Friday, April 17, 2009

Jody's story: She'll save you money

Earlier this year, Jody Mace heard from a colleague in Atlanta who was starting a network of web sites featuring deals in American cities. Would Jody, who lives in the University area, want to build a site for Charlotte?

It seemed like a good fit. Jody has lived here 20 years with her husband and two children. She's an accomplished freelance writer, with pieces in magazines including O and Parents.

Plus, she's a cheapskate.

"I don't like spending money," she says. "It's kind of a challenge. I don't spend a lot of time clipping coupons. I just like a good deal."

The web site seemed like good timing, too. The recession had closed several of the magazines that contracted her work, and assignments were arriving more slowly. "I thought it would be a way, eventually, of making some income more independently," she says. She wrote her first post Jan 11.

It was, at first, fun work. Jody says she's always enjoyed finding "hidden secrets" in Charlotte, and her reporting took her to places she hadn't seen in years - or wouldn't otherwise have seen at all. She took her daughter on the No Da Gallery Crawl. She held a contest giving away a pound of coffee from the Dilworth Coffee Roastery, then got a tour. "I tasted the best latte I ever had," she says.

Just three weeks after she started Charlotte on the Cheap, however, the fun became more personal. Jody's husband, a systems analyst in the banking industry, lost his job.

"I wanted to make sure that my kids could still do fun things even though we didn't have cash to spend," she says. "And I empathized a whole lot more with people who, by necessity, had to live frugally."

Her husband's unemployment has been stressful, she says, but it's brought the family closer, the way time and challenges do. It's also given Jody an appreciation for supporting local businesses, which she sees as the key to getting out of the recession. "Although I do write about national chains, I try to focus on locally owned businesses whenever I can," she says. "I seek them out all the time. Wherever I go, I hand out business cards and talk to people about the web site."

Her hustle is paying off. Her web site usually features three or four deals a day, including some unusual items, such as a free self-hypnosis workshop and free salsa dancing classes. Our favorite: A Harrisburg florist with a sign that read, "Free rose if your name is Bob." It was legit.

Jody will be contributing regularly to the Squeeze, and you'll find a link to her site over to the right. The site, she says, is doing well, thanks to word of mouth, some online social networking, plus her creativity in arranging contests like the free coffee.

The latest, starting April 25, is for a free night at Great Wolf Lodge, a new family resort in Concord. She hopes someone who's out of work is the winner. It would be cool, she thinks, for a family like that to get a treat right now.


Vincent said...

That's a good post and cool site, "Charlotte on the Cheap", ya'll should list the bogo deals at HT, and Lowes Foods on it as well..

Good luck to ya.

Anonymous said...

I was the winner of the Dilworth coffee and tour and it was AWESOME!!!

Thanks, Dilworth Coffee, and Jody,

Christine K.

Rick creditson said...

This is a good story by Jody. What a good suggestion to save money. For us to have money in the future is to learn to save money and avoid spending. thanks and good luck to you!

Anonymous said...

Cool site!