A Frugal Guide to Holiday Gift Giving! Thursday, Dec 20 2012 

Hey everybody – Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! When it comes to gift-giving this year, I’ve decided my lofty goal for gifts to family, friends, clients & co-workers this year is three-fold: the gifts I’m giving have to (1) be adored, (2) used almost immediately, and (3) be inexpensive. Impossible? Not at all! Think FOOD!

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating – in Victorian Times, it was commonplace for a household to spend at least 25% of their income on food – can you imagine? Given how expensive the most basic of food items was back then, a gift recipient was thrilled to receive a high-quality food item for the holidays! I’m here to bring that holiday tradition back into brilliantly frugal vogue with some fantastic food gifts that everyone on your list will love, all inexpensively found in local discount groceries and beautifully put together in any of the (if you’re like me) 8217 baskets you have around the house!

Gift Basket Idea #1: Fruit, glorious fruit! Traditionally, fruit gift baskets have been marketed to adults (especially grandparents) but I have to tell you, if my 8-year old and 5-year old saw a basket filled with gorgeous fruit they’d probably lunge at it as well. Keep it simple with lovely produce straight from Produce Junction – the prices are fantastic and the quality is superb. If you’re making it for a family, keep it to a maximum of two or three pieces of fruit per family member. If you’re making it for a person living alone, keep it around 6-8 pieces of fruit total. If you really want a showstopper, make sure a beautiful tropical pineapple is showcased front and center.

Gift Basket Idea #2: Caffeine – the gift that just keeps on giving. You already know me to be a caffeine addict of the highest order. For me, it’s not just a food group, it’s a blood type. That kind of habit makes paying $8-$12 for a bag of java borderline ridiculous in my book. Time to hit your local discount grocery yet again where you’ll find those same bags of gorgeous, gourmet coffees for $2-$5 instead. Put three together with the flavored creamer of your choice, et voila! A gift your most devoted caffeine aficionado will adore.

Gift Basket Idea #3: Specialty food basket – we all know someone who is steering clear of a certain food group nowadays. Maybe they’re steering towards organics, or steering away from carbs, fats, gluten or dairy. You name it, we all know somebody who’s avoiding it. Often, those healthy dietary choices are hitting people big time in the pocketbooks – what could be better than to receive a gift basket filled with everything they love (and can enjoy with no guilt!). Fill a basket with organic snacks, or perhaps gluten-free goodies, and watch the recipients’ eyes light up every time.

This holiday season, remember that gift giving is about telling the important people in your life how much you care, not how much you spend. Final bit of food for thought: In Andy Williams’ “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year” not once did any of the lyrics mention spending thousands of bucks (that they didn’t have) on over-priced presents, using credit cards charging 22.5% interest. Just sayin’. Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays, everybody!

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Got Caulk? Winterize your Home! Tuesday, Oct 16 2012 

The month of October is the perfect time to winterize your home – the weather isn’t too hot, isn’t too cold, and there’s still lots of daylight. It’s a great opportunity to move around your home on a beautiful weekend afternoon to plug up energy leaks before they cost you big time in upcoming months. Read on for five easy tips that will save you hundreds of dollars this upcoming winter.

(1) For Drafts around Doors & Windows: these pesky drafts are everywhere, and are often responsible for upwards of 20% of your energy bill! Forget the home shows that would suggest getting rid of drafts requires a contractor or pricey new technical gizmos. Instead, hit your local hardware store for a few tubes of caulk and some easy-to-use weatherstripping! With a few dollars worth of materials, you can save hundreds on energy bills with just a few hours of work.

(2) Exterior Vents: wherever you have a vent leading out of the house (dryers, telephone, electrical, cable, gas, water lines), you have huge potential for energy-draining gaps and leaks. Behold, an easy to use caulk gun! It’s a top notch asset in any frugal household, and – let’s face it – the kids think you look totally cool when you pull one of these out and put it to work. “Look! Mom’s fixing that hole in the house with a big tube of toothpaste!” If it saves big energy costs and entertains the kids, that’s a win-win in my book.

(3) Clean out your air/furnace filters – the windows are about to stay shut for months, and the furnace is about to go into overdrive. Keep your air quality high (and the workload on your furnace as low as possible) by keeping the filters changed on a regular basis.

(4) Wrap your pipes! It sounds like a boring chore (and let’s face it, it is). Trust me on this tho, experience has shown me time and again that it pays off huge as soon as we have our first deep freeze. Where the neighbors will have frozen pipes (or even worse, burst frozen pipes), you’ll have running water and far fewer mornings with a hair dryer trained on a ceiling pipe in the basement.

(5) Buy a sweater! Looking for a frugal investment that costs $5 and can save you up to $500 (or more!) in the three months of winter? Behold, a fabulous, thick, gorgeous designer sweater, purchased for 95% off at your local consignment or thrift store. Even in the coldest winter days to come, wearing a heavy sweater keeps your body comfortably warm even if you turn the heat down by as much as 5 degrees. That kind of lower house/office temperature translates into huge savings when the winter energy bills roll in.

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

Brilliant Frugal Living – Loving The Makeover! Tuesday, Sep 25 2012 

OK, I’ll admit it.I love makeover shows. All of them.I don’t care if we’re talking about making over a home, car, person or pet, I love seeing what creative professionals can do in a short amount of time with the right materials.

What I’m not so crazy about is the money people are often shelling out to transform themselves from their “before blahs” to “after-aaahhhs” – give me a break! Truth is, if we’re talking about updating your style, you’ll be amazed how you can achieve the same magic as the big shows, for easily 95 percent less!

First of all, let’s talk hair.Keep your style simple, and beautiful. Don’t go for elaborate styles that require a $150/month cut, color or treatment (I’ve connected with many in dire financial straits who admit to spending double that, enough said). I’ve called wonderful salons that inform me my own low-maintenance style and color would require a $150 monthly appointment. Sorry, that’s just not happening.Instead, I keep the cut simple, easily maintained at home.If you currently have your hair colored at a salon for hundreds a month, it’s time to launch a bold initiative and attempt it at home. I’m no stylist, but I’ve dyed my own hair dozens of times at home, kids running about, phones ringing, emails announcing themselves in the background. Hardly a serene, pampering environment, it’s more like a beauty spa’s evil twin.But with an extra $1,800/year in the bank to show for it, I’ll dodge the hot wheels cars underfoot in the powder room as I snap on my plastic gloves and get to work.

This close to the hairline, let’s talk eyebrows. I know many who indulge in a $25/month wax treatment.My sophisticated math (and a calculator) tells me you’re spending $300/year.Allow me to direct your attention to my $10 salon-quality tweezers.Go get some.

On to the nails. Mine are awful, courtesy of admittedly poor maintenance, washing dishes with no rubber gloves, running after two fabulously active kids and an active writing/emailing/blogging (and OK, yes) Facebooking day. You ever hear of those people who sleep with their hands slathered in luxurious lotions slipped into those heated gloves?If they have a secret club, their clubhouse features a dartboard with my picture on it.All that said, I adore the look of well manicured nails.If I’m heading out to a speaking event, I love to perpetuate the illusion that I’m the sleeps-with-gloves-on-diva.I could head to the salon, but then I’d be paying $50-plus for the full treatment.Don’t think so.Instead, I head to the beauty supply store for their fantastic supply of medium-length, salon-quality, no-chip guaranteed, custom-fit French nails instead.They’re $6 or less, take 10 minutes to apply at home, they’re beautiful, and they last for days afterwards, even when you use them to unscrew your screens as you put in the storm windows for winter.Great multitasking, no?

If you’d like to update your style, go for it with no fear (and no overspending)! A fabulous new look awaits you, for 95 percent less than the cost of a salon – Frugal On!

— Kristen Hagopian is a Radio Talk Show Host, Columnist, Consumer Reporter, motivational speaker & author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”. Her radio talk show airs Tuesdays & Saturdays at 11 a.m. on Philadelphia’s 1180AM WFYL. You can find her online at http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Getting a start on the season The Frugal Way! Tuesday, Aug 28 2012 

If you’re anything like me, you’re finding it hard to believe that the summer is nearly over.Yet, here we are, with kids ready to head back to school and holidays less than 12 weeks away!With summer activities and spending winding down, now is the perfect time to get back into saving mode, with easy tips that can easily put hundreds in your pocket by year’s end!

(1) Start packing your kids’ lunches this year (if you don’t already): Average school lunches can run anywhere from $2.50-$6 per day.You can easily make one yourself in 5 minutes a day for less than $1.Even if you’re only saving $1.50/day, do that five days a week from now until Christmas and you’re saving $127.50 – for one child! Two kids, even three, and you’re talking about nearly $400 in savings just in the time between now and Christmas! As for lunch ideas, keep it simple. We’re talking about sandwiches, maybe a baggie of pretzels, piece of fruit and a cookie, and boom, you’re done.

(2) Ditch one unhealthy habit.We all have them, we could all do better off without them.It doesn’t have to be a horrific, absurdly idiotic habit like smoking, but, if you do smoke, say, a pack of cigarettes a day, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that a pack of cigarettes costs an average of $7.Simply cut that habit in half and you’re talking about savings of $415 in just a few short months.Ditch that habit all together and you’re saving yourself over $800, just in the few months between now and Christmas.Crazy, no?

(3) Even if you’re not a smoker, a little self-reflection could reveal an unhealthy habit or two (and again, we all have them). Do you hit the soda and/or candy machine at work? Do that once a day, just an average of $1.25/day, Monday through Friday, and that’s $150 between now and Christmas.If you must have an afternoon soda or sugary candy hit, head to the local discount grocery and pick up a good stock of sodas and/or candy bars for 25 cents each, and you’re saving nearly $120, and still getting your daily fix.

(4) Bring on the autumn tax writeoffs! As you’re getting out the fall clothes for you and your family, take an honest look at what’s going to be used, and what will probably sit unused in your dresser drawers.Do your bottom line a huge favor and bundle any extra – sure to be unused – stuff into a hearty extra tough garbage bag and haul it to the local Goodwill or Salvation Army so it can actually get used by someone.Best of all, rather than having to find somewhere to stuff it into your closet, you now have a delicious bag of tax writeoffs instead!

With just a few effortless steps, you can make these last months of 2012 a money-saving venture that will pay off big time by the time the holidays roll around.Frugal On!

Kristen Hagopian is a radio talk show host, columnist, consumer reporter, motivational speaker & author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”. Her radio talk show airs Tuesdays & Saturdays at 11 a.m. on Philadelphia’s 1180AM WFYL. You can find her online at http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Today on The Brilliant Frugal Living Show: Five outstanding strategies to earn more income from home! Tuesday, Jul 17 2012 

Then, Isagenix millionaire Jimmy Smith joins me on the air to discuss his story – a butcher for 40 years who retired due to injury, he turned to a Network Marketing career, and has earned thirty million dollars in the last 10 years. Sound interesting? It’s all today on Philadelphia’s News/Talk 1180 – tune in at 11A (Eastern) or livestream us at the link! http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Celebrate a Brilliantly Frugal Black Friday! Tuesday, Nov 22 2011 

JOIN ME TUESDAYS AND SATURDAYS AT 11A ON PHILADELPHIA’S 1180am WFYL FOR “THE BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING SHOW”! LIVESTREAM IT ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD AT THE LINK! WWW.1180WFYL.COM BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING
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Happy Thanksgiving everybody! We all have a lot to be thankful for. Personally, as I look at healthy family and friends around me, I realize I am truly blessed. Now, I realize Thanksgiving-related articles, recipe ideas, home décor suggestions and such are going to be found in abundance this week, so I thought I’d look ahead just a smidge to the next big date on the books – Black Friday.

Nicknamed such because it became known to be the first date in a Retailer’s calendar year when their books were “in the black”, it has since evolved from a simple, tasteful shopping day to what appears to be a full body contact sport, complete with seasoned shoppers armed with first aid kids and pepper spray lest someone cut ahead of them in line. Combine that with the fact that many stores are opening their doors to Black Friday shoppers at 12:01A on Friday (as compared to the far more reasonable, say, 4:00am of years past) and I’m honestly starting to freak out.

If I may, I’d like to suggest an alternative Black Friday routine that will not only keep your sanity and sleep patterns intact, but your wallets and bank accounts in fabulous shape as well.

First stop: your local Thrift stores! Hit the big chains of course, many Goodwill stores have fantastic Black Friday deals and bargains waiting for their shoppers. Personally, my past finds include Jimmy Choo boots for $2, Hermes scarves for $5, New York Times Bestsellers for $1 and Baccarat crystal for $10. Enough said. When you’re done, don’t forget the stop by your local Mom and Pop Thrift stores, often decked out to the nines and stuffed with incredible bargains on brand names as well. I’ve found breathtaking antique jewelry sets at some of these local stores, picture frames, artwork, you name it, all at incredibly low prices.

Next stop: your local independent book stores! Everybody loves receiving books as gifts, and there are few things more therapeutic than the fantastic fun of poking around a book store, especially during the rush of the holidays. The big bookstore chains will be nuthouses – instead, hit the marvelous, local booksellers for fantastic sales, and if you’re lucky, a small attached café where you can recharge your batteries with a fabulous cup of caffeine.

Last stop: your computer keyboard. In the last ten years, online sales shopping has skyrocketed, and it’s not hard to see why. You can shop anytime, it’s far easier to find a parking space in your own driveway compared to the local rabid stunt drivers taking over the mall parking lots, and depending on the gift list you’re trying to accommodate, with a few clicks of a mouse, most (if not all) can be handled online in minutes. What’s not to love? Ebay, Amazon and hundreds of other reputable websites stand at the ready to fulfill your every gift whim, from books, tapes, CD’s, DVD’s and tens of thousands of other gift items. Best bets are the smaller, lighter (a.k.a. cheaper to ship) items that will make it to your home with little difficulty.

This Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend, may your family and friends be healthy and fabulous, your turkeys be tender, your pumpkin pies be perfect, and your local thrift stores a holiday goldmine. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Kristen Hagopian is an Author, Columnist, Motivational Speaker and Radio Talk Show Host with WFYL 1180AM in Greater Philadelphia. “The Brilliant Frugal Living Show” airs to a listening audience of 3 Million people Tuesdays and Saturdays at 11:00A (Eastern), with fabulous strategies for slashing spending and keeping more money in the bank. She lives fabulously & frugally just outside Philadelphia with her husband and two kids. Her book is available at her website: http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com
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Three Easy Ways to Save Big at Thanksgiving Tuesday, Nov 8 2011 

JOIN ME TUESDAYS AT 11A ON PHILADELPHIA’S 1180am WFYL FOR “THE BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING SHOW”! LIVESTREAM IT ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD AT THE LINK! WWW.1180WFYL.COM BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING
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Greetings, fellow frugal fans! I hope you’re all dug out from last week’s freak snowstorm. Not sure about your house, but last week I discovered that nothing says “Happy Halloween” like helping your kids trudge thru snow-covered yards as they continually tug at Rapunzel & Nemo costumes over an oversized parka and snowpants. This, while the entire neighborhood has power generators roaring in their driveways, unintentionally giving kids the impression they were trick-or-treating along Runway Six at Philadelphia International Airport during peak air traffic, rather than an ordinarily quiet Chester County suburb. Alas, I have kids that – if they know candy is waiting for them at the door – they’ll happily face down flame throwers for a chance at a free Butterfinger. You can blame maternal DNA on that one.

With Halloween candy now at a solid 50-75% off at stores (candy corn, come to Momma…), it’s clearly time to start preparations for one of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving. I’m hearing from people who are used to spending $250 for a table of eight at Thanksgiving. With food costs on the perpetual rise, it’ s true, the cost of entertaining at the holidays can often shoot higher than we expect. But Turkey day doesn’t have to be a budget buster – especially when you use these three simple tricks to put together a fabulous feast, for far less.

The Turkey: Turkey prices can go upwards of $1.69/pound (or more!), depending on the brand name you prefer and where you shop. Do yourself a favor and wait until less than a week before Turkey Day. Then hit the big retailers, where turkey prices are drastically reduced as “loss leaders” to bring you thru their automatic doors. You’ll enjoy the best brand name turkeys, for easily $0.89 a pound instead.

The Side Dishes & Desserts: At my house, Thanksgiving is one of those “Bring On The Carbs!” holidays. Good thing too, as I can already envision the sweet potatoes, rice pilafs, bread stuffings, crescent rolls…and that doesn’t even begin to count the desserts! Care to create the same carbohydrate nirvana for less? Hit your local discount gourmet grocery (Amelia Grocery Outlet has all of the above, for easily 50% off retail!) to stock up on all of the fabulous side dishes and desserts you and your family love, for easily half the price of retail.

The Extras: Decorations, flowers, wine, … all the extras really up. This is where visiting family and friends come to the rescue! All of the visitors around your table are going to want to contribute to the festivities, so have them lend their perfect touches by bringing the perfect hostess gifts. When they ask “what can I bring?”, be specific. Have your flower-loving friend hand the centerpiece, the wine expert handle take care of libations…and watch your “additional extras” costs drop to zero.

Above all else, remember that this fantastic holiday is all about the faces around your table, and the many blessings we all have to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!

Spooktacular Halloween — For Less! Wednesday, Oct 19 2011 

What a gorgeous October! Around here, the leaves are changing, the weather is getting just cool enough so I can pull out the turtlenecks, and we’re coming up on Halloween again. Love it! Personally, I adore this holiday – it’s fun, it’s a great excuse to dress up for a fabulous party or two, and one of my all-time favorite soul foods – candy corn – is as readily available as oxygen. Life is good.

That being said, the scariest aspect of Halloween 2011 seems to be the insane spending people feel is necessary to pull off a decent holiday. I’m hearing stories of $100 (or more!) for costumes, $50+ to purchase treats for the neighborhood kids, $200+ to skip the trick-or-treating and throw a party for the kids instead. Forget the terrifying ghoul masks out in abundance, it’s the idea of Halloween spending running into the hundreds that has me waking up in a cold sweat at night. But never fear – your candy-corn-loving frugalista is here! Read on for some fabulous tips on a fun and memorable holiday that keeps the good times going and your money in the bank.

Costumes –
Let’s attack once and for all the illusion that you need to spend hundreds for great costumes. I’m talking to people who are still spending $50+ for their kids, and $100+ for their own adult costumes for neighborhood parties and office shindigs. Unless nuclear-level anti-frugal sentiment runs in your family (or your last name is Gabor), this thinking has to cease at once. This is not to say you have to skimp on costumes or settle for less than Halloween fabulousness. Far from it! Just rethink your shopping locales, and enjoy the dazzling fun of scouring your nearest thrift stores, consignment stores, even church stores, where any establishment worth its cash registers has racks upon racks of fantastic costume offerings in all sizes, genres and categories. Southern belles, pirates, sports figures, movie stars, you name it – it’s waiting for you there, and as fantastic as the adult costume offerings are, they’ll probably have double that number of kids’ costumes! Get out there and find the perfect get-up for your kids, and for you, for 75-90% off!

If you don’t find the perfect costumes for your kids at the local thrift stores, try your local dollar store, where dozens of costume pieces await you! If your little one is longing to be a pirate, cheerleader, police officer or fireman, you will find just about everything you need for – you guessed it – $1 per piece.

One more costume-creating tip: look online to see if your city or nearby town is having a “costume swap” this year! This swapping trend is growing like wildfire, and is the perfect solution for fellow frugalistas looking to create a great costume for next to nothing.

Candy –
For Halloween aficionados like myself, it’s an already established fact that candy calories consumed just before or during the actual holiday don’t count. Yes, the day after Halloween, calories do count, however, if you find candy for 50% off, I find it morally acceptable to knock 50% off the calorie count as well. But I digress. When shopping for your Halloween candy, keep it simple, steer away from the retail stores, and hit the local dollar stores where fresh, fabulous, name brand candy awaits you at easily 30% off. If you have loads of kids appearing at your door year after year, saving 30% (or more) adds up big time.

The Halloween Parties –
I’m hearing from an increasing number of households that are steering away from sending kids door-to-door this year, opting for an equally fun shindig for the kids, their classmates and nearby relatives at their homes instead. Personally, I love this concept. I live in an area where houses are acres apart, and the idea of my kids having all the fun, the candy, and all of the fabulous Halloween karma right on their home turf is extremely appealing. Don’t let costs go thru the roof, though. Work with the other kids’ parents; everybody is going to want to contribute, and each will have their area of expertise. Let one parent handle the cake, perhaps another will donate the decorations, another will handle the bobbing-for-apples setup, yet another will handle any spider-shaped piñata on the opposite side of the room. You get the picture. When all is said and done, you can create a party that will win you fame amongst your daughter’s elementary school class (no small trick) for very little cost, and save you miles of walking around strange neighborhoods on the scariest night of the year.

Above all else, remember what Halloween is all about – clean fun, lots of laughs for the kids, a great opportunity for grown women to jump into a corset, adopt a southern accent and be Scarlett O’Hara for the night, and – let us not forget – store upon store selling off their excess candy corn for 50-75% off in the days after Halloween. Oh yeah! Happy Halloween, everybody!

Minimizing the Effects of the Downgrade Wednesday, Aug 10 2011 

Minimizing the Effects of the Downgrade
Okay, so unless you’ve been under a rock for the last week, you’re aware that U.S. debt has been downgraded. Yes, it’s unprecedented, it’s unnerving, it is also eventually reversible down the road if we truly get our act together, and in the meantime, it’s survivable. The key to minimal financial headaches in the meantime is to familiarize yourself on the ripple effects of the downgrade, and how you can protect yourself and your household.

As a result of the downgrade, American debt will be more risky for our creditors, and as a result, it will cost more for the United States Government to borrow money. As a result, it will cost you more to borrow money as well. Ripple effect: higher interest rates on credit cards, car loans, home loans, etc. Prepare yourself now, and you can respond with a focused financial strategy.

Credit Cards: When it comes to your personal plastic, start paying the balances down NOW. Do whatever it takes, shop at the discount groceries regularly from now on, you’ll save thousands that you can then put onto your credit card balances. Looking for clothes, gifts, housewares? Shop at the thrift stores and save another bundle. If it’s feasible, go out one less day every week to save on gas. It all adds up huge, and those savings need to be used to pay down any outstanding credit. You will soon be paying more for your borrowing (sound familiar?), so reduce your debt spending, show Washington an outstanding example, and prevent your own debt from being “downgraded” by your lenders.

Stock Market Holdings: Worldwide stock markets have been all over the map with uncertainty in this past week. On one channel you hear an expert saying the uncertainty has panned out and you should buy-buy-buy the bargains, switch to another channel and another so-called expert is shrieking to sell-sell-sell and save yourselves. If you have sizable holdings in the stock market, for the sake of clarity and sanity, have a talk with a reputable financial advisor for straight talk on where they think the market (and your particular portfolio) could be better protected so as to ride out the bumps with a minimum of Tylenol.

Higher taxes – Independent of the downgrade, we’ve known for some time that tax loopholes are going to close and cap tax expenditures. Have a talk with your accountant, see how these changes might affect your household, and see how you can invest your money in ways that will minimize your (possibly) increasing tax burden.

Car loans – If you’re in the market for a car, do yourself a favor. Save your money and buy a used car with cash, rather than going for a car loan with (higher than expected) interest rates.

Home loans – If interest rates go up, you’re looking at higher costs on home loans. If there is any “silver lining” in this, it’s that home prices may come down a bit more in response to the higher interest rates. Rotten news if you’re looking to sell, but somewhat helpful if you’re looking to buy. There has never been a better time to invest in real estate. The bigger the down payment, the better.

Bottom line: The best thing you can do for your financial sanity? Take a deep breath. This latest lunacy too shall pass. In the meantime, protect yourself, your household, your portfolio, and your bank account by thinking frugally on all of your purchases, living within your means, and generating a sizable nest egg for emergencies. Then, run for office (you’ll get my vote!), and show the folks in Washington how it CAN be done.

Five Frugal Tips for Summertime Savings! Thursday, Jul 14 2011 

Brilliant Frugal Living Website!
Well, we’re halfway through a gorgeous summer, and while we’re all enjoying the blue summertime skies, the heat-related bills are definitely adding up as well. Cool off your summertime spending with these easy, money-saving tips!

(1) Time to Tweak the Thermostat – when we first fired up the air conditioning this summer, the heat was just starting to inch up to the 80-degree mark. Now that we’re kissing the melting edge of 90+ degrees several days a week, it’s time to tweak the air conditioning a bit as well. If you’re used to setting your air conditioning at 68 degrees, do yourself a favor and bring it up to 70 (or even 75 degrees) instead. Many experts agree that a simple 20-degree difference between outside and indoor temperatures are ideal for optimal comfort. Regardless of how you’re cooling your house, you’ll enjoy tremendous savings with the increase of just a few degrees in your thermostat. This is also a perfect time to replace your air conditioner filters (if you haven’t already) for maximum output at minimum costs.

(2) Fans to the rescue! – Daytime temperatures are hitting 90-plus degrees at their peak, and air conditioning is a must. However, nighttime temperatures are still consistently in the 60-to-70 degree range, so put Mother Nature to work for big time savings! Open up bedroom windows when you hit the sack – using a box fan during nighttime hours alone will save you big bucks on utility bills and give your cooling systems a well-earned break. For those who fear their unbearably hot sunrooms are currently off limits (unless you want to fry an egg on the coffee table), give serious thought to installing ceiling fans for fabulous air movement and far superior comfort levels for friends and family.

(3) Cool off the Kitchen! – No doubt about it, cooking at home rather than eating out saves big bucks on your food bill. One of the few downsides is the resulting heat it creates. Keep your kitchen fabulously cool (and save money doing it) with some simple tricks. First, a utility FYI: your microwave costs a fraction of your other appliances, and gives off far less residual heat than stove burners or oven broilers. With that in mind, keep your stove cooking to a minimum and utilize your microwave instead. if your family loves pasta like mine does, try cooking a double batch on the stove next time, keep the extras in the refrigerator, and microwave leftovers as you need them for fast, simple meals that won’t take a lot of time or require heating up the stove. Tip: when you do cook on the stove, keep pots covered to reduce heating costs as much as possible. Does your family love French Toast? Great! Make a triple batch, keep the leftovers in the fridge or freezer, and simply reheat as you need it in the microwave, rather than cooking batches time and again on a hot stove in an already warm summertime kitchen.
Another fabulous summertime trick – put your grill to work! If you can, designate at least one night a week to grill outside rather than cook inside. Hotdogs, hamburgers, chicken, fish, you name it – it all tastes fabulous grilled outdoors, and saves the money and hassle of cooling your kitchen back down after an already-hot day.

(4) Keeping your car cool – Summertime is synonymous with lovely, long drives, beautiful day trips and fabulous car vacations. All of that extra mileage, usually with air conditioners blowing non-stop, can take a serious (read: expensive) toll on your car if it isn’t properly maintained. Luckily, maintenance is as easy as getting the occasional tune-up, regularly checking the filters, getting the oil and fluids changed on schedule, and keeping tires at their proper pressure for optimal use and top-notch gas mileage. By investing in proper maintenance, you’ll save in the long run with lower amounts spent on gas, tires, and longer life of the car itself. It’s a no-brainer.

(5) Emergency Power Outage Kit – I’m still trying to figure out if the violently stormy summer weather is getting progressively more dangerous each summer, or if I’m just getting old (both, perhaps?). With each summer that passes, my mind is filled with increasingly-vivid memories of storm-induced power outages that catch me off guard in some way or another. During the next power outage, keep your comfort level high, your irritation levels low and your expenses to a minimum with a brilliantly frugal Power Outage Kit. Here’s the basics to include: two flashlights per person in your household, with enough new, fully charged batteries to replace the flashlights at least twice. Add a small battery-powered radio and/or television set to keep up with news and weather announcements, as well as your Deluxe Scrabble game and a full set of playing cards for some perfect power-outage entertainment. Make sure you have a car-charger for your cell phone (you obviously can’t charge it in the wall outlet at the moment) and if you currently have only cordless phones in your home (unusable in power outages), give some thought to installing a hard-wired phone for emergencies.
Then, write down your utility company information on an index card, including phone numbers for the power company to report the outage and your account number. Please trust me on this, there’s nothing more annoying than rummaging through a pitch dark home office at 1:00am groping for the file cabinet so that you can then search for an impressively-elusive account number. Next, have an inexpensive ice chest at the ready, with blue-ice packs in your freezer ready to throw in there to keep food, beverages (and if necessary, medications) cold. Talk about a money saver! Keep a water supply handy, the general guideline being one gallon per person in your household. Add some easy-to-eat food items like cans of mixed nuts, granola bars, crackers, canned fruits, etc., as well as paper plates and plastic cutlery. Keep a well-stocked first-aid kit handy and close to your Power Outage kit for any (dare I say “inevitable”?) slips, trips, bumps and wipeouts inherently connected with pitch-black rooms. Put together a Power Outage kit for yourself pronto, and give some thought to creating a few for friends and family as well. Any friends that initially respond with raised eyebrows and good humor will no doubt follow up with worshipful feedback after the first black out with stories of how it saved their sanity.

Above all else, remember that the numerous hassles inherent in a power outage are more than offset by how fabulous we look playing Scrabble by romantic flashlight. Viva triple word scores!

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