As a long time reader and fan of Crystal Paine’s blog, I was looking forward to the release of her book, The Money Saving Mom’s Budget: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Streamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year. I pre-ordered it for my Nook weeks before its release and read it quickly once it was available.
I don’t read MSM for the “deals” but rather for the inspiration. Crystal herself has an awesome story: she and her husband lived very frugally which enabled her to stay home and educate her kids while he went to law school (graduating with no debt), and several years later to pay cash for their home.
Crystal’s book isn’t a collection of tightwad tips. There are other books that do that. Rather this book focuses on teaching you principles that will carry you through making wise financial decisions and meeting your goals – whatever those look like for you as an individual.
For example, one of the first passages I highlighted was this one:
“Create a List of Your Personal Priorities.”
Umm.. okay. What does this have to do with saving money on groceries?
Actually, everything. Because money is so personal, how we choose to spend it is different from the people around us. Our spending should be based on our values. Knowing what your personal priorities are helps you decide where to start and where to focus your time.
Defining your priorities also makes it easier to meet your goals (and create new habits in support of those goals!). Trying to live cheaply without clearly defined goals is a bad idea. You need to have a goal in mind to motivate you and remind you of your priorities. In other words, know your “Why”.
A few themes I love about Money Saving Mom’s Budget:
- The connection between clutter and finances. We know intuitively that they are connected. Crystal makes a great case for having a minimalist home and gives concrete examples of how to accomplish this.
- Time is money. Don’t have a heart attack, but some frugal activities aren’t worth it! Especially if you do any work for pay, you need to know your hourly wage and don’t do things that don’t “pay” you enough. Unless you get lots of enjoyment out of them of course.
- Saving time and personal productivity. Keeping the previous principle in mind, you’re more likely to be successful with your finances if you manage your time well. If you are organized with personal scheduling, you’ll also likely find blocks of time to earn more money. Win!
- Budgeting basics. A budget has to be simple and realistic to work. Money Saving Mom’s Budget takes you step by step through the process of creating a budget that works for you – even a “bare bones” one to babystep you into it at first.
Of course, there are some “nitty gritty” tips in the book. A few I appreciate are:
- Set up ongoing “clutter boxes” to contain clutter. Since it’s going to happen anyway, contain it so you can easily manage it. I began doing this in my basement, with a box for eBay and one for Goodwill. Instead of those things niggling at me constantly, I have more peace. When they get full I take action.
- Pay bills annually for a discount. My husband and I are going to begin doing this for some of our bills. And I recently paid a couple of my business expenses in one lump sum for the year instead of monthly. Not only do you get a nice discount, but it also takes it off your mind for a very long time. (And you only have one expense to enter into your bookkeeping instead of a dozen!)
- Specific ideas for saving money on groceries without sacrificing health. Everyone has to eat. Food is usually our biggest expense after housing, and one that is easy to save money on with a few tweaks.
- How to have fun on the cheap. There are great ideas for family fun as well as date nights. A frugal life without something budgeted for fun is not sustainable, can turn you into a big grump and lead to depression.
I only see one thing missing from Money Saving Mom’s Budget. There is a section of money making ideas but I was unimpressed with those, especially since I’ve seen excellent articles on Crystal’s blog about earning money. The internet has opened up a world of opportunities for moms who want to earn money from their skills while enjoying a flexible schedule. As a virtual assistant, writer (including ghostwriting, blogging, etc), crafter/Etsy seller or eBayer, a mom could dramatically increase her family’s income and reach some of her goals more quickly than by just focusing on the saving side. Maybe that will be the focus of another book.
In a nutshell, Money Saving Mom’s Budget is an excellent all around primer for anyone who wants to improve their financial situation. As I mentioned, Crystal is an amazing example of someone who really walks her talk, money wise. As a successful blogger, mom and homeschooler, I really identify with her. What’s more, she comes across as so humble, genuinely sweet and approachable. You can’t help but like her, even when she’s giving you a little fiscal butt kickin’.
The Money Saving Mom’s Budget: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Streamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year deserves a place on your bookshelf.