Our ’99 Dodge Caravan. In two years, we hope to cross the finish line to debt-freedom with it.

  • DH = Dear Husband
  • DD2 = Dear Second Daughter

J. Money’s post on T. Harv Eker’s Secrets of the Millionaire Mind

Last week, J. Money from Budgets Are $exy wrote about T. Harv Eker’s book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. In his post, Jay emphasizes the importance of the “money blueprint” which each one of us acquires in childhood. According to Eker, the messages about money, spoken or unspoken, that we absorb in our growing years determine the way we will manage our finances as adults. For most of us, our money blueprint is a subconscious force.

“If your subconscious ‘financial blueprint’ is not ‘set’ for success,” writes Jay, “nothing you learn, nothing you know, and nothing you do will make much of a difference.”

The only thing that will make a difference is to become aware of your money blueprint – to take it out of subconsciousness and into consciousness. Only then will you be in a position to challenge it. And change it.

Serendipity: we knew our money blueprints

DH and I have been working our way out of the red for just over 5 years. In June of 2012, we began our journey out of a total debt of $257,000 – consumer, business, and mortgage debts included. As it happened, DH was reading The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind just at that time, and as  we prepared to eliminate our debt following Dave Ramsey’s strategy, he got me to read Eker’s chapter about the money blueprint concept. I’m so grateful for that coincidence! It meant that we were armed with an awareness that we wouldn’t otherwise have had when we started our trek to debt-freedom.

DH’s money blueprint – and mine

This is what I wrote in my second post ever – at the end of May 2012, one week before we officially started our journey out of debt: “DH recognized that for his father, money was always a problem – something to worry about … DH considered his own financial behaviour … and realized that … when things were good, he made spending decisions that brought us back to anxiety.  So for DH, homeostasis, when it came to money matters, was a state of worry requiring control.  That was familiar.  That’s what he subconsciously gravitated towards.”

As for my own money blueprint: “My parents were excellent managers of money … But the topic of money was politely side-stepped in my family.  It was discussed in vague terms if at all.  To me, it was only clear that there was a pot of money somewhere.  I saw that money came from the man … I learned, in my teens and early twenties, that there was money if I made enough of a fuss. As a young woman, I was a disaster financially.  All the good role-modelling of my parents was subverted … In rebellion against what I had considered austerity, I enjoyed material purchases that I couldn’t afford, yet I was repelled by the base details of managing finances … That’s what the future man would attend to.”

We did NOT have the formula for successful finances in marriage: “Carelessly in debt, I married a man who was always worried about money and anxiously wanting to control it. Mind you, he was in debt too. Eeeek!”

My old blueprint: contained (but stubborn!)

DH and I share accounts for the most part, and in partnership with him, I have mastered my chaotic-spendy-spoiled-child money blueprint. We’re on the same page with our bills, our budgets, our debt payments, our savings, and our investments. But as I wrote last week, in my discretionary account, I’m still battling the ghosts of my past. My discretionary account is the one that I don’t share with DH, and “It’s the place where all of my old bad, chaotic, thoughtless patterns with money continue to reside. I would really like to evict them all.”

(And I WILL evict them all! A big thanks to everyone who offered suggestions last week. I am keeping a fearless inventory of my discretionary expenditures, and I will report on my progress at the beginning of every month – starting next week with September.)

DH’s old blueprint: held in check

A year ago, for our remaining debt (mortgage), we passed the $100,000 milestone. Going from a 6-figure debt to a 5-figure debt was a big deal for us! We sort of floated on an adrenaline rush for a time, high on the vision of the finish line – actually in sight!

It was on that high that DH pulled up in our driveway at the end of August last year – in a new Dodge Journey. He bounded into the house full of happy energy. “Come on!” he said to me and to DD2, “Join me for a test drive.”

DD2 got a kick out of climbing into the shiny new vehicle. I felt dread. Comfortable seats, slick dashboard, smooth ride, delicious new car smell … But none of it had any power over me. All I could think of was DH’s old blueprint: “When things were good, he made spending decisions that brought us back to anxiety.” Things were good. Perhaps for DH, uncomfortably good. Splurging on this new car would empty our emergency fund and put us back to a state of worry – his point of homeostasis. “It’s just a test drive!” DH insisted.

But is wasn’t just a test drive. Our old ’99 Dodge Caravan was acting up. We wondered if we were getting to the point where it made more sense to replace it than to fix it up. My vote was to make our old van last as long as possible – and to get a used car 8-10 years-old when the time came. DH was clearly playing with the idea of replacing our van as a next step – with new.

Close call

“That was a close call,” DH said this week about that test drive. I asked him, “If I had been for the new Dodge Journey, do you think you would have been convinced to buy it?” DH nodded his head.

When our van acted up again this summer, we went through the same “Is it time?” questioning. But unlike last year, DH looked at used vehicles. A Dodge Caravan 2009 was what would have replaced our old ’99 – but it didn’t. DH had the starter replaced, and our old van works like a charm. A new gas tank and new brakes are in the near future. DH and I now both want to cross the finish line into debt-freedom driving our ’99 Dodge Caravan.

Want to get the better of your money blueprint? Do some digging to get it out of your subconscious, and face it head on!

Have you faced down a negative money blueprint with success? Did you enter adulthood with a good money blueprint? Your comments are welcome.


Join the Conversation


  1. Thanks for this reminder not to spend according to old values/blueprints. Your Dodge and my 2000 Honda CR-V are a similar colour, shape, and both have some scars from their long past.

    1. And in my eyes, they are beautiful : ) Hold onto that Honda for as long as you can, Stephen!

    1. It’s true! But I’ll bet you’d find, if you focused on the messages about money that you absorbed, that they’re all tied in with those “other types of emotional blueprints.” That’s one of the unexpected beauties I’ve discovered in our concentration on getting our financial act together – there is a ripple effect into other areas of our lives that seemed to be unconnected to finances. All the best in nailing down your money blueprint, Tonya.

  2. I’m curious – were you taking the van to Washington and did the repairs curtail that trip? We finally sent our ’99 Ford Windstar to the happy hunting ground in 2014 and replaced it with a 2009 small Hyundai SUV that looked like brand new and only had 52,000 km on it. Today it is still going strong and has only 75,000 km on it, so we are looking at another 3-5 years before getting a newer vehicle (perhaps two years old). We have only had three brand new cars in our married life and they were all Ford Tempos, so not luxury by any stretch of the imagination. We feel a vehicle is only to get from point A to B … and used is the smarter choice.

    1. No, Nancy, we didn’t take the van to Washington. My sister and I flew – but after our misadventure in flying home, next time, I’d rather drive to Washington. We have only bought new in our married lives – but no more! We’ll play it like you did and next time get an older used car – and pay outright. Maybe some day we’ll go for a newer used car – but maybe not. Like you, I never wanted a luxury or otherwise “sexy” vehicle. DH, on the other hand, used to love sporty cars. His dream for a long time was to own a Porsche! So glad that dream has been replaced by a desire to make the ’99 van last as long as possible. (He does now dream of a Harley though …)

  3. I entered adulthood without a money blueprint. My parents taught me some basic principles of balancing a check book, but never discussed savings. That start set me on a path for overspending and accumulating debt. Now knowing more about money I still find it something that has to be tended to every day and not let old habits creep back in.

    1. Eker would say that everyone enters adulthood with a money blueprint. From what you say, it sounds like your blueprint was something like, “Be responsible and balance your checkbook. As long as you do that, you’ll be OK.” or “Make sure you have enough to get by. That’s all that matters.” I bet if you really reflect on it for a while, you’ll find that you did absorb value judgments – whether spoken or unspoken -about money-management from your upbringing. What do you think?

  4. I did not have a money blueprint as I became an adult. I could balance a checkbook but credit card debt was something else entirely. I graduated college with a lot of credit card debt unfortunately.

    1. Eker would say that you (like Brian) actually did have a money blueprint – an attitude about money management that you absorbed growing up – most likely without your awareness. I would challenge you (as I did Brian) to reflect upon the messages about money – spoken and unspoken – that you took in as a child. When DH and I did that, it really opened our eyes to what we were facing in the journey out of debt that was ahead of us.

  5. I’m so grateful that I have Jon to bounce things off. My own money blueprint may have shifted to a safer mode than it did in my early 20s (when I learned about unnecessary debt and preventative maintenance the hard way), but Jon’s allows for FI.

    Like you, I had a money-managing parent who didn’t talk enough about money (or maybe it was me…I just wasn’t listening enough to absorb her lessons.) So I spent years digging out from self-inflicted debt, and vowed not to get into more trouble. But my impulse was more to live within my means than well under them, and that would never have allowed us to be semi-retired.

    Now, I still find periodic impulses to spend money and his impulse is to save. I set up rules for myself about talking about spending money before actually spending it. Most of the time, I let him talk me out of spending on frivolous stuff, and that seems to work well enough.

    1. “or maybe it was me…I just wasn’t listening enough to absorb her lessons” – That is certainly true of my younger self when it came to my rejection of my parents’ “dull” frugality. My attitude combined with their capitulation when I nagged for more money led to my spoiled-spendy non-money-management. It’s taken a few bumps with reality to get me on the right track. You and Jon certainly have a good thing going. Good insight about your living within your means and Jon living well under them – allowing for FIRE. It sounds like you have the freedom to meet him somewhere between your periodic spending impulses and his consistent impulse to save. You are on to something very good, Emily : )

  6. My parents gave me an excellent financial blueprint. I wrote myself a new one after divorce that wasn’t quite as optimal 🙂

    I’ve never bought a new car – in fact, I’ve never paid more than $2000 for a car until my current vehicle, a used 35mpg microvan champ that I hope never dies ever, which I partly financed after I realized how much I detested car shopping and just wanted to be done. I regretted the financing decision almost immediately. That might have been the tipping point for me to really look hard at what I was doing with my money. It’s a ridiculously low rate so it doesn’t make sense to pay it off over other debt, but the day it’s done will be a very good day indeed!

    1. To me, it sounds like you’re dealing with single finances very proactively. When you say, “I wrote myself a new one after divorce that wasn’t quite as optimal” do you mean that you made some financial mistakes at that point in your life? Or that you started to live super-frugally? I’m impressed about the fact you’ve never bought a new car! I hope that your microvan lasts at least as long as our Dodge Caravan.

        1. Making mistakes for many years is definitely something I can relate to. I’m SO glad that it wasn’t too late to change.

  7. Nice work on keeping that van going! I think we’re in a similar situation soon, as our mortgage pay down closes in on the 5 figure mark. I certainly hope we avoid new car lust, but I’m such a cycle freak I think I’ll survive. We have a 2011 and 2009 model vehicles, each under 100K miles. Another 10 years is what I’m hoping for out of those. If we have two by then, which I doubt! Nice post!

    1. Thank you, Cubert. And congratulations on closing in on the 5-figure mark for your mortgage. Hopefully, the 5-figure state will increase your “lust” for a zero mortgage rather than put “new car lust” into play : ) Every time we make our mortgage payment now, it makes such a significant difference, as it represents a greater and greater percentage of what remains each month. I hope you manage to hit the 20-year mark with each of those vehicles.

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