Dave says: ‘Stuff’ just doesn’t do it

Published 11:48 am Monday, December 18, 2023

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By Dave Ramsey

Contributing Columnist

Most families have money problems at some point. And when I was a little kid, our family went through tough financial times just like everyone else. A job layoff can take your breath away. An illness can leave you completely broke. Little kids in the house may not know exactly what’s going on, but there’s stress in the air. They’re told, “Times are tough, so we can’t go on vacation this year,” or “We have to move,” or “Christmas is going to be slim.”

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My parents were in the real estate business and were building homes. Then, the economy went sideways and left them in a mess. Outside forces brought trouble to our house. We never went without food, shelter, or anything else, but the air changed in our home. I always thought money would solve the problem, so I vowed that one day I would become a millionaire. I doubt I even knew what that meant, but in my head, I thought it meant money would never be a problem.

Believe it or not, I’m a spender by nature. I’ve always enjoyed spending money. Of course, when I was young and immature, that idea of spending for fun led me into the trap of thinking if I got enough Stuff, I would be happy. I would’ve never admitted it out loud, but there was also the stupid idea deep down that if I got enough Stuff, I would be happy and safe, or if I got the right Stuff, people would be impressed.

With that driving force, I went about the business of earning piles of money so I could spend piles of money. But a funny thing happened. The Stuff became . . . unsatisfying. There was never completion or peace after a purchase, only the need to buy more.   

Stuff just doesn’t do it.

By the time I was 26, I was a millionaire making $250,000 a year. Not long after that, due to some really dumb business decisions, I went broke and lost everything. That was 30 years ago.

I also met God during this time, who did bring me peace and completion. I finally realized I was pouring Stuff down a spiritual hole, and Stuff is not designed to fill that hole. No matter how many cars I bought, or fancy dinners I ate, or cool places I traveled to, there was always something still missing.

During the following decades, we slowly began re-building wealth . . . this time while always giving. In the process, we discovered there’s much more joy in giving than in Stuff. If you haven’t experienced the joy of giving, there’s no better time to start than during the holiday season. Who knows? It might just be the encouragement you need to become a giver all year long.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Dave Ramsey is an eight-time national bestselling author, personal finance expert and host of The Ramsey Show. He has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Today, Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and many more. Since 1992, Dave has helped people take control of their money, build wealth and enhance their lives. He also serves as CEO for Ramsey Solutions.