January 7, 2012

As I sped around town, making all our post-holiday returns, my mood brightened with each dollar refunded. I even talked the liquor store owner into taking back an expensive bottle of champagne I knew we wouldn’t consume. (Let’s just say the man won a customer for life!)

Who doesn’t love saving a buck?

But then there are the coupon gurus—those women who take saving money to near-professional levels. Our new SocialMom of the Month is one of those women.

Meet Shelly Oakley, 27, an engaged mom of two young boys (and soon-to-be stepmom of a tween and a teen) from Lynchburg, TN—home of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. Shelly started her blog, Lynchburg Coupon Mama, to “help others learn how to save money by couponing and smart shopping.”Shelly Oakley

“Originally, I planned on my blog just being a ‘shop and share’-type where I would post pictures of my shopping trips and break it down to show how I saved,” says Shelly. “But it’s progressed into ad matches, product reviews, giveaways, and more.”

Shelly says that by nature, she is a helper and has always been frugal since her family didn’t have a lot of money while she was growing up. “Plus, I’ve been a single mom and struggled,” she says, adding that she works hard on her blog with the hope of helping make a difference in others’ lives.

What is your approach to couponing?

“I would describe my approach as ‘simple’. When starting to coupon, I think people go in expecting to save like you see on television. Initially, I tried to break up my shopping and grab the deals by visiting every store in our area. Now, I stick to one grocery store (Kroger) and ad match at Wal-Mart.”

How much money do you estimate you save on a monthly or annual basis?

“Our family saved approximately $4,300 this past year. We didn’t start actively couponing until the end of May 2011 and since we were newbies, I’m sure we didn’t save as much as we could have. For 2012, our goal is to save at least $6,000.”

What kinds of tips can you offer moms who are looking for unexpected ways to save money?

“Always check clearance aisles and shop ‘off’ season! It is rare that you will find me buying clothing at full price. I always wait until the end of the season and buy a couple of sizes bigger than what my boys are wearing at that time. My family also doesn’t rush out to buy the ‘latest’ electronic items since they are replaced by ‘newer’ versions every few months. My favorite tip:  plan your meals! This eliminates food spoiling and throwing it out, expired foods, etc. Plus, it saves a lot of time and you know what they say, Time IS money!”

How has your blog allowed you to connect with moms in your area?

“I have been able to help local moms learn how to coupon and save money when other outlets that they have researched have been overwhelming. We’re from a small, rural area so what works for bigger cities doesn’t necessarily work for us. I have also found a lot of moms who volunteer in many great organizations so I have been able to help spread the word when they are in need and get the word out to our community.”

What’s it like, living ‘next door’ to Jack Daniels?

“Jack Daniels is one of the world’s best-selling sour mash whiskeys and it is ONLY created here in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Jack Daniels is like a lifestyle for our area—if it weren’t for Jack, Lynchburg would be nothing more than a tiny blip on a map. The company is definitely the largest employer in Lynchburg—anyone who is a native of the area has at least one family member and/or close friend who works there.”

What do you and your family like doing for fun together?

“My family is all about spending as much time together as possible! My fiance and I were both previously in marriages where our former spouses were ‘too busy’ for family time. We make our children our priority. Our children are involved in Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Baseball so those activities keep us busy year-round. We love spending time outdoors, going to the park and fishing as well!”

What are you passionate about?

“I have a passion to make a difference in my community. During the holidays of 2011, I discovered that one of our school programs (the ‘Back Pack’ Program – it provides food for the weekend to children in need) had doubled in membership within the past year. I have made it my life’s mission to help give other families the luxuries that I have been privileged to receive!”

What drives you crazy?

“Disorganization! I may have a bit of OCPD – I don’t do things in 3’s but I definitely have a specific order that I complete normal, every day tasks and feel a bit anxious if the plan is changed. I prefer to do things such as grocery shopping at off-peak times because I can’t stand large crowds. When I shop, I am a woman on a mission – larger crowds are typically disorganized so I quickly become overwhelmed.”

Describe your perfect Saturday.

“Sleeping in until 7 a.m. (Yes, that’s sleeping in for me!) and being woken up by my boys tackling me for a good morning hug. A big breakfast of biscuits and gravy, eggs, and turkey bacon would be nice. Then spending the day outside playing, gardening, taking a walk, etc. The perfect ending would be all of us piling in my bed for a popcorn and movie night!”