Expert Interview with Scarlet Paolicchi on Money and Family

On her blog, Family Focus, Scarlet Paolicchi shares everything from recipes for chocolate chip meringues to no-sew ways to restyle old T-shirts and advice for keeping your kids busy on game day.

But she wasn't always a supermom blogger. Before becoming a stay at home mom to her two kids, Scarlet worked as a retail manager for Express clothing store. While she loved her job, she, like many moms, felt the pull to be at home with her kids. Here she shares how she made it happen.

What tips do you have for moms or dads who want to make the transition from working a full-time job to staying at home?

The transition for us meant accepting a lot less income to work with, but we were at a pretty good point and had just paid off our cars so we didn't have that to worry about for a while. I suggest that if there are any big loans besides the house, you try to get them paid off first, but you don't always get to make that choice. When the income gets reduced, you get good at stretching the money by shopping at thrift stores, using coupons and only buying what you really need.

How do you balance your raising your family with your blogging duties?

I didn't start blogging until my youngest was about three, so by that time he was getting good at playing by himself for chunks of time and I made good use of his nap times as well. It was tough getting things done but I made them my priority and worked whenever the schedule allowed. Now, I try to do most of my blogging while they are at school.

What was the biggest adjustment you had to make as far as family finances go when you first decided to stay home?

I got a part-time job in the beginning to help it not be such a major drop in income, but we definitely had to tighten our belts and not eat out or go on vacations for quite awhile.

What's been the most surprising thing or biggest lesson you've learned about managing a budget while staying at home?

The budget is always changing as opportunities present themselves. For a while it was just a struggle to make the bills, now I am beginning to have the luxury of managing our budget and trying to put some aside. I am learning as I go and a lot of times I am learning how much more there is to know.

What tips do you have for pinching pennies as a stay-at-home parent?

I thought thrift stores were cool way before Macklemore made them cool! You can save so much money there. I also used Craiglist as a way of cashing out when my kids outgrew stuff. Garage sales saved me a ton of money as well. I clipped coupons from the paper and I tried to stock up on the sale items at the grocery store.

What advice do you have for finding supplemental income?

I tried several things until I found the thing that was right for me. I say don't be afraid to give something a whirl and don't give up. If you enjoy something, you will work it until it works for you. I tried direct sales, I tried part time at a coffee shop, and then I found blogging and I love it. Blogging is a lot of work but I love it.

What are your favorite tools or resources for helping manage your family budget?

My best resource is my natural thrifty ability to find deals and to only buy what I need. I look in some people's closet and I think, "Man that would be a bummer to have so many shoes to chose from." I try to simplify and get just what we need.

How often do you think families should re-evaluate their finances?

Whenever the finances change, whether up or down, it is good to re-evaluate to figure out how to make things work or how to put something away for later when you can.

What tips do you have for teaching your kids how to handle money responsibly?

Right now, my kids are still kind of young, but I teach them by discussing expenses with them. I try to give them an idea of what things cost and that when we spend money we need to think about whether we need the item and how long it will last. I teach them to help me look for the sale tags at the grocery store. Soon, we will start with allowances and I will have them save a portion but we are not there quite yet.

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