'Tis the season when holiday bills arrive, and resolutions to save money are tested. Cindy Livesey sympathizes.
Livesey, an 18-year Livingston resident, believes in budgets, coupons and the occasional splurge.
Thus, when she began blogging about saving in 2009, she titled her site Living Rich with Coupons.
Livesey saved more than $11,000 last year, while "living rich," buying what she needed, eating out, following her beloved Yankees and indulging her passion for gardening. And she shares her strategies daily and, now, nationally, appearing on Lifetime Television's The Balancing Act.
Livesey began saving aggressively about two years ago. She and her husband were taking a hard look at their budget, which includes college tuition.
"It got to a point that we said, 'What are we doing? Where is our money going?' I had to find ways to cut back and fast," said Livesey. "The biggest chunk I saw was on groceries. So, I buckled down, researched and learned how to do cut my grocery bill and find all these incredible deals I post everyday."
Livesey and her husband have developed an "envelope" strategy for basic budgeting.
"We have started an envelope system where we pay only with cash," she explained. "Our budget is set-up every month and every single dollar is accounted for. I use cash in envelopes for things like, groceries, gas, haircuts, restaurant, dry cleaning, clothing and blow money, money that we use for just that ... to blow on whatever we want. If there is no money in the envelope we have to wait until the next payday."
Since the modern world doesn't always run on cash, Livesey uses a "virtual" envelope system for items such as house expenses and car repair. Even gifts and hosting parties or family events goes into the budget.
"Earmarking the money ensures that we will not spend it on something else," explained Livesey.
"Once I started getting the hang of it," recalled Livesey, "I was amazed at the deals that were out there. I couldn't believe how much I could save at the grocery store. It became a game to see how much I could get for so little. It takes time, yes, but the savings are incredible."
"While I was researching deals, I just felt like there was a void for people from this area and we can save money here just like the rest of the country," said Livesey. "Plus, the more people I would share my new coupon techniques and deals with, the more they were intrigued by it. So, instead of showing them one by one, I started the blog. And I love every minute of it."
But Livesey's blog is more than a list of coupon match-ups, a term she uses for combining in-store sales with current coupons.
She also shares strategies, including two recent videos that demonstrate her system of gathering coupons and then organizing them. For anyone who keeps coupons in an old envelope, Livesey has advice and inspiration. She told viewers on The Balancing Act she spends about three hours weekly on coupons, and saves enough that she "earns" about $75 per hour.
Livesey recommends savers clip and hold coupons, until the item goes on sale. Then, she says, buy what you need for about three months, which is the average sale cycle.
However, she told The Balancing Act viewers, there is no need to "turn your house into a supermarket," as people may have seen on recent reality shows. (Watch the video for more tips.)
Livesey also encourages readers to donate from their frugal finds, and she partners with Couponing for a Cause. She has also taken the show on the road in the last year; Livesey now speaks to groups who are eager to learn more about saving and spending wisely.
And for loyal readers of the blog, Livesey has more than advice. She tells stories about family and friends, and even admits -- yes! -- to shopping without coupons sometimes, deliberately leaving them at home.
And when Livesey shared with readers the news about getting a new dog, there's a good bet that many of them knew the story behind his name. The dog is named Bogo, or Bo, which is coupon-speak for "Buy One, Get One."
Save the date for a public workshop with Cindy Livesey. Check the site, as new dates are listed often.
Tuesday, May 1 at 7 – Union, NJ
Open to the Public Workshop – Free Admission
Contact: Union Public Library at (908) 851-5452 to attend
Union Public Library
1980 Morris Ave.
Union, NJ 07083