Write about bargains long enough and you start to see certain names pop up regularly in response to your stories and blog posts. That's been my experience with Melissa Muszynski. Whenever I pose questions on where to find the best prices on pumpkins for Halloween, the best consignment shops or the best end-of-the-season sales, the Wethersfield resident is always among the first to respond with great suggestions.
I had a chance to meet Melissa in person in December and asked her about her bargain-hunting acumen.
"I'm all about saving money," says Muszynski. "I love deals."
Along with her shopping savvy, she's also part of team of a bloggers who all contribute to CTWorkingMoms.com. The online community features tips on parenting, health, relationships, fitness and finances — all geared toward, well, working moms.
(Really, can you show me a mom who isn't a "working" mom?)
Close to 25 blogger-moms, including Muszynski, share their experiences with a loyal, worldwide following — and the women make most of us look like slackers. Muszynski, who has a husband and an eight-month-old daughter, is studying for a master's degree, working full time and blogging regularly. The rest of the bloggers have similar schedules.
In the past, women talked to other women across the back fence or over coffee. You could call CTWorkingMoms a virtual coffee break for today's overextended wives and mothers.
"The website was created in 2011 by Michelle Noehren," says Muszynski. "She discovered that there was little Web content specifically geared toward Connecticut women juggling careers and families, so she gathered half a dozen of bloggers and we started posting content."
Saving money is a hot conversation in this forum.
"Everyone is interested in stretching budgets and cutting spending," says Muszynski.
Muszynski raises saving to an art form. Take, for example, her complicated equation for getting her daughter's baby formula at half-price. The process involves membership in CVS's and Similac's loyalty programs and stacking discounts, coupons and rewards.
She also shops consignment (she once bought a Brooks Brothers coat at one consignment store for $1, then turned around and re-consigned it at another shop and made $75 on the deal) and no-frills discount grocery stores. And don't get between her and her favorite Goodwill stores.
"I don't need to have beautiful music playing or fabulous displays when I shop," says Muszynski. "I just need great prices."
Another bargain-hunting blogger, Carly Corrigan, writes the site's popular "Thrifty Thursdays" entries. The Bristol wife and mom of two daughters (ages 3 and 8 months) works full-time, serves on a nursery school board and still finds time to share creative ways to save money with readers.
Some of her recent entries include "Ode to a Thrift Store" ("I am one of those people who enters a store and beelines it to the clearance section. I am also a "bargain bragger" who loves to share my deals and savings with anyone who will listen"), "Handmade Holidays" and "DIY Dollhouse."
"I find most of my kids' clothing at children's consignment stores and I made the dollhouse from a $15 bookcase I got at Wal-Mart," says Corrigan. "I love creating things without spending a lot and inspiring others to do the same."
CTWorkingMoms, which carries the slogan, "Live It. Work It. Blog It," also features a anonymous, therapeutic "Confessions" area where readers can post their guilty secrets, ("Just once I would like to be totally irresponsible, and just spend all of my money on me"); "Goddess Gathering" which features reader-submitted (tasteful) photos of real postpartum bodies and topics ranging from finding balance between family and self to finding a baby sitter.
"We're all juggling busy lives," says Muszynski. "This site lets us make connections and share information with others who are experiencing some of the same things we are. It's a tremendous support network."