and theirs easier when that time comes. Help you both avoid student loans (and the predatory interest rates that come with them), as well as the added stress of finances on top of the college search by saving in a 529 or other education-focused savings account.

Baby Step 6

Pay off your home early.

You didn’t pay off your mortgage in baby step 2, but you knew we’d get to it eventually. By paying extra toward your home now, you can save remarkable amounts of interest, and clear up more money each month to use for other needs and wants.

Baby step 7

Build wealth and give. 

At this stage, you should have ample security and minimal expenses. What does that mean? You have plenty of money to spare! Continue building wealth and be generous with causes you believe in (for Ramsey, it’s most often tithing).

My Modified Baby Steps

I won’t contest the fact that Ramsey’s baby steps seem to be successful. But it’s clear that they’re targeted to a certain type of person. Of course, you could work through the process, skipping steps that don’t apply to you, like skipping step 6 if you don’t have a mortgage.

For me, modified Dave Ramsey baby steps make the process more clear. By creating a version of the baby step process that’s tailored to me, it (hopefully) means I’ll have greater success along the way!

Baby Step 1

Save $1,000 emergency fund.

Like Ramsey’s baby steps, my modified version begins with a $1,000 starter emergency fund. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? This is a pretty lofty goal for me, about a full month’s earnings on my current income. But it definitely feels like a good starting point.

Baby Step 2

Pay off “minor” debt.

To some degree, my step 2 and step 1 overlap. In the original baby steps, Ramsey suggests paying off all debts, with the exception of a mortgage. In my modified Dave Ramsey baby steps, I’m sticking to credit cards and payment plans upfront. My student loans are pretty massive, especially compared to my rather meager current income. So, it’s a lot more reasonable for me to target the smaller amounts, making the minimum student loan payment along the way.

Baby step 3A

Save 3 months’ expenses.

My modified step 3 mimics Ramsey’s, but I’ve broken mine down into two steps. First up? Save 3 months’ expenses, or about $3,000 based on my current budget—though I do hope to increase my income and move to an apartment, increasing my expenses in the process, so that number might change by the time I approach this step.

Baby step 3B

Save 6 months’ expenses.

Once I’ve managed that initial 3-month emergency fund, I’ll be setting myself up to double it with 6-months of savings. With medical concerns and the instability of freelance work, having an ample emergency fund will give me the security to continue through this process and, more generally, life.

Baby step 4

Invest 10% for retirement.

I’ve never had a full-time, salaried job like a more conventional person my age. As a result, I don’t have an employer-backed retirement plan or similar long-term funding. Of course, it would be better if I could start on this step sooner but, at present, the short-term security that less debt and emergency savings can provide is a higher priority. I’m also investing less than Ramsey’s original baby step suggests. But, in a long-term sense, I’ll be more ready to increase that percentage in the future!

Baby step 5

Pay off student loans.

At this point in the process, my day will get a little scarier. I’ll be prepped to face that minimum-payment monster in the closet, student loans. I have both private and federal loans that, suffice it to say, are the bane of my financial existence. At this point, I’ll be knocking them off one by one until I can say I’m finally free from their grasp!

Baby Step 6

Save for family.

I don’t have a concrete timeline for making my way through these steps, largely because I’m still working on getting my income to a more livable rate. I think I can say pretty confidently, though, that, by the time I reach this step, I’ll be at the point where not only do I want to start a family, I’m financially in a place where I can do so. I want to foster or adopt and both will require savings and financial security.

Baby Step 7

Build wealth & give.

By this final stage of the process, I’ll presumably have not just financial security, but financial freedom. In this case, that means I’ll be back to Ramsey’s original baby steps, working towards financial abundance. I have a long list of courses I’d love to support financially—this level of financial ability would help make that happen!

Modified Dave Ramsey Baby Steps Infographic

These aren’t my only financial goals, of course. I’ll be working to increase my income along the way (making these steps easier, too!). I’m already investing small amounts with Stash and saving with Ally, both of which I plan to continue, barring any disasters in the process. While I’m building my emergency fund, I also plan to make small extra payments to the first credit card on my list. But, at the end of the day, each step will be a top focus. And, by the time I finish all of the above, I think I may very well have the financial life of my dreams!

Could modified Dave Ramsey baby steps help you control your finances? Use Mine as inspiration to create your own version, and be sure to share the finished product!

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Best Personal Finance Apps to Manage Your Money

Best Personal Finance Apps to Manage Your Money

According to Time, Americans cumulatively check their cell phones about 8 million times a day. Why not use a few of those unlocks to check in on your finances? Pick up a few of the best personal finance apps for your lifestyle and make managing your money easier than ever.

From improving your credit and setting up a budget to saving for emergencies and evaluating your spending, there’s an app for every aspect of money management—and a lot of them tackle several (if not all) of the tasks you could want! And they work for all sorts of financial situations—thanks to the seemingly endless customisations available in these apps, you can make them work whether you’re living paycheck to paycheck or you’re already a millionaire (and if you are a millionaire, feel free to become a sponsor of An Ideal Life!).

Why go digital? Not only are we as a society always on our phones, but digital money management couldn’t be easier. I’m normally a paper and pen kind of girl, but I love these tools for their customisation options, personalised tips, and (mostly) seamless integration with my existing accounts.

Looking for more apps to download? Check out my picks for a healthy lifestyle and the best options for spoonies.

These are some of the best personal finance apps I’ve found for managing my money (and yours):

For Budgeting & Tracking your funds:

I recently switched to YNAB for balancing my budget and really like it so far. But, in the past, I’ve used a wide variety of budgeting apps!

YNAB (You Need a Budget)

I’m always looking for new tools to try, so I’ve heard a lot about YNAB over the past several years. With limited funds, though, there was nothing that could get me away from free budgeting options. Recently, though, I was in the position to give YNAB a try…and I’m so glad I did. This program has just the balance of detail and simplicity I never realised I needed. I’m still making the YNAB process a habit, but it’s been so helpful so far!


A part of Dave Ramsey’s Ramsey+ offerings, EveryDollar encourages you to embrace a zero-based budget and guides you along the way. Incorporated with the Dave Ramsey baby steps, this app helps you manage your money with a budget right now and improve your personal finance systems over time. I don’t subscribe to all of his methods (as I’ve heard others say, he’s an “acquired taste”) but this is a solid option.

Fortune City

This app makes expense tracking fun, building a miniature city (complete with miniature citizens!) to your phone screen to help you track your spending and manage your money. From the makers of Plant Nanny, you’d expect nothing less!


Created by Intuit, the makers of TurboTax, Mint will help you track your spending, set a budget, remember to pay your bills, AND check your credit score! That’s one mighty little app. You can make a free account with just a bit of information and get to managing your finances right away! I’ve pulled away from Mint a bit myself, but I still turn to it from time to time.

Personal Capital

This app didn’t end up being a good fit for my needs, but is definitely a good candidate for some folks in need of a budgeting app.

For saving:

Depending on the expert you’re consulting, the recommendations for saving a certain amount or percentage in a certain period of time will vary. But one tip shows up in nearly every compilation of tips: automating your savings will make that 20% or $1,000 per month you’re targeting a lot easier to reach.


A while back, my savings account with my primary bank was shut down after a period of going unused—when you’re barely meeting the basic necessities and student loan payments are increasing, there’s not a lot of room, or funds, to set money aside, unfortunately. Of course, this happened right around the same time I finally had a little extra money to save! I was frustrated but took to researching online savings accounts or banking services. The best one I discovered, by far, was Ally.

It’s worth noting that the interest rate has decreased quite a few times in the time I’ve had an account with Ally. But, even still, it’s a better rate than most standard savings account as of this writing. I’m hoping that it eases back up over time, or continues at about this rate.

Mobile banking

There’s a very good possibility that your go-to bank or other financial provider already offers a savings account that can help you. You might even have one already! Consider whether your mobile banking app can already help you save, and look into the possibility of setting up automatic deposits in the process. Right now, this is my Capital One 360 Performance Savings account, another new addition to my personal finance plan (joining my Platinum card, Spark business account, and other Capital One products.


I used Qapital for quite a while, until they added fees for basic features. But, if you’re open to making that investment, it was a really helpful service for boosting savings!

For Investing:

I’m new to investing but am enjoying the process so far. I started off using Stash and recently joined Ally Invest, but am looking into diversifying not just my portfolio, but my platforms, too, over time.

Stash Bonus Stock


In my experience, Stash makes for a fantastic introduction to investing. With a simple cost of $5 a month (plus a $1 fee), you can begin crafting an investment portfolio from the ground up. The app will even guide you in creating a stronger, more diverse portfolio over time!

Ally Invest

Because I’ve had a good experience with Ally for savings, it was a natural transition to trying their investment features. NerdWallet calls Ally Invest “a strong option for all traders,” which makes it an even more compelling option! I haven’t done much with this account just yet, but I’m excited to dive in further.


I tend towards socially responsible investment strategies already, so the gender-based ideas behind Ellevest are particularly enticing. By women, for women, Ellevest aims to help close gendered financial gaps and give women (and others) the power and knowledge they need to succeed. The next time I have some unallocated funds to work with, I plan on giving this female-focused app a try!

For Sending & Receiving:

Say you’re out with your friends and you’re suddenly starving. But you forgot your wallet. With any one of these apps, you can have your friend spot you for a slice of pizza and you can pay her back painlessly.


PayPal is my go-to app for saving and receiving money. I do most of my business invoicing and transfers through the platform and take advantage of it for personal transfers as well. It’s accepted as payment in many places online as an additional bonus!

Cash App

I’ve only used Cash App once or twice for transfers, but I’m happy to have the option. Better yet, I have no complaints from the times I’ve used it!

For Banking:

These days, a lot fewer people make their way through life without keeping a detailed check register or paper copy of their monthly statement. But you can’t get by without some sort of checking account, credit card, or another financial service.

Checking & Credit:

This is one of the categories in which your efforts will be personalized. Whatever bank or institution you use for your checking, credit, and services likely has a mobile app. Make sure you’ve downloaded the appropriate application to have your financials at your fingertips!

If you’re in the market for a new bank account, do some research and see what online or brick-and-mortar provider could be a good fit. I recently signed up for Capital One 360 Checking and am impressed with it so far!

Online-Only Banking:

I recently decided to delve into the world of online banking and I couldn’t be happier. Currently, I’m using three primary online banks: Capital One 360, Chime, and Aspiration.

For improving your credit:

If you’re combatting your debt, keeping track of your payments, and monitoring your finances well overall, you’re likely improving your credit score in the process. But, for a more in-depth look, guide, and look into your credit report and how you’ll improve your scores, convenient apps like Credit Sesame and Credit Karma can help.

Credit Sesame

Credit Sesame is one of my favourite personal finance apps, focusing on helping users improve their credit score, credit approval odds, and other factors of their financial lives. You can take advantage of your TransUnion credit score and credit report in addition to credit monitoring and other tools.

Credit Karma

Like Credit Sesame, Credit Karma lets users monitor their credit, check credit scores and reports from TransUnion and Equifax, and utilize other financial services. I’m rather partial to Credit Sesame’s UX over this one’s, but Credit Karma is undeniably effective, too.

For Paying off debt:

From credit cards to loans, debts aren’t fun. And, without a solid plan to do so, you won’t know how to ensure you and your money can have a better future, one payment at a time.

Nerd Wallet

Nerd Wallet has been one of my favourite websites for a long time, but I only recently discovered and started using their app to help manage my credit and money in general. I especially like that the app suggests what debt should be your priority among other suggestions.

For Bill Reminders:

From improving your credit to making sure your electricity stays on, bills are unavoidable. And, if you aren’t careful, far too easy to forget on a busy day. Some of the apps above offer bill reminders as one of their services but, for an extra tool, I tend to turn to my go-to reminder and to-do list services.


TrueBill is a relatively new addition to my personal finance app arsenal but I’m really enjoying it so far! The bill reminders, in particular, are super helpful. I still have a lot of features to really dive into, too!


Only recently did I dive into Todoist, making the small, but impactful investment in their premium plan. I’ve managed to set up projects and task lists for each major to-do in my life, from writing and publishing a book to, you guessed it, paying a bill! I especially like that I can use the shorthand option of typing “every [insert date here]” when I enter a new bill or another task, rather than entering the date separately for each. It’s only a few clicks’ difference, but it’s a welcome one all the same! I’ve used Amazing Marvin and Trello, a few of my other favourite to-do apps, as well.


Before I invested in Todoist, I spent quite a while relying on the built-in (Apple/iCloud) Reminders app to track my projects and tasks, including bills. While it has fewer features than a more intense productivity app like Todoist, Reminders is a fantastic, budget-friendly option that will remind you about your bills, colour-code your to-do list, and generally help you keep your life, be it personal, professional, or financial, in order.

Have you tried any of these Personal finance apps to manage your money? Do you have another one that you absolutely love? Let us know in the comments!

Mini - An Ideal Life

Personal Finance

Personal Finance

I graduated with exuberant student loan debt, plus a few credit cards I depended on for things like food and medical costs. To make matters worse, my disabilities limited my work options—I made less than $3,000 my first year out of school. As a result, I’ve gotten awfully good at budgeting, frugality, and all things personal finance.

From my go-to personal finance apps to ways I save money on must-haves, I’ll share some of my knowledge here. I’m not a finance professional, but I’m happy to share my personal experience!

Modified Dave Ramsey Baby Steps
For those of us with more nontraditional lifestyles, a set of modified Dave Ramsey baby steps, with space for customization,
Best Personal Finance Apps to Manage Your Money
Pick up a few of the best personal finance apps for your lifestyle and make managing your money easier than