Hello friends! It’s great to be back together on another Monday morning! I like to call it Mom-ovation Monday because these ladies always start my week off with fresh inspiration. I need to be inspired on Monday mornings..my motivation lacks! My first thought is always that I miss the weekend and my bed as I whisper hateful things to the alarm clock and give it a slight beating in the dark.
Here’s the thing..I’ve been a little woe is me lately. Too much on the plate, feeling like nothing I do is emptying it. Then came today’s woman into my life. You know that phrase “people come into your life when you need them”? I needed to hear Tiffany Thomas’ story. I needed perspective and some uplifting as well.
Tiffany is a wife, homeschooling mother of 2, blogger (I like her already 😉) and Crohnie. Tiffany’s openness about her chronic illness was nothing short of incredible to read for me and I believe you’ll feel the same way. Crohn’s doesn’t define her but it has changed the course of her life. In part because of the illness she began to blog not about the illness but to be proactive in finding a way to have a career on her terms and the terms her body has been given. Her blog keeps her “sane” and gives her an outlet, it brings in some income and gives her a way to help others save money. Her blog is a win-win. For her and her readers.
I support fellow bloggers, fellow moms and inspiring women equally and fully. Tiffany Thomas is in each category, she is the trifecta for this mama blogger. So please join me as I chat with Tiffany, unedited and unfiltered about blogging, momming, starting a business, illness, and faith:
Tell me about your business:
“My husband Philip and I have a blog called The Crazy Shopping Cart. A friend of ours introduced us to couponing a few years ago, and we fell in love with saving money! The goal of our website is help people live frugally and use their money wisely.”
Tell me a little about yourself and your family:
“We are transplants to Texas. Philip is originally from Washington State and I’ve lived all over. We have two children ages five and two, and I homeschool them. Philip is an engineer with a full-time job and I was a math teacher prior to getting Crohn’s disease and being too sick to work. My Crohn’s is complicated by several other conditions, and I have been admitted to the hospital over 35 times in the past 6 1/2 years that we’ve been married.”
How long have you been in this business?
“After the birth of my second child 2 1/2 years ago, I realize how much effort I was putting into finding good deals and saving money. We decided to set up a blog to share the savings with other people. My husband does the programming side of it and I find the deals.”
What made you decide to get started in this business?
“I was already making up complicated shopping list that were just too hard to share on Facebook with friends and other couponers. I didn’t really wait to start a blog- I just kind of did it. I started out with Blogger (which was a bad idea) and my goal was to just make enough money to pay for my Sunday papers. I never imagined it would become this successful.”
Why are you passionate about it?
“My degree is in math education, which I love. Numbers make me happy! There is a rush that comes from standing at the checkout line and watching your total drop 80-90%. I want others to feel that way!”
(Tubs of items Tiffany has gotten for free or for less than $1. Total cost $25 out of pocket that she donated to needy causes)
Do you have any tips or advice for a fellow woman getting started in a new business?
“Make sure you schedule and prioritize. When I first got started, this was only supposed to be more of a hobby. However, it quickly grew, and before I realized it, I was putting it on a higher priority than my children. I had to stop and set limits about what should be first in my life.”
What challenges have you faced in your business?
“One of the biggest challenges that I continuely have to overcome is when social media changes! Facebook changing it’s News Feed algorithm last year literally dropped my income by about 90%.”
(A grocery haul that she purchased for 75% off the total cost)
What have you learned about yourself or your business along the way?
“I have learned to be more cautious in making decisions and engaging with others. I have met some very helpful people, but I have also met people who viewed me as competition and did all they could to bring me down.
I have also learned not to have all my eggs in one basket. I can’t be dependent on just one platform. I need to make my business dependent on my hard work, and not the whims and changes of others.”
What are some benefits of what you do?
“It gives me some much-needed sanity in the world of motherhood! I love being a mother, but I struggle sometimes because the growth is slower and more abstract. This gives me measurable goals that I can accomplish. You can’t really set a goal to only yell 5 times at your children that day!
Another benefit of blogging is that it fits in really well with whatever I need to get done. I can blog from my doctor’s office, from the splash pad, and even from the hospital. It gives me the flexibility I need.”
(Another 75% off grocery haul)
What are your goals as you continue with this business?
“Right now, my blog is very fluid and fast-paced. Coupons and deals don’t last very long. I would like to build more evergreen content where my income can be a bit more passive.”
Is this your only business?
“Yes, other than being a mom! And a Crohnie- it’s amazing how much time it takes to be chronically ill. I try to put my children and husband first, then my health, and then my blogging. I wake up a bit earlier and go to bed a bit later in order to fit things in. I try to take advantage of lunches and naps as best I can.
I bought a Franklin Day Planner and use it to map out every hour (or sometimes every 30 minutes) of our day. I write down what I will do with the children first, then I write down how to fit blogging into it. I know that it’s impossible to keep to it perfectly but this way I don’t waste time wondering what I should do when I know I have about 15 minutes of transition between homeschool activities.”
(Grocery store helpers)
Best memory of a successful moment doing what you do:
“The first time I made more than $1000 a month. I was so excited! I had never dreamed I’d make more than $100 in a month, let alone 10 times that much!”
What inspires you?
“My faith, honestly. The true foundation of what I do is trying to help myself and others use wisely what God has given to them. Whether it’s finances, or parenthood, or any other responsibility that you have control over.”
Can you tell me something that others wouldn’t guess about the behind the scenes of your business?
“Honestly, I don’t want to! I’m embarrassed to tell you how many times the house didn’t get clean or dinner didn’t get made because I got distracted writing a great post.”
(Tiffany’s son “blogging” while she blogs above)
Tell me about a favorite part of your blog:
“I love it when I’m able to partner and collaborate with companies that work in healthcare. Currently, one company is sponsoring me to participate in the Race for a Cure. I also promote Rare Patient Voice, which is a company that sets up patients and caregivers with third parties who want to do studies and research into those with chronic ill health. (If you decide to sign up, give them my name! You’ll get a free $5 gift card!)
(Reading to her baby during one of her hospital stays)
Talk me through the beginning steps of starting a business:
“This is so broad, because there are so many different types of businesses! I would say that first you need is to have a name and a goal. Then go on to every social media account and reserve that name (Instagram, Pinterest, etc). After that build good content.”
What expectations should we have in the early stages of starting a business?
“You are going to have a negative balance. This may not be financially, but more emotionally and timewise. You’re going to be pouring a lot more into your business then you’re going to get out of it for quite a while.”
Are there certain resources you suggest utilizing?
“Use Pinterest to search for “how to blog” or “how to grow your email list” or any other “how to” question you have. Odds are , someone has already answered that question on their blog and promoted it on Pinterest! I learned more about how to grow my blog in the week after I discovered that people blog about blogging on Pinterest than I did in the first entire year of doing my blog on my own!”
Is it possible to begin a business with very little capital?
“Yes! I think I began by spending all of $12 to purchase my URL since I used Blogger for free. My next expense was when I paid someone to switch my blog to self hosted WordPress. Even now, my expenses come out to only about 10% of what I am earning.
What you need to invest at the beginning is time, not necessarily money. Take the time to do things right. If you are doing a blog, for example, take six months to set it up nicely and make sure it’s filled with good information and posts. Then go live and worry about your email list, etc. Don’t promote until you have something genuinely worth promoting.”
Any other of tips to share once the business gets going?
“Don’t be afraid to look for other bloggers and how they do things. It’s not “being a copycat” or plagiarism if you look at their success and do research into what has made them successful. If possible, find yourself a mentor.
Also, do not believe anyone who writes a post on their blog of “How I earned six figures after just two months of blogging!” Odds are, they already had been blogging before, and just created a new blog with all their experience, wisdom, and the prior blog’s email list and audience. All that will do is make you feel discouraged.”
What mistakes do you think some women make when starting a new business?
“So many people just jump into it without having any direction. I wasted so much time (a.k.a. profits) because I didn’t take the time to do research about things. I burned a few bridges with groups and other bloggers on accident because I did not know how to interact with them. I was overeager and pushy.”
If you were offered help in any aspect of your life, what would you choose and why?
“I would love to have someone on hand to answer my questions when I have them. And who could do the “boring” parts for me, so I could be free to do the parts I truly enjoy. Basically, a clone of me that I could give all the grunt work to.”
(Her family opening a free game sent to her to review)
Tell me about your illness and how it impacts your life:
“I’m a pretty open book when it comes to my health, so many people aren’t. You’d be amazed at how often I make a statement about my health to someone, even a stranger, and suddenly I hear their whole life story. I actually had someone google search Crohn’s and pregnancy, see my name somewhere in a forum, and then look me up on Facebook and message me questions!
But I don’t mind- I love talking to others about it. When you first get diagnosed with a life altering, chronic illness, it can be scary. You almost have to go through the stages of grief. The “you” that you envisioned for yourself in the future has died, in a way. I always dreamed of having a large family (I am the oldest of 10 kids with around 30 aunts and uncles and over 100 cousins).
I got suddenly ill the week before I was supposed to start teaching, right after coming home from being a missionary in the Caribbean for 18 months and then graduating in math education. I was quickly diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, but with medications (about 30 pills per day), we got it somewhat under control for about 18 months. Then a month after I was married, it all went downhill. I was admitted to the hospital 13 times in our first nine months of marriage and spend the rest of that time on a feeding tube and bedridden.
After my first child was born I was hospitalized 10 times until she was 8 months old. Thankfully, we got most of that under control with other medications and I was stabilized. We eventually had a second child which once again threw off my health.
I am now in “remission” but I still have several doctor appointments each month, end up in the ER at least once every two months, and I get an infusion similar to chemotherapy at the hospital every six weeks (I have been doing that for over 5 years now). On the plus side, I get down time at the doctor’s office and hospitals that allows me to blog uninterrupted!
Eventually it just became our new norm. We don’t really know how to live any other way, and that’s OK. I don’t wish for anything different, and if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. The things I have learned in going through the struggles and the growth and the progress I’ve made as a person far outweigh any pain free moments.
As someone who deals with severe chronic illness on a daily basis, I want anyone else who suffers to know that you CAN do things in this life! It may feel harder when you’re first diagnosed and recognize that you have new limitations, but you can succeed.”
Whar would you want your children to know about why mom does what she does?
“I want them to know that I do this for them and for their dad. I do it because it helps me be sane (and therefore, kinder!). But because my health brings a huge burden, I do what I can to ease that burden. The income we- my husband and I-make from this blog goes directly to medical bills, childcare for doctor visits and hospital stays, and help with housework so that I can have the physical strength to take my children to the park.
When you live your life with fewer “spoons” (you can Google “The Spoon Theory” but spoons represent energy) than the average person due to physical constraints, then you learn to ration them. If I have to choose between going to the park with my kids or cleaning the house, I want to be able to choose the park without my house also feeling like a hoarder’s home. Blogging allows me to occasionally hire the help I need.”
(Tiffany’s family assisting with checkout while she organizes her coupons)
What advice would you give your kids about life/business?
“To always, always, always put your priorities first.
There is a wonderful object lesson that describes this perfectly. You have a jar that you need to fill with sand and with rocks. If you put the sand in first, then the rocks won’t fit in. But if you put in the rocks first, then the sand goes around them and fills up.
Life is like this. If we fill it up with things that aren’t of higher priority, then suddenly we’ve run out of time at the end of the day and our rocks (the most important things) won’t fit. But if we do the most important things first, then somehow, always, the rest will fit in around them.”
What has surprised you about motherhood?
“Every day it strikes me how precious these formative young years are. My kids will say or do something that sounds a lot like me. (Sometimes it’s awesome, and other times I cringe). It is such a challenge for me to be responsible for the character of these little people-when I get it right that’s the best feeling in the world.”
I love that no matter the obstacles she faces and has faced this woman has kept dreaming. She has kept her faith, her determination and her vision for the future. She has been successful doing sometime she loves while honoring a life she loves. The power of her words have resonated with me as I wrote this article. How important is our mindset in our day to day? How important is our perspective?
A big thank you to Tiffany for sharing her story today. You can find Tiffany and her money saving coupon ideas and deals on The Crazy Shopping Cart https://thecrazyshoppingcart.com/. Who’s doesn’t love a deal??? If you can support another mama at the same time..that’s a bonus!!
I look forward to hanging out with you again in November. There will be more inspiring ladies to meet all month long. I will also have some other great content that I’m excited to share with you. Until next time! Janet