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

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Seven easy Halloween costumes, all under $3 each! Wednesday, Oct 6 2010 

www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

You can also see this column at the online magazine GalTime!

Okay, considering I never really started my summer dieting in earnest, you can imagine my astonishment that Halloween is upon us. The weather is cooler, the leaves are changing, and hey, LOOK! CANDY CORN! Oh, yeah!

I’m getting emails this year from cash-strapped parents looking for ideas on how to make a fabulous Halloween for their kids, while spending less than in years past. They recall stories of Octobers past, when they meant to keep spending in check, but between costumes and candy, found themselves shelling out over $100! I love this year’s attitude because, let’s face it, Halloween is a great holiday, but it’s no reason to break the bank! Luckily, this is a day in which fun and frugal go hand in hand. I have to admit, I had a blast researching this article – the ideas for easy, terrific costumes are EVERYWHERE! Best of all, the resources necessary to pull them together are close to just almost everyone, courtesy of your local dollar stores and thrift stores!
After exhaustive research (and a bag or two of creativity-inspiring candy corn), here are my favorite costume ideas. These got top marks for being easy to put together, fun, comfortable, and best of all, available for $3 or less! What’s not to love?

Fireman – If your child has a red, yellow or black raincoat, pair it with appropriate dark colored clothing that they already own. Black pants and black turtleneck are perfect. Every dollar store I’ve been to has a $1 plastic fireman’s hat, as well as a $1 “Fireman’s Kit” complete with small extinguisher, official badge, walkie-talkie and (completely safe) play-axe! Adorable!

Cheerleader – The dollar store has $1 cheerleader sets complete with outfits, pom poms and megaphone! If you can, simply pair the pom poms and megaphone with any combo of cute skirt and matching sweater that your daughter already owns, along with ankle socks and sneakers, and have her practice her “Ready…OK!” move as she rings the doorbell.

Pirate – Ahoy, Matey! Hit the black clothing combo again (black pants, black turtleneck), and put it together with a pirate set, complete with a combination of eye patch, pretend hoop earring, hook, telescope, coins and the requisite (in this case, ultra-safe, pretend) dagger. Note, the pirate packaging specifically mentions that the smaller items (coins, etc) could be choking hazards. Keep this outfit for your 3+ trick or treater!

Nemo- More fun at your local thrift store – I found this adorable $50 Nemo costume for $1 in the Goodwill outlet. How cute is this?! Perfect for my three-year-old. Fabulous, comfy, and WARM in case the weather turns colder.

Scary ghoul – Okay, when I was a kid, I’d see these masks and get completely freaked out. Whoever designed them had nerves of steel. Now that I’m in my forties, I’m better around them. Kinda. I open the door to a kid wearing one of these and my pupils are still going to dilate, but I can keep my cool. I hope. You have to admit, they ARE freaky. However, paired with black pants and black sweater, it makes for a fabulous frugal costume!

Knight – I have held a lifelong affection for White Knights. Miniature ones coming to my door are positively adorable and are automatically eligible for double candy rations. Hit your local dollar store for the Knight’s shield, and spend another $1 for the archery playset, and you’re in fabulous shape. I love this costume, and it’s so easy to pair with the black pants and turtleneck!

Princess – My five-year old daughter is still deep in her princess phase, as are many of her Kindergarten friends. No need to go out and spend serious cash on the princess get up tho. Here’s a thought: Has your daughter been in a wedding as flower girl within the last year or so, complete with shiny, silky, ruffly, fluffy dress? The one that’s currently residing in the back of her closet with the perfectly matching shiny shoes? Pull it out and have her try it on, you would be surprised how forgiving those loose little waistlines are. If you’ve got a winner, check the toybox for a princess tiara and assorted bling (we’ve got loads in our playroom). If your searching comes up short, just add a tiara, wand and bling set from the dollar store et voila! Best part, comfy sneakers can fit right under the dress & nobody will see!

Special mention: Snow White’s Encore Performance! While costume shopping this year, check out your local thrift store; they are stuffed with fabulous name brand costumes! The selection is incredible, the costumes are very well made, and the prices are often 90% off retail! Last year, we found an adorable Disney-brand Snow White costume that was beautifully made and wonderfully comfy. Originally $50 retail, we came upon it in perfect condition and priced at $5. This year, after much debate about the pros, cons and personality traits of all two quadrillion Disney Princesses, Katie decided she wanted to be Snow White again. Keeping fingers crossed, we tried on last year’s costume, and sure enough, it fits perfectly! Putting my sophisticated math skills to work, a $5 costume, used twice, works well in the $3 or less costume category!

Another Halloween note about your local dollar store – it’s a fabulous place to get your candy! Great selection, always fresh, and the price can’t be beat. If you’re planning a kids’ party at your house (rather than have them walk house to house) check out your store for party supplies as well! Happy Halloween, everyone!

Thank you GalTime! Tuesday, Jul 13 2010 

www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Huge “THANKS!” to fabulous magazine GalTime for reprinting my blog/article on “Foods that Will Benefit Your Wallet AND Your Waistline!” GalTime is a fantastic magazine, with hysterical, helpful articles on Health, Home, Fashion & Beauty, Parenting, Food, Money & more. Check out the link!

http://www.galtime.com/index.php/web/1041-healthyfoodbudget

Fun writeup in “She Knows – Parenting” Magazine Tuesday, Jan 26 2010 

Connected with Mary thru the HARO link, such a fantastic way to connect with reporters from all corners of the earth!
Thanks Mary!

http://www.sheknows.com/articles/8132717