I don’t normally do reviews anymore, but I wanted to make an exception and review Crystal Paine’s new book, The Money Saving Mom’s Budget*. I received an advance review copy and nothing more — opinions here are my own.
I’ve read Crystal’s blog, MoneySavingMom, since it went live in 2007 (I believe…her archives don’t seem to go all the way back to the beginning anymore). Her blog went up just a few weeks before I started my own here and I’ve learned a lot from her tips and experiences.
Since I’ve read so much, I wondered if I would learn anything new in the book. Would it just be the same stuff that’s available for free on her blog? Yes and no. I think most of the points have at least been mentioned in some form over the years, but I haven’t read any chapter and thought, “I definitely read this before.” Further, the book format is way different than the blog format, and I was able to learn material in a new way in the book.
The first chapter pertains to setting goals. Dream big, set goals, and break them into manageable chunks so you can have real steps you can take to achieve those goals.
Crystal shares why goals are important, in that they give you accountability, something to work toward, and help you build momentum. Without your goals, you are not likely to make any financial progress. Think your budget is so tight you absolutely have no room to spare?
She shares the $60 Principle — just save $60 over the next 12 months. Sure, $60 in a year isn’t much, but that’s not the point. Her point is that it’s progress in the right direction and you should be able to build up steam and save even more.
Chapter two invites you to explore whether chaos and clutter in your life is getting in the way of your financial success. What does that have anything to do with finances? Crystal explains when your life is a mess, it’s hard to have time to sit down and really tackle your finances.
She explains the concept of a “time budget” as mentioned in Amy Lynn Andrew’s ebook, “Tell your Time*.” When your time is more organized, you should have more time to conquer the physical clutter in your life.
Reduce that, and you could have some little windfalls (perhaps from a yardsale or selling on ebay), and you won’t be spending as much time straigtening and cleaning. You’ll know where your stuff is, so you’ll be less likely to run out and buy a duplicate because you forgot you had something, or simply can’t find it.
I’ve gotta say — the first two chapters were a bit unexpected for me in a personal finance book. I wondered what lay ahead in the rest of the pages. It does make sense why these chapters are in here — goals and organization are important in life, and they do indeed pertain to finances!
Chapter three is on creating your budget. Crystal loves cash over credit (and even debit, when she can use it!) and explains how using cash on a budget can save you tremendous sums of money.
Oh, and fun surprise — a tip from yours truly is featured on page 61-62 (at least, it is in my copy. Your final copy might have slightly different page numbers). It’s on making installment payments to yourself.
A great addition to this chapter: Crystal does not let you make excuses for yourself. You can’t tell yourself that you don’t make enough money to have a budget — she has been there.
Later in the book, she shares during the leanest times that she and her husband survived on roughly $900/month, and one month it was as low as $650. When you don’t make much and are committed to staying out of debt, using a budget is critical!
She doesn’t let you say to yourself that budgets are too restrictive, or that your spouse won’t work with it, or you don’t have time to budget. She gently but firmly explains why those thoughts are wrong. No coddling here, and I think she handles this well.
Chapter four deals with going cash-only for a time.
Chapter five deals with coupons, and how everyone really can use them, no matter what you eat or the products you use in your home, there are coupons available for you. I was inspired by this chapter because I really had gotten away from couponing. I’m doing a lot of shopping at Trader Joe’s (which doesn’t take coupons) but we still use toilet paper and toothpaste and shampoo — even if I get some fancy organic stuff, I can still find a coupon for it if I look.
Chapter six is on advanced couponing, including the Drugstore Game.
Chapter seven is 25 ways to lower your grocery bill without using coupons. One idea is to reduce the amount of meat you consume. I think it’s a reasonable idea if your situation is truly dire.
But over recent years, I’ve learned the importance and value of eating high-quality foods. Yes, we could spend maybe $50 a week if we absolutely had to. But our nutrition would be lacking, and that’s a big trade-off.
This chapter doesn’t say “save money at the expense of your health.” No. It just offers suggestions on how to lower your food bill — maybe making alternate menu selections, shopping at different types of stores (such as a dollar store or a scratch and dent), how to price-match, etc. I think anyone, no matter what you believe about food, could benefit from the tips within.
Chapter eight deals with entertainment without blowing the budget and offers some creative ideas. Also in this chapter are sections on clothing, utilities, exercise, dental and vision.
Chapter nine is golden — it’s about choosing contentment. The word “choosing” is important. Sometimes your situation is just plain hard. But you always have a choice — are you going to complain? Or are you going to make the best of it and be content with what you have?
In the appendix, you’ll find 10 tips for having a successful garage sale, which is pretty much the same as her blog post linked. It’s good info and I think it deserves space in the book.
Next are books that she recommends for different interests, ranging from goal setting, time management, simple living, and finances.
Next are some simple worksheets to help get your own goals, budgets, and priorities on track.
Lastly, did you know that Crystal is donating all of her proceeds from the book to Compassion International? That is amazing and awesome! Even when they had their tight month of earning $650, she and her husband committed to giving 10% of their income to their church.
Who would benefit from reading this book:
- If you are new to budgeting or personal finance
- If you have been trying to improve your financial situation but haven’t really made progress
- If you have been on the frugal plan for awhile, and are starting to get burned out and need a motivational boost
- If you make excuses to yourself on why you are in debt or otherwise broke and need someone to tell you to knock it off already
Who probably would not benefit from the book:
- If your finances are in order, if you’re already on a cash-only plan, out of debt, and have built up a lot of savings. Basically if you’re on step 7 of Dave Ramsey’s baby steps and are having no trouble at all staying with your goals.
- If you are looking for retirement or investment advice (not the purpose of this book)
- If you don’t like reading books from bloggers, in the event that there is too much content in the book that could be found on their site for free. As I mentioned above, many of her ideas have been blog posts at one point (though there don’t appear to be totally recycled posts, apart from the yard sale post). Further, there are additional reader tips that you probably have not seen since they weren’t published on her site. It probably would take you a lot longer to dig through the archives and find these topics and read them, and again it’s not going to be the exact same as in the book.
Overall, I’m glad I read it. I’ve been a fan of Crystal’s blog and her ideas from the get-go. I’ve been encouraged by her blog and now her book and I’m glad I was able to read it for free. I hope I can get my hands on a few giveaway copies and I also have a few people in mind who I’d just like to send a copy.
*This denotes an Amazon affiliate link, where I might earn a few pennies if you click it and buy something from Amazon.