Keep Savings High when Temps are Low! Friday, Jan 5 2018 

Hey gang – looks like January is determined to remind us time and again that we’re in deep winter mode.  I’m not trying to whine here – much – but where are the freakishly warm January days that we’ve had in years past?  Is having just one January day at 80 degrees too much to ask?  Where’s all this global warming I keep hearing about, could we get a smidge of that?  And my biggest gripe: what’s with the little “negative” signs next to the temp when we’re talking about wind chills?
Okay, whining is done.  For now.  Instead, read on for some fabulously effective frugal strategies to keep your winter heating bill low and your bank account and body temperature high – trust me, Springtime is right around the corner!

(1)  Time for serious body armor!  Some of you know that I grew up in Wisconsin, right off the windy, freezing cold Great Lakes.  Anyone who grew up in Green Bay knows you’re issued your first pair of long underwear about the time you speak your first words – usually a Lombardi quote.  By contrast, I was out shopping recently with a Philly native friend of mine, who literally didn’t know what long underwear was.   Gang, try them.  You’ll not only fall madly in love with the toasty warmth of them, you’ll love the money you save setting the house thermostat just those few degrees warmer.

(2) Rock those Space Heaters!  Before we had kids, my husband and I wouldn’t hesitate to fire up the kerosene heaters during the coldest days of winter.  Now that we’ve got young-ish kids in the house, kerosene heaters  get me nervous.  Edenpure heaters to the rescue!  I love these things.  Safe, effective, they blast hot air into the room at no risk to kids or pets, and – when purchased on Craigslist – they’re incredibly economical.   For extra points, shut the doors in the room as well, or just put easy spring-rod curtains up in doorways, and you’ll find the rooms heat up beautifully.

(3) Electric Blankets & Flannel Sheets!  I am a huge fan of flannel sheets.  If you’ve never tried them, I highly recommend it – they hold body heat beautifully and make for a marvelously toasty night’s sleep, even on the coldest winter nights.  When it comes to electric blankets, I have to admit I’ve never really gotten into them.  However, people who read this Column & listen to my Show have emailed me more than once to rave about them, so they definitely warrant an honorable mention.  At about $25 each, they cost around $1/night to run.  Turn down the heat at night and you’ll still have noticeable savings on your heating bill at the end of the month.

(4) Clean your air vents!   We’ve had an entire Autumn and Winter with the heat running pretty much non-stop.  It’s a perfect way to clog up your air vents.  If you haven’t cleaned your vents or switched out your air filters in the last few months, be sure to do it soon.  Clogged air vents can put a huge (read: expensive) extra burden on your heating system.

Gang, above all else, remember that Springtime is just a few months away – until then, hang in there, layer up, and keep those pets indoors.  You can make it – Frugal On!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host & Columnist.
The “Kristen Hagopian Show” airs on 82 Stations Coast to Coast via the BizTalk Radio Network.
She co-hosts WCHE 1520’s Morning Show in Philadelphia, as well as “Dad and Daughter Talk Real Estate” with Keller Williams Realtor John Herreid Wednesdays at 5:00P (www.johnherreid.com).
You can find her online at 
www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

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Proven $$ Saving Tips for 2018! Friday, Jan 5 2018 

Hey everybody – I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas & holiday!  Many thanks to the many readers who responded to our “Financial tips for 2018” Column, we received dozens of emails and texts with tips from local readers on how they plan on saving, investing and spending smarter for 2018 – outstanding!
Many of them were so spot-on I had to reprint them here – Our household has utilized many of these tips in the past as well, and I can highly recommend them.  They’re easy, take very little time to implement, and reap tremendous rewards.

1.  Making Savings Automatic – We had a handful or readers (including Theresa P. of Media and Stewart R. of Exton) who were informed that they were receiving a bonus for 2017, and/or a possible raise in Spring of 2018 – Congratulations!  Do yourselves a huge favor, put those rewards to work for you, and put that bonus and/or raise in an automatic savings account.   Trust me, you won’t miss it, and – if you leave it untouched for the remainder of 2018 – you will love the numbers at the end of the year.

2.  Taking the credit card debt down to zero – When was the last time you could say you had a $0 balance on your credit cards?  Natalie Z. of West Chester had over $8000 of credit card debt on the books in January 2017, and made it a priority to pay it off this year.  As of December, 2017 – her credit card balance is zero for the first time in 12 years.  Very impressive!   So many hard working Americans simply assume that credit card debt is a permanent part of life – not true! Imagine opening up your credit card statements and reading a big fat zero.  How divine would that be?  With that in mind, if you do have large amounts of credit card debt, and you too are expecting a decent raise and/or bonus in 2018, plug every penny of it into reducing your consumer debt.  The long-term financial benefits are massive, and the peace of mind can’t be beat.

3.  Take your household food spending down by hundreds of dollars – the average household spends far more than it needs to on food.  Everybody’s working hard, there isn’t a lot of time to devote to cooking – trust me, I get it.   But cutting out just one (Hassled? Loud? Overpriced?) restaurant meal a week can easily save a hard-working family of four up to $200/month, a.k.a. $2400/year.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, download some easy crock-pot recipes and get to it!  Michael & Sandra P. of Downingtown starting cutting out one restaurant meal a week back in July.  Six months later, they report solid savings of over $1800.  Outstanding work!  Give it a try, gang – your family, your budget, and your savings will thank you.   Frugal On!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host & Columnist.
The “Kristen Hagopian Show” airs on 82 Stations Coast to Coast via the BizTalk Radio Network.
She co-hosts WCHE 1520’s Morning Show in Philadelphia, as well as “Dad and Daughter Talk Real Estate” with Keller Williams Realtor John Herreid Wednesdays at 5:00P (www.johnherreid.com).
You can find her online at 
www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Let 2017 Shape your 2018 Finances! Friday, Jan 5 2018 

December 2017 – Hey gang!  Amazingly, we’re in the last weeks of 2017 – and what a year it’s been!  It’s this time of year I love to reflect on the last year of news headlines.  In my case, not surprisingly, it’s the financial headlines that always catch my eye.  Imagine if we knew back in January all of the financial headlines to come – what would we do in response?  Where would we put our money?  Well, we don’t have a ‘way back’ machine (don’t I wish), but we can use year’s financial info to create a slam dunk strategy for 2018.  Read on for some of the best financial news of 2017, and how you can translate it into greater wealth and financial security for the year to come.

1. The Stock Market.  Don’t let it intimidate you, it’s just a market.  This market however, with a couple of easy, effortless moves, can mean the difference between a very comfortable retirement, and not so much.  For households like mine, invested thru a modest 401K or other retirement plan, I’m hearing from several households that saw yearly returns of say, “X” amount of dollars from 2008-2016.  From January 2017 thru November 2017, they made six times that amount, all in the same investments.
Lesson learned – If you’re not already in, get into the stock market with a plan that suits your level of risk (low, medium high, ultra-high), max it out every chance you get, and stick with it.  The tax savings are fantastic, and these huge gains in the stock market are filled with middle-class Americans just like you and me, taking full control of their financial future.  Be the master of your financial fate.  It’s fabulous.

2.  Real Estate.  Lordy, where to begin.  A healthy real estate market is judged by having (roughly) a six month inventory of homes on the market.  Anything more than six months would indicate that we have a glut of homes on the market, and not enough buyers, driving prices down.  A few years back, our area had over 12 months of real estate inventory available on the books.   Not good.  As of December 2017, there is now roughly a four month inventory in our area – and in some townships as little as 2 months inventory.  Much better.  The result?  As consumer confidence skyrockets and people feel more secure in their existing (or new) jobs, they’re taking the leap into buying their first home, or moving up to a new house, etc.  If you’re thinking about buying, selling, renting or rehabbing, now’s the time to think seriously about jumping in with both feet.  The market is great, and prices are on the rise.

Whatever your personal goals are for 2018, chances are excellent they’ll be more attainable with a healthy financial portfolio.   Put the tried and true financial lessons of 2017 to work for you, to turn 2018 into your best financial year ever – Frugal On, everybody!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host & Columnist.
The “Kristen Hagopian Show” airs on 82 Stations Coast to Coast via the BizTalk Radio Network.
She co-hosts WCHE 1520’s Morning Show in Philadelphia, as well as “Dad and Daughter Talk Real Estate” with Keller Williams Realtor John Herreid Wednesdays at 5:00P (www.johnherreid.com).
You can find her online at
www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com