Interview with a Savings Expert: Amy Clark

Moms these days have a lot to juggle, but they can use the site, Mom Advice, to make their lives a little easier. Amy Clark started out with the goal of offering tips to other frugal moms like herself, and she’s since developed a blog that offers a wide range of helpful topics (from cooking and shopping to DIY and giveaways). Read on for a look at how Amy does it all!

You created your site, Mom Advice, back in 2004 after noticing the lack of sites dedicated to the everyday issues related to being a mom. Were there specific topics you wanted to make sure the site covered?

Right now, everywhere you look there are beautiful and amazing blogs about saving money. In 2004, at least on the Internet, it never looked fun or glamorous to save money. The sites were pretty bare bones, and they didn’t have very organized information. In fact, most of the information on frugality resided in forums. I envisioned a frugal site that would make frugal living fun and attractive to our readers. Thankfully, my husband is a web designer and he was able to bring this concept to life for me through his design. The same categories that we started with in 2004 still remain today on the site. The space covers everything that I think moms might need in their arsenal of tools – how to save money, how to get dinner on the table, how to stay organized, and time for mom’s own creativity (crafting, DIY, and reading).

Since its foundation, the site has garnered attention from tons of well-known publications, including The New York Times, Parenting magazine, and Redbook. Have the goals of the site changed at all with its growth?

The title of my book is called The Good Life For Less, and it took the entire team at Perigee to help us really encompass the nature of me and this website in that title. I now embrace that this is just what my site is about – good living on a small budget. The goal of the site hasn’t changed, but the site did grow to a capacity that I could no longer do it alone.

This year I expanded our team with five established writers and an assistant, who also acts as the managing editor. There are two things that really happened with these changes. The first is that we were able to offer a more well-rounded voice to the site. I did not pick writers that were me – I want to continue to do what I do best without competing on my own site. I picked writers that are fabulous and unique in what they do and things that I wish I could do, but I just can’t. I will never garden, I don’t really understand all there is to know about whole foods, I am not good at the nitty gritty details of personal finance, I keep my parenting strategies and marriage in a quieter place, and I am no graphic designer. Lucky for me, I now have those voices on my site, and it attracts people that might not have read the site before to see what we are all about.

The second thing that changed is how much it costs to run a site this big and hire a team to keep everything moving. We had to move to a dedicated server, we had to hire an accountant, I needed an assistant, we had paid writers, we needed a newsletter, we needed to mobilize, and we had to promote to get our name out there. This adds some pressure to me as a writer to find revenue streams that will work for our audience, and that will also help keep me paid too. It basically transformed my little hobby I did in my spare time into a full-fledged business.

You’ve also worked as a spokesperson for brands like Minute Maid, Walmart, and Cascade. How has this role impacted your shopping habits?

Truly, my favorite part of my job has been working as a spokesperson for companies. I did theater growing up, and this is one of those things that gives me time on camera and in interviews representing companies and products that I am passionate about. Almost always, whatever I end up promoting, ends up being a staple in our home. After doing a job with Cheer, we have switched to their detergent, I only use Cascade tablets in our dishwasher, and I have (and always will) shop at Walmart regularly. I think when you learn the story behind the brands and the products they create, you become attached to the products even more.

For one of your jobs, you are the home management ‘genius’ for Kenmore. You’ve created many fun articles for them, including great ideas for DIY projects. What are some of your favorite crafts to make?

I have been working with Kenmore for years and am so proud of the work that I get to do with them. We did a terrarium this month, and I can’t stop marveling that I haven’t killed it yet! One passion I really have is for knitting, and I am going to be devoting my free time this summer towards knitting for an Etsy shop that I plan to establish in the winter as a fundraiser for one of my own passion projects – clean water for children in Africa. I love to combine my crafts with my passion for people in need, and knitting is one of those types of crafts that you can do so much good with.

You have more than 13,000 followers on Twitter and 15,000 (!) likes on Facebook. Does this interaction with readers ever lead to ideas that you incorporate into your own life?

I feel so incredibly blessed by my readers. Truly, the best part for me doesn’t reside in Twitter or Facebook right now, it is connecting with them through Instagram. I love sharing glimpses of what we are doing and our family and getting to talk with my readers in a more personal venue. I really try to answer every comment that is left to me.

I was pretty sick this year and trying to hold down the MomAdvice fort, but struggling to do it all. When I shared this, my readers overwhelmed me with love and advice. It meant so much to me to know that they understood and would help me however they could.

At CouponPal, we’re obsessed with saving money, so of course we love your Freebie Friday feature! What are some of your favorite ways to look for deals?

I’m actually not much of a shopper and maybe that is why I do so well. I have always been the one that loves the thrill of the hunt, so I love thrift and consignment shopping. I am big on individuality and having your own style so you won’t catch me at the mall. The deals I get really excited about are vinyl records for a quarter. If I only spend a quarter, I have nothing to lose.

Recently, you were able to raise more than $6,000 for a charity that builds wells. What suggestions do you have for people who want to contribute to a charity but aren’t sure how to fit it into their budget?

Oh, thank you for bringing that up. I am so passionate about helping others. I only wish I could divide myself in more ways. The great thing about charity is that it is usually not just money that is needed to help a charity run – it is hands and feet.

I have talked about making this my next book project because I think as our kids get older, we are looking for how we can donate our time and talent, but we just don’t know how to fit it in. I think it is important to sit down and make a list of what you are passionate about, and then find small ways to make that part of your daily life.

I am passionate about clean water so I am trying to stock an Etsy shop and knit in between my kid’s activities. Literacy is important to me so I donate one hour a week to read to kids that are struggling with reading at our school. I care about women undergoing chemo, so I knit hats and prayer shawls for them.

I call these our scraps of life giving – we all have little things we can do whether it is saving change for a charity, carrying bags of supplies to care for the homeless in our car, or even helping those who are closest to us through meals or babysitting.

Learning to manage money is a skill that every adult needs. What methods are you using to teach your own kids about budgeting and saving?

I am not sure why, but my kids don’t seem to have a big interest in money, which I find pretty baffling because I couldn’t wait to find out how to make money and how to spend it. I hope that speaks to our contentment, but I think it might have to do with the fact that we don’t have cable television so they don’t know what they are missing.

We do talk a lot about money and always have, whether it is in the grocery store when we are selecting an item, or why we make the choices we do with our money. When my son was little and money was really tight, I remember that we had to buy a lot of groceries and as the lady rang the groceries up my son said, “WOW! THAT’S A LOT OF DOLLARS. ARE YOU SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH DOLLARS. OH, MORE STUFF? THAT’S GOING TO COST MORE DOLLARS.”

And I was the color of the tomatoes we had just paid for. Perhaps, we talked a bit too much about dollars.

There are some delicious recipes on your site! Are there specific ways you cut down on food costs for your family?

I have always just shopped at ALDI and have done really well there for my money. I don’t have a lot of time to deal hunt, and I like the size of the store since I don’t really enjoy grocery shopping. I always feel like I got a good deal when I go there!

I try to double batch everything for leftovers so we have a back-up plan for nights I don’t feel like cooking. We also keep to a general rhythm of a soup, a slow cooker dish, a taco night, grilling, etc...It just makes menu planning easier when you have a plan!

It’s been so great having you answer our questions! Thanks so much for your time!

Like this interview? Check out the rest of our Interview with a Savings Expert series. Have a question for an expert or someone you want to see interviewed? Tweet your suggestions with #SavingsExperts to @CouponPal!

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