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Meet the money-saving mom

Working in the oil field often yields great benefits and a considerable income. Some Texas positions, according to Hill Country Staffing Co., such as a general rig laborer, have an annual salary of $54,000 while welders can take home up to $14,000 per month.

The trade-off, though, can sometimes be harsh on the worker, with many consecutive days of grueling labor in a hazardous environment all while living away from their family.

Dawn Monroe of Burleson said her husband’s job in the oil field was hundreds of miles away, which often had him living three hours from her and their children — 11-year-old Logan, 8-year-old Ava, 5-year-old Blake, and one on the way.

“At the time I had an infant at home, plus it was my responsibility to get my oldest son to and from school, take care of homework assignments and sports while caring for household chores and our 2-year-old daughter at the same time,” Monroe said. “I know single parents do it all the time, but I wasn’t single. It was definitely stressful and tiresome.”

Her husband, Chad Monroe, said the opportunity itself was great, but not something he could drive home from every afternoon.

“I lived in an RV and came home on the weekends,” Chad Monroe said. “The RV was so small and I was lonely — it was way too quiet not being around my family, who I missed every day. Time would drag on and I couldn’t wait for Friday so I could be home.”

When the economy fell in 2009, Dawn Monroe said the oil field went down with it and her husband’s company began to downsize.

“After one year of commuting back and forth, my husband decided to resign from the company but little did we know that would lead to unemployment for 13 months,” Dawn Monroe said. “In that time, I heavily used coupons and watched for deals to stretch the money we did have.”

Dawn Monroe said her husband’s unemployment period taught her family life lessons and brought blessings in many ways.

“Deals, coupons, and my stockpile got us through minimum spending that year,” Dawn Monroe said. “By shopping smarter, I learned we could still have fun and enjoy most of the things we were used to enjoying.”

Dawn Monroe said her best money-saving trips are ones she takes to the grocery store.

“I love going to Kroger and saving 50-80 percent on my groceries,” Dawn Monroe said. “I remember the time I bought about 150 rolls of paper towels for a few pennies. We were able to use that stock of paper towels for 16 months. We had paper towels stacked up high in the linen closet, under my bed and on the top of my daughter’s closet.

“I also always search online for a coupon before shopping online. Nine times out of 10, you will find something to help you save money whether it’s free shipping or a percentage off. The same thing goes for restaurants; we hardly go to a restaurant without a coupon.”

Chad Monroe said having a wife who knows how to find the right deal has been beneficial to his family.

“It definitely helped us out when we needed it most,” Chad Monroe said. “Now, we don’t eat out unless we have a coupon.”

In related news, Oilfield jobs put families in predicament.

Blogging for bargains

Whenever she found a good deal, Dawn Monroe said she’d share the news with her mom.

“Five minutes later my older sister would call asking me about our conversation, ‘How did you buy a case of toilet paper for $1.50?’ or ‘Where did you find those plates on sale at Target?'” Dawn Monroe said. “I would tell her the story about my shopping trip and 10 minutes later my younger sister would call, asking me the same questions.”

To eliminate having to repeat information to her mom and sisters, Dawn Monroe began a blog called The Frugal Mom where she shares all the details of her deals.

“Originally, my website was started for those three family members, but it grew,” Dawn Monroe said. “The Frugal Mom has grown to so much more than just deals and coupons.”

Six years later, Dawn Monroe has 11,560 fans on Facebook, with another 23,000 followers on Twitter.

“Some [of my followers] say I have an eye for the clearance stickers and know just where to find the best prices,” Dawn Monroe said. “Others say I am always in the know while many often call me for information on the latest products.”

About three years ago, Dawn Monroe’s blog evolved from a frugal bargain site to one that shares lifestyle content.

“I enjoy using coupons, but that is extreme work and there are so many coupon sites now that I’ll let them handle that information,” Dawn Monroe said. “I now share stories of travel, recipes, entertainment, and life.”

Most nights — she stays up until 3 a.m. every night to make sure everything on her website is perfect — Dawn Monroe blogs about products she’s tried or places she’s been, courtesy of various partnerships.

“I work with a variety of large brands such as Disney, Ford Motor Co., SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart,” Dawn Monroe said. “I work with local brands such as the city of Grapevine, Hawaiian Falls, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, Reunion Tower, Hilton Anatole and The Burleson Wine Crawl, too.”

The benefits of blogging

In return for promoting each business on her blog, Dawn Monroe said she is often rewarded for her services.

“I’ve been sent a new washer and dryer from Best Buy, have been invited on cruises, have visited the Domino’s headquarters to try my hand in the test kitchen and have flown to Los Angeles courtesy of Disney,” Dawn Monroe said. “There, I was able to walk the red carpet and interview friends like Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, and most recently I visited Disneyland to interview George Clooney.”

Dawn Monroe’s mother, Judy Pellegrin of Louisiana, said blogging has kept her daughter busy.

“Dawn works hard for the opportunities presented to her,” Pellegrin said. “In return, she has great memories and experiences. In one weekend, she might be invited to take her family to the zoo, the museum, a festival and participate in a 5K.”

A big misconception, Dawn Monroe said, is that she gets everything for free.

“It’s not uncommon for brands to send me a new set of crock pots, a complimentary hotel room or tickets to a local event,” Dawn Monroe said. “While there is no monetary exchange, the value of the product or service is my compensation for having to do the work involved.

“The product or service is payment for my time in writing a post, taking pictures and promoting on social media. Yes, it’s great to have Christmas pretty much taken care of — FedEx makes deliveries at my house two times a day in November — but keep in mind, each box keeps me on the computer for an hour.”

With a new addition to the family coming soon, Chad Monroe said his wife is always on the go, even with all-day morning sickness.

“This girl doesn’t stop,” Chad Monroe said, “It’s hard for Dawn to tell someone ‘No.’ She is always doing for others and willing to fit more on her plate when her plate is full — you should see her calendar.”

Dawn Monroe said you will find fun giveaways on her blog, too.

“I have given away so many things on my site,” Dawn Monroe said. “The most common would be tickets to local attractions, [such as] a giveaway for one lucky family to attend the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.”

Dawn Monroe said the most memorable giveaway was for tickets to Hawaiian Falls — a water and adventure park in Mansfield.

“I accepted nominations and there were no rules: If there was a cashier you wanted to honor, a family struggling to have fun this summer or a local hero, I wanted to know about them,” Dawn Monroe said. “Reading through the stories was a bit hard, as I teared up several times because everyone deserves a day like this. I was able to provide 10 families with a day at the park including free food, drinks and admission.

“I originally listed that each winning family would get four tickets with food and drinks, but Hawaiian Falls called to let me know that I could provide the package to everyone in the immediate family. One family had 12 foster children; what a blessing to be able to provide them with this.”

A frugal life

Through her blog, Dawn Monroe has been able to provide her family with more than just the necessities. Despite living on a tight budget, the Monroe family has been able to eat at finer restaurants, vacation at destination locations, and try out the latest gadgets.

Her children said they enjoy helping her check out all the places she blogs about.

“It’s fun to go with mom on work assignments,” Logan Monroe said. “Sometimes I get to bring a friend, so I can share the experience with him.”

“We go to Medieval Times a lot,” Blake Monroe added. “I like their chicken and cheering for the red and yellow knight.”

It all comes at a price, Dawn Monroe said, as she spends hours upon hours a day on the computer, which can be hard to keep up with.

“I am always tied to social media and my email,” Dawn Monroe said. “I can go on vacation, but work usually follows me. If I am not reading or answering emails, I am writing a blog post. If I am not writing, I am promoting it through my social media channels or scheduling out for the week.”

Dawn Monroe said her best advice to those looking to begin their own savings is to start small and look for savings all around you.

“If you want to try coupons, don’t try to jump in and expect to save 80 percent on your first try,” Dawn Monroe said. “Couponing takes time, practice, and patience. You’ll get the hang of it — even if you just save $1 on your first coupon trip to the grocery store, that’s $1.”

To see Dawn Monroe’s blog, visit www.thefrugalmom.net.

This article was written by Jessica Pounds from Cleburne Times-Review, Texas and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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