The Busiest Woman in the World
Emily Graves seems to be in perpetual motion.
Over the past year, a typical day for Graves would start out by taking her two children to the babysitter at 6:45 a.m., and then beginning a shift as an outpatient clerk at the hospital, finishing up at 4 p.m. Fifteen minutes later Graves was at her next job where she is a licensed technician at a Spa in Ottawa. That job ends anywhere from 7 to 9 p.m. Once at home, she spends some quality time with her children and tucks them into bed. Graves up until her December 2012 graduation would then transform into being a full-time student in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program at Emporia State.
Graves would often have to work one of her jobs on Saturdays and, Sundays were mostly spent finishing up homework. When she took a break from any of these activities, she fought off the temptation of taking a nap and becomes Comp List Lady.
Birthed out of the need to save money on groceries back when Graves spent some time as a stay-at-home mom, a full-time job in itself, she recalled hearing about "price comping."
"I didn't know much about it," she says, "so I did my research. I looked up Wal-Mart’s ad match policy to see what I could and could not do. Then I started looking up the ads from about five different stores. I tend to be quite organized so I put this information into a spreadsheet to make it easier when shopping."
First her mom requested a copy of her price comparison sheets and then word of mouth spread until strangers were approaching Graves during shopping trips and asking about her list.
"It just went crazy from there," she says. "In the Wal-Mart in Ottawa you cannot make a trip there without seeing at least 10 people carrying it around. People are talking to people they don't even know, starting conversations with them and sharing money-saving tips. I think it is amazing."
As of December 2012, Comp List Lady had has 3,822 people following her money-saving bulletins and recently has been adding 500 people per month. Graves organizes her time working on the list five hours on Tuesdays and five hours on Wednesdays. She was able to cut her Wednesday hours in half with a new computer application.
The Comp List can be categorized as a success, but not a get-rich-quick business. Graves says it has not been a real source of income, but she gains some cash flow by selling ads that she places in the back pages of the list. And, as she says, "every little bit sure helps."
But not even Graves can do nothing but work. Right? So there is her volunteer work as secretary and temporary treasurer for PRIDE, an organization founded to improve the town of Quenemo, KS. At one time it was called home by Graves. Though she has moved away she still feels an obligation to clean up and improve her hometown.
PRIDE has fundraisers and has used the money to spruce up the city park, provide for local families in need, among its many other good deeds. This year the group organized a holiday potluck dinner. Santa was invited so children could pose for photos with the jolly old elf. PRIDE put together goody bags of candy, stocking caps, scarves, and gloves for the kids.
"We are quite excited about that as many families in the community are in need of these things," Graves says. "We also donated Christmas dinners to some of the families in need.”
Oh, and by the way, Graves was Santa's photographer at the event.
"I wish I could provide a good answer to how I have time for all of this stuff, but I don't know how I have made it work," says Graves. "You have to make every moment count. There can't be any idle time. I have to constantly do something productive to get it all done."
Being Comp List Lady also helped academically when Graves incorporated it into the required Capstone project before her graduation.
"I decided to use my price comparison list for my topic because I had done a lot of the leg work already and I could relate it to both economics and sociology.
"The list is designed to help people save money on stuff they already purchase, like groceries," she adds. "Many families work on a tight budget and their grocery bills tend to be a large part of that. I did the project over the list so I could see who uses it and why, and how the economy right now has affected them. Are the users mainly unemployed or do they have jobs? Do they work full-time or part-time or stay at home? What is their yearly income? I found out answers to all of these questions through the survey I sent out.
"I also wanted to look at the list from a sociological standpoint. The list has created a sort of community among its users."
Graves walked the William Lindsay White Auditorium aisle and up on the stage to accept her degree. It has been a long journey, she reflected.
She began her college experience in 2003 at Emporia State after high school. Admittedly she was immature and did not focus on studies. She met her future husband, quit school, and the couple moved to Lawrence. A year and a half ago Graves decided to return to Emporia State to finish her degree.
"If I am going to be a role model for my children," she says, "I need to have a good education."
As a non-traditional student her focus on grades was illustrated with nothing lower than an A.
"I have absolutely loved Emporia State. As a distance education student I feel that Emporia State has made it very easy to get the education I want. Everyone has been very helpful."