Like most bloggers, Stansbury Park resident Lisa Park never really planned on becoming a blogger. The blog just came together one piece at a time. These days, it attracts about 10,000 page views per month.
Park launched her blog, Saving Cent by Cent, in March of 2010, but she can trace its genesis to an earlier date in 2008, to the birth of her first child, Tabitha. Park had always planned to stay home with her children, but when she and her husband reviewed their financial situation, they realized it would be difficult, if not impossible, to live on her husband’s income alone. But Park, who escaped college with a single student loan she paid down within months of graduating, is accustomed to accomplishing impossible tasks.
So Park left her job as an account coordinator with Bremer Public Relations and set about finding a way to trim down her monthly bills, starting with what she identified as the largest culprit — her grocery bill. Before the birth of her daughter, Park and her husband could spend as much as $400 on groceries in a month between the two of them. Park now feeds her family of four for $50 to $60 per week.
Most people probably won’t — or shouldn’t — cut their budgets in half over night, Park said, but she does believe it is possible for most families to shave 30 to 50 percent from their grocery bill over a 10-month period.
Her strategy is relatively simple, calling for prioritization, an eye toward products’ seasonality, and the intelligent use of coupons.
Prioritizing expenses and budget items is the keystone that brings Park’s philosophy together. While the grocery budget was top on her family’s list of areas to cut, she recognizes that other families might prefer to save on other areas, such as gasoline, and spend the savings at the grocery store. In her case, Park said, her family likes to save money on groceries and clothing expenses to spend on activities the family can enjoy.
“To me, family is so important,” Park said.
With the money they save, Lisa’s family can afford camping trips, visiting local attractions such as Thanksgiving Point or Hogle Zoo, and once- or twice-yearly vacations outside the state.
To make those financial priorities a reality, Park watches “sale cycles” and holds out until products reach their “rock bottom” price before making a purchase. It can be tricky to determine exactly when a price has reached that low point, but after years of combing through circular ads, Park said she has a pretty good grasp on the lowest price a store will offer for any given item. She posts lists of ripened deals from stores across northern Utah on her blog each week.
Park also shops around for bargains and clips coupons, but, according to her blog, she is not one of “those crazy coupon ladies” with a binder. She does confess to having a coupon pouch in her purse, but said coupons are better for helping get better prices on items her family will actually use than for making decisions about what to buy when. Using a cash-only budget helped her avoid unnecessary purchases, she said.
After a few months of planning and clipping and saving, Park said, budgeting and hunting for deals on groceries, clothes and other daily needs became enjoyable to the point she began to think of it as a hobby. Soon she was talking about her savings accomplishments with family and friends, and eventually hatched an idea for a blog. When she first launched Savings Cent by Cent in 2010, she intended to use it to share what she had discovered with those same friends and family who had previously showed an interest in Park’s unusual, but useful, hobby.
Then, about a year and a half ago, Park noticed traffic on her blog pick up as the word began to spread, and she realized she had an opportunity to make her blog something more. She began soon began growing her blog and reaching out to new audiences. Today, with thousands of fans, Park has begun looking into monetizing the blog. She doesn’t have any official sponsors just yet, but has some small successes with Google AdSense.
“It’s been enjoyable, trying to make it something more people can use,” Park said.
As the blog has grown, it has become an increasingly important part of Park’s life. She typically blogs in the morning hours. Her husband, Colten, helps out with bigger projects, taking photos, setting up projects featured on Good Things Utah, or even just taking the kids for a few hours so she can write.
“He’s actually very, very supportive,” Park said.
The pair met in Salt Lake after Park graduated. She was still working with Bremer at the time, and Colten, a Rush Valley native, was working with the improvement district in Stansbury. They moved to Stansbury when they married because it was halfway between their jobs at the time.
“I grew up in Orem. I originally thought it was just country folk out here,” Park said. “When I moved out here, it was a little more country to me, with fields and farmers. But this is like a city to Colten. This is a happy medium for us.”
They now have two kids, Tabitha and one-year-old Abigail.
In addition to potentially bringing in some extra income to fund a few more family camping trips, Park said the blog makes good use of the skills she acquired while studying PR at BYU. Though Park is unsure whether she will return the PR industry, she hopes the blog will grow into a part-time, or even full-time career helping others save money for their families.