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Money Talk with Crystal Paine

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

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.

Articles

When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Articles

Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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Articles

He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

As you read, we hope you consider us friends, the kind you feel comfortable sitting across the table with at the local coffee shop. You can read more about me HERE and our team of writers HERE.

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Money Talk with Crystal Paine

by Ashleigh Slater time to read: 7 min
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