Last spring we cancelled our DirecTV service.
Ted’s second layoff in twelve months – the first due to budget cuts, the second to reorganization — forced us to realize we couldn’t afford it any longer. The money we were spending on entertainment needed to be put to better use. You know, stuff like groceries and diapers.
At first, I was sad. No more flipping back and forth between the Food Network and HGTV. No more Disney Junior premieres for my then two-year-old.
But after a few months of Netflix and the Plex Media Server Ted installed on our computer, I loved our new lifestyle. We watched less television, were more intentional in our choices when we did, and saved $80-$90 a month.
Getting rid of cable is only one of many practical tips author and financial expert Crystal Paine offers in The Money Saving Mom’s Budget: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Streamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year. Read by Crystal, this audio version of her best-selling book is one I’ve listened to bit by bit. With each chapter, I’ve gained helpful advice and insights on how we can live within our means.
I recently had the opportunity to chat via email with Crystal about her background, how her book came about, and how she balances her time.
As a teenager, your mom introduced you to couponing. She even put you in charge of grocery shopping for a family of nine. How did you feel about that at the time?
My parents wanted us to develop a strong work ethic from a young age. There were times when I definitely wasn’t excited about the chores and responsibilities they gave us, but looking back, I’m very grateful. The lessons, discipline, and character we learned as a result of the responsibilities they gave us have benefited me over and over as an adult.
When my mom handed over the menu-planning and grocery-shopping for our family of nine to me when I was a teenager, it was a big job and a lot of work. However, I found that I really enjoyed it. In fact, I created a self-imposed budget and challenged myself to see how well we could eat on that budget. In the end, I not only became very adept at sticking with a budget and using coupons, I also knew you could eat well on a very limited budget.
When your husband, Jesse, was in law school, you lived in a basement apartment. How did this season of little – not only financially, but socially – prepare you for where you are now?
Living in that little basement apartment away from the town we’d called home for all our lives was really hard. We left our friends, our jobs, our church, and our support network behind and all we had to cling to was the Lord and each other.
It was a difficult season, but also a season of great growth as a couple. We were in this together and knew that the only way we were going to make it through three grueling years of law school was to be on the same page and working together as a team. Learning to communicate and work together when times were tough gave us a very strong foundation for our marriage.
Our faith was also stretched like never before. It’s one thing to say, “I trust the Lord will provide.” It’s an entirely different thing to actually live that reality–to not know how you’re going to pay the next bill and to constantly be crying out to the Lord to provide.
What words of encouragement can you offer to women who are in a “season of little” now? How can they not only be content, but make the most of what they have?
Through our lean law school years, I learned that joy is not dependent upon what I have or what I don’t have. Joy is a choice. I can choose to complain about the hard circumstances I find myself in, or I can choose to make the most of whatever situation I find myself in.
Focus on what you do have, instead of what you don’t have. Don’t compare yourself to someone else. It has well been said that “comparison is the thief of joy.”
Contentment is a state of the heart, unaffected by outward circumstances. No matter how little you have or how hard your financial struggles are, you can always find something to be grateful for.
Maybe you can’t change your circumstances, but you can always change your attitude. Choose gratitude and thankfulness–it will change your whole outlook, even if nothing in your immediate circumstances changes!
Television programs like TLC’s Extreme Couponing show families whose lives — and houses — have been taken over by coupons and stockpile. How does your balanced approach differ from these over-the-top examples?
I always tell people, if you don’t need something and can’t afford something, it’s not a good deal for you — no matter how inexpensive the price is!
While using coupons is a great way to save hundreds of dollars off your grocery bill each month, it’s important to count the costs and consider the return on your investment of time. My rule of thumb for any money-saving tactic I engage in is that I must be saving at least $20 per hour. If I’m not saving that much, it’s not worth my time.
Make sure that the time you’re investing into cutting your grocery bill is actually resulting in significant savings. Otherwise, you might as well invest that time into something more worthwhile!
Instead of trying to go out and cut your grocery bill by 95% tomorrow, work on slowly lowering your grocery budget by 1-3% each month. Not only is this much more doable, but it will likely help you stick with it for the long haul, instead of going gung-ho for a few months and then completely burning out.
Becoming a published author at this point in your life was unexpected. Share how God’s timing took you by surprise.
I always said I’d love to write a book — someday. I figured it would be at least 10 or 15 years down the road when my children were older and my life had maybe gotten a bit quieter. But then one day, out of the blue, a vice president at Simon & Schuster saw an article of mine online, followed the bio link to my site, spent some time on my site, and ended up writing me that evening to see if I’d be interested in a book deal.
It was very unexpected, and once I recovered from the shock and made sure the email was truly legit, my husband and I prayed about it and decided to email him back expressing interest. After phone calls, lots of discussions, lots of prayer and counsel from others, and making some changes to streamline our lives, I excitedly accepted the book deal at the beginning of 2011.
The proceeds from your book go to Compassion International. How did you come to this decision?
One of the things we were wrestling with when deciding whether or not to accept the book deal was the issue of money. Simon & Schuster had offered me a generous first-time author advance, and I knew we didn’t need the money. We were debt-free, in a good financial position, with good income.
As I was considering what to do, God clearly spoke to my heart and said to give the money away to Compassion International. Immediately, I knew it was the perfect solution–and it gave me tremendous purpose for writing the book. It was no longer just about writing a book to help those who are struggling financially; it was about feeding and clothing lives in unimaginable poverty!
You can read more about the Child Survival Program we’re funding for over 160 women and children in the Dominican Republic here.
In an interview you did with Dave Ramsey, you advise women not to allow blogging to take over their lives. How do you put this into practice in your own life?
Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s just not worth it to sacrifice my family for the sake of my blog. If there’s a choice to be made, I want the blog to suffer, not my marriage, home, or children.
The biggest thing that has helped me is to have set office hours during the day. When it’s not my office hours, I try to be 100% present for my family. My husband is a great accountability partner for me: if he senses I’m starting to be consumed or overwhelmed by business ideas and responsibilities, he helps me step back and re-focus or streamline so I can get my priorities back into order.
In addition, over the last two years, I’ve brought some highly-skilled and capable women onto my team to work for me (mostly virtually). This has allowed me to spend less time on business-related things, have more margin in my life, and focus on those things that I do best.
We have one copy of Crystal’s audio book, The Money Saving Mom’s Budget to give away. To enter for a chance to win it, tell us in a comment what you hope to learn from this audio book.
This contest closes on Wednesday, March 21, 2012, at 12 a.m. Our apologies to our international readers, but it’s only open to those residing in the United States.
This contest is now closed. We used Random.org’s Integer Generator to choose our winner. Congrats to Brandy Wright!