Budget Culture and the Dave Ramseyfication of Money
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Before Ramsey’s call-in talk show, financial advice was mainly for people who were already wealthy. It assumed people with credit card debt who lived from paycheck to paycheck didn’t care about financial education.
Ramsey began speaking to a handpicked group of people that traditional advice ignored. He regularly backed up his financial advice with Bible verses, erecting a clear fence around his target audience.
Dave Ramsey's show encouraged people who'd been conditioned not to pursue wealth to now indulge in the fantasy of being rich. A perpetual brief is that a better life is within your grasp if you can manage your money right.
Other budding financial experts dropped Ramsey's religious exclusivity, and a niche in personal finance emerged in the early 2000s.
Ramsey and his successors put the "personal" into finance so anyone could find success through a new set of rules, like paying your debt, starting a side hustle and making a budget.
The budget culture is the damaging set of beliefs around money that rewards restriction and deprivation and promotes an unhealthy and fantastical ideal of financial success.
Budget culture sees measures like credit scores and debt as signifiers of financial health and prescribes spending restrictions as the first step to getting rich.
However, the problem is that budgeting doesn't work. Restriction and deprivation are unsustainable. Tracking spending is hard. Budgets don't account for the way lives work.
The emphasis of budget culture is on individual responsibility and insisting that you can ignore access and privilege in our world. It condemns and oppresses anyone who doesn't live up to the ideal.
It's about your actions, responsibilities and mindset, yet no management method can fix rising housing costs with stagnant wages.
Instead of questioning your mindset and willpower to fix your money, question what's happening around you. Do you feel comfortable and safe in your home, in your clothing, or using your devices? Do you feel empowered with choice? Can you care for loved ones?
Having money can improve life, but that's not the point. Fighting budget culture means remaking the world in a way that lets everyone experience the ease of being "rich" regardless of the numbers.
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