Delicious Christmas Gifts that Save Money, Time and Stress! Monday, Dec 16 2013 

Hey gang, it’s happening again. People are freaking out over Christmas gift-giving, and they’re getting set to spend way too much again. The crowds are getting ugly, too – when you start hearing news stories in which the words “Shopping Mall” and “Tasers” go together, you know we’re in for a rough one. When it comes to spending, I’m getting emails you wouldn’t believe, from wonderful people who normally think quite frugally, yet are still convinced that a magnificent holiday is tied to the money spent. So not true! Don’t believe me? Then just gently put the credit card down for a moment and try this little experiment on for size. Think back to your wonderful childhood Christmas memories. Chances are you spent a good 20 years under your parents’ roof. We all have fantastic holiday recollections, but can you name three things you received as gifts as a kid? Many of my readers can recall a cherished bike (myself included, it was a pink Schwinn with red and white tassles, and it was dynamite). Beyond that however, gift memories become extremely hazy; rather, it’s the vivid memories of childhood fun, food, laughter with relatives who came from miles around to celebrate the holiday, and of course, the treasured two weeks off from school that truly stick in my mind. Trust me, your kids and family feel the same way. With that in mind, read on for fantastic, frugal gift ideas guaranteed to be a cherished hit for family and friends, not to mention clients and co-workers!

One of the best gifts of all – fabulous food! Back in Victorian times, the average family spent 25% of their income on food, an incredible number. To add insult to injury, the food of the era often wasn’t even that good, bland due to lack of spices, not to mention created in unsafe conditions a good deal of the time. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that delicious homemade food gifts were a huge hit at the holidays, created with loving care from cherished family recipes, and often sent in tins that were used again and again for years to come. Now that is a memorable gift. For those of you on a tight budget this holiday season (and who isn’t?), it’s time to harness your inner Victorian and put your favorite recipes to work for you. Cookies, candies, brownies, pastries, cakes – whatever your passion, have fun with it, and put the kids to work “helping” (another fun childhood memory of mine). Hit your local dollar store for tins and trays to present them on, et voila! The end result will be wonderful, memorable gifts that will be truly appreciated by the recipients, created for a fraction of the price of forgettable store-bought trinkets. Fabulously frugal side note – these types of gifts ship beautifully as well.

So let’s review – When it comes to frugal gift-giving this Christmas, there are many reasons to indulge your inner Julia Child. First, you’re succeeding in every gift-giver’s goal: You’re sending gifts that will be loved, appreciated, and remembered. Second, when you open your credit card bill in January, you’ll be one of the few that draws a huge sigh of relief at the low number due. Third, you’ll be steering clear of the high-voltage, taser-toting rabid shoppers that are apparently out in full force! Let’s keep the high-holiday wattage to the outdoor Christmas lights, shall we? Merry Christmas everybody, and Frugal On!

Advertisements

Slash your Back to School Budget in Half! Saturday, Aug 10 2013 

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!

Celebrate Hanukkah – For Less! Saturday, Dec 1 2012 

Hanukkah starts December 8th, and already I’m receiving emails from people looking to keep their spending lower than in years past. Hanukkah may last for eight fabulous nights, but it doesn’t mean you have to emerge broke on the other side of it. With some simple strategies, your holiday will be a wonderful affair for a fraction of the cash!

The Food –I have friends who have always been master cooks – during Hanukkah, they take it to an art form. Latkes, doughnuts, anything and everything fried in oil taste like they belong on a dessert cart at the Four Seasons. I’ve asked their secrets on occasion, and I’m told they always cook with only the best ingredients, usually purchased in rather pricey custom groceries. Now, if you’re cooking Kosher, you do indeed have to hit some specialized stores, but even famous online kosher groceries have sales pretty regularly (example: check out http://www.kosher.com). As for your local kosher groceries, keep up to date on their sales and be sure to schedule your shopping trips around those sale items you’ll use the most. If you have some latitude working in your favor (you’re cooking for Hanukkah but not cooking Kosher), resources are everywhere to bring down your food bill considerably! Best bet: hit your local discount gourmet grocery’s kosher aisle. Every single discount grocery I visit has Hanukkah and kosher items. Take a look at the ones nearest you, you might be amazed.

The Gifts –We all want to be generous at the holidays. That being said, I’ve heard from too many people whose lovely generosity was always surpassed by a crushing post-holiday spending hangover. By all means, be generous with gifts – simply find them for less! Wherever you live, chances are excellent that untapped resources are everywhere to find all of your favorite designer names for greatly reduced prices. My best tip is always to head towards your local thrift stores and consignment shops, where fashion meets frugal fabulousness. Examples? Try the Jimmy Choo boots I found for my sister, which I’m guessing retail for a bit more than the $2 I purchased them for. How about Louis Vuitton & Coach bags, Ralph Lauren scarves, cashmere sweaters, golf shirts from the Masters, bestselling books, outstanding DVD’s and more, easily for 95% off the retail price. Get yourself to your nearest shops, and see which ones best fit your needs.

The Kids –Everyone wants to make the holidays a spectacular time for kids, but there’s no need to equate “Wow, this is GREAT!” with “Let’s overspend!”. Trust me, down the road, they’ll be glad you sunk your extra income into a college account year after year rather than the latest holiday gadget that gets outdated within a half hour. Stick to the same consignment and thrift stores where you find friend’s and family’s gifts for 95% off, and you’ll no doubt run across kid’s clothes, gadgets, jewelry and electronics that will dazzle. I’ve also heard charming comments from people my age who are reverting back to the Hanukkah gelt gifts consisting entirely out of chocolate coins, rather than actual money. Now, if you’re a parent or grandparent with a lot of wiggle room in your budget, by all means go for a couple of real coins. But note, I’m in my forties, and I’d shriek with delight if someone gave me a bag filled with chocolate.

Above all else, remember that the holiday is about friends, family (and perhaps a touch of fabulous food). Happy Hanukkah!

Brilliantly Frugal Brand-Building! Monday, Nov 5 2012 

At some point in time, we’re all in the market to effectively build and expand our “brand name”, whether it’s for ourselves (building our name recognition and reputation for a job interview), or your small business (marketing all you offer to the public), or perhaps an organization we’re devoted to (gardening club, sports team, you get the point). Many are under the impression that “effective” marketing and branding are synonymous with “expensive” – not the case! Read on for highly-effective strategies that will get the word out about all you offer at zero cost to you!

First step: Blogging! Take all of your knowledge in your area of expertise and start channeling it into a blog. The magic of blogging – and its proven reputation for helping the world beat a path to your door – is legendary. Don’t believe me? Rent “Julie & Julia” from the library and get back to me. Blogging software is free, easy to use and eagerly awaits you on the internet, allowing you to effortlessly put your first entry into the blogosphere within minutes. A paragraph of two will do, but you can make it as long as you wish! I generally update my blog every week or so, but I’ve connected with other bloggers who update their sites on a daily basis – there really are no rules. Hit a website like wordpress.com and get started! Within a few months, you’ll find a marvelous worldwide following that would have been impossible had you kept all of your fabulous thoughts to yourself.

Next step: Workshops! Think about the subject matter that you’re most passionate about. What is the topic you constantly find yourself bringing up amongst family, friends, co-workers and strangers on the street? Is it books and movies you love? Cooking? Card tricks? Saving money? Think about offering a workshop in your favorite subject – chances are excellent that you have a dozen nearby locations (high schools, community centers) that have “Continuing Education” classes, and they would love to have you join them as a paid Instructor! Case in point (and shameless plug), I’m instructing a “Give Yourself a $5,000-$10,000 Raise This Year!” Workshop on October 29th and “Turning Your Passion Into Profits!” Workshop on November 15th for North Penn School District’s fabulous Community Education Program – register online at http://www.npenn.org. If your schedule is free, I would love to see you there!

Final Step: Put out the Word! Let your local news stations, radio stations, newspapers and magazines know about all that you do. Don’t forget to mention your outstanding blog and workshop schedule! Chances are excellent that your expertise in certain subject matter will interest them for a news piece. Go get ‘em!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host, Syndicated Columnist, Motivational Speaker & Author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”. The Kristen Hagopian Show airs on Philadelphia’s 1180AM WFYL & Nationwide via Business Talk Radio Network. She resides in Chester County with her husband and two children. 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

Fabulous Fitness, Found Frugally! Tuesday, Mar 13 2012 

Brilliant Frugal Living
Serenity Fitness & Spa
Fasten your seatbelts folks, we’re headed at Mach speed into another gorgeous summer and (dare I say it?) swimsuit season! Trust me, I’m right there with you, involuntarily cringing as my thoughts drift back to every piece of holiday fudge and butter-coated carbohydrate I consumed just a few short months ago. However, with the dog days of summer still a couple of marvelous months away, now is the time to start taking solid steps to turn those health & weight loss goals into reality!

To my rescue: Cyndi Po, Owner of the Serenity Spa Chain and Author of the popular new book “The 5 How To’s for a Healthier You”. Here, she perfectly details the simple steps to take in creating a personal road map for your journey to good health. With over twenty years in the industry as a fitness expert and personal trainer, Cyndi is not only her own best advertising, but a fitness force to be reckoned with. Her five simple (and fabulously frugal, I might add!) steps to get you on the road to better health include:

Step 1: Evaluate and set Goals: Get a true and accurate idea of where you are physically with a doctor’s exam, including weight and body measurements. With those measurements in mind, set your goals, making sure they’re healthy, safe and achievable.

Step 2: Start Yourself with a Clean Slate: Look at the pitfalls in your life that have been road blocks for you and get them out of the way. That’s code for: Go through your cupboards and get rid of the junk that is in there!

Step 3: Don’t Go It Alone: One of the best tools for a new healthy plan is a workout partner. Having someone to motivate you and be accountable to will help ensure your success.

Step 4: Make your Plan: Creating the perfect fitness plan includes realizing what workouts are best for you, and should always include fitness for the mind, body and soul. Just as important, you can’t be successful on a health plan without looking intently into your nutrition. Remember, good health is 80% nutrition, 20% movement.

Step 5: Never Stop Learning: Once you reach your goals, Congratulations! Now, it’s time to re-evaluate yourself and make new goals to reflect your new self. One journey ends, and another begins. It’s continuous growth for your whole life.

Cyndi’s book, “5 How To’s for a Healthier You”, is available on Lulu.com. You can also work with Cyndi Po in person at her Serenity Fit Spas in Red Hill and Quakertown. Find her online at http://www.serenityfit.com

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

The Brilliant Frugal Living Show – today at 11A (Eastern) on News/Talk 1180AM WFYL! Tuesday, Feb 21 2012 

www.CreateTheMoment.com
www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com
Birthday Bashes, Anniversary Parties, Weddings – we love a beautiful Event, but the costs can get insane! Today we talk strategy for gorgeous gigs that won’t break the bank, with Event Planner Stacey Herreid-Halstead, Owner of Create The Moment joining us for fantastic money-saving tips on food, venues, photography, music and much more. If you have a fabulous Event coming up, you won’t want to miss it! Tune in at 11A (Eastern), or livestream it at the link!

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.

A Frugalista’s Guide to Summer Savings Friday, May 27 2011 

www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com
If you’re anything like me, you’re loving this fabulous turn to warmer springtime weather, especially after the crazy winter we all just endured. I mean, really, was Mother Nature totally hormonal last winter, or just plain mean? Both? When it comes to the warmer months that lie ahead, there’s no better way to welcome a spectacular summer than to dive into it well prepared, and for as little cost as possible.

The Clothes – We all want to freshen up our wardrobes with some fabulous new pieces. Shorts, summer dresses and suits, bathing suits, shoes — ladies, start your shopping engines. Did you just get an amazing deal on a summertime cruise? Upgrade with a new fabulous wardrobe to match! However you’re ringing in the summer, forget the cheaply made polyester knits, go for the designer names that make you look and feel great! Just don’t dare to buy them retail, not when they can all be found (for easily 50-95 percent off) at your local meticulously run consignment stores, thrift stores and church stores. I’m a bit of a fanatic when it comes to these goldmines, and trust me when I tell you, the best of these stores are taking couture clothing to an art form.

Kids’ clothes – Looking to update your kids’ wardrobes as well? Do your shopping in about five minutes time, for easily 90 percent off, with a click or two on Craigslist. As I type this, parents (far more organized than I) are cleaning out their kids’ closets, piling well-made, sturdy, easily washable designer name clothes into bags, and getting rid of it for $10 (or less!) online, often with detailed pictures you can comb thru to make sure it’s the right style for your kids. I’ve done this countless times, folks and I’ve never had a bad experience. Find a mutually convenient place to meet (local diner, school, church) and update your kids’ wardrobes with dozens of new outfits, often spending no more than $20 total. It’s a fabulous summertime ritual that does this Frugalista’s heart good.

The tax-write offs! – Somewhat-related clothing note: Once the weather starts hitting 80-degrees on a regular basis, you’re also in prime time to donate your winter clothes and gear to a local thrift shop or church store. Get rid of the sweaters, slacks, boots-that-never-quite-fit and old coats (you know, the ones in the back of the closet that you never wore), and above all else, make sure you get a receipt so you can detail the amount in your charitable contributions on your next tax form.

The utilities – To all of you who still wake up in a cold sweat thinking of last summer’s utility bills, I have an easy, lucrative challenge for you. Head to your local home improvement center for about 30 feet of clothesline ($5 tops), and tie it to whatever is standing upright in your backyard. Porch railing, swing sets or a hook attached to the garage. Then hit the local dollar store for $2 worth of clothespins. Start drying your clothes (especially your bath towels) on this handy, easily-taken-down clothesline, and watch your utility bills plummet compared to last year. To those of you with association rules against this activity, have a polite chat with your neighbors, then with your association board. Assure all involved that this new addition to your home will be virtually unseen by passersby, and casually mention that the savings (in the hundreds, if not thousands) will lend itself well to paying your yearly dues. The iron-clad association rules of years past (in the days of ever-rising home values and lower unemployment) may be somewhat more flexible in the current economy.

The beach gear – if you’re planning a beach trip and looking to get the kids a few new things for it, hit your local Dollar Store for everything you need! Shovels, pails, sand sifters, toys, nets, games to play in the car, and just about every other beach-worthy item they might enjoy burying in the sand.

The tan – if you’re over the age of 5, you’re well aware of the dangers of tanning unprotected in the sun. Not only does it prematurely age you at an exponential rate, but who the heck has the time to lay out in the sun for hours anyway? Hit your local discount grocery’s cosmetics section, and find the brand name spray-on tanners for easily 50-80 percent off. They look incredible, they take five minutes (yes, that’s minutes) to apply, they easily last for a week, and your gorgeous skin gets thru the summer looking perfect and protected.

Air conditioning – I know, it seems absurd to be thinking about air conditioning, especially since it feels like many of us turned off our heaters, oh, last week. But trust me on this, the frigid days of winter will feel a long way off come the first heat wave. One of the biggest money-saving tips for summer is simply being prepared for it by the end of spring. Now is the time to have your air conditioners serviced and finely tuned for optimal cool air production come summertime. The same air conditioner repairmen that can make you a same-day appointment today are going to have to put you on a five-day waiting list at a $100-just-to-visit premium to get to you in the 95-degree heat come August. If your air conditioner is on its last legs, now is the time to shop for a new one, and shop carefully for the one that will cool the square footage of your home in the most energy-efficient, lowest cost manner possible.

After this crazy winter, we all deserve a fabulous summer in the sun! Spend a couple of minutes utilizing these easy strategies, and you’ll not only save your skin, but your hard-earned cash as well.

Frugal On!!

Next Page »