Three Easy Steps to a Fabulously Frugal Easter! Friday, Apr 11 2014 

Hey everybody – we made it! Winter is officially in the rear view mirror, and we’re about to hit one of my favorite official Springtime holidays – EASTER! In my opinion, we have earned the right to maximize this wonderful day, complete with fabulous warmer weather, pastel-themed holiday clothes and an Easter table surrounded by our favorite people and surrounded with our favorite foods. My mission for this week’s Column is to blitz the notion that a fabulous Easter has to cost big money – nothing could be farther from the truth! I’m hearing from people spending $120 on a child’s dress because it was “on sale” – are you nuts? Don’t make me throw an Easter egg at you! Rather, read on for a wonderful one-two-three punch that will create a beautiful Easter for a fraction of what you might have paid last year.

First things first – the Food! The time has flown since January, and if you’re like me, you’re about halfway towards your summertime dieting goals. Keep up the great work! That being said, I officially give you permission to relax the usual dieting rules at Easter dinner (kind of like I did a month or so ago when Valentine’s Day candy went on sale for 90% off). When it comes to your Easter feast, the best bet to keep your sanity and wallet intact is to delegate with pure abandon. Everyone coming to your home is going to want to be helpful, so let their Easter contributions to straight to the dining room table! Let family and friends bring side dishes, desserts, wine, even the flowers! Before you know it, the only thing you’re responsible for is the main dish ham or turkey, et voila! Your Easter table is set, and you didn’t have to spend your Easter stressing over an oven and four stove burners simultaneously.

The Easter Baskets – My kids love a good Easter candy hunt around the house. I have to admit it, I still love it too. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years, it’s that I have a tendency to purchase way too much candy. Shocking, I know. Do yourselves a favor and bring one of last year’s Easter baskets with you to the Dollar Store when you buy your candy. You’d be surprised just how little you need to fill the baskets and make a fabulous candy hunt. Add a good size chocolate bunny, and you’re in great shape.

The Clothes – There are precious few occasions in the year when I can justify buying a new outfit for a holiday. Easter is one of those occasions. My beautiful kids are growing like weeds, and I love marking that fact with brand new outfits for Easter. Hit your local thrift stores and consignment stores where you’ll find beautiful new clothing (worn once counts as “new” in my book!) for easily 90% off department store prices. Fabulous side benefit – those same thrift stores are often a glorious gold mine of one of my Easter fashion favorites – Easter hats. The bigger, the better and all at fantastic prices. Ladies, I kid you not, try wearing a hat to Easter Mass just once – you’ll never go bareheaded again.

Above all else, remember the reason for the Season – have a wonderful time with family and friends, and don’t forget to send me family pics of the whole crew in their fabulously frugal Easter glory – extra credit for hats! Happy Easter, everybody!
Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host & Columnist, Motivational Speaker & Author of Brilliant Frugal Living. She co-hosts the Morning Show on West Chester’s WCHE 1520, and “The Kristen Hagopian Show” airs Nationwide via Business Talk Radio Network. She resides in Chester County with her family. You can find her online at http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

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Save Huge Money with a Tiny Garden! Friday, Apr 11 2014 

Gang, I give up. When I turned in this week’s Column in to the Editor a few days ago, it was nearly 60 degrees. By the time you’re reading it today, the temperature is going to dip into the 20’s with a good chance of (I can barely say it) SNOW. Welcome to Springtime in Siberia – minus the vodka. This is nuts. However, I remain ever hopeful (bordering on delusional) that one day soon, we can look out the window and actually see a few consistent days that look like Springtime. With that in mind, let’s turn our thoughts to a fabulously frugal, easy, Spring-themed project that not only welcomes warmer weather, but can save you hundreds by the end of the year – a Garden!
For those of you who have never given thought to creating a small home garden, hear me out. I’m about to give you three excellent reasons to give one a try.
Reason #1: Food prices are rising substantially this year. According to the USDA Consumer Price Index, food prices could increase as much as 3.5% this year, as wages remain stubbornly stagnant. Don’t forget the drought in California, coupled with ridiculously cold weather in other parts of the United States. What does this mean for you? A substantial uptick in food prices, this as we’re trying to pay off our heating bills from this past winter. The good news is that you can take a huge bite out of your food costs with even a 10-foot square garden! I’ve spoken to people who simply enjoy potted plants on their patio (tomatoes, carrots, herbs, etc.) and still cut their food costs substantially.
Reason #2: The most expensive items on supermarket shelves are often the easiest to grow. In our house, we love our salads, fruits and herbs. Have you seen the price of a head of iceberg lettuce lately? Don’t even get me started on the price of strawberries! And the price of those small packets of herbs you see in your Supermarket’s produce aisle? Where were they grown? The moon? Plant a few simple rows of your favorites this Spring, and enjoy all of the benefits of fresh produce, for a fraction of the cost of retail.
Reason #3: The immense personal satisfaction of having your own garden. There’s nothing like putting a fresh salad, or a bowl of delicious, organic, homegrown strawberries, raspberries and blueberries on the table and knowing it cost pennies (compared to the $10 you’d pay in the supermarket for organic produce), and knowing you can do it all over again tomorrow with a stroll through your own garden. If you have young kids at home, let them help as much as possible, and rejoice in the fact that you’re teaching them a healthy hobby that can save them hundreds – if not thousands – over their lifetime as well.
Side note: With the economy still doing its “one step forward, two steps back” cha-cha, our local food banks are very much in need. When you plant your rows of favorites this year, give some thought to planting a row of hardy cucumbers, carrots, onions or other easy items, and donate them as they grow. You’ll be doing your local community a world of good, for pennies.
Happy Gardening, everybody!

A Fabulously O’Frugal St. Patrick’s Day! Friday, Apr 11 2014 

Okay, I don’t mean to make a lot of what is essentially a “Hallmark” holiday, but I have to be honest – with this ridiculous winter wrapping up (It IS wrapping up, right?…. please?), it’s time for a great excuse for some fabulous Springtime celebrating. St. Patrick’s Day to the rescue! Whether you’re full-blooded Irish-American, or you’re like me and can’t claim a drop in your family tree, read on for fun St. Patty’s Day ideas that will help usher in the warmer weather without frying your wallet.

(1) The Food! – On St. Patrick’s Day, keep it simple and delish with fabulous Irish favorites like Ham and Cabbage, Sausage and Potatoes, etc. Easy to cook, fun to eat, and remember – carbs don’t count on St. Patrick’s Day! I had some great crock-pot ideas sent in from readers (thanks, gang!), and for more super-simple recipes that your family will love, try hitting the “Taste of Home” or “Food Network” websites for fun lunch, dinner & party ideas. For dessert, let the kids decorate a fabulous green themed cake (sprinkles, anyone?) and if you head out for some St. Patrick’s Day fun, and find yourself driving by an extremely popular fast-food chain that features a little (inexpensive) treat called a “Shamrock Shake”, indulge with no guilt. St. Patrick’s Day just comes once a year!

(2) The home décor! – Keep it simple with a trip to your local Dollar Store. I swear, the local stores have taken St. Patty’s day Décor to a whole new level. Highly impressive, and very reasonably priced. Take even moderate care of it, and it’ll store beautifully for next year as well! Side note – if your kids are feeling creative but your schedule is too strapped to get out of the house, dig out the remaining green, white & yellow construction paper from the Christmas holidays and create loop chains to hang around the house. It’s easy, the kids love doing it, and trust me – they look hysterical draped over ever, single, conceivable nook and cranny of your house.

(3) The Crafts! – One word for you crafty types out there. Pinterest. Good Lord – Martha Stewart with a cappuccino I.V. drip running thru her veins couldn’t compete with all of the crafty ideas that Pinterest has to offer. If you’ve never looked before at that website, I urge you to give it a review. Squelch the urge to feel completely overwhelmed, and instead rejoice in all of the fabulous craft ideas that will fit your brilliantly creative kids skill levels perfectly.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everybody – Frugal On!

Get Rid of Fallen Branches – FRUGALLY! Friday, Apr 11 2014 

Hey guys! Again, you’ll never guess where I got the idea for this week’s Column. Good Lord. If your yard is anything like mine, you’ve got huge fallen branches and limbs everywhere. If Mother Nature took out some serious wrath on your yard as well, read on for easy, inexpensive ways (gleaned from readers’ fabulous emails and texts) to rid your yard of the wooden carnage.

One of the most popular responses from readers – rent or borrow a chipper! Around here, rental rates range anywhere from $50-$80 for a few hours, and it’s a fabulous way to transform ugly fallen branches into decorative mulch for your house, or fantastic nutritious mulch for your garden. If you borrow the chipper from a neighbor or friend, make sure you compensate with some mulch they can use in their garden, as well as some fabulous baked goods and/or the beverage of their choice. If you’ve got more mulch than you can possibly use, put out the word to neighbors on social media. One West Chester resident tells me he got rid of a six-foot pile of mulch in one day by mentioning it on his Facebook page!

If you’ve got big piles of branches downed in your yard, and the branches are decently thick (perhaps an inch thick or more), think about listing them on Freecycle or Craigslist. We’ve got a lot of people around here who heat their homes with wood, and giving away your branches for free kindling and firewood is an great solution for everybody involved. If you don’t have the machinery or strength to cut the wood into stackable piles for pickup, make sure that’s clearly stated in your ad. Even if there’s work involved, chances are excellent that the prospect of free wood will still have people responding.

Another great option sent in by readers is to donate the wood to local charities. If you’re interested, start by contacting your local Church or charity and spread the word that you have wood available for free. You get rid of ugly branches in your yard, the tree goes to good use and a needy household gets some extra warmth. Talk about a win-win!

Without a doubt, the most popular method for getting rid of wood in your yard cheaply and quickly – cut it, stack it and put it in your front yard in neat-ish piles with a big sign saying “FREE”. According to readers, cars driving by your property will notice it, and put out the word. Without fail, readers report that even the biggest piles are often gone within 48 hours.

Above all else, pat yourself on the back for surviving another nasty mood swing from Mother Nature. Here’s to a fabulous Springtime!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host & Columnist, Consumer Reporter, Motivational Speaker & Author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”. The Kristen Hagopian Show airs Nationwide via Business Talk Radio Network Wednesday nights. She resides in Chester County with her husband and two children. You can find her online at http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com