How I Got My Family Out of Debt as a Stay-at-Home Mom
Upon deciding to become a stay-at-home mom and striving to make ends meet on a single paycheck, Cindy Scott and her family honed in on smarter money habits to get out of debt and weather financial storms. Now, Scott shares her best tips on her blog Smart Family Money.
Becoming a stay-at-home parent can bring joy, fulfillment, and a sense of pride for many people. But as Cindy Scott, a mom of two from Cleveland, OH will attest, it often means grappling with limitations that come with living on one paycheck. Upon leaving her job as a medical librarian 12 years ago, Scott quickly realized that living on her husband's IT job salary wasn't going to work. "We had two car loans, a mortgage, student loans," she recalls. "Those things were taking way too much of our monthly budget, so we did some crazy things, like selling both of our cars and buying old, used, cheap ones we were able to afford without a loan."
They stayed on a tight budget, ate out less, and reduced how much they were spending on clothes. "As a stay-at-home mom, I started taking it on as my responsibility to play defense on our finances, as much as possible," she shares.
Their diligent financial responsibility made it possible for Scott and her husband to move into a larger house when they welcomed their second child. After about eight years of hard work, the couple hit significant financial goals, which included paying down their debt, building their savings, and creating an emergency savings fund.
Soon, friends not only asked how she did it, but encouraged Scott to share her experience and expertise with others. "So many times I was talking to other moms, and they’d say, 'How’d you make this or that happen?'" she explains. Inspired to help other families, Scott started a blog, Smart Family Money in 2016.
Running the site also fulfilled Scott's desire to get back to work while maintaining the needed balance with her family life. "I tried to work part-time, a regular job, and I realized it was not going to work out," she shares. "I didn’t like having the pull between what my boss wanted and what my family needed, and I want something a little more flexible. That's when I started writing about how to save money and get your finances—in order to help other people like me. It gave me something to work on and be passionate about."
Fast-forward to this past May when Scott launched a YouTube channel on which she shares her savvy financial advice and product reviews. For the mom of two, the channel represents the next level of her business, which she is excited to grow and evolve.
Here, Scott shares her advice and insights on playing defense to make the most of your family's budget and honing in on your unique, big dream to chart a path to success.
The First Step Is to Go Big
When it comes to getting a handle on your finances, Scott swears by a taking the big picture view to start. "What are you spending the greatest percentages of your budget on?" she asks. "That's usually housing, child care if you’re a parent, transportation, followed by your food. I encourage people to look at those big things." Then, be honest with yourself about what you really need and make a bold moves (like scrapping an expensive car payment), to loosen up a sizable amount of income.
Don't Underestimate the Details
Whether you're spending time shopping around for a better deal on cable, or canceling subscriptions that you no longer use, Scott encourages other moms to make sure they're getting the best deal on everyday expenses. While axing just $10 from your monthly budget might seem negligible, these small savings can add up. "Pick the things that are going to offer the best dollar for your hour," she advises. "For example, if you spend an hour shopping around for the best car insurance, you could save hundreds of dollars, whereas if you spend an hour rinsing out your [resealable plastic] bags, you're going to save a dollar."
Zero In on Your Priorities
Whether you're trying to trim your family's spending or land on a winning professional plan, Scott recommends getting honest and clear on your endgame. "Write down your big dreams, as it can give you incredible motivation to make those changes in your life that you need to make, whether that's driving an older car for a while or giving up eating out," she says.
There's a lot of power in owning what you truly desire, she says. "Sometimes, that's a Disney vacation, and you can make sacrifices because you want that," notes Scott. "I love when I see someone who is so passionate about something and spends money on the thing they’re passionate about. The thing is that we can't all have everything, so we have to pick and choose."
This could also apply to investing in yourself. Driven to build her business, Scott says she puts 50 percent of what she earns from her site back into the brand to foster future growth. "If I have more money than that 50 percent, I will see where I can spend it to grow, like outsourcing to a writer, a coach, graphics," she explains.
Know Your Audience
Whether you're blogging or selling a product in retail stores, knowing the target demographic is key, says Scott. "I have a person—this made up person who is a combination of people I know in real life—who I think of as my reader," explains Scott. "She represents all of these other moms I know who are out there trying to be smart and logical with their money and their family’s spending."
This goes hand-in-hand with finding and owning your individual voice. "I think it is so important for women especially to say what they think, what they believe, to share their knowledge and their feelings with other people," notes Scott.
To that end, Scott is dedicated to making her voice not only heard but helpful to other parents. By continuing to share her smart money tips, the blogger hopes she help families make the most of their family budget—and make their biggest dreams come true.