Thor Ramsey's Total Money Meltdown: A Proven Plan for Financial Disaster


If Christian comedian Thor Ramsey could recommend only one book on escaping debt and surviving a financial meltdown, he'd recommend Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. But for readers who want a more humorous look at retaking control of the household budget, well, he humbly recommends his own Total Money Meltdown. After all, he won't be able to repay his debts from the sales of Dave Ramsey's book.

Thor Ramsey’s sidesplitting guide to financial recovery chronicles his own bad ...

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If Christian comedian Thor Ramsey could recommend only one book on escaping debt and surviving a financial meltdown, he'd recommend Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. But for readers who want a more humorous look at retaking control of the household budget, well, he humbly recommends his own Total Money Meltdown. After all, he won't be able to repay his debts from the sales of Dave Ramsey's book.

Thor Ramsey’s sidesplitting guide to financial recovery chronicles his own bad financial decisions and what it took him to climb out of the hole he dug. (“By the way, you should only dig holes if you plan on filling them with treasure.”) Not just a vehicle for his wit and humor, Thor Ramsey’s Total Money Meltdown also provides readers with the necessary tools and biblical motivation to become financially free.

The truth is that all of us who've been in financial trouble knew better. But sometimes we don’t know what it takes to get out of the hole. We feel hopeless and overwhelmed. This book shines some funny hope into people’s messy money lives, first as a “how not-to guide” and then as a “how-to recover guide.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802400758
  • Publisher: Moody Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/1/2011
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

THOR RAMSEY is a nationally known standup comedian and one of the most recognized names in Christian comedy. Since 1987, Ramsey has performed in comedy clubs and churches across the country. Thor has three solo standup projects, “Square” (2010), “Smart Mouth” (2008) and “Brimstone & Punchlines” (2006) in addition to producing and hosting the “The New Comedy Revolution” (2010). His first book, A Comedian’s Guide to Theology was published in 2008 and has been widely praised by readers for its theological insights and humor. Thor is pastor of Missions at Emmaus Church in Redlands, California.

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Copyright © 2011 Thor Ramsey
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8024-0075-8

Chapter One

HOW DID WE GET HERE? (And Why Didn't My Wallet Come Along?)

* * *

You know you've experienced a total money meltdown when you're no longer welcome at Starbucks. That's how a total money meltdown works. I walked into Starbucks, got in line, and waved hello to the familiar faces in kelly green aprons. They know me, so when I get to the barista, she hands me my daily venti iced chai tea. I hand her my debit card and take a big sip of my chai tea while waiting for my card to clear, which it doesn't.

So there I am with a mouth full of iced chai tea that's not even mine.

How do you handle that situation? Do you spit it back into the cup? Do you swallow and pay for what you drank? Here's a good rule of thumb: Don't sip your drink until it's paid for. This way when they tell you your card's been declined you can avoid the spit-take. You don't want to be staring at your friendly neighborhood Starbucks barista, chai tea dripping down your face and no cash in your wallet.

Thus began my money meltdown awakening.

Now, you may be asking, "How did you end up in this situation?" People ask questions like this because they want to know how they, too, can accomplish the same goals.

So how did I get here?

The same way you can.

Follow this one simple step: DENIAL.

Denial is the thing that keeps us from facing our financial troubles. It's the only step you need to take if financial ruin is your goal. I know it sounds too good to be true, but it is. Denial is all you need to create money problems. That and a bunch of bills. You have to have something to deny.

Admit it; you don't want anyone to know that you're having financial problems. And why should you? It's none of their business. Wait a second. This isn't about me. Anyway, you don't have to go blabbing all your problems to everyone, but if you're married, you do have to go to your husband or wife and admit that you have been denying/ ignoring/sticking your head in the sand/turning up the 50-inch HDTV that you just bought ... doing everything but facing your financial problems. Then after you say this, don't say, "And you're that problem."

Take it from me, living in denial is a lousy way to live. Eventually, the tension of your checkbook catches up with you. Some people refer to this tension as reality, but let's not mince words. This is about reality versus denial. Until you face the reality of your financial situation, you will continue reasoning like this: A bill will come and you'll figure, "I can make it up next month." The second month comes and you say, "I can make it up next month." That third month comes and you say, "Well, I ruined my credit now, so ... why even pay for the junk?"

Reality versus denial.

Seventy percent of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck, but somehow feel okay about how they're handling money. It's called denial. You may feel tired of living from paycheck to paycheck. Wait a second. You get a paycheck? That's amazing! You're already ahead of the game. And calling my family's financial security "a game" shows you how I got into this mess.

Denial keeps us from asking practical financial questions because we don't want to face the answers. Questions like, "If I lost my job tomorrow, how many months could I keep up with bills?"

If I lost my job tomorrow, I'd be a squatter.

Or questions like, "If my car or my roof failed today, what would I do?"

Walk. And get a pot. Next question?

In denial you will find your credit card denied. Apple computers denied my credit card in less than 30 seconds, even faster than Starbucks. I'm typing this on my 2004 PowerBook with the cracked-screen goop that gels around my desktop on the inside. I only have ¾ of a screen to work on. That's the reality of it. "How will you write a book on a laptop with only ¾ of a screen?" Shorter sentences.

Most of us have experienced the embarrassing situation of credit card denial. And if you haven't, I guess you're reading this just to feel better about yourself.

Congratulations. You're not me.

Usually, it goes down like this:

As the cashier at Target is scanning your items, you make small talk.

"How about that?"

"You ain't kiddin'."

Things along those lines.

Then: "Your card has been declined."


The established financial world has rejected you, but they are still thankful for your business. They want you in debt. Forever. Your self-esteem plummets, because in real life your self-esteem is tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which is how your credit card company (also called a "bank") has arranged things, because this way you will strive to be accepted by them again someday. You are not a true American without plastic money. Target has called your patriotism into question. If you have a Target Visa, your face turns as red as the card. You blend in with the Target logo painted on the wall and slink out of the store, a headless shopper.

The good thing about credit card denial is that sometimes it snaps us out of DENIAL and gives us a total money meltdown awakening.

When you accept the reality that you're in a financial crisis, you will want to hide it from everyone, like we do when people invite us out to lunch after church and I have to say, "Sorry, it's not in the budget."

As if we even have a budget.

Facing reality helps. Putting up a front never does. Besides, your "best face forward" façade will always be found out. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but never the waitress at Applebee's.

"Your card was declined, sir."

"Well, that's a shame, because your food was eaten."

Me, I should have snapped out of denial sooner. I'd known for the last three years that if we didn't change things, we'd end up living an insecure, paycheck-to-paycheck, hope-we-can-keep-our-home existence, which we did. What good's a home if it's filled with insecurity, anger, resentment, and bitterness?

If you recognize yourself in any of the above scenarios or find yourself in a situation like ours, then be encouraged that there are other people in the world who use powdered milk. Welcome to the club. Here's the secret membership password: stop denying.

The most important thing I learned from this whole fiasco is that our hearts, not our bank accounts, determine our financial well-being. That's one reason it's so hard to examine our finances—they tell us so much about our hearts. Dinika and I were in a mess because of deeply ingrained attitudes and assumptions, like thinking my dad would write me a check to bail us out. He's been dead since I was eleven, so you can see how deeply ingrained these attitudes were. But we cannot improve our situation if we don't look at what our heart is financing.

If you want to take it further than behavior modification, then this book is really about the gospel and how our money managing either testifies that we get the gospel or we don't. And by "get" it I mean understand and embrace and submit to Christ as God in the flesh, who died on the cross in our place (justification), satisfied the wrath of God by doing so (propitiation), and rose again three days later that we might live new lives because God has given us new hearts (regeneration). You know? Get it. If we get it, our money managing habits will change. By repentance or the discipline of God's hand.

I'd suggest repentance, being a recipient of the latter.

Once you have a money meltdown awakening and snap out of denial, the first thing you will want to do is get out of debt fast. It's going to be discouraging at times. It will be humiliating. You have to have a rock-solid determination. You have to say to yourself, "I'll do anything that doesn't violate God's will to get out of debt!" Say that to yourself now. Out loud. "I'll do anything it takes to get out of debt."

What exactly will you have to do?

How humiliating is it going to get?

I can tell you this much. It all starts with the Census Bureau.

Chapter Two


* * *

My wife and I haven't been good financial planners. Our initial plan was to homeschool our kids and charge 'em tuition. Apparently, there's some sort of state regulation against this. But we still home school. The financial upside is obvious. This way, when their lunch money is stolen ... it stays in the family.

This book was my second plan. My plan was to write a humor book about getting out of debt and then use the advance from the publisher to get out of debt. After just a few pages into it, this plan didn't seem like a sound one either, since I haven't finished the book yet. This is all I have so far. Unless they want to publish a really short book:

My wife and I spent all our money, then this nice publisher gave us an advance, and now we're good. You should write a book. Thanks for reading. Hope that helped.

I wanted to get out of debt. There had to be some way that we can earn extra cash. Remember, if you want to get out of debt, you are going to have to look for creative ways to generate more income to pay down your debt.

I think my wife can get by with one kidney. That's right. Harvesting organs and selling them on the black market can supply our family with a second income. That's a creative idea.

Lemme ask my wife. I'll be right back.

Okay, that wasn't well received.

"Why not your kidney?" she said to me.

So at least she's open to the idea of selling a kidney I just think it's a better sell to say, "This kidney belonged to a drop-dead gorgeous blonde."

Or I could get a job at Starbucks. But then I'd have to work forty hours a week and bring home maybe $300. That's no good. Besides, if I was at Starbucks right now blending your frappuccino, I wouldn't have time to write about not working there. Maybe there is another way.

What about selling our home?

We might be able to sell our home and make a profit, but I don't want to consider that yet. I like our home. We bought an old Victorian from 1898 and restored it. Victorians hold their market value better than subdivision homes because they're a specialty item. Of all the homes we've ever lived in, we love this one the most. Selling it is not something I want to think about right now.

"What about a second job?" asked my wife.

"Who'll watch the kids?"

"I meant for you."

A second job?

If you're a husband reading this and you take the idea that one of your roles in marriage is to provide for your family, you might begin asking God questions like I did. "Lord, I could quit being a comedian and do something else, but what else? What am I qualified to do?" I don't know what I'd do if I didn't do stand-up comedy. It's too late to turn back now. What kind of job am I gonna get? I didn't listen to anybody when I was young, so I don't have a "fallback-on" plan. I have an idea of what kind of career I'd end up with, and that's the scary thing. "Hey, does anybody feel like pizza? I've got some pull with Domino's now."

What could I do and make the same amount of money? If I just quit without a plan, would that be presumptuous? "Please, Lord, make my path straight. And balance my checkbook." Okay, that last line wasn't part of the prayer, but you get the idea.

There is this phrase Dave Ramsey repeats in his book several times: Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else. The idea behind it is that you make sacrifices now (which most of us don't, so when you do, you're living like no one else) so that later you won't be anchored down by debt (like most of us are, so when you're not, you're living like no one else). One of the sacrifices I decided to make to help pay off our debt faster was to apply for a temporary position with the US Census Bureau.

Uncle Sam wanted me.

I think that phrase was a compliment at one time.

That's right. To avoid financial ruin I became a government worker, which is kind of like taking a vow of silence to improve your marriage.

First I took the written test, which was filled with story problems that made me feel even more depressed, because, well, they were story problems. I was so depressed that I was relieved when they hired me.

So I walked into the first day of training at the US Census Bureau, which was basically a room of other depressed and hopeless people (mostly real estate agents) filling out paperwork. Honestly, I almost left and never came back. Why? Because it felt completely humiliating. I'm certainly not famous, but I hosted three seasons of a family comedy television series, so once in a while strangers will approach me and ask me if I'm Thor Ramsey, which I am.

But I wouldn't have been that day at the Census Bureau.

"Are you Thor Ramsey?"

"I do not know the man."

"You're not a comedian?"

I would have denied myself three times.

All the fears of what people will think came screaming into my mind: If word gets out that I've taken a part-time job, people will think my comedy career is sputtering, about to take a nosedive. I'll be perceived as being dead in the water. Getting out of debt could hurt my career.

That's just a sample of what ran through my head. The only comforting thought I had was, Well, at least I'm not a real estate agent.

Then I thought of my family, my responsibility to provide, to get us out of debt. I'll have nothing to provide my kids with if we don't get out of debt, that's for sure. So, I stayed, raised my right hand, and was sworn in as an official government employee, taking the same oath of office as representatives of Congress.

When I arrived home with an armful of papers the Census Bureau gave me, Dinika asked, "What's all that?"

I said, "I can't tell you because I work for the government now."

"Should I expect a scandal?"

"Well, I did take the same oath as a congressman."

Sworn to an oath of secrecy, because this census stuff is very touchy stuff. Do you want a group of strangers knowing how many people live in your home and what race they are?

It was my part-time job to count people of all races, red and yellow, black and white. And the Census Bureau has oodles of choices for race. Please choose one.

The census doesn't monitor religious affiliation. However, here's something interesting I learned during the training classes: As a census worker, I can't dispute what you say. If I ask some guy what race he is, and he says, "Cow," then I can't argue with him about it. I just mark the box and move on to the next question about how many extraterrestrials are living in his home.

The training itself was at points incredibly boring in a way that only the government can make something incredibly boring. The government seems to have standards of boring. Every document must be approved by the Committee for Boring Language Choices before it can become an official US training manual.

The first day was the most humiliating.

"This is what my life has come to—government worker? Wait. That's not true. Part-time government worker."

Then my mind calmed down a bit. I'm told the location I'll be working from is another city, not the city I live in. This eliminates the fear of knocking on the door of someone I know.

"Hey, how's that comedy thing going?"

"Quiet, Cow Man."

Then the fear of being recognized surfaces again.

One weekend out of town, doing my main gig (I'm still a full-time comedian), my ride to the event picked me up at the airport and during the drive said, "I looked you up on the Web. I didn't realize you were famous."

"Well," I said, "if someone doesn't realize you're famous, then you're not famous. But thank you."

The thing I find comforting about Los Angeles is that it's full of famous people I've never heard of. Dancing with the Stars? I've never even heard of half of them, but they're stars. Fame is a very relative thing.

This lady who sat in front of me at the census training kept saying, "You look really familiar."

She said it three days in a row.

I just gave her a matter-of-fact "Hmmm."

But I think the humiliation of taking on another job is common among us humans. Who knows? Many of the people in the training class probably felt the same way I do.

They might have all been saying to themselves, I hope no one recognizes him.

I believe that's how many of us get into these situations to begin with—we're concerned about what other people think. That's why we have a good job (or did) and a nice home and two cars and 2.8 well-groomed children. (That third kid doesn't bathe as often.)

But we must face the reality of our own façade.

The truth is, this job helped pay down my pride more than anything.


Excerpted from THOR RAMSEY'S TOTAL MONEY MELTDOWN by THOR RAMSEY Copyright © 2011 by Thor Ramsey. Excerpted by permission of MOODY PUBLISHERS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Free Introductory Material (with purchase of book): "Are You Related to Dave Ramsey?" (Then I Show Them My Checkbook and They Laugh) 9

Part 1 Anatomy of a Money Meltdown (or Build Your Self-Esteem by Reading about My Financial Life)

1 How Did We Get Here? (And Why Didn't My Wallet Come Along?) 19

2 Keeping Your Part-time Job a Secret (So It Won't Ruin Your Career) 25

3 Taking Responsibility (Then Misplacing It) 33

4 Who Not To Pay When You're Out of Money (Otherwise Known as a Budget) 41

Part 2 Money and Your Habits (or the Necessity of Starbucks)

5 Your Past Holds the Key to Your Finances (But Your Family Lost the Key and the Cash Box It Opened) 49

6 Money Myths (The First One Being That I Have Any) 59

7 Little Things Add Up (So Do Big Things-but I Can't Afford Those) 69

8 Imaginary Money (And Other Truths about Credit Cards) 77

Part 3 Money and Your Dreams (or You Can't Afford Dreams, So Get Back to Work)

9 The Great Depression (And Other Emotions Associated with Debt) 87

10 Real Estate Fun Park (The Scariest Ride in the Land) 95

11 The New American Dream (Loan Modification) 105

12 The Soccer Mom Gospel (Marketing Jesus and the American Dream) 113

Part 4 Money and Your Habits (or Do What Your Money Says: Trust God)

13 If You Want to Know What God Thinks of Money (Just Look at Who He Gives It To) 121

14 Saving Money So You Can Give It Away (The Get to Give to Get to Give Plan) 129

15 Slacker Be Thy Name (The Recline of the Protestant Work Ethic) 141

16 With a New Afterward (The Inspiring Success Story All because You Bought This Book) 165

Appendixes 171

Notes 187

Acknowledgments 189

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  • Posted May 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Funny Guide to How Not to Spend Your Money

    This book gives an often-funny look at money management: and how not to do it. Thor talks about his bad spending habits and the un-Christian attitudes that led him and his wife into a huge financial hole. He had adopted the attitudes of Americans in general-often the opposite of what the Bible teaches.

    Many Christians believe that money and religion are separate, but Thor points out that the Bible speaks more about money than it does about Heaven and Hell. God does care about how we spend His money. Thor points to Dave Ramsey if you want a day-by-day plan. However, for him and those who are list-phobic, he advocates a just-spend-less program and tells the ways he and his wife approached their debt-not always without pain.

    Many people know Thor as a Christian stand-up comedian who approaches all of life with humor. He admits he can't cut back everything. Starbucks would fail without him. If money problems sour the reader's day, this book will bring a laugh while bringing hope: and those who keep perfect accounts will enjoy it as well.

    I'm reviewing this book a little too soon, but it is available for pre-order on Barnes and Noble and Thor said, "Buy this book. I need the money." (Oh that the un-funny could be that honest).

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