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

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
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!!

Easter on a Budget – Five Big Ways to Save! Wednesday, Apr 6 2011 

Springtime is finally here (emphasis on “finally”!), and it’s the perfect time to start planning for Easter. It really is a wonderful holiday, and our desire to make it beautiful is completely understandable, but those gorgeous touches (from clothes to décor to candy) can add up quickly. Thankfully, some easy tips can create a holiday that’s not only lovely, but light on your pocketbook as well.

The Clothes – Easter is one of those holidays where dressing up takes on an art form, the more colorful the better. Come on, it’s the only day of the year where pastel suits are not only fashionable, they’re a given, and it’s time to have some fun here. When it comes to kids’ clothing, hit Craigslist and your local meticulously-run consignment and thrift stores. You’ll be amazed at the selection of Childrens’ boutique-quality Easter dresses and suits awaiting you in perfect condition, often for 90% off the original price. As for the adults, if you’re looking to freshen up your Easter wardrobe this year, go for it! Hit those same Consignment stores and Thrift stores for gorgeous designer suits, new shoes and bags to match. Ladies: don’t you dare forget the hat!

The Easter Baskets – I’m one of those Moms that naively dives head-first into every Easter determined that this is the year I keep the candy baskets small, tasteful and relatively healthy. Come Easter morning, those lofty goals are hip-checked out of the park and replaced with a sugar-induced blur of pastel M&M’s, Coconut Eggs and Peeps in all colors. Anyhoo… heck, it’s just once a year. If you know thyself well enough to realize a well-stocked Easter basket is going to be an expected part of the holiday, head to your local Dollar Store, where a fabulous selection of name brand sweets, treats and beautiful straw Easter Baskets await you, often for a fraction of retail prices.

The Meal – Everybody wants to throw a Spectacular Easter meal for friends and family. Likewise, guests coming to see you are going to want to bring something thoughtful (and helpful) to your home as a hostess gift. Satisfy both of these goals by letting each guest bring their specialties! If you’re baking a ham for dinner, have one guest bring their world-famous sweet potatoes. If another friend just gleefully told you about her garden bursting into Springtime bloom, warmly congratulate and inform her she’s now in charge of the flowers. If one of your guests makes dreamy desserts, guess what they’re encouraged to show up at the door with? Putting a meal around your table that is truly a creation of all the guests not only creates a fantastic atmosphere in which everyone feels they’ve contributed, but it also brings down the costs – and work – substantially for you.

The Decorations – if you have kids, decorating the house for Easter is one of the biggest joys of the holiday. Keep it fun – and inexpensive – by hitting the local dollar store. Toy chicks, bunny cut-outs, wall hangings, cards, games, Easter-themed coloring books, pictures… chances are excellent your local Dollar Store has it all. The décor is adorable, affordable, and often sturdy enough to be carefully put away to be used again next year. You can’t go wrong.

The Flowers – Easter flowers, just starting to bloom, make a charming, lovely gift for family and friends. While some roadside stands en route to Easter dinner may seem like godsends for time-pressed travelers, one look at the price can have you rethinking a gift at all. Do yourself a favor and hit a local warehouse store, as they usually carry a fantastic selection of flowers year round. The potted azalea that would have cost you $40 on the corner of Costly & Costlier should price $15 or less at one of these warehouse goldmines. Use part of the money saved to splurge on some melons, grapes and pineapple, and whip up a gorgeous pastel-inspired fruit salad to ring in the Spring. Bon Appetit, and Happy Easter, everyone!

Another fabulous time in Allentown! Tuesday, Sep 21 2010 

Thanks again to Eve & Jaciel (and wonder-camerawoman Darcelle) at Channel 69 in Allentown for another fantastic interview. The drive there and back was amazing, 90 minutes of beautiful mountain views with the leaves just starting to change. Really cool. And can I mention, I love the GPS in the car! Allentown has so many curvy roads, I could go there 100 times & still get directionally whacked. Not any more baby! WOO HOO!

Click here for today’s interviews!

Oh yeah, it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood… Tuesday, Sep 21 2010 

Had a crazy day that definitely took a step in the right direction around mid-afternoon. I got a writing deadline done, connected with a fab Craigslist Mom to get some GREAT Thomas & Friends stuff for Robbie’s bedroom, & found another multicolore Louis Vuitton at the Goodwill for $4 (same as pic below, but mine has no side zipper). Why ask why, but the thrift stores have never been so loaded with fabulous shoes & handbags. Get in there, ladies! Show no fear!

It’s official…I really, REALLY love New York! Tuesday, Sep 21 2010 

Here’s the “Buck Wild” piece with Alicia Vitarelli on News 12 on August 25!! Many thanks to Alicia, Eric, Ann, Jim, Gerald and the rest of the gang for this terrific opportunity! (note to my sister Stacey: major spoiler attached – your XMAS Jimmy Choo’s are heavily featured… umm, Merry Christmas!! 🙂

(If I did this right…) Link to Alicia Vitarelli’s Facebook version of the news piece should be here!

Shoes, glorious shoes…la la la laaaa Tuesday, Sep 21 2010 

Another beloved shoe story… My M-I-L Doris was here for a visit, wanted to hit the Goodwill (uh, yeah, twist my arm). I lucked out & found another great prop for the “Designer Shoe & Handbag” interview in NYC, a gorgeous pair of Ralph Lauren high heels (just like the ones in the pic) for $2. These things are so freaking comfy, I adore them!

Which leads me to another infamous quote: “I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes, I had one thousand and sixty.” — Imelda Marcos

I love New York! Thursday, Aug 19 2010 

Click here for a link to Channel 12 New York!
Click here for a link to Jimmy Choo shoes!

Hey gang! I’m looking so forward to next week’s interview with Alicia Vitarelli for her “Buck Wild” segment on August 25th!

I ran into the local Goodwill in Morgantown (I know, you’re shocked), hoping to find another prop or two for the story, and lo and behold, there they were! Jimmy Choo shoes, ADORABLE ankle high boots with 3.5″ heels, denim with silver studs, made in London, size 37 1/2. Size Wha? Damn European measurements. Tried it on, and yokay, FYI time: 37 1/2 is MUCH smaller than a USA ladies size 10. HOWEVER, they were $2, so of course they came home with me anyway. Found out at home (courtesy of Google) that 37 1/2 translates roughly into a size 7 USA. Could make a fabulous Xmas present for someone I know with much smaller feet than me…. hmmmmm…

Goodwill Fashion Show – Secondhand Chic! September 9th Thursday, Aug 19 2010 

Click here for details on the fabulous Goodwill Fashion Runway Show!

Hey guys! I ran into Goodwill the other day (shocker, I know), and picked up a flyer for their upcoming “Goodwill Runway Show – Secondhand Chic”, scheduled for Thursday, September 9th. Doors open at 4:30P, fashion show starts at 6:30P, and the Boutique is opening at 7:15P.

Guys, this show is fabulous. It’s huge, it’s well done, they have food, wine, incredible clothes, shoes, jewelry, you-name-it. If you go, you’ll love it. If your schedule is free, think about stopping by!

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