Editor’s Note: We first reported about Sharon Williams’ blog, Real Life Deals, in spring 2010.She now has joined The Advocate-Messenger as a contributing columnist. This is the introduction of her “Real Life Deals” column, which will print weekly. Sharon Williams began her blog in 2009, although it was titled “Here’s What I Found.”After focusing on exactly what it is she wants to share, she came up with “Real Life Deals” because that’s what she does, she says. Williams helps people figure out how to get the most bang for their buck in real life. Not my world“I was so tired of hearing that the way to save money is to cut out daily trips to Starbucks, or to skip Disney World this year. In what world do people really go to Starbucks daily, or have the money for Disney World every year? Which world do they live in? Not mine,” says Williams. When she and husband Shannon found themselves owing more than they made annually, it shocked them into making a change. Then Williams began learning on her own how to make her money stretch further, how to efficiently apply coupons and where to find the best deals. She sent out daily e-mails to friends and family. “But after about the third, fourth e-mail of the day, I think they started to get a little tired of it, so I began the blog,” she says. But she wants people to know: She is no extreme coupon-cutting queen. In the beginning, Williams was head-first into coupons. She had the larger, heavy binder carrying hundreds of coupons into the grocery with her. She even taught classes on coupon-clipping and organization. She says she will never teach another person how to “... put one of those 10-pound binders together that they have to tote around the store with them.”“Have you seen the show on TLC about extreme couponing? I have, and I hate it,” she says. “That’s what I want people to know. If you’re sick of extreme couponing, it’s time for Real Life Deals.”No stockpiling needed Williams says it’s simple. If you buy 50 bottles of mustard and 10 bags of hamburger buns for pennies, you still have to buy the hamburger to go with it. “And with some, this couponing has turned into borderline hoarding because you have to stockpile,” Williams says. She says there are thousands of websites about where to find the latest $3 coupon, but she’s tired of it. “I’ve moved past it. I want to get a little deeper, more into how people need to save money in real life,” she says. For instance, every sale has a cycle, she says. Buy enough to last through 6-weeks, then the next sale cycle will hit on that item. No reason to stockpile. “I want to learn and share how people can save with everyday life, everyday needs,” she says. Streamlining the process
Williams pulls out her small, blue folder and a transparent zip bag. This is all she uses now, she says. “I’ve simplified the coupon process, and am encouraging people to always shop smart. Only get what you need,” she says. There are good people out there who are extreme with their couponing, she says, who save a lot and help others do the same.“But I’m not extreme. I’m more balanced,” she says. “And that kind of savings is fine for those who have time for it. There are people who are extreme, but I appeal to the others.”Because of streamlining the process, Williams says she no longer spends hours of her day sorting through cut coupons or tracking down the best ones. “I go to CVS about once a week, for instance. I either have coupons for the items I need or buy the sale items. I only spend $5 each time, but now I have about six tubes of toothpaste at home. I don’t need any more, because even toothpaste expires,” she says. Williams says, sure, she still uses her coupons as well as posts some she finds that are too good not to share. She also checks with local retail managers to ensure she only posts legitimate coupons. “But it’s about shopping smart, and figuring out how to stretch your dollar,” she says. Williams says she is totally driven by saving others money. So far, she hasn’t made any money from her blog — no advertisements are on her it. Making as well as saving
Williams also shares money-making tips, such as selling old baseball cards or DVDs to Amazon, or taking the kids’ clothes they’ve outgrown to consignment stores. “I like to show how you can make money with what you have so you can re-invest in what you need,” she says. “I’m really, really cheap.”But she doesn’t want to give too much away. “I can’t tell you all my secrets. I want everyone to read my column and blog,” Williams says. Williams invites questions or submissions to her blog, or e-mailed to real email@example.com, which she will answer either within her columns or online.