By Linda Joffe Hull
Hi there–it’s Linda Joffe Hull, author of the Mrs. Frugalicious mystery series and I have a confession to make. Although it’s commonly advised by my fellow writers to write what you know, I must admit that I knew precious little about the big world of bargain shopping when I began the story of my protagonist Maddie Michaels, AKA wife of TV financial guru Frank Finance Michaels, AKA bargain hunter Mrs. Frugalicious. In fact, I often said that merchants were more likely to raise their prices than give me twenty percent off of anything. When I did happen to chance upon a sale, particularly on something I was looking to buy anyway, it felt like my birthday.
At this point, I’ve done my research on bargain shopping. Lots of it. More important, I’ve been in awe of couponers ever since my first episode of Extreme Couponing, when I watched in amazement at the stockpile rooms filled with toothpaste, body wash, and ramen noodles that cost savvy shoppers less than nothing. Anyone who can pile $400 worth of groceries into their cart and leave the store having spent $9.47, not only has to have super sharp math skills, but the makings of a crack amateur sleuth.
Actually, that’s where I got the idea for the Maddie Michaels, bargain shopper and unwitting sleuth. In book one of the series, ETERNALLY 21, Maddie’s husband, TV’s Mr. Frank Finance, has lost all of their money in a Ponzi scheme. In order to save her family from the financial grim reaper, Maddie starts a bargain hunter’s blog under the alias Mrs. Frugalicious and immediately attracts a growing frugarmy of budget advice seekers. While Maddie is researching frugasm-worthy deals on holiday shopping for teens, Eternally 21 store manager Laila DeSimone mistakenly accuses her of shoplifting. When the universally disliked Laila drops dead soon after, Maddie quickly becomes the main suspect. She must combine her coupon clipping and bargain shopping prowess with amateur sleuthing to clear her name before the world finds out she’s not only Mrs. Frugalicious, but wanted for murder.
In book two, BLACK THURSDAY, Maddie finds herself in the midst of the Thanksgiving holiday frenzy with a houseful of her (estranged) husband’s family and a live, on-camera, midnight shopping assignment at a big box store for the local news. During the shopping mayhem, a member of her Frugarmy ends up flattened beneath a pallet of toasters. Once again, Maddie, finds herself investigating a murder. When the victim turns out to be Contrary Claire, the number one online heckler at mrsfrugalicious.com, Maddie gets more than entangled in the Thanksgiving weekend mayhem.
In Sweetheart Deal, the newly released third book in the series, Maddie is now the star of reality television’s The Family Frugalicious. She, her (now soon to be ex) husband and family head south of the border to cover bargain destination weddings at a Mexican resort. Things get real when timeshare salesman Alejandro Espinoza makes a play for Maddie one evening and ends up dead in the pool the next. When the show’s producers extend the trip so Maddie can investigate, Mrs. Frugalicious gets in way more agua caliente than she ever bargained for.
Maddie’s budding career as Mrs. Frugalicious starts as a lark, gains steam, and becomes a great deal. Along her rollicking way however, she’s almost killed, is left for dead, not to mention nearly lands her in prison. To be honest, Maddie’s adventures, landed me, her author, in a bit of hot water of my own. As a writer, I’m sometimes invited to talk about my process or my books at libraries, book stores, TV, and in one notable case, a radio show. The show in question wasn’t in my hometown. I was simply given the call letters of the station, a phone number, and a time I was supposed to call in. I did as I was told, and the next thing I knew I was on the radio, live. The deejay introduced me, not as Linda Joffe Hull, creator of the Mrs. Frugalicious mystery series, but as a money saving expert!
On a financial advice show, no less.
There I was, with my high SAT verbal but painfully deficient math scores, live on the radio, as a couponing expert. I was panicked to say the least.
Luckily, the deejay asked me the one question I’d grown quite accustomed to answering:
What are your top ten money saving tips?
I’m not fiscally clever enough to be an extreme couponer, but, luckily, I have picked up a few invaluable tricks for us regular folk to save a few bucks. Since these tips passed muster with the radio folks, I thought I’d pass them along to you:
- Clip those Sunday coupons in multiples, but only for items you are going to buy anyway. Not only is it found money, you’ll be recognized as a couponer at the register and rewarded with additional and better discounts by Catalinas—those coupons that are automatically generated when you check out.
- Always check online for specials before you go to a mall or retailer where you’re planning to shop. You’ll be surprised at the discounts waiting to be printed out.
- Download the shopping app for your favorite grocery stores and you’ll save on additional unadvertised coupons and specials.
- Know how much the items you buy most frequently cost when they are on sale. Stock up when the prices are cheap.
- Couponers most often cite shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, razors, and deodorant as the items they pay they least for. The trick is, you can’t be brand loyal.
- If you aren’t brand loyal, do buy store brands. They cost less.
- Try and organize your schedule to grocery shop on double or triple coupon days.
- Don’t toss those money mailers without looking through and saving interesting items. Why not save 10-25% on services you need anyway?
- New, improved versions are often more visually pleasing, but always more costly. As long as the technology hasn’t changed, last year’s model is this year’s deal.
- Thinking of making a non-necessary impulse purchase? Don’t. Wait thirty days and see if you still want it. Chances are, you’ll have lost interest, or can find it for less.
Follow these tips on a regular basis and you could save you up to $100 a month. Add that up over a year’s time and it translates into (wait, gotta check my calculator) $1200.
That’s a vacation taken with found money, or in my case, way more than enough to go out and accidentally buy something else at full price!
About Linda Joffe Hull:
That Linda Joffe Hull’s father thought it well advised to read Kafka in general, and The Metamorphosis in particular, to his then eight-year-old daughter is a question better left for the therapist’s couch. As a result however, Linda was bitten by the literary bug.
Always an avid reader, she ignored the corresponding compulsion to write receiving a B.A. in Economics from UCLA, embarking on a career in sales and diving headlong into the all-encompassing job of motherhood.
Thanks to the encouragement of her family and the support of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers she finally gave in to the unavoidable urge and finally sat down in front of the computer.
Linda is a native of Saint Louis, Missouri, but currently resides in Denver, Colorado with her husband and children. She is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and is currently on the board of Mystery Writers of America.