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“The Money Saving Mom’s Budget” by Crystal Paine – Book Review

By Melissa Batai

money saving moms budget book coverCrystal Paine and her husband, Jesse, lived on an income of less than $1,000 per month when her husband was in law school so that he could graduate without any student loan or consumer debt.

During this time, Paine began a blog, Money Saving Mom, to share the ways that her family was saving money and staying within a budget.

Both her blog and her family’s finances continued to grow after her husband graduated and began working as a lawyer. Just last year, she and her husband paid for their first home outright in cash.

Soon a book deal followed, and the result is “The Money $aving Mom’s Budget,” set to be released on January 10, 2012.

Making a Lifestyle Change

crystal paineWhile the title of Paine’s book directly mentions budgeting, the book is about much more than that. Readers of Paine’s blog know that she is both a minimalist who detests clutter, as well as a goal setter. These two personality traits make their way into her book.

The five main topics of the book include:

1. Goal Setting

The first chapter of the book focuses on goal setting. As Paine titles the chapter, “If you don’t know where you are going, any train will get you there.” In other words, if you don’t have a plan for both your money and your life, you run the risk of aimlessly spending money and the years of your life.

Paine advocates setting goals to give yourself purpose, accountability, and momentum. She shares the inspiring story of how she and her husband, who want to avoid all debt, sat down together and set a goal to save for five years to buy a house outright in cash. By setting goals, working hard, and minding every penny, they were able to purchase their home in just two-and-a-half years.

2. Decluttering

What role does decluttering have in your finances? Quite a large role, according to Paine. She makes a compelling point that having clutter in your home wastes your time and money. Not only must you search for items you know you have and try to clean around them, but you may also waste money buying duplicate items when you cannot find what you are looking for.

Time wasted on dealing with clutter can be used to work on your finances and pay bills on time instead. Moreover, once you get in the habit of decluttering, you’ll naturally start to declutter your finances and other areas of your life as well. For example, if your financial records are better organized and more accessible, it’s much easier to make good decisions, which can save you money and significantly reduce your stress level.

3. Budgeting

Paine advocates that readers make changes slowly so they are able to keep their new saving and spending habits for the rest of their lives. If you make radical changes quickly, it may be too much change at once. You may feel overwhelmed or feel like you are failing, especially if you haven’t previously devoted much time to your finances, and you are more likely to give up.

Paine asks readers to make a realistic, workable budget for three months and track expenses. Once this has been done, she outlines, step-by-step, how to make a budget. Furthermore, Paine advocates that readers only use cash (i.e. envelope budgeting system) for at least three months to get in touch with the experience of spending and feeling the pain of the money leaving their hands. Many readers will balk at the idea of not using credit cards, but Paine, who owns no credit cards, presents persuasive arguments as to the most common reasons why people say they are against using cash.

4. Saving on Groceries

Paine spends three chapters focusing on saving money on groceries. Given the high price of food, helping readers learn how to extreme coupon, play the “drugstore game,” and save on groceries even if coupons aren’t available is one of the fastest ways for readers to see instant results after reading the book.

Paine does caution that it will take months to learn how to grocery shop as proficiently as she does. In fact, Paine typically feeds her family of five for $40 to $50 a week! In addition to sharing ways to save at the grocery store, she explains how to plan meals for maximum savings.

5. Being Content

Many of Paine’s blog readers are in desperate financial situations, and she anticipates that that will be the case with many readers of her book. She draws on her own experience of living on less than $1,000 a month the first few years of her marriage to argue that readers will get further by being grateful for what they do have, rather than thinking about all they don’t have.

Further, she urges readers to give to charity no matter their financial situation. For those who simply cannot afford to donate monetarily, she suggests using coupons to buy groceries at a deep discount and donating them to a worthy charity or food pantry. Donating your time to a charity of your choice is also a good option.

mom budgeting receipts

Book Features

Real Life Examples

Paine frequently quotes her blog readers to give examples of how her principles work in practice and the effects they can have on readers’ lives. These stories are both interesting and inspiring, and are among my favorite parts of the book.

For instance, the surroundings of a reader named Kerry were cluttered, which caused her to feel anxious and to often pay her bills late, as she couldn’t keep track of when they were due. She did as Paine suggested and blocked out an entire day to declutter her home. She was surprised at how much better she felt emotionally. She is now able to pay her bills on time and save more money because she can buy in advance for events she is anticipating, such as her child’s birthday, rather than running out to buy a present at the last minute.

Paine also shares more about her personal life and the financial struggles she and her husband chose to go through to avoid debt. She reveals that some months her family income was less than $1,000 – one month the total income was only $650, and rent was $500!

Helpful Extras

The book features two appendices, including “10 Tips for Having a Successful Garage Sale” and “10 Ways to Earn an Extra $100 Per Month.” Paine also includes a recommended reading and website list, as well as worksheets of the documents she discusses in her book: a goal setting worksheet, time budget worksheets, financial budgeting worksheets, and a price book worksheet.

I have used Paine’s time budgeting worksheet and found it to be useful, as it forced me to look at what I consider to be important in my life, such as spending time with family, as opposed to how much time I actually do spend with my family. By using the time budget worksheet, I was able to specify precise priorities in my life, and set aside enough time for them weekly.

Final Word

If you are a fan of Paine’s website, you will enjoy this book. If you are trying to reduce debt, lower your grocery bill, or save money, this book will also appeal to you as it provides easy actionable steps to accomplish your goals. In fact, Paine advocates that gaining control of your finances is an effective way to enhance organization, time management, and goal accomplishment through all areas of your life.

What are your thoughts on Crystal Paine’s “Money $aving Mom’s Budget“?  What cost cutting measures do you like to use?

Gallery Books, 224 pages, paperback

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Melissa Batai
Melissa is a former college instructor who recently quit her job to be a stay home mom with her three children ages 7, 2 and 1. She is a personal finance writer for several online publications, and she blogs at her own blog, Mom's Plans, where she documents her family's journey to live a fulfilling life on less and Dining Out Challenge, where the motto is, "Never pay full price to dine out again." She enjoys cooking, writing, reading, and watching movies.

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  • Stephanie S

    I’ve been following the Money Saving Mom website for over a year and have learned that the cash envelope system really works. Having to hand over cash everytime I make a purchase makes me cringe and rethink the purchase. Do I need it or do I want it?

  • Jennifer

    I make a flexible budget every time my dh gets paid so that unexpected stuff can be covered without me stressing.

  • Cheryl

    I used to be financially stable until I got re-married to a man who over the past ten years has been verbally, mentally and financially abusive to me. I am filing for divorce in January of 2012, and although, I have been writing down a new plan, I can always use any extra tips and ideas. The book sounds like a winner.

  • Marie

    With 7 children in the house; every penny counts. I struggled and struggled with both clutter and finances UNTIL I figured out what I was really doing wrong was NOT involving the children in BOTH! Teaching them how to apportion their money for; needs, wants and charity has helped. We are still a work in progress but since my children are my “BIGGEST” investment my best move is to teach them well.

  • Marie

    With 7 children in the house; every penny counts. I struggled and struggled with both clutter and finances UNTIL I figured out what I was really doing wrong was NOT involving the children in BOTH! Teaching them how to apportion their money for; needs, wants and charity has helped. We are still a work in progress but since my children are my “BIGGEST” investment my best move is to teach them well.

  • Marie

    With 7 children in the house; every penny counts. I struggled and struggled with both clutter and finances UNTIL I figured out what I was really doing wrong was NOT involving the children in BOTH! Teaching them how to apportion their money for; needs, wants and charity has helped. We are still a work in progress but since my children are my “BIGGEST” investment my best move is to teach them well.

  • http://www.makingitbright.com/ Kandace

    For budgeting, we started using YNAB a year ago yesterday and haven’t looked back. It’s the first time in our marriage (and adult lives) that we’ve actually created a budget and stuck with it. It’s great.

    For decluttering, I sometimes just pretend that someone important is coming over in 30 minutes. It helps me to prioritize and do what absolutely needs to get done to make the house look better. A babysitter did this with me once when I was a little kid and she told me to pretend that it was MacGuyver coming over. Who didn’t love Mac? :)

  • http://www.familybalancesheet.org/ Kristia {Family Balance Sheet}

    Every Sunday, I review the upcoming week and month to see what expenses might be popping up, like a birthday party, baby shower, retirement dinner (all of which are on our January calendar). Those things add up and if I’m prepared ahead of time, I can find a unique, but budget friendly gift. When I’m not prepared, I usually end up buying something at the last minute and over-spending.

  • Mona

    Knowing in Dec. my niece was getting married in June allowed me to get her a tote full of Christmas items for their first Christmas as Mr and Mrs. I simply filled the tote when the current Christmas decorations went on sale after Christmas, paying only 10 to 25 percent of their normal prices. They loved the gift.

  • Valerie

    I have recently become both single and unemployed. With two kids, this certainly poses a problem. Being home so much, I realized I detest all the clutter I’ve accumulated over the years as well. So I’m putting it all on ebay! Not only am I creating more room in our home, but also in our budget!

  • Redgirl

    You know, When I first read this question, I thought I don’t have a tip on budgeting or decluttering, because I don’t do either. I am a mom of three young kids and I don’t have much time for anything, let alone sleep…but I do try to keep a handle on kids toys and baby items by taking the ones that our kids are done using to Once Upon a Child or selling them on craigslist.

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