There are many disagreements in the world of personal finance, from how to eliminate your debt to the order of goals to prioritize in your financial progress. (Let’s not even get started on the fights about which investments to make.) Even with so much argument, one of the first goals nearly everyone can agree on is the importance of creating and following a budget in order to get your finances under control. How do you make a budget, though?
The Money Saving Mom’s Budget provides a guide to creating a budget, as well as listing ways to help stick to it. Crystal Paine, creator of MoneySavingMom.com, provides steps to generating a budget, streamline your life, and meeting your goals, over the course of a year. Does it provide useful information to help those struggling to organize their finances (and their lives), or leave them no better off than they were before? Let’s find out!
The book opens by sharing Crystal’s 7 Rules for Financial Success, the ones that are laid out in more detail and elaborated on throughout the book. The Introduction then stresses what the book hopes to accomplish, providing a guide to saving money that gives simple proven advice that’s easy to follow.
Chapter 1 – If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, Any Train Will Get You There
The first chapter notes the importance of creating a plan for how you hope to accomplish your goals. It focuses on creating plans and breaking down the more complex goals into smaller, easier to accomplish pieces in order to achieve them. The chapter emphasizes the need to measure your progress toward each piece, and the advantage of setting those goals in meeting your desires.
Chapter 2 – Are the Chaos and Clutter in Your Life Keeping You from Financial Success?
This chapter looks at organizing the time in your life and the items that need to be done. The first portion of the chapter looks at how to budget your time, looking at prioritizing your goals and determining the time you have available for each goal. The second section covers organizing the physical items in your life, getting your clutter under control and removing the excess.
Chapter 3 – Give Yourself an Instant Raise Without Increasing Your Take-Home Pay
Budgeting is important in life, and this chapter provides three steps toward creating a full budget. First, it suggests creating a budget only to cover your food purchases, then next month making a Bare Bones Budget that includes the monthly necessities, and finally a full budget covering everything. After the guide to making a budget, there’s advice on how to implement and stick to the budget.
Chapter 4 – Go Totally Plastic-Free – Temporarily
Crystal focuses on the need to go plastic-free, dropping credit and debit cards from your life, at least as a test to see how freeing it can be. It provides the rules for the Cash Only Challenge, as well as answering most of common questions that rise when it comes to dropping these cards. The chapter wraps up by providing advice on how to build up a credit rating without using a typical credit card or other common credit sources.
Chapter 5 – Coupons Are Not Just for Junk Food
The next two chapters focus on using coupons in order to keep your expenses at a minimum. Here, you get advice on how to get coupons for free, from friends to the internet, as well as three different methods to organize your coupons to make them more accessible.
Chapter 6 – Beyond the Basics: Advanced Couponing Techniques
With the coupon basics out of the way, it’s time to look at ways to use coupons to save an immense amount of money. Much of the chapter focuses on playing the Drugstore Game in order to get a lot of stuff for not much money (and sometimes for free). The chapter does stress the importance of starting slowly and planning your meals ahead of time.
Chapter 7 – Twenty-five Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill Without Clipping Coupons
If coupons aren’t your thing, or you just want to add even more savings to your grocery bill, chapter seven provides a number of ways to keep your food bill down. There are plenty of ideas given, as well as plenty of other sources for saving advice, in order to keep your food expenses low while still getting a good selection of tasty food.
Chapter 8 – Going Out on the Town Without Going Broke
Here’s where there are ways to avoid paying retail for, well, anything, while still living an enjoyable life. From eating out without spending too much (as the chapter title implies) to keeping yourself fit on a budget, numerous areas of spending are covered. Numerous recommendations are discussed throughout the chapter, particularly a variety of entertainment.
Chapter 9 – Embrace Today
The final chapter looks at developing contentment in your life. It provides several steps on how to make yourself in more contented in life, and shares stories about how Crystal created MoneySavingMom.com and developed it into an extremely successful blog.
The book finishes up with several more guides to help you handle budgeting. There is an Appendix, providing a list of tips for a successful garage sale, and a list of 10 ways to earn an extra ten ways to earn $100 per month. There is a list of extra resources, and the book finishes off with a collection of worksheets to apply the suggestions included in the book.
- Highly Encouraging: The Money Saving Mom’s Budget is provides lots of encouragement, stressing the ability of the reader to follow suit (as well as giving stories from blog readers demonstrating that success).
- Useful Resources: There are numerous resources provided throughout the book, from links to websites that cover the issues discussed in more detail to worksheets provided at the end to help readers organize their thoughts.
- Many Helpful Suggestions…: For those people who haven’t been able to get their finances under control, the book provides a step-by-step guide to getting things under control.
- …But Few New Suggestions: If you’ve read the blogs cited in the book (which aren’t that hard to find), you’ve gotten most of the information provided already.
- Extreme Opposition to Debt: While debt is definitely a bad thing in general, the opposition to any form of debt, even mortgage, is a bit too much.
The Money Saving Mom’s Budget provides an excellent introduction to developing and following a budget. While there isn’t too much new for the experienced budget-following frugalist, it provides an introduction for someone getting started. (And there are some new points even for those of us who have been reading about this for a half decade.) It’s a great start for those people having trouble learning to make, and follow, a budget.