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Good buys: Magazine names Kansas woman America’s smartest shopper

September 5, 2013

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Emily Graves, 29, of rural Franklin County, was voted by readers of All You magazine as America’s smartest shopper. Graves, a mother of two, compiles a price comparison list that keeps track of sales listed for area grocery and drugstores. She then emails out the list to more than 7,000 community members.

Emily Graves, 29, of rural Franklin County, was voted by readers of All You magazine as America’s smartest shopper. Graves, a mother of two, compiles a price comparison list that keeps track of sales listed for area grocery and drugstores. She then emails out the list to more than 7,000 community members.

Emily Graves works at her laptop compiling a spreadsheet of which stores have the lowest price for hundreds of products. She spends about 20 hours a week making the price comparison list.

Emily Graves works at her laptop compiling a spreadsheet of which stores have the lowest price for hundreds of products. She spends about 20 hours a week making the price comparison list.

All You magazine this year set out to find the smartest shopper in America and Ottawa mom Emily Graves came out on top as its first-ever savings superstar.

The contest was launched in the March issue of All You, a magazine that caters to value-driven women who want to “live well for less.”

Graves, 29, came across the contest in an email for free samples from the magazine. She decided to submit the requested one-minute video of her price-matching strategy and her unique shopping tool that she calls a Comp List (or price comparison list), where she keeps track of the sales listed for 25 grocery and drugstores in her area.

“I’ll find the item that I want, the price, and put them in a spreadsheet,” Graves said. “Then I take that to Walmart, I find the exact same items, same size, same brand, exactly the same. Then when I check out, I let them know exactly the price that I’m going to be paying for it.”

Smart shopping tips

Emily Graves’ top five smart shopping tips:

Always shop around before you buy something

“Check other websites and make sure you are getting the best deal because usually you can find a better price out there.”

Don’t complete your online checkout right away

“When shopping online, if you leave an item in your cart and don’t complete the check out, sometimes they will email you a coupon to entice you to finish buying it. It’s always worth a shot if you aren’t in a huge hurry.”

From clothing to eating out at a restaurant, join every email list that you can

“I always do that because they will always send you coupons. Retailmenot.com lists most of the stores and their deals.”

Use Groupon

“One was for Wayne and Larry’s and it was for $10 you get $20 worth of food. If you go on one of their nightly specials, you can eat for really cheap.”

Price match

“See what your local store will do. When you get into it, add coupons. You can save a huge amount and you can get a lot of items for free.”

Her bargain-hunting skills got the attention of the All You editors, advancing her to be one of eight finalists out of more than 200,000 submissions. The final eight videos were posted on allyou.com, and 50,000 readers voted her to the top of the three finalists.

Graves started price matching as a stay-at-home mom, when she was concerned about living on only the income of her husband, Darek. Now, on top of being a mother to a 5-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl, Graves works at Ransom Memorial Hospital and as a part-time nail technician at a spa.

But her work doesn’t end there. She estimated that she spends close to 20 hours each week finding shopping deals and emailing the list to 7,100 people in her community. She also posts the list to Facebook, Twitter and her blog, gravespartyof4.blogspot.com.

Graves saves $25 on average each week with this list. In her video submission, she says that on average her readers save $80 per month. With the 7,100 followers, they altogether save more than a half-million dollars a month, all thanks to Graves’ Comp List.

“People see shows like 'Extreme Couponing' and get disappointed when they don’t get their groceries for free,” Graves said. “But saving a little bit really does help.”

The All You March issue featured a national survey on smart shopping behavior that revealed 82 percent of 26,000 women ages 21-59 say using coupons is a “way of life” for them. Graves sees price matching as underrated.

Senior editor Amanda Kelly said Graves embodies the passionate and creative spirit of All You and that her involvement with her own community set her apart from other contestants.

“She scours the sales in her area and devotes a couple nights a week to making a spreadsheet and shares it with the people in her community,” Kelly said. “She works two jobs, she is a mom of two, and she really is creative about how she saves.”

Comments

Beth Bird 7 months, 2 weeks ago

I have been using Emily's comp list for over a year now. It helps out so many people in the community! I work a full-time job, a part-time job, and have 3 kids. I used to try to compile my own comp list and didn't have the time to do it. She sends it out for FREE! It has saved me so much time AND money! The last grocery stop I made I spent $250 but it should have been almost $400. All I did was use the comp ad Emily sends out. I am very appreciative of her and and glad she won the contest. Congrats, Emily!!

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gccs14r 7 months, 2 weeks ago

I didn't read the story (not doing the stupid Google survey), but another way to save money is to not spend it. Shop for need, not desire, or worse, "just in case I see something I like."

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guppypunkhead 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Sounds like she enjoys doing this as a hobby as well as for the savings. However for people wanting to do things like this on a tight budget, consider this. She is spending around 20 hours per week to save $25 per week. That means she is saving $1.25 for every hour she spends. If your budget is really tight and you have some extra time, this may be worth it to you. But if your time is worth more to you than $1.25 per hour you might want to skip this.

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guesswho 7 months, 2 weeks ago

I think also racing for the cheapest item means you have to replace it rather than a higher quality item that will last longer.

Some quotes...

“Good equipment ain’t cheap, and cheap equipment ain’t good.” “Pay lots, cry once. Pay little, cry twice.” “It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money … that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the things it was bought to do.

My parents have appliances that have worked for 30+ years. People today seem happy with 5-10 years of life because of so much cheap crap from China. I would rather have fewer things that are higher quality and will last longer (shoes, for examples) then stuff that breaks immediately.

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hedshrinker 7 months, 2 weeks ago

ok,there are some tips here that are useful (love the online shopping cart idea; have seen that work) and kudos to Ms Graves for her organization and tenacity. I'm always for saving: I have shopped yard sales, good wills/salvation army/social service league since I had dimes of my own to spend, and also am never above finding interesting stuff in alleys and dumpsters. when I shop retail, I go for store brands /generic until use proves them sub-standard. that's the problem w coupons: they're usually for high dollar name brand stuff that you can find cheaper versions of. I don't eat out a lot b/c I prefer my own healthy cooking except for an ocasional exotic splurge. Too many "coupons" are a lure to get you to buy things you don't need in the first place or could make adequate versions of yourself for cheap ie cleaning products...baking soda and vinegar are a lot cheaper and safer than most of the expensive and even toxic junk you can buy. There's also an implicit assumption afoot here that sticker price is the most important or even only"value".As you can tell, Im certainly a tightwad, but I do want to support local business if I can afford it, and while the sticker price may look cheaper, they may offer many other unseen values, one of the most being customer service. The local hardware store provides knowledgeable clerks who can advise you and give suggestions for something that may suit your needs better. Just try to find that lost skill at your Big Box supercenter. Frankly , one of my most valuable $$$saving strategies is curbing impulse shopping and delaying for a while the purchase of anything over a certain amount of $$$...if after hours or days, if it's still a burning need, then go for it. Many of us are dealing with too much accumulation...after all, the most important things in life aren't THINGS anyway. What I don't understand is spending 20 hours/wk to save $25, much of which is supporting consumer culture. I'd rather spend more of my precious unscheduled TIME which is truly our most precious resource, doing something other than consuming...how about creating or service. I DO like the Giveback card b/c it gives me credit for the things I already buy and simultaneously supports a charity of my choosing. And the coupons the lawrencedeals are beneficial.

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Jeff Cuttell 7 months, 2 weeks ago

p>LawrenceDeals.com has really great specials on it if you want to save money. The link is to the right of this story.

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