A Fabulously Frugal Thanksgiving! Thursday, Nov 13 2014 

If November is going to fly by has as fast as October, it’s going to be Thanksgiving before we know it. While many consider Thanksgiving to be firmly in the Top Ten of major holiday stressors, take it from me, it doesn’t have to be! Read on for some fabulously frugal proven strategies to keep your Thanksgiving joy high and your bills (and stress) at all-time lows!
Rule #1 – Keep the main dish simple. I lean towards turkey, but I’m old fashioned that way. That, and it makes the house smell fantastic. Believe it or not, I’m hearing from women who are already stressing at the idea of creating their usual main dish trifecta of ham, turkey and some kind of lasagna or fish – what are they nuts? One and done is my rule, and it saves me tons of stress, not to mention money, oven space, and room for leftovers in the refrigerator.
Rule #2 – There’s nothing wrong with delegating. Even the simplest of lovely Thanksgivings have at least a dozen moving parts – side dishes, snacks, desserts, flowers, etc. Nowhere is it written that you have to do it all by yourself, so quit trying! Everyone invited to your Thanksgiving table is going to want to contribute, so grant them their wish. Put your flower-loving friend in charge of a centerpiece, your chocoholic buddy the job of a dessert or two, your wine connoisseur the job of a good bottle or two of wine and your organic gluten-free guru Aunt a side dish or three. Play your cards right, and all you’ll have to do is produce the main dish. You didn’t hear it here, but when you’re in charge of doing just a turkey, there’s nothing wrong with calling a nearby meat market that offers baked turkeys for pickup on Thanksgiving day. I’ve never tried it, but I’ve heard from people who have, and the word on the street is that they’re divine.
Rule #3 – Remember the reason for the season. It’s called a day of “Thanksgiving”, not a day of “Stress to the point of a nervous breakdown”. The whole idea for a day of thanks was to spend a day with family and loved ones, reflecting on our blessings, and offering up some heartfelt thanks. Oh, okay and maybe some football. Using the tips above, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy a great meal with your family and friends, linger over dessert and coffee, and cheer for your favorite football team… just the way the Pilgrims intended. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Fabulously Frugal Football! Thursday, Nov 13 2014 

For this week’s money-saving Column, I’m embarking on new territory – sports! Namely, football. I started thinking about this subject matter when I began hearing the costs of season tickets for the big football teams – what are they, nuts? We’re talking about thousands of dollars for season tickets. Do the Commissioners think suddenly people don’t have a mortgage to pay anymore? Between ticket costs and the latest NFL headlines, I got seriously frustrated until somebody told me about the amazing fun that could be had on the local college level. I didn’t believe it myself until I went with Victor to a Temple Football Game down at Lincoln Financial Field a couple of weeks ago, and now I’m officially hooked. So much fun, and so reasonably priced! Read on for some fabulously frugal reasons why Temple Football tickets (and local Colleges in general) are a great way to enjoy football without breaking the bank.
Reason #1 – College Football is fabulously affordable family fun – Temple tickets for kids on game day are only $7. You can’t even get into a movie theatre for that price anymore, and with football, you’re even getting a little fresh air while you’re at it.
Reason #2 – Temple plays their home games at Lincoln Financial Field. I never had a chance to check out this awesome venue before. Pretty impressive!
Reason #3 – The tailgating. With college football, people have taken tailgating to the level of an Olympic sport. Totally impressive. Come see firsthand how people manage to pull lawn chairs, grills, coolers, two hammocks, a bean bag toss game and four kids out of a standard minivan.
Reason #4 – It’s football played right. I might sound like an old lady, but when I’m watching the NFL on television, I cringe every single time I watch a tackle – it’s like watching somebody being mugged! With college football, I feel like I’m watching the sport the way it’s supposed to be played – reasonable tackles, nobody dislocates a body part, loses consciousness, or misplaces an eyeball. Nice.
Reason #5 – The Marching Band. I was in marching band when I was in high school, and you just never get it out of your system. Temple’s marching band is awesome!
Reason #6 – PJ Walker. Holy Mackerel. I’m not even into sports, and even I can tell that this young man is something amazing to watch on the field.
I’m looking forward to heading back to Lincoln Financial Field when they face East Carolina on Saturday, November 1st. The food is fabulous, with any luck the weather gods will be kind, and following the game on 11/1, all kids ages 14 and under – with an accompanying adult – can go onto the field and catch a touchdown pass! Not bad for a $7 ticket. Go Owls, and frugal on!

Saving for College 101 Thursday, Nov 13 2014 

I just found out September is officially considered “Saving for College” month. This seemed cool and insightful until I found out it’s also the official “Eat Chicken Month”, “Fall Hat Month” and “Pleasure Your Mate Month” (look it up if you don’t believe me!). With recent headlines screaming about the skyrocketing cost of college (and this being a family newspaper), I’m leaning towards a “Saving for College” theme for today’s Column. Trust me, once I go thru the math, the numbers will be so downright sexy it might qualify for the “Pleasure Your Mate Month” too – bonus!

When people read that a child born today could face college costs of $150,000-$250,000 down the road, they often give a shrug of resignation, as though attempting to save would be futile at best, humorous at worst. Well, never fear – not only do I seriously doubt the numbers, but I’ve also got two easy tips that will take you to your goals in leaps and bounds.

Tip #1: For big results, think small, and watch it add up huge – Between now and the SAT’s, chances are excellent your kids are going to have a few birthdays & celebrations. Make them work to your kid’s future advantage by making it clear to family and friends that (depending on your child’s age), whatever amount they want to spend on a gift, spend half on the gift, another half on a contribution to their college savings. Anyone who has attended a child’s birthday party knows that the toy/gadget overload is usually of biblical proportions – the only thing more impressive is how bored the child is with it 48-72 hours later. Case in point – I was raised in a wonderful household in which my childhood birthday parties were a fantastic, memorable affair with friends, family and lots of gifts, and for the most part, I can’t remember 1/100th of the presents I received. On the other hand, each year my Aunts, Uncles & Grandparents were encouraged to send me $5, $10 and $25 savings bonds, which went straight into the bank. When I hit Penn State a decade or two later, those small amounts accumulated to pay for three semesters worth of expenses at school. You get the point. Think small, and watch it add up like crazy.

Tip #2: Think outside the Ivy League box – I have nothing against impressive, expensive Universities. The architecture is usually magnificent, and I’m a huge fan of their history. That being said, of all of the people I know who attended Ivy League schools (or other overpriced Universities), more than half were still paying off school loans 20 years later. It’s like having a $200,000 mortgage for a piece of framed paper on the wall. On the flip side, I can personally name eight people in my close circle of friends, family and work acquaintances who attended a local campus or Community College, paid off all of their school costs immediately, and are now earning six figure salaries, with no college debt, as we push thru one of the biggest recessions in history. Enough said.

Whatever your College ambitions, never let an obnoxious depressing headline steer you from your goals – and for more money-saving advice, catch my Show Tuesdays at 4P on West Chester’s WCHE 1520 – did I mention September is also “National Shameless Self Promotion Month” as well? Frugal On!
Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host, Columnist & Author of Brilliant Frugal Living. She co-hosts WCHE 1520’s Morning Show on Wednesdays, and you can find her online at http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Slash your Back to School Budget in Half! Thursday, Nov 13 2014 

According to the National Retail Federation, families are spending nearly $700 per child for back to school costs!  This includes $400+ for clothing and shoes, $100 for supplies and over $200 for electronics.  Even crazier, that $700 estimate is about $85 more than parents spent last year.  If you’re one of those parents whose finding that getting the kids ready for another school year is costing the same as your average mortgage payment, read on for some proven tips to cut that figure in half, effortlessly. The Clothes – we all want our kids to be comfortable and feeling stylish.  But if your budget is as strapped as ever (and whose isn’t?), I suggest a new clothes-shopping strategy that will fill your kids’ closets with the name brands for easily 75-90% off.   Hit your local thrift stores and consignment shops, where every single name brand that you kid loves is waiting for you, in fantastic shape, at rock-bottom prices.  Five dollars for name-brand jeans, two dollars for fantastic tops, $8 for coats and often $5 for beautiful shoes still in their original boxes, never worn.   Trust me, find a fabulous thrift store near you, and try outfitting your child with a name-brand wardrobe they will adore, for a fraction of what you spent last year.

The Supplies – I could be dating myself, but when I was a kid, the back-to-school supplies list was a half-page long, consisting of a notebook, number two pencils, and if you felt like going over the top, perhaps some pens.  These days, a Kindergartner’s back-to-school list of “necessities” reads like a 72-point NASA pre-launch list.   Do yourselves a favor, and take that list first to your local Dollar Store, where aisles of school supplies await you, often for 50% or more off the usual retail prices.  If there’s anything you need that you can’t find at the Dollar Store, then head to the office supply chains to get the remaining items on your list.   With that strategy in action, you’ll easily spend 25-50% less than the national average. The Electronics – Now I know I’m dating myself here, but when I went to school, all the way from Kindergarten to graduating College, the only sophisticated electronics I really needed to get for myself was a calculator, which I think I got for free from the bank.   Now I realize the list of kid-adored, “get-it-for-your-child-or-they’re-destined-for-failure” electronics has exploded in recent years, and it’s all incredibly impressive.  However, might I be bold enough to suggest that the typical American student (from ages 5-18) really doesn’t need their own cell phone, iPad, Kindle or laptop to succeed?    Unless your third grader has a conference call scheduled over their lunch break (doubtful), or your Kindergartner needs to check the Weather Channel app on his iPhone before venturing out to recess (also doubtful), extravagant electronics purchases do not guarantee a successful, thriving student.  Just about every home has a computer (if not, hit the library down the street), and every school out there has a sophisticated computer lab that’s more than adequate.  As for the phones, computers, Kindles and iPads, kids can use the phone and computer at home and the library.  If they truly feel that they need certain electronics as a teenager, let them pay for it themselves with the money they make over the summer – and tell them that they can find last year’s “gotta have” models for about 80% off on Craigslist.  Happy Back-to-School season, everybody!  Here’s to another fabulous year of learning!

Check out Kristen’s website at http://www.brilliantfrugalliving.com