The daily life of a work-at-home mom often revolves around two things: family, and making (or saving) enough money to stay home with that family. WAHM Crystal Paine has combined both of those things as not just a job, but as a way to help other moms as well.
As the founder of one of the biggest financial blogs out there, MoneySavingMom.com, Crystal has found success in her blogging venture—enough to lead to the publication of a New York Times bestseller, Say Goodbye To Survival Mode. Both her book and the blog have helped many moms better manage their finances and focus on what's really important. But Crystal is also the first to point out that she's still a work in progress, and that moms should use their own goals to measure success—not the triumphs of someone else.
We contacted Crystal to ask just how she got started as a WAHM—and what advice she would give aspiring WAHMs. Here's what she had to say.
WAHM: How did you get started?
CP: I was blessed to be raised by parents who were careful about how they spent their money. And they passed down their frugal ways to their children. My mom taught me how to menu plan, shop the sales, stick with a grocery budget, and use coupons while I was still living at home.
When my husband and I got married, we were living on a beans and rice budget in order to stay out of debt while he went through law school. Not only did the things my mom taught me come in handy, but I was inspired by different frugal forums online to find even more ways to pinch pennies.
In 2004, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. I wholeheartedly wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but because our income was so small at the time, if I was going to stay home, I had to find a way to supplement it in order for us to stay afloat. So I started researching everything I could about making money online and, in the process landed on this brand-new thing called “blogging.”
Because I love to write and also was willing to experiment with any possibility that might bring in some extra income, I started a mommy blog. From the get-go, I truly enjoyed it and was shocked that people started coming to read what I wrote (there were so few blogs back then that it was much easier to build up a readership!)
As time marched on, I not only learned more about how to monetize a blog, but I also discovered that people were really hungry for practical ideas and suggestions for saving money and living on less. The more I wrote about it, the more the questions came.
Finally, in 2007, I decided to start a blog solely dedicated to frugal topics and money-saving ideas and tips. Running MoneySavingMom.com has been quite the adventure and has far exceeded my wildest imaginations thanks to the many wonderful readers who have spread the word. In less than a year, it quickly became one of the highest-trafficked personal finance blogs on the web. And it just keeps on growing!
WAHM: What are the most challenging aspects of managing your career and your family and how do you overcome them?
CP: As MoneySavingMom.com grew, it ended up requiring much more time than I could have ever envisioned. Pretty soon, this side business had become more than part-time and then more than full-time. It felt like I was working all the time and was never even close to being caught up.
Not only was I exhausted and worn down, but I was neglecting my kids, my home, and my marriage. I knew something had to change, but it took me a long time to realize that I was the problem. I had to stop saying “yes” to new opportunities, I had to pare back my current commitments, and I desperately needed to bring on help. The business had grown to a place where I could afford help, I was just reluctant to bring any on because it felt so extravagant to frugal me.
The past few years have been a process of learning how to prioritize and balance the most important things, delegate what I don’t have to do, and delete those things that are unnecessary. As I wrote about in my book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, it has always been a pretty and neatly-packaged journey, but I’ve learned much along the way and am so grateful to be in a place where I have more margin and breathing room in my life so that I can invest my time and energy into things I love and things that matter most.
WAHM: What do you do in order to maintain a healthy balance between work and family?
CP: Truth be told, there are a number of days when things still aren’t healthy. I’ll get caught up in a project and let the laundry go for too long. Or I’ll have a deadline to meet and I won’t give my family the full attention they deserve. So don’t hold me up as a model, because I’m very much still a work in progress!
But I’m encouraged to see how far I’ve come and how much healthier I feel personally, how much more time I’m able to devote to my kids, and how much more invested I am in friendships and my marriage.
I think three strategies that have been very helpful to me are:
- I unplug on Sundays. I’ll occasionally hop online to check something, but as a rule, I don’t blog or answer emails on Sundays. Sometimes, I even leave my phone completely off!
- I have good accountability in my life. This is something that has been imperative for my own personal growth and sanity. I have a group of a few “inner circle” people in my life who are committed to making sure I have good boundaries and take time to refresh and recharge as a person. I know that if I get off track, they will call me out on it.
- I say no much more than I say yes. I’m a people-pleaser by nature, but I find I’m much more fulfilled and much less harried, when I make no my default for most things in life. I can’t do it all, but I can sure wear myself out trying!
WAHM: If you could share one piece of advice to other work-at-home moms, what would it be?
CP: It’s so easy to compare ourselves to other working moms or work-at-home moms and feel like we don’t measure up or need to be doing more. However, I really encourage you to remember that you are uniquely you, you have unique gifts and skills, and you have different circumstances and limitations.
We can get bogged down and discouraged by how far we have to go or by how we aren’t as accomplished or successful as someone else, but when we focus on our own goals and our own strengths, we are much happier and effective. Be inspired by other women, learn from other women, but ultimately know that it’s okay if your life, your goals, your choices, and your accomplishments look completely different.
WAHM: What did you do before working from home, and how did you know it was the right choice for you?
CP: Before having kids, I worked as a nanny and a waitress. However, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial bent, plus I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, so working from home was a natural fit for me! I experimented with a lot of different online business ventures (most of which failed miserably!), but I learned a lot from those experiments and they helped to shape the business I have today.
WAHM: Anything else you would like to share with other work-at-home-moms?
CP: If there’s one thing I could encourage any work-at-home-mom with, it’s this: remember what’s going to matter in 25 years. Wrap your life and energy around those things.
There are so many mediocre and good things we can invest our time into. There are many, many time-suckers and time-wasters out there. But there are only a few things that truly will matter at the end of our lives. Living with a long-term vision not only gives me more passion for the day-to-day, but it also helps me to prioritize better and stress less about things that don’t really matter.