The road to managing money responsibly, saving financial sanity and making the most of what you have runs through aisle 7. And Lauren Cobello Greutman ’03 can be your guide.
Six years ago, Greutman and her husband, Mark, an Oswego native, were living in Charlotte, N.C. They were $40,000 in debt from credit cards, school loans and car payments and were underwater with their mortgage. They worked opposite shifts and no longer had a home phone or cable television.
They were living paycheck-to-paycheck and couldn’t make ends meet.
Now they are debt-free and planning their first vacation in 10 years, thanks to the money-saving strategies Lauren Greutman developed. And she is sharing them with the world in her new role as an entrepreneur, blogger and owner of the website IamTHATlady.com.
As a student at Oswego, Greutman admits, she spent freely without thinking of the consequences.
“I would go shopping all the time and use my credit card,” she said. “I ate out all the time and then didn’t have money to buy books.”
Although her parents, Julie Roberts ’75 and Rick Cobello ’73, helped pay the majority of her college education and she worked part-time during school to have some extra money, Greutman’s spending began to add up.
“I am not frugal by nature,” she said. “I was in a lot of debt … and had to work hard to retrain my brain. I actually was very stupid with my money in college.”
But that period six years ago was the worst.
Greutman worked six nights a week as a waitress, even though she wanted to be home to tuck her baby into bed. After taking a closer look at her family’s budget, she realized they were spending $1,000 a month on groceries and eating out. She knew if she could cut that down to $200 a month, she could quit her job.
Greutman began to clip coupons, look at store ads more closely and plan meals. After about two months, she had reached her goal and was able to stay home while feeding her family on $50 a week or less.
“We just bought the basics so that I could make dinner and we could eat,” she said. “It took a lot of planning, but it was worth it.”
The Greutmans moved back to Oswego because they missed family members and the community.
They also saved money by buying a smaller, less expensive home in Oswego and sticking to their budget.
Greutman, 31, is now a mother of three and an entrepreneur who teaches others to save money. She shares money-saving tips, advice and strategies with hundreds of thousands of people on her websites, “I Am THAT Lady” and “Gluten-Free Couponing,” on Facebook and Twitter, and at money-saving seminars.
Greutman recently held two sold-out money-saving seminars at The Post-Standard newspaper in Syracuse, where she discussed budgeting for a household, managing and organizing a coupon collection, how to make coupons work for you, menu planning using her “free and cheap” system, how to play the “drugstore game” and ways to make extra cash at home. Her goal was to teach participants how to cut their grocery, household and toiletry expenses in half.
“I had a rough first year at Oswego State. Moving out on my own and learning how to support myself was difficult,” she said. But she loved her public justice major and played field hockey her first two years on campus. She also was a Student Athlete Mentor.
Greutman said she learned some important life lessons in college.
“I learned that you have to work hard to accomplish something,” Greutman said.
A sociology class at Oswego taught her about human behavior and how to communicate with people. “This was a great help for me and I continue to use the principles in my business today,” she said.
Greutman became a drug and alcohol counselor for two years after graduation. “My passion for helping others save money came after years of struggling to be disciplined with money,” she said. “College provided me with the tools to learn how to work hard.”
Thinking back to her college days, Greutman says she would have done a few things differently. For starters, she said, she would have used coupons because she had more free time then.
“I would have learned not to spend money like water, but try to make it last longer by being smart with it,” she said. “I wouldn’t have eaten out that much. And I wouldn’t have purchased things on credit cards and racked up credit card debt.”
The one smart financial decision she made in college was the result of a lucky trip to Turning Stone Casino. She won $80 on the roulette wheel, and instead of spending the money, she used it to pay her rent. “That was an early sign of discipline with money,” she said.
Greutman often returns to campus. Her sister Jenna Cobello Kain ’06 followed in the family tradition and also graduated from SUNY Oswego. When the weather is warm, Greutman said, she frequently drives through campus on the way to Bev’s Dairy Treat. She’s gone back to watch the field hockey games in the fall. And she’s shown her 6-year-old son Seneca Hall, the residence hall where she lived her first two years at Oswego.
Greutman said she remembers that her parents first brought her to visit Oswego when she was 9.
“That day I said that I wanted to attend there,” Greutman said, “and I did.”
— Catie O’Toole Padalino ’00