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Book Note: The Money $aving Mom’s Budget

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Personal finance guide

The Money $aving Mom's Budget
By Crystal Paine
Gallery Books, 2012

Reviewed by Karna Converse

At first glance, the tagline for Crystal Paine's newly-released guidebook seems to promise the stars: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Streamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year. But after the first few pages, it's clear that The Money $aving Mom's Budget is filled with practical suggestions that make sense. "They've worked for me," she says, "and they'll work for you if you're willing to change your habits, persevere when it's tough, and keep your eyes set on the end goal."

Paine organizes her guidebook around seven rules and 19 action points for financial success, each of which emphasizes underlying themes of goal-setting and planning for the future. Much of her advice is based on five years of conversations with her blog readers. A 2008 Nielsen Online survey lists Paine's blog ( as one of its five Savvy Spender Mom Blogs. Personal financial success, however, makes The Money $aving Mom's Budget a trustworthy read: Paine and her husband set monthly goals to achieve their five-year goal to purchase a home.

There's a lot to like about this book's tone and layout: simple graphics draw attention to money-saving tips and ideas; bullet-point lists offer easy-to-understand, easy-to-implement steps; and subheads, written as questions and how-to instructions, point readers to the topics they identify with most.

Need to reduce clutter? Check out "Five Questions to Ask Yourself About Clutter."

Don't want to clip coupons? Turn to "Ten Drastic Measures to Lower Your Expenses By At Least $600 or More Per Month" and "Twenty-Five Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill Without Clipping Coupons."

Not sure whether to use debit or credit cards? Read "How We Spent $300 More a Month Using Our Debit Card" and "How To Build Your Credit Without Getting Burned."

Some suggestions may seem tried-and-true to readers well-versed in family budgets, but those who are just starting to grapple with their family's finances are sure to appreciate the variety of topics covered, the additional references, and the sample worksheets.

And Paine doesn't mince words. She's encouraging, yet firm:

You have a choice: you can stand and gaze at the mountain you want to climb and think about how it's too steep, too treacherous, and too overwhelming because you have too much debt, too may bills, or too small an income to get to where you want to be. Or you can map out a way to reach the summit, put on your mountain-climbing gear, and take the first step, and the next step, and the next: paying down one bill, saving up for a big purchase instead of buying on credit, or clipping coupons to cut your grocery bill. Even if you don't succeed in climbing all the way to the top ... If you don't know where you're going and don't take the first step, you'll never get anywhere at all.

Regular Literary Mama readers might be surprised to find a financial guidebook reviewed on our site -- The Money $aving Mom's Budget isn't our usual fare of mama-centric literature. In addition to financial advice however, Paine's book offers insight into the growing segment of Power Moms. These mamas, according to Nielsen Online, are between the ages of 25 and 54 and have at least one child. They make up nearly 20 percent of the online population and control 85 percent of household spending. They're almost twice as likely as the average American internet user to provide online advice about parenting and purchasing issues. Power Moms also connect families, friends and mom networks through online social media (especially Facebook).

Paine's success as blogger, and now as an author, is proof that the Power Mom is not only saving money, but speaking up and gaining a whole lot of followers.

Karna ConverseĀ is a freelance writer who’s written everything from technical documentation and price proposals to newsletter articles, devotionals, personal profiles and essays. Her essays have been published in a variety of regional and national publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Notre Dame Magazine, the Cup of Comfort and Chicken Soup anthologies, Our Iowa, and on Iowa Public Radio. She and her husband are parents to three young adults. Karna is a former blog editor, senior editor, managing editor, and editor-in-chief of Literary Mama.

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