Superbowl party on a super-low budget! Monday, Jan 26 2015 

Hey gang – are you ready for some (frugal) football?
I have to tell you, as much as I usually ignore the sport in general, even I’m getting excited for this upcoming game.  It’s been a few weeks since the holidays, we’re all sitting around in freezing snow waiting for springtime to throw us a bone – this is the perfect time for some indoor sporty celebrations!  If you’re thinking of getting the gang together for a Superbowl party, fear not – it won’t break the bank!  With this frugal festivities checklist, your Superbowl party costs will deflate faster than a Patriot football (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Your party needs three things to truly succeed – food, beverages, and space to get loud and safely move around (including, but not limited to, wild hand gestures, jumping on/off furniture, hurling small objects, and swearing loudly at the television – depending on your guest list).  Take a look at the room where the game will be watched – haul in as many soft chairs and large sitting pillows as you can.  Not only will it provide extra seating, you’ll be amazed how well it absorbs sound.

Let’s move on to the food – believe it or not, the Calorie Control Council (which I didn’t even know existed until 5 minutes ago) estimates that Superbowl partiers will consume on average 1200 calories during the game!  If you’re having 5 or more people over, those food costs add up huge!  As with all parties, I have one word for you: DELEGATE.  Make sure everybody coming to your party brings a solid contribution of snacks, soda, and/or the beverage of their choice.  The day before your shindig, hit the local Warehouse stores for amazing deals on snacks and sodas and stock up – don’t worry if it turns out you bought a bit too much.  It’ll come in handy for post-game celebratory snacks days after the game, or worst case scenario, a post-game nosh to drown your sorrows when your beloved team loses.

As for food and snack choices,  I have one solid bit of advice that I beg you to take seriously – skip the wings.  The price-gouging on chicken wings in the days before the Superbowl are downright criminal, I mean come on!  We’re talking about scrawny little chicken wings, mostly skin & bone, going for $2 a pound or more!  Give me a break.  Here’s the silver lining.  For the last few years, I’ve noticed time and again how the supermarkets are stocking up on way too many wings – the week after the Superbowl, I’ve seen deals on chicken wings for $0.69/pound or less!  Wait it out, the wing gods will look kindly on you.

Last but not least, the beverages – you know I’m not much of a drinker.  I save my calories for important stuff… like chocolate. Now I’m not suggesting that you go with a dry party for the Superbowl.  I’m basically being told that’s like celebrating Valentine’s day without using the color red.  However, next to over-priced wings, alcohol is without a doubt a party budget buster, one with an easy fix.  Make sure all of your drinking guests bring something with them.  Simple as that.

Here’s to a fantastic game with family, friends & awesome food – 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, and “The Kristen Hagopian Show” airs Tuesdays at 4P.  She resides in Chester County with her family.  You can find her online at www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Five Frugal Moves to Save big $$$ in 2015 Monday, Jan 26 2015 

Hey gang – Happy 2015!  So far, my biggest goal for the year has been “Don’t freeze to death.”.  Simple, measurable, I like it.  However, high on my 2015 Goal List is also a serious determination to take our household spending to dramatically low levels, while still keeping a high quality of life.  If you’re like the millions that are ready to stockpile a lot more of your hard earned cash this year, read on for easy moves that will save you thousands.

#1 – Buy yourself a cup of coffee.  If you’re a caffeine addict like I am, get yourself to the local Dollar Store and stock up on a week’s worth of coffee travel mugs for $7.  Each day you brew your delicious caffeinated goodness at home (rather than buy it at your local convenience store), you’re saving yourself $1.50/day.  That’s $500/year back in your pocket by year’s end, and you’re still getting your morning caffeine hit.  Everyone’s a winner.
#2 – Invest in a local Warehouse Club card.  Case in point: your local BJ’s in Downingtown, where a Membership card costs less than $50!  Buying all the basic staples of my cupboards & refrigerator at BJ’s (bread, produce, butter, milk, meats) I often save at least $40/week on groceries compared to shopping elsewhere.  Boom, that $50 membership card just paid you back $2000 in one year’s time.   Nice return on investment!
#3 – Learn to love your local library.  I’ve spoken to people in serious debt who still think nothing of an expensive monthly cable package, not to mention regular purchases of magazines, books and DVD movies at full price, only to look at them once and them put them on a crowded shelf.  Sound familiar?  Behold, your local library, where all of the above are free.   If you’re normally spending $20 or more a week on entertainment like magazines, movies & books, you just saved yourself another $1000/year.  You’re welcome.
#4 – Hit your local Goodwill at least once a month.  There are fantastic locations in Exton & Thorndale that never let me down.  I’m constantly finding outstanding items in there for easily 80-90% off retail.  Home furnishings, kid’s clothing, shoes, suits, gifts, you name it – they’ve got it, for a fraction of retail.  I don’t call it “Tiffany’s for Tightwads” for nothing – It’s a perfect money-saving haven for busy families.
#5 – Dinner’s on!  There’s a staggering statistic out there that states the average American family eats out at last four times a week, with an average $50/check for a family of four.  That can add up to $200/week.  No good.  Trust me, I know being a working parent can be exhausting, but you know what can be even more exhausting?  Realizing next December that you worked hard in 2015 to support a $10,000/year restaurant habit.  Keep it simple, put some spaghetti in a pot at home and have the kids set the table while you throw together a couple of salads.  Et voila – a great dinner with the ones you love, and thousands more in the bank.  Frugal On!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show host, Columnist and Author of “Brilliant Frugal Living.” She co-hosts WCHE 1520’s Morning Show, and “The Kristen Hagopian Show” airs at 4 p.m. Tuesdays. She resides in Chester County with her family. You can find her online at www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com.

Inexpensive last minute gifts they’ll love! Monday, Jan 26 2015 

Okay guys – it’s December 23rd – it’s crunch time.   The entire month has flown by at Mach 2, and you’re looking at a somewhat scary list of people you have yet to shop for.   You’re not alone!  Read on for effortless, fabulous gift ideas that your family and friends will love, that you can put together inexpensively in minutes.

Gift Cards – one of my top picks.  Adults love them, kids love them, they’re highly appreciated and they’re used quickly.   For adults, best bets are gas stations that have not only fuel but excellent coffee – clearly Wawa & Sheetz get top marks.  Come January, just imagine the look on your broke buddy’s face when they had to run out the door without their caffeine fix and see they’re hitting “E” on the gas tank as well.  They’ll pull your gift card out of their pocket and sing your praises all the way to the coffee stirrers.

Magazine subscriptions – in today’s economy, people are cutting back on the fun little luxuries, including magazine subscriptions.  Think about your gift recipient’s favorite hobbies (Sports? Cooking? Hunting? Fashion? Decorating?) then get online to buy them a year’s subscription to a fantastic magazine – or two – that they can look forward to month after month.  Boom, gift giving is complete.

Homemade baked goods – these are still such a hit, and honestly not that hard to create – no mixers required!  Why?  Because in my book, if you take a tube of ready-made cookie dough off the supermarket shelf, and cut it open at home, slice them down into odd-shapes and let the kids add tons of sprinkles and/or icing, that counts as homemade.   It’s appreciated, it’s customized, it’s delicious to boot.  If you’ve got an afternoon to spare, carve an hour out to get these in the oven, let them cool, put them into some inexpensive tins and watch the lucky recipients dive in!

Lottery tickets – Honestly, I’ve never been into the lottery.  Odds are just slightly against my winning (don’t I wish), and I’d rather put my cash into a good cup of coffee.  That being said, there are so-ho-ho many people out there practicing their “Oh my GOD, I WON!” faces, and you and I know they’d love a ticket – or two – to put in their pocket.   Make their day, and make it clear that – if they win – you get a 10% commission.  Everyone’s a winner.

Dollar Store Gift Baskets – These gems have saved me too many times to count!   Easily made within 5 minutes for $5 or less at the Dollar Store.  They have it all gang – gift baskets, colorful shredded paper for fluff, coffee mugs, candy, cookies, chocolate, snacks – even small crafts and toys for kids’ baskets.  Et voila!  The possibility for hundreds of gift combos (all for $5 or less) await you!

This Christmas, I’m hearing from people right and left who find themselves even more cash-strapped (and time-strapped) than last year.  Trust me, whatever you give your buddies, they’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness more than anything.  And if you’re subsidizing their caffeine intake as well, hey, what’s not to love?  Frugal On!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show host, Columnist and Author of “Brilliant Frugal Living.” She co-hosts WCHE 1520’s Morning Show, and “The Kristen Hagopian Show” airs at 4 p.m. Tuesdays. She resides in Chester County with her family. You can find her online at www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com.

Readers send in Fabulously Frugal Holiday Shopping Finds! Monday, Jan 26 2015 

Merry Christmas & Happy Hanukah, everybody!   With the holiday shopping season now in full swing, I sent out a Social Media Challenge to our fabulous DLN readers to share some of their favorite money-saving, gift buying hot-spots.  As usual, they came thru with flying colors!  Read on for some of your fellow DLN’ers top tips for inexpensive, elegant gift giving.

Maggie T. of West Chester swears by the big warehouse stores, especially BJ’s – “I love the one-stop shopping, the gifts are wonderful, and not overpriced.  I honestly get more than half my Christmas shopping done there in one trip.  I find myself buying a lot of books as gifts too, and BJ’s has all of the good ones.  One of my favorite things there are the baked treats, especially the cookies.  My 7 grandkids spend a lot of time at my house during the holidays, and it’s easy to have fresh cookies and goodies in the house when I make a trip there. They also have good heat-and-eat side dishes that I’m going to be using for Christmas dinner.”  Thanks, Maggie!  And Girlfriend, I’m with you.  Hands down, some of the best prices around on food, gifts, toys & batteries.

Leslie K. of Exton makes Goodwill her first big stop when she goes holiday shopping – “I have four sisters, and we all love fun purses and lots of jewelry.   Budgets are crazy tight this year, but I always find awesome designer names for purses, shoes, sweaters, jewelry, you name it.   It’s without a doubt one of the best places you can shop in Chester County.”  Amen sister!  I’ve got two younger sisters, and we will forever adore our bling!  Also just found two lovely Christmas outfits for my rapidly-growing kids at the Goodwill in Exton.  Katie’s dress was originally priced at $180 (I know because the tag was still on it), and I got it for $10! Robbie’s Christmas suit only cost $6, it’s so adorable – and he’ll probably outgrow it by the end of January.

Carmen S. of Downingtown loves to shop local for gifts, and finds that restaurant gift cards are one of the best gifts she’s ever given.  “They’re a hit every single year – most of my family & friends have cut back on eating out to save money, so when you give them a gift card to Buca Di Beppo or some other great local restaurant, you know they’ll like it and they’ll use it – especially when she adds a handmade “gift card” for free babysitting while her friends enjoy a well-earned evening out.   Talk about a huge hit of a gift!

These are just a few of the fabulous emails & texts I got from DLN fans – I want to hear from you as well!  If you have a favorite Chester County shop where you’re finding amazing holiday deals and bargains, find me online at www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com.  Frugal on, everyone – Merry Christmas!