A few years back, Kelly Crawford found herself with nearly $40,000 in debt and paying almost 90% in interest. That’s when she decided to make a change and take control of her personal finances. Just six years later, she found herself with only $600 remaining to pay off when an F-5 tornado ripped through her neighborhood and house – piling on the expenses.
Learn how she reclaimed her life as she shares some of the lessons that have turned her into a frugal expert.
You have written over 1,900 blog posts for GenerationCedar.com as well as 8 books covering everything from finding financial freedom to being a better parent. What inspired you to first start sharing your story and expertise?
Ironically, blogging was born out of our financial struggles, when I needed a platform where I could earn some extra money. I’m also a writer and I have a passion for encouraging others, so blogging was a perfect fit.
You actually make money blogging and have created a site (insider tip: you can join for free for 2 weeks!) dedicated to helping other people do the same. What is one misconception you would like to dispel about working as a blogger that most people do not realize when they decide to start?
I think some people think just having a blog will be easy to grow. The truth is, you must be passionate about something and have the ability to inspire others through that passion for a blog to succeed.
You previously shared with us how you found yourself with over $38,000 worth of credit card debt and how you eliminated it. What was the first step you took towards eliminating your debt? What would you recommend to someone that finds him or herself in a similar situation?
Digging out of financial trouble is highly emotional. There was a level of intensity we reached (angry and tired of the debt) that gave us momentum to get started and stay at it. When you want something badly enough, you will find a way to do it. The first step we took was finding extra money to put toward our lowest debt. It required my husband to pick up extra work, and we curbed our spending even more and found ways to earn extra from home. We also hung a “debt pay-off” sign on the fridge to remind us of our goals, keeping a running balance and crossing out the debts as we paid them. You must stay inspired, no matter what.
You came up with all sorts of practical ways to save money on everyday expenses. Was there one in particular that you found to be easier and more effective that others might want to try?
I don’t know if it’s the easiest, but simply staying home is the most effective way to save money. Most people don’t realize how spending a few dollars here and there adds up. When we go out, we tend to do that. They also don’t usually count the cost of gas. Also, people frequently overspend when shopping. The fewer trips you can make, the less you will spend. Also, I don’t think people realize how much money they can save turning off their hot water heater at night and through most of the day.
Your faith and friends from church helped you regain financial freedom. How did their support help you through the process?
Toward the end of getting our debts paid off, a massive tornado devastated our community, leveling our house and vehicles and all that we had. Miraculously, through the generosity and support of churches and friends all over the country, we received money to help build our house back without having to go into debt. It was the most amazing thing I had ever witnessed. Our faith has been a huge part of our journey because we believe that Scripture is full of wise financial counsel and we also believe that God takes care of the needs of His people. We have witnessed this truth too many times to doubt it.
You are a mother to 10 children – that sounds like a lot of hungry mouths and expenses to me. Can you share a few ways that you have been able to manage the cost of raising a large family?
There really is a misconception about the cost of raising children. The media tries to make it sound scary, but we have found that it really isn’t expensive at all. I’ve always been a frugal shopper so finding nice clothes and other items is a cinch with all the thrift stores around.That saves a heap. Also, we help our children develop an entrepreneurial mindset and most of them earn their own money to buy things they want. When our babies are born, we ask for diapers from those wanting to know what we need and we don’t bottle feed so we don’t have the expense of formula. I cook a lot from scratch (our current grocery bill hovers around $1,000/month, probably our biggest expense related to the size of our family). We limit extra-curricular activities and don’t consider a car for each of our children an entitlement; if they want a car, they have to save and purchase one. Healthy spending habits, a strong sense of contentment and lots of creativity. Those are a few things a large family has fostered in us.
How do you teach your children about fiscal responsibility? Can you share one technique that our readers might be able to use with their own children to teach them about using money responsibly?
Don’t buy them everything they want and help them find ways to earn, save and spend their own money. There is no lesson like real experience. We want our children to understand how money works so we let them use it in real ways. We also teach them the importance of avoiding debt. If you can’t afford it, you don’t buy it. It’s a principle generally foreign to the American way of life that has wreaked havoc in our country on a small and large scale.
What influence, if any, did your parents and upbringing have on your life as a frugal expert?
My parents practiced frugality and a modest income was part of that. My mother and I still love to compare our thrifty finds with each other. They did a good job helping us handle our money and encouraged us to save for things we want. I appreciate that they taught us happiness is not equated to buying everything you want.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story and expertise with us. Do you have any final words of wisdom you would like to share with our readers?
Your situation is never hopeless. If you are determined to do the hard work of getting out of debt, it can be done, even on a small income. Scrimp and save now because the freedom is worth it.
Like this interview? Check out the rest of our Interview with a Savings Expert series. Have a question for an expert or someone you want to see interviewed? Tweet your suggestions with #SavingsExperts to @CouponPal!