Money Talk with Crystal Paine


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.

For more on Crystal, visit her website, Money Saving Mom. Also, check out her live Facebook chat on April 5th.

Enter Our Giveaway

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’s Integer Generator to choose our winner. Congrats to Brandy Wright!

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Ashleigh Slater is the author of Team Us: Marriage Together and the editor of Ungrind. As a regular contributor at several blogs and websites, she loves to unite the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application to encourage others. She has 20 years of writing experience and a master’s degree in communication. Ashleigh lives in Atlanta with her husband Ted and four daughters. You can follow her on Instagram here.

  • Joanne Viola

    I would actually give this book away if I were to win it to a friend who has struggled for years with financial issues. This week her husband was let go from his job totally unexpected. I would hope that they would discover creative ways to make their funds stretch. Thanks for the opportunity!

  • Shannon

    Super article! I really love that all of the proceeds go to Compassion International. I just recently started coupon-ing and am finding it a challenge not to become overwhelmed. By listening to this audio book I’m hoping to learn more tips about saving money while balancing the top priorities in my life. Thank you!

  • Lisa

    I am drowning in many ways. We have had financial difficulties the majority of our 8 years of marriage. I have tried to honor the Lord by submitting to my husband. The result, financial disaster. He does not want me to work outside of the home (homeschooling: 1st grader, 18 mos, graduated the oldest in 2010) and he will not pick up additional work. He does not want to take time away from his ministry pursuits. We are so deep in debt. He has agreed to no new debt and has cut his spending drastically. Before the last baby, I was allowed to work for a year and he picked up extra work also for a year this made the situation more bearable. Today I am just discouraged and tired. I am hoping for some encouragement and more ideas/practical ways to cut the budget. Thanks for your consideration!

    • Hang in there Lisa. Our circumstances aren’t exactly the same, but there is some similarity. However, I’m the breadwinner and in 3-1/2 years I marriage my husband has not held down a job for more than a few months with long stretches of unemployment in between. He wants to stay home, and DJ on the side. We’re trying to get his business started but it’s slow going. All that to say, I feel your pain and desperation. I pray God will reward your faithfulness!

    • Lisa, I’m praying for encouragement for you — and that the Lord would soften your husband’s heart.

  • Jessica

    I would love to learn some new tactics/ideas on saving those $$. Everything is getting more expensive these days but money coming in is not growing as fast as expenses. Pick me so I can learn more!!! :)

  • Sandy

    My family and I are in that “oops, we’re starting over again” season, and I have been working on educating myself on being more frugal, and a good steward of our household expenditures.

  • Jennifer

    Hoping to learn more of her frugal tips!

  • Sarah S

    I would love to get new inspiration and ideas to put into practice and then pass this along to friends to share the wealth of knowledge. :)

  • Erin

    Our family has no savings at all. We would really like to pay off my college debt and our credit card debt, too. We are also aware that we need to be saving for college (for our 3 children)and retirement but aren’t sure where to start? :) My husband is a Pastor and therefore, self-employed, which is another added difficulty. We need some practical advice that can help us get on track and use our money faithfully!

  • Annette

    I am currently 26 weeks pregnant with our second child, and am looking for ways to save and cut our bills so I can stay home with our children.

  • Sarah

    Im hoping to learn more about making cocooning work for me. Thanks!

  • Lisa J

    I would like how to manage my home finances a bit better. I am a book keeper for a small non-profit (1.5 – 1.75 mil / year) but I don’t touch my personal finances at all. Motivation is the key! Thanks!!

  • I’m hoping to learn some practical, no-nonsense money saving tips to help my family get debt-free.

    • Congrats, Brandy! You are our winner! I’ll be sending you an email soon.

  • Kathleen

    I have been reading Crystal’s blog for a while, but still feel like I have more to learn and do when it comes to saving money. I’m hoping listening to her book would help to motivate me!

  • Jennifer

    I’d try to gain inspiration to actually budget! I really need this skill but never seem to get past the step of figuring our monthly expenses…Thanks for sharing this article!

  • Like Sandy (above) we are starting over as well. I have seven children and my husband fights with frugality and budget. There is no resentment there, but I would like to see what I can do personally to get out of debt and build wealth for our family whether my husband is fully on board or not :)

  • Kelly

    I would love to find some hope and possibly other ways to save money. We are in a tough spot right now and on top of that we need to eat better so I cant really “skimp” on our food and I feel like we are be swallowed by finances, but I know with prayer this too shall pass.

  • Amanda

    As a mother of two young children it is normal to worry about your childrens health and well-being but when you are providing for a family of four while both parents are attending college and working part-time it is a challenge to make ends meet and provide healthy meals on a budget… Crystals story hits close to home. I would just like to learn how to save money on practical everyday items without sacrificing our health to provide a meal we can afford! It seems like a fantastic audio book!

  • We have cut our cable bill, couponed, even made our own detergent. You should see it-Yellow and..globulous…Not lavender scented like my favorite Gain brand. My husband and I also practiced “haggling” with local furniture store owners. My life of frugality has taken an interesting turn.

    But I’m hungry for more!

    I have become a lifelong student of pinching pennies. I would love a free copy of Money Saving Mom’s book to rededicate myself to this new life and learn some more!

    Thank you for your consideration!

  • Heather R

    I have recently become the sole provider and a single parent of two. I am looking for ways to keep the budget under control without giving up all little luxuries.

  • Tabitha

    I hope I learn to stick to a budget… I always have the best intentions but other things I didn’t plan on always ruin it! There’s got to be a way!

  • lorena spencer

    Blessed single mom of five. Always looking to put more Kingdom principals into practice and share with others. Thank-you for the opportunity!

  • Leila

    My husband and I are getting ready to separate and I’m so nervous about having to provide for myself and my two kids with my photography business and without my husband’s salary. I feel that this would help me to feel in control of my finances.

    Thank you so much for the opportunity!

  • Becky Honey

    Hopefully some tips to help us become debt free. We are working hard toward that goal. My husbands works 45 plus hrs at a job an hour away, so he is gone a lot we raise beef cattle and want to be able to have him home to help me farm in the next five years working hard toward that goal.

  • Angela Dimino

    I would love to learn from Crystal the art of saving money but also valuing my time. It takes time to be frugal but I don’t want to take away that time from my family.

  • Amber K

    I think that I would really like to learn more strategies towards building a good family budget. I tend to fluctuate in my spending habits….and sometimes stick to it, sometimes not. It would be wonderful to learn of great tips/ideas that would work well for our family that I can apply! :o)

  • Becky

    I would give this book to my son.. I can’t get him to read the actual Dave Ramsey books I have but maybe he would listen to this one.. He is 21 yrs old and struggles with his bills.. He just give me all his bills and control of his checking acct (2nd time in the last year). I won’t him to learn to manage his money. Not me manage it for him

  • Virginia O

    Would love to learn more way of becomming more frugal…our family needs this:)

  • Janet

    I am encouraged by the success that Crystal has had financially. I hope to learn how to change our lifestyles and learn new money-saving techniques, so that we can provide tuition assistance to our son. He will be going to college in the fall and believes that the Lord wants him to go into ministry. Private colleges are expensive! He has worked hard to get scholarships that will cover more than half of it. I would like to learn how to tighten the budget and help him out.

  • Marcy Hurlbut

    I am hoping to learn to save money of course. But I also like the approach of doing it with a good sense of balance.

  • Lynn

    As a single mom of 2 years now, I’m still trying to find a way to streamline and take control of my life. Organization, time management and certainly–financial happiness. I have my 3 kids 99% of the time and don’t want to “waste” that time cutting/printing coupons. I need to be with my kids more. I’ve had great help throughout my journey and I’d love to pass on any new insights that I can, to my friends!

  • I am half-way through reading this book and LOVE it! I especially liked the sections about time management and de-cluttering your house. Both were very timely for me, as I just left my job in corporate America, and am now working from home. If I win this, I am going to give it away on my Facebook page(Confessions of a Coupon Queen) for our weekly giveaway, Win It Wednesday! Thanks for the opportunity to win it.

  • Rebecca

    We have been trying everything to keep our heads above water and now with the recent lay off again of my husband; we are just floating around unable to get a grip this time. We just haven’t found anything to help us get our heads back above water financially and it has been a year of just getting worse. Things are to that point we could use some guidance and it would be great that we could listen and learn together. It would help give us a branch to hold onto and the chance to learn to be frugal together! And that would also help us as a couple to be on the same page!

  • Heather S

    We are downsizing and moving closer to my husbands work in order to save money…and hopefully stop living from paycheck to paycheck. I would love to read Crystal’s book and find other ways for us to save money!

  • Jo

    I hope to learn how to be more intentional in setting goals and living simply.

  • Mendy Grenz

    I have followed Crystal’s blog, and would love to listen to her book! I am a pastor’s wife, stay at home mom with 4 kids and can always benefit from learning how to make a dollar stretch… Thanks! I enjoyed your interview with her!

  • Sarah

    I hope to learn how to be a more organized couponer

  • I would want to learn more about ways to cut your expenses without couponing – I know there is a section in there on it!

  • Sheryl

    I’d love to learn how to reduce our grocery budget without buying processed foods. Thank you!

  • Leah

    I am always looking for additional ways to better manage my household so there is time and money for what truly counts…living life to the fullest!

  • Kay

    I would love to learn more about how to keep my priorities in check, debt free , and live within our means. interesting article! Would live this book!

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Money Talk with Crystal Paine

by Ashleigh Slater time to read: 7 min