The Money Saving Mom’s Budget

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I started out last year with grand plans to keep track of every cent we spent.  I kept every receipt and faithfully separated out items and figured totals in each budget category in Microsoft Money all the way through…March.

By the time December rolled around, I was just about to throw away my overflowing folder of receipts.  That’s when I remembered I had Crystal Paine’s new book The Money Saving Mom’s Budget sitting there beside the receipts.  I decided perhaps I’d better read the book before I threw out the receipts, just in case I got inspired to track all our expenses again.

I read the book.  But I didn’t get inspired to keep track of our expenses again.  And I had an excuse straight from the book.  At the end of a chapter with 25 money-saving practices, Crystal reminds readers, “We can become so focused on trying to save money that we end up spending hours and hours and hours of time trying to save a mere few dollars.”  While she was primarily referring to spending time on things like clipping coupons, or driving across town to save fifty cents, the principle applied to my keeping detailed track of our expenses, as well:  “If I’m not saving at least $20 per hour by implementing a particular frugal practice, then I’d rather invest my time elsewhere.”

We don’t operate on a cash-only basis.  Nor is our spending (or income, for that matter!) anywhere near the same each month.  We do our “stock up” shopping in the winter time.  And in the summer, all we buy at the grocery store is milk, yogurt and cheese (we have laying hens, and no, they aren’t a very money-saving proposition).  Somehow, a weekly grocery budget figure doesn’t work for us.  While it would be interesting to know exactly how much we spend on groceries in a year (I’ve even entertained the idea of keeping track of exactly how much we spend on milk each year to see if having a milk cow would ever pencil out), keeping line by line record of what we spent would only be for the purposes of satisfying our curiosity—it wouldn’t come anywhere near saving us $20 per hour for the hours I’d spend.

And coupon clipping?  I’ve never even dreamed of attempting it.  Especially since we’re devoid of most chain stores and all drug stores near here.  It’s obviously not a money saving venture to drive an hour and a half just to play “the drug store game”!  (A term I never even understood until I read Crystal’s book.)

But after reading about all Crystal’s coupon techniques, I realized maybe I’d thought too little of the whole concept.  I decided to list the name brand things we do buy on a regular basis – like Blue Diamond Almond Milk and Brown Cow Yogurt – and did a quick search in the coupon database at  Sure enough, there were easy-to-print coupons that could save me 75 cents per half gallon of milk, and 50 cents off a carton of yogurt.  That would be worth my time to search for and print each time I was ready to go shopping—especially since deal bloggers like Crystal make it easy by compiling the coupon databases and blog posts detailing sales!

The best part of the book, though, was how Crystal emphasized more than just saving money.  Words like contentment and giving are a regular part of her money saving vocabulary (ones which she puts into practice, since she is donating all proceeds from her book to Compassion International).  She even illustrates how streamlining and cleaning up clutter are integral parts of saving money and achieving your goals, as well.  The chapter on goal setting was inspiring, prompting some great discussions around here.  A budget might not fit into our lifestyle, but goal setting and careful spending can produce the same end result: saving money.

Whether you’ve never had a budget or you’re a coupon clipping queen, The Money Saving Mom’s Budget: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Streamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year will have something for you.  And thankfully, Crystal is quick to reassure the reader that you don’t have to do it all at once.  Just implementing one money saving method will save something, and that will inspire you to save more!

Do you operate on a budget or not? (And I’m curious—are you a coupon clipper?)

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  1. So… I do have a budget. It is rather basic, but esp. now that we’re down on income a little, it is really important to stick with it in order to live well, and as far below our income as we can manage. 馃檪

    I clip coupons when I find something worthwhile. The problem for me is most require printing, and I don’t have a printer right yet! 馃檪

  2. I’d love to get a copy of this book. We do operate on a budget. We do a menu for every grocery shopping trip! I use coupons here and there whenever i get them in the mail or by asking people

  3. I’d love to get a copy of this book. We do operate on a budget. We do a menu for every grocery shopping trip! I use coupons here and there whenever i get them in the mail or by asking people

  4. I TRY to stick to a budget..but it isn’t always easy! I do love coupons and I always try to use them on sale items. Every bit helps these days. 馃檪

  5. Yes, I operate on a daily budget for years since attending Dave Ramsey’s amazing budget course/classes! I should clip coupons; but I find it so time consuming. Would love to win the free copy of this new book and your website btw is really pretty and it is interesting! Nice work! 馃檪

  6. We have a budget outlined each month in Excel – although it doesn’t always end up exactly as planned. I have not tried much with coupons – it seems like too much work to me.
    This book sounds good.

  7. Yes, we try very hard to operate on a budget. And, yes, I use coupons every week when I shop. It’s a game to me!

  8. No we don’t operate on a budget – but I do think it would make sense, but just not sure how to start. I also started clipping coupons a few months back – not saving too much yet, but I still have a lot to learn here. At the bare minimum, I know I’m saving money and that’s good enough for me!

  9. i clip coupons but not as much as i used to…. i found i was buying things i didnt need. so i only clip or print for things i need now!

    and we ARE on a strict budget. the dave ramsey plan…. it’s tough!

  10. Hi. I’d love this book. I do operate on a budget in the sense that I’m on a fixed income. I also use coupons regularly. I have been using them for about a year and do notice a difference in my bank acct at the end of the month.

  11. Our family has lived on a budget for the 27 years I have been married. I don’t coupon much except for restaurants, etc.

    Would love to get a copy of the book though!

  12. Sounds like an awesome book! We do have a budget, but we’re entirely different from most families because we own a small old fashioned/bulk foods grocery and butcher shop.

    I use coupons but I don’t go out of my way to find them.

  13. Ugh…TRYING (again lol!) to live on a budget, trying (again lol!) to pay cash, trying (againLOL!!!) to be a “coupon”er! I’m sensing a theme…maybe I NEED this book? 馃檪

  14. We do have a budget and try to stick to it as much as possible. I also love to combine store sales with coupons.

  15. We sort of have a budget that we follow but nothing real strict. I’m hoping after reading Crystal’s book, I might have a better idea on setting one up and actually implementing it. I do clip coupons when I can, I try not to buy much for processed/packaged food.

  16. Currently no formula budget however we pay have savings account set up on automatic withdraw and then the rest is for household. Its worked for years however we are now thinking we should see if we can increase our savings by budgetting, this should be fun.

  17. Operating on a budget is crucial for us now that I’m a stay at home mama. In fact, my hubby just came home last night from work and thanked me for all that I do to make our money stretch. It’s so nice to receive compliments! Love your site!

  18. I have a monthly budget that I try to stick with. Having envelopes for things ensures the money is there when I need it for dog food, haircuts, contacts, supplements, etc. Thank you for doing this giveaway!

  19. We kind of operate on a budget but not a good one! I do coupon but have cut back a lot since trying to make more foods from scratch!

  20. I do not use a budget currently but that is my goal. It think it would help in seeing where the money goes specifically. I do use coupons but not to any extreme. The problem is I cut more than I use and often forget to take them with me. I need a better system.

  21. We have a budget for bills, but not for everything else. We have tried many many times, but is never works out. I’m hoping this book will have an “ah ha!” moment so we can finally make and stick to a budget that works. And, yes, I use coupons regularly!

  22. Please enter me! 馃檪

    We operate on a cash budget–chart out our expenses at the beginning of a two-week period and allot money for each expense. We use the envelope system for most of our expenses (except for online bills and gas, generally).

    I used to do some coupon clipping, but the store I mainly shop at now (Trader Joe’s) doesn’t have/take coupons, and we don’t get a newspaper, and I haven’t gotten any coupons in the mail since living here.

  23. I do clip coupons but I don’t have a grocery budget. I’ve thought about trying it but I never get around to it.

  24. My family and I do have a monthly budget. We are currently following the practices of Dave Ramsey. Having a budget has been life changing. I now feel like we have more control over our money and our life. I am also a coupon clipper. Although I only purchase items that I plan to use.

  25. I need to be better about being on a budget. I don’t clip coupons…..but if some one hands me one I will use it. I would love to get a copy of the book! Thanks.

  26. i am trying to make better financial decisions starting now. 馃檪 right now i am fairly money-saving-oriented… but i could always get better. thank you for the giveaway!

  27. We use Mvelopes to budget and I clip some coupons- I mostly just by basic, low processed ingredients and cook from scratch

  28. I try to do a budget but always don`t keep up with it good. Need to make it work better for me and see how I can stick to it better and keep track. I just don`t have a lot of time so it gets left behind when I try to enter everything in and balance it. I do use coupons but there are not a lot of them for things I buy. We live in a small town and I don`t have a printer so it is limited.

  29. Yes we operate on a budget and I enter my receipts into Quicken to track the amounts I spend. I am also a coupon clipper now and then when there are really good deals that make it worth it.

  30. My husband and I are die-hard budget people! And I am an novice coupon clipper and trying to learn more and more everyday!

  31. I don’t budget but my New year’s Resolution is to start. I do clip coupons but not every weekend. all depends on if the coupons will be good

  32. I would love to win this book, but if I don’t, I am very fortunate to have found over 25 new blogs to read and be involved with. A real win win situation. I love it!

  33. I don’t have a budget and I know I really need to. I would love to win this book. Yes, I do coupon most of the time.

  34. We use the cash envelope system for everything – it works perfectly for us. Sometimes I will use coupons but not very often. Wouldn’t consider myself a “couponer” per se. 馃槈

  35. I have kind of a loose budget, but I probably should be more careful about following it. And, yes, I absolutely do save money by using coupons!

  36. we don’t use a budget .. my husband pays the bills & since there isn’t really enough coming in to cover what’s going out a budget doesn’t work well right now .. he pays the bills as he can .. i try to use coupons but that is something i want to learn to do better .. thx!

  37. We don’t operate on a set strict budget but we set financial goals and plan ahead and of course use coupons!!!

  38. We just recently developed a new budget using the EEBA (East Envelope Budget Assisstant) iPhone app. It’s worked miracles so far.

  39. We do not have a good budget and desparetly need to do a better job. Yes, I clip coupons . I really need Crystal’s book to get my world in order.

  40. We do not follow a budget because I can’t get him more involved. We just practice everything in moderation. I use coupons to try new products or for things I would buy anyway.

  41. I have to operate on a budget. I am a college student on a cup-of-noodle budget and couponing has allowed me to obtain the essentials for myself, along with giving a surplus to charity. I have several jobs along with being a full time student and I know the value of a dollar. The reason i love blogs like MoneySavingMom is because she inspires me to do good things in the world and shows the charitable side of couponing that shows like Extreme Couponing fail to show.

  42. We have finally put ourselves on a budget, and have already noticed the savings adding up! We spend less money on our credit cards, and have limited our entertainment spending.

  43. We do not use a budget, but I think we really need one. In the past few years, we have gone from double income to single to, well, not much of anything since we opened a small business two years ago. I am making efforts to save here and there – not so good at couponing but pretty good at consigning my kids clothes and buying most of their clothes used. The book looks like it would help a lot with my personal and family goals for us this year.

  44. We don’t have a budget. We save receipts since we run our own little family business, and we’re just getting to the point where we’ll have to start separating business and family expenses… yay =)
    I print out coupons on the internet for the things that we buy anyway, might as well get one free, right?? =) I’d really like to read this book, it will be on my list to get a hold of next year…

  45. I have lived on a budget for the pass three years. Just this last year I found MoneySaving and I loved the site. I would love to win her book. God bless.

  46. We have a budget but my husband is terrible at following it and we never have enough to cover all the budgeted items

  47. We are coupon clipper family! =D Just recently have we started a budget and STUCK to it. Thankfully we have now payed off $20,000 of debt. I am so thankful for people like Crystal who are still teaching me how to save.

  48. I have made a budget many times but fail in the sticking to it part. I’m hoping this year will be the year to stick with it! I do use coupons at the grocery store and drugstore. It saves a lot.

  49. No, we do not operate on a budget. When we lived in the big city, I was a regular coupon clipper. Now that we live in rural ND, I do not so much. I just check the databases and our local store’s online coupons before I go to the store. And really, I don’t miss the couponing!

  50. We have a budget and it has been so helpful in helping us stay on track, keep to financial goals, and also see where we could possibly cut back and save even more. I’m not a big coupon clipper–I try it every once in a while, but I don’t end up saving much and it’s not something I enjoy.

  51. I do a semi-budget. I need to be more organized. I don’t always clip coupons because I tended to buy more than I needed. Now I only get the coupons I really need.

  52. We do not operate on a strict budget, but definitely try to purchase only what we need (we are saving to purchase a home and vehicle, so having those things as serious goals keep us on track…mostly). We rarely coupon unless it’s more for the office, cleaning, or beauty area of items. I cook mostly from scratch, so most food coupons don’t work for us.

  53. We have a budget, but we don’t refer to it often enough for it to really be a benefit to us. And no, I am not a couponer. Couponing seems too overwhelming to me.

  54. I have a budget, but we have gotten off track. Also, I am a coupon clipper…I am trying to get better at it since I am pretty new to couponing.

  55. Yes we budget, yes I coupon and if you want to keep track of your food expenses for a year then do it. You don’t have to track everything, just track food. I did it one year and it wasn’t overly time consuming or complicated to just track food and it was eye opening at the end.

  56. We do clip coupons(I only subscribe to the Sunday Newspaper) and everyone enjoys reading the newspaper on Sunday Morning. We have a somewhat flexible budget is the best way to describe it. We plan to spend only a certain about each month in a certain category but if we go over a little bit that is okay with us.

  57. We kind of, sort of, use a budget…does that count?! My hubby makes the $ and keeps track of everything, mostly just in his head, though.

    Yes, I use coupons, but only a little bit.

  58. we do not currently have a budget but i was talking to my husband about one. he’s not quite on board. and yes im an avid coupon user!

  59. Yes, we operate on a budget! I used to clip coupons obsessively, but now I don’t spend as much time on it. I just keep my eyes open for coupons for items we buy regularly.

    Would love to win the book!

  60. We are re-working our budget now that christmas is over and it’s really helping! I love coupons. I work at a grocery store and watch for the good deals I see, then copy them.

  61. I do use a budget and I use an occasional coupon but I don’t play the coupon game. I love having a budget! It makes managing a large family much more do-able. 馃檪

    Thanks for the chance to win a copy of this book.

  62. I try to stay on budget with coupons and sales and reading Money Saving Mom of course.That has really helped me save a lot of money.

  63. We do operate on a budget thanks to FPU from Dave Ramsey. We learned a lot from that class. But, there is always room for new motivation and improvement which we need right now. Still digging out of debt from career crises and special medical needs and of course ignorance and poor choices.

  64. I’ve always had a budget but never really followed it…but after losing my job last week…its time to cut back!

  65. We have a general budget we stick to but would do better to make a “real” budget so we can save more money.
    I use coupons and try to shop sales. I no longer get the newspaper because I felt like I was killing a forest for a few coupons so I get my coupons online or directly from the company. Thanks!

  66. My ex husband is $31,500.00 behind on child support and I was in an auto accident seven years ago on the 24th of this month that rendered me “disabled”…although I feel it’s more “unhireable” than disabled…LOL…but long term disability and no child support leave me no choice but to be on a budget :)… I have picked up tips on TV and from friends but recently I have gone online to find more Ideas and suggestions…gotta say would love to read the book and will cross my fingers that I may win a copy. Thanks for allowing all of us a chance to win a copy. Have a happy 2012!!!! And congrats to whoever wins!!!!

  67. Money saving mom is a life saver!! Need I say more? Lol
    One of the best ways we save money in our house is by having a “pantry week” once a month. We (including my 5 year old son) come up creative meals out of whatever we have in the kitchen rather than buying new. That way food doesn’t go to waste and my bank account gets a little breather 馃槈

  68. We set up a budget on an excel spread sheet before we were married & have used it through the 2 1/2 years of our marriage. I used to coupon clip, but now we are “real food” eaters and so we don’t clip nearly as much.

  69. Yes, we do use a budget…are still working out the kinks though as we’ve only been married 7 months :-). I do use coupons too, but live in town where it’s a 4 minute drive to Walgreens, CVS, grocery stores, etc. It would be so fun to win!!

  70. Unfortunately we dont operate on a budget but need to and I do coupon, that has made all the difference over the past 6 months!

  71. We are doing a budget for the first time this year. This was one of our 2012 goals. I have been using coupons for a few years now and can’t imagine doing my weekly shopping without them! Very excited to read Crystal’s book for tips and inspiration. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy!

  72. Yes I have a budget and I am failing at couponing. I have tried a few times but have been very frustrated every time.

  73. With our first child on the way, and plans for me to stay home, we’re going to have to start making a budget. We’ve never really made one, but with gaining one more body in our family, one less income, and still having a car, a house, and a hefty student loan, we definitely to try to figure this budget thing out. I’d love to switch to the cash envelope system, but it is hard to get the hubs on board. I definitely clip coupons to save money, and try to meal plan (sometimes around sales).

  74. I would love to win a copy of the book…

    I don’t do very good to stick to a budget, I try to set one but it never really seems to work for me. I do however coupon religiously, I carry my giant pink coupon binder with me everywhere I go. There’s no better feeling then saving money, even if it’s only $20.00 worth of coupon savings and $20.00 worth of price match savings at the grocery store. Just wish a could make saving money throughout everything we do more instrumental in our lives, maybe the book would help me to do just that.

  75. We don’t have a budget because our income fluctuates. And I try to use coupons when I can actually find them for the products I use!

  76. yes, we use a budget and keep track of everything and it has helped – we paid off our house after 5 years
    we use coupons sometimes…but most stuff we purchase we can’t find coupons for

  77. I used to be a cashier when I was in high school, so I started using coupons then. I still do and going strong since 1990. I am always reading and learning new ways to save. I stay at home with 2 kids, so couponing helps us.

  78. I played the drugstore game when in college and when I’m in the US. I live in China now where the only coupons are for KFC…which is typically out of our budget. We try to stick to a budget which mostly means we use my husband’s salary to cover all expenses and mine gets saved. Since I make three times as much as him, this is a great way to save up, but we eat simply and live frugally. Actually in our first year of marriage we paid of the remainder of my student loans ($10,000ish) which was an awesome feeling. Now to save up to pay for our kids’ college (or part of it) so they don’t need to go in debt.

    Since I live overseas, I’ve already ordered this book for my kindle on my iPod, but would love to win a copy to be sent to my recently married sister.

  79. We use a software called YNAB to manage our budget. So far it’s worked very well, though we still have problems with overspending in certain categories! We’ve been doing this for nine months or so. I finally worked out a “goal” budget. My husband is a waiter, so our income varies widely. The “goal” budget works off of his average income, with the idea that surplus will be saved or used to pay down debt. I just worked that out a month or two ago, however, and winter months are the slim months – so we’ll see what happens.

    I am not a coupon clipper, but I’ll use a coupon if I have one. 馃檪

  80. We are not very good about keeping a budget. 2012 resolution perhaps? We eat mainly organic or natural foods. Hard to find coupons for that!

  81. I have a personal budget but it’s fairly flexible and I’m not a “stickler”. As far as our family budget goes, we do have grocery budgets for each week. And yes, we’re coupon clippers! Well, my sister does most of that but if I see a good deal, I write it down or tell her and she does the rest 馃檪

  82. Looking forward to this book! We do operate on a loose budget, and I am a couponer…not an extreme couponer but love to use them when I have them for something I need:)

  83. Since my husband was in school and we were without much income over the last two years, we’ve only recently began budgeting again, and it’s actually a bigger challenge than I thought it would be. Everything always look all right on paper, but it never seems to work out that way in real life!

    I would love to win!

  84. I’ve just started couponing, and I must say that I find it a bit overwhelming. We recently figured out our monthly expenses and found that we have more money going out than coming in. (This is due to my small business having done $50,000 less in business last year.). Once I saw that I started clipping coupons! My goal is to cut our grocery expenses by 1/2.

  85. We never used to use a budget, but since doing the Dave Ramsey course last spring, I reluctantly agreed to try one. Now I happily make one out at the beginning of each month! Money causes much fewer conflicts in our marriage now, I don’t get hugely stressed at bill-paying time every month because I know the money is there.

    Like Vanessa said, coupon-clipping in Canada is pathetic compared to the US, especially when you live in a small town, but I do it a little bit when I find coupons for something I actually buy. It helps a little bit, but you’re right — it’s easy to spend way to much time trying to save 50 cents!

  86. I would love to win! We operate on a budget (yay for spreadsheets!), but it is not cash-only (but credit is paid off each month!), and I am rather anti-coupon :-).

  87. We don’t operate on a budget at all. It’s difficult because my husband’s income varies monthly. We need to get on some sort of budget though–badly.

  88. We don’t really have a budget, mostly I operate on a ‘spend as little as possible on every single thing’ guideline. We do splurge and have organic produce delivered to our doorstep every other week, but it’s well worth every penny! I have couponed since we moved to Spokane, and I love having the ability to do so. We live within walking distance to Walgreens and are able to get all our health and beauty products free along with having a decent stockpile and having extras to share with other families. However, I would love to have a chance to read Crystal’s book and hopefully be encouraged to be a little more budget minded!

  89. Well, as you know, we don’t exactly have a budget either…still refining how do work it all though. 馃檪 And I’ve kind of regarded coupons in the same way that you have, but that’s a great idea about finding ones online for name brands…we’ll have to do that for our yogurt too (YAY Brown Cow!).

  90. We do not operate on a strict budget yet, but I think both of us want to start. There are a few things we do and feel strongly about: with the exception of house and car we do not buy anything we cannot pay for right away. We really don’t want to be in debt. We also try to do one big trip a year (around the new year) to buy many things for the entire year. That is the one trip where I do clip coupons and watch sales. The reason we do it that way is that a local grocery store gives us 20% off one shopping trip a year. So we stock up on every single thing that won’t go bad. Expensive, but saves us so so much in the long run. This year we saved about 30% of our entire bill and we spent under 30 minutes looking for coupons. It was great!

  91. I do operate on a budget, for groceries and everything else. I find that if my hubby and I sit down together once a month or so to review the budget together and make adjustments, I feel like I’m “on the team” with our finances. It’s a lot easier to make sacrifices and do without if I have a clear vision of our goals. If we DON’T review our finances together on a regular basis I feel out of the loop, and am far more likely to get frustrated if there isn’t enough money for something.

    That said, I don’t clip coupons or “play the drugstore game.” I’ve done it in the past (before I was married) and enjoyed the rush of walking out of a store having paid pennies on the dollar for some amazing items. But spending the time required just hasn’t been a priority for me since I got married. Maybe someday I’ll do it again. But probably not anytime soon. 馃槢

  92. Yes, I sometimes coupon. But it’s much more about the cutting and much less about the using!! I don’t operate on a budget, but I think I should… so the book would definitely be helpful 馃檪

  93. Yay, I’ve been wanting to read Crystal’s book!

    We don’t have a strict budget per month, partially because my husband is self employed and makes different amounts each month. But we do have a general idea and make it our goal to live within our means. I try to ask myself when purchasing, do I really need it, will it last, can I (with clothing) wear it with multiple items, etc. And I don’t use coupons. Never seen anything that we use on a regular basis, although I do check the paper for fruit, veggies and meat sales, then shop at those stores.

  94. If this contest is open to Canadian readers, please enter me!

    My husband is an accountant; needless to say, he creates the budget, and he has created a very complex system for our household 馃檪 For me, he’s kept it simple. Every two weeks I have a specific amount of money that I use for all of our non-fixed items (except for gas) and I can spend it (save it for next month’s coop order?) as I see fit. It is not a lot, but the Lord stretches it and provides beyond our needs.

    Also, I should note that we do use credit cards for their bonus’ and points systems, but every now and then I go back to a cash only month just to help ‘retrain’ me, as I spend much more carefully when I have cash in my hand. I think it goes without saying that we always pay our credit cards off in full each month.

    Couponing in Canada is very very very pathetic, compared to the USA. So now and then I do print off a coupon, but otherwise the only money saving ventures I use (other then living by “use it up; wear it out; make it do; or do without”) are: Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum Savings Card (points system), our Canadian Tire MasterCard (for Canadian Tire dollars. Canadian Tire = Home Depot/Walmart with an Auto area) and a select few couponing websites for products we use. Also, all of our local grocery stores also have a price match system, so I can look through all the flyers and then do most of my groceries out of one store, matching the deals in the other grocery stores.

    Phew, that was a long response for a Monday morning 馃槈 If you read it, YOU deserve the prize, haha.