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LI blogger who overcame $130,000 in debt shares her tips

Sandy Smith, founder of YesIAmCheap.com, where she shares her journey toward debt freedom and offers money-saving tips, takes us with her as she shops for deals at the grocery store.  (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

In 2009, Farmingdale-based personal finance blogger Sandy Smith tallied her debt and realized she was $130,000 in the hole. 

"When I saw the number … that's when I had a 'come to Jesus' moment'," she said. "I thought to myself, 'I don't own anything. I don't own a home. I don't own a business. All I own is this debt'." 

Determined to improve her financial situation, she created "Yes, I am Cheap," a blog where she kept track of her spending, wrote about multiple side hustles, and documented her journey toward debt freedom.

But as Smith became passionate about personal finance, the site morphed into something more: "It became a place where I could share money-saving tips and help other people get out of debt," she said. 

Throughout her six-year quest to eliminate her debt, Smith recalls trying her hand at many cost-saving methods. The No Spend Challenge — a commitment to spend money only on necessities (i.e. mortgage or rent, utilities, groceries etc. and on nothing else) — was among the first. "In essence, it's a diet for your wallet — the goal being that it gets fat instead of skinny," she said. "But there are many ways to trim costs even while shopping." 

Newsday joined Smith on her weekly trip to the supermarket, where she shared these money-saving tips: 

1. Make a list — You'll be more empowered to go in and get only what you need and have budgeted for. 

2. Use savings and coupon apps —  Smith's favorites include Coupons.com, Ibotta, Rakuten (formerly Ebates), and SnipSnap. 

3. Shop store brands — They're often similar in quality and taste and are usually much cheaper. 

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