Slash your Back to School Budget in Half! Thursday, Nov 13 2014 

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!

Check out Kristen’s website at http://www.brilliantfrugalliving.com

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Save Money & Prep for Summertime Weather! Wednesday, Jul 2 2014 

Remember last winter, when I was whining non-stop about the extreme cold, record-setting power outages, heating bills, etc? Yeah, me too. I vowed then and there, no matter how hot it got this summer, no matter how much my hair frizzed and I looked like an sweaty extra in a prison-chain-gang movie, I wouldn’t complain about summertime heat. Let’s face it, no matter how hot it gets, you can still drive (no ice on the roads), and in the 90+ degree heat, chances are excellent that power lines won’t cake over with ice and snap like thread. So for a refreshing change of pace, I’m going to instead kavetch about other summertime weather phenomena (severe storms, tornadoes), and how you can prep your household – frugally! – for maximum peace of mind at minimal cost.

First thing to get, a backup generator. If you don’t already have one, think about getting one. Hardware stores everywhere have them in stock, and my favorite online secondhand store (Craigslist) has dozens for sale near you. Best part about buying from Craigslist – those generators are practically new, and usually at least 50% off! Often, the current owner will detail how it’s only been used for 12 hours total during the last power outage, and now they’re upgrading to the newer, bigger model (which will be outdated & ready for Craigslist this time next year…but I digress). One of these discount beauties will save you big stress, multiple costly trips to a nearby hotel, everything in your refrigerator/freezer… you get the point. Biggest money-saving tip – don’t get sucked into buying a generator that will power everything (including the central air conditioning system) in your house – it’s unnecessary overkill. Make sure it can handle your kitchen appliances (except your clothes dryer, you can hang everything outside for free!), and go old school with a window air conditioner and box fans until the power is back up. Head to a hardware store online calculator to determine what size generator you need.

Next: a Weather Alert Radio. It’s uncanny how a good percentage of scary “get to the basement pronto” weather happens in the nighttime hours while you’re sleeping. Get yourself a weather radio that’ll go off every time severe weather is in your area. They’re available everywhere, and usually cost less than $20. It’s great peace of mind. Side note: if you’re in possession of a cell phone that’s more sophisticated than mine (99.9% of you fall into this category), then simply download severe weather alert apps directly to your SmartPhone – just don’t forget to bring the phone to bed with you at night!

Last: Batteries, in all sizes, and lots of them: It’s funny how many of us have all of the sophisticated software necessary to know what the weather patterns are anywhere on the planet, only to have us slapping every flashlight in the house against our palm in the pitch dark of a nighttime blackout because the batteries have gone dead. Check your flashlights now to make sure they’re up to snuff, and have lots of extra batteries at the ready for when they inevitably die out.

Here’s to being fabulously frugally outfitted with all the equipment we need for another fickle summer weather season. Please Mother Nature, don’t make us have to reach for it.

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host, Columnist & Author of Brilliant Frugal Living. She co-hosts WCHE 1520’s Morning Show, and “The Kristen Hagopian Show” airs Tuesdays at 4P. She resides in Chester County with her family. You can find her online at http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Slash Food Bills with your local Grocery Outlet! Wednesday, Jul 2 2014 

Summer’s here! The kids are getting out of school and starting their fabulous summertime sports and hobbies, get-togethers and playdates. I love it! Basically, this is the time of year when I swear I can hear them growing – have you got anything like that going on at your house? It’s also a time of year when I’m finding they’re enjoying not only the standard three meals a day, but often in-between snacks as well, all rapidly burned off with best friends, bicycles, skateboards and playground equipment.

When it comes to keeping your family well-fed during this wonderful summertime blitz of activity, look no further than your local Grocery Outlet! Take it from a fellow frugal foodie, one of the best in the area is Swann’s Pantry Grocery Outlet in the Marchwood Shopping Center in Exton – I’ve been going there for years, and it’s my grocery goldmine. All of the brand names that my hard-working family adores, and I’m often spending 50% less than I would at the major supermarkets nearby. It’s divine. If you haven’t hit this place yet, get there pronto, Tonto. Meats for the barbeque, fabulous produce, breads & pastries and a mack daddy bulk food selection – one of the biggest in the area!

Fringe Lifestyle Side Note: Now that my family is really getting big into the whole ultra-hip (read: “ultra-expensive”) gluten-free and/or low-carb lifestyle, Swann Pantry Grocery Outlet has been a lifesaver, offering fabulous goodies for a fraction of retail. One of the best things about this place is that it proves without a doubt one of my favorite frugal rules – that living and eating fabulously doesn’t have to break the bank. “Foodie on a Budget” is no longer an oxymoron – it can be done!

Also, some interesting facts – According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household of four people can spend anywhere upwards of $1200/month for groceries. Insane, no? Compare that to my household of four foodaholics, purchasing the best brand names out there, and often spending less than $600/month. Five seconds with a calculator tells me that I’m saving over $7000/year compared to other families of four – that’s some handy coin to stash into savings, pay down debt, add to your kids’ college accounts, or even pay for that next quality-used car with cash.

Whenever people connect with me to ask my advice on how to cut their budgets down to a manageable size, I’m astonished at how few are making use of their local Discount Grocery. If you’re looking to slash that food budget, while still getting the best brand names out there for you and your family, get yourselves to your local Grocery Outlet and watch your food bills plummet faster than you can say “Bon Appetit”.’ Frugal On!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host, Columnist & Author of Brilliant Frugal Living. She co-hosts WCHE 1520’s Morning Show, and “The Kristen Hagopian Show” airs Tuesdays at 4P. She resides in Chester County with her family. You can find her online at http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

A Fabulously Frugal Cinco De Mayo! Wednesday, Jul 2 2014 

Hey everybody – Thank heavens we’re coming up on May! I couldn’t care less how hormonal Mother Nature has been these last few months, once we’re past April 30th, she has no choice but to usher in some serious, sustainable Springtime weather. Now you know that I’m not much for hallmark-ish holidays, but at this point, I’m ready to leap onto any and all holidays that get people into a warmer weather state of mind. Cinco de Mayo to the rescue! This fabulously festive holiday has been the theme for many magnificent shindigs, and why not? The fun, the food, the colors, the music – we deserve it all! Read on for spicy, frugal tips that will have a great party ready to roar, without biting your wallet in two.

First things first – The Food! I’ve been to several Cinco de Mayo parties, and the proof of a great get-together is always in the food. This is no place for a deli tray, people! Get creative and spicy Mexican-style with a make-it-yourself taco bar. The crowds universally adore them, they’re delish, and when done right, they’re easy and inexpensive to make. Start with some spicy ground beef, add some shredded chicken, put out lots of salsa, tortilla shells and shredded cheese, add a couple of taco sauces, guacamole, some sour cream, and you’re set. Classic side dishes are beans and rice, chips and be sure to get a colorful fruit salad in there too. Friends are going to want to bring something, so put them each onto a spicy dish or dessert of their choosing – later on you can do a casual contest to determine who brought the most authentic Mexican dish!

The Dishes and Décor – Super simple. One trip to your local dollar store will have this locked up. Even with my deep, intensive knowledge of dollar store inventory, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the quality and selection of this year’s perfect Cinco de Mayo dishes, decorations, even margarita glasses! Go with bold colors and fun designs – there’s no such thing as “over the top” color schemes when it comes to Cinco de Mayo decorating!

The Invitations – keep it ultra simple and just go online. Evite.com is one of my favorite sites, but there are dozens out there! With the click of a button, you can send out dozens of colorful, eye catching invites, and when your friends and family respond with the click of a mouse, you’ll have everyone’s RSVP automatically inserted into your calendar, as well as any notes on what they’re going to bring! Saves time, postage, and serious hassle. You have to love modern technology, especially when it helps to pull off a great party.

The Music – As if I even need to say it, magnificent Mexican music is key to a fabulous fiesta. Tell your friend with the seemingly surgically-attached iPod that he is now in charge of music! When the party date arrives, plug that iPod into your speakers, et voila! You’ve got hours of perfect Mexican music at the touch of a button.

Here’s to ushering in a beautifully warm month of May – Bon Appetit and Party On!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host & Columnist, Motivational Speaker & Author of Brilliant Frugal Living. She co-hosts the Morning Show on West Chester’s WCHE 1520, and “The Kristen Hagopian Show” airs Nationwide via Business Talk Radio Network. She resides in Chester County with her family. You can find her online at http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Save Huge Money with a Tiny Garden! Friday, Apr 11 2014 

Gang, I give up. When I turned in this week’s Column in to the Editor a few days ago, it was nearly 60 degrees. By the time you’re reading it today, the temperature is going to dip into the 20’s with a good chance of (I can barely say it) SNOW. Welcome to Springtime in Siberia – minus the vodka. This is nuts. However, I remain ever hopeful (bordering on delusional) that one day soon, we can look out the window and actually see a few consistent days that look like Springtime. With that in mind, let’s turn our thoughts to a fabulously frugal, easy, Spring-themed project that not only welcomes warmer weather, but can save you hundreds by the end of the year – a Garden!
For those of you who have never given thought to creating a small home garden, hear me out. I’m about to give you three excellent reasons to give one a try.
Reason #1: Food prices are rising substantially this year. According to the USDA Consumer Price Index, food prices could increase as much as 3.5% this year, as wages remain stubbornly stagnant. Don’t forget the drought in California, coupled with ridiculously cold weather in other parts of the United States. What does this mean for you? A substantial uptick in food prices, this as we’re trying to pay off our heating bills from this past winter. The good news is that you can take a huge bite out of your food costs with even a 10-foot square garden! I’ve spoken to people who simply enjoy potted plants on their patio (tomatoes, carrots, herbs, etc.) and still cut their food costs substantially.
Reason #2: The most expensive items on supermarket shelves are often the easiest to grow. In our house, we love our salads, fruits and herbs. Have you seen the price of a head of iceberg lettuce lately? Don’t even get me started on the price of strawberries! And the price of those small packets of herbs you see in your Supermarket’s produce aisle? Where were they grown? The moon? Plant a few simple rows of your favorites this Spring, and enjoy all of the benefits of fresh produce, for a fraction of the cost of retail.
Reason #3: The immense personal satisfaction of having your own garden. There’s nothing like putting a fresh salad, or a bowl of delicious, organic, homegrown strawberries, raspberries and blueberries on the table and knowing it cost pennies (compared to the $10 you’d pay in the supermarket for organic produce), and knowing you can do it all over again tomorrow with a stroll through your own garden. If you have young kids at home, let them help as much as possible, and rejoice in the fact that you’re teaching them a healthy hobby that can save them hundreds – if not thousands – over their lifetime as well.
Side note: With the economy still doing its “one step forward, two steps back” cha-cha, our local food banks are very much in need. When you plant your rows of favorites this year, give some thought to planting a row of hardy cucumbers, carrots, onions or other easy items, and donate them as they grow. You’ll be doing your local community a world of good, for pennies.
Happy Gardening, everybody!

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!

Have a Fabulously Frugal Thanksgiving! Friday, Nov 8 2013 

Hey gang – it’s almost Thanksgiving! How did that happen? Honest to God, it feels like I was just writing about fabulous Springtime getaways and Summertime projects, and now suddenly I’m seeing ads for “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” on television. I love that show, by the way. Every Thanksgiving, I’m tempted to pull a Snoopy and launch plates of popcorn & toast at people as they sit dumfounded around a ping-pong table. So home-video worthy…but I digress.

This year, it’s my turn to have family over, so it’s high time for me to kick the planning into gear to get a fabulous Martha-Stewart-worthy Thanksgiving on the table. If you’re on the hook for Thanksgiving dinner as well, and a dinner of popcorn and burnt toast on a ping pong table won’t quite cut it, read on for some fabulous strategies that will put together a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner for a fraction of the time, effort & stress of years past.

Step One – the Main Course. Chances are excellent a roasted turkey will be a part of your Thanksgiving dinner. Whatever you do, don’t overspend for it! Hit your grocery the week before Thanksgiving, when sales are hitting their peak – with any luck you’ll see prices around .79/pound, perhaps even less! When it comes to deciding what size to get, go with one pound per person, then tack on 4-5 pounds for leftovers. Don’t worry about roasting it, you won’t screw it up. Just pretend it’s a big chicken, show no fear, and shove it in the oven. Honestly, I douse mine in some olive oil, put some salt & pepper on it, baste it once an hour until it’s done, and people rave about it. If I can do it folks, so can you.

Step Two – the side dishes & fun extras – I have one word for you when it comes to the side dishes. Delegate. Seriously, give each and every one of your guests a side dish to do (or a flower arrangement to bring, or decoration to create) and watch your Thanksgiving dinner come together beautifully with nearly zero effort and stress. Think about it – every one of your guests is going to want to bring something as a hostess gift, what better gift than a side dish to be included on the table? Have one relative in charge of potatoes, another on rolls, another on a fabulous salad, one more on yams, you get the point. Your table is stuffed with fabulous food, and your stove burners aren’t doing quadruple overtime. Win-win in my book.

Step Three – the desserts! I have very simple rules regarding desserts at Thanksgiving. More is better, and carbs don’t count. I’m a fan of the “four or more” desserts for this fabulous holiday. I have wonderful family that loves to linger around the table, and I find that four separate desserts, combined with some strong coffee (to make the calories melt away) is just the ticket to keep conversation going for easily an hour after the turkey is put away. It’s fabulous.

Gang, above all else, remember what this wonderful holiday is for – to give thanks for all of our blessings and show those closest to us how much we care. If you’re anything like me, you’re marveling at how quickly the year has gone by – make Thanksgiving the day to kick back and enjoy every minute with family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

A Deliciously Frugal 4th of July! Wednesday, Jun 26 2013 

Happy (almost) 4th of July, everybody! As we get closer to this summer holiday – and touch even closer to my birthday later in July – I’m reminded that it’s also shorts and t-shirt weather, a.k.a. hardcore dieting time. Much as I love a good holiday dessert nosh, I’ll love fitting into a fabulous dress I’m planning to wear on my birthday even more! With that in mind, what better way to exorcise the dessert demon than by going into gooey, delicious praise of my favorites right here. 99.9% less fat, calories and carbs, with 100% of the fun! When I put out the word getting opinions on everyone’s favorite Independence Day Desserts, they came thru in red, white and blue glory. Read on for readers’ favorites, we’ve got something to tantalize every patriotic taste bud out there. Best part: they’re all easy to create – often for less than twenty-five cents per serving!

First of all, let’s take care of the kids in your crowd. Top votes for them are clearly cupcakes and popsicles! Take the edge off the heat by freezing up some red, white and blue beauties and serve them flower-style in a vase filled with ice cubes. As for the cupcakes, be daring with some red velvet cupcakes topped with white buttercream and 4th of July sprinkles – extra credit if you find toppings in the shape of stars!

For the teenagers, top votes go to milkshakes and sundaes! Get the vanilla ice cream out (keep strawberry or blueberry ice cream in reserve as well) and let the kids get mega creative with some frosty red, white and blue creamy concoctions. Ingredients for this culinary extravaganza are super easy – just make sure you have plenty of whipped cream, berry syrups, berries and toppings on hand. For guaranteed hit reviews, head to the Dollar Store of your choice for some sundae bowls, long sundae spoons, milkshake glasses, and sturdy straws.
Once you have the kids sugared-up properly, dazzle the adults with healthy and guilt-free parfaits! Layer ice-cold fresh strawberries, blueberries and raspberries with yogurt or sugar-free whipped cream. It’s easy to prepare, delicious, and hugely appreciated by those who are looking to save their holiday calories and carbs for the potato salad, some chips and perhaps a hot dog roll or two. For those on your guest list who don’t make a habit of counting carbs, calories or fat grams (a.k.a. the guys), go straight for pie. There are fabulous patriotic-looking varieties awaiting you in the freezer section – cherry, blueberry and strawberry are outstanding bets. For mega-extra credit, make one yourself (ready-made pie crusts wholeheartedly recommended) and create a magnificent “homemade” berry pie (canned filling works for me!) with the kids cutting out star-shaped pieces of dough to decorate the tops and circle the sides.
Above all else, enjoy the day for what it is – a fantastic birthday bash and well-deserved celebration of our Country and our independence. Happy Birthday, America!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host & Author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”. “The Kristen Hagopian Show – Living a Luxurious Life, for Less!” airs Thursday and Saturdays on Philadelphia’s WWDB-AM 860-Talk. You can find Kristen online at http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Celebrate Easter for Less! Sunday, Apr 7 2013 

Hey everybody – Sorry for getting this Column posted so late on my blog! It came out in plenty of time for the Daily Local & GalTime, but took me forever to blog it! Consider it fabulously earlier for NEXT Easter. Hugs to all! K
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Happy Easter, everybody! Despite January-esque weather and frequent snow squalls – Easter is finally upon us, and I’m thrilled. I love this holiday – it’s a fabulous day for so many reasons. We’re *this* close to Springtime, it’s a wonderful day to get together with family and friends and it’s the one day of the year where I can wear a big, obnoxious pastel hat to church without getting (too many) weird looks. What’s not to love?
One of the best ways to celebrate the holiday is with a table full of family and friends. For those who hold back on a full house for fear the costs will spin out of control, read on for fabulous tips on creating a magnificent Easter for easily half the cost of last year!

The Feast: The most highly-effective tactic to slash costs on your Easter Meal is to delegate! I would suggest the host or hostess be in charge of any ham or turkey, but when it comes to the side dishes, it’s time to let your beloved guests show off their best recipes! In my family tree, I’ve got relatives coming in from all directions that are specialists in everything from dips to side dishes to desserts. Everyone coming to your house is going to want to bring something – let them put their special mark on the day with a recipe that they’re famous for! Before you know it, your only culinary task for the day – your turkey and/or ham – will be sitting in your dining room surrounded by gourmet parmesan potatoes, a bottle or two of wine, herbed rolls and a side table filled with desserts, none of which you had anything to do with creating. Score!

Decorations: I’ll be honest, I’m not much for sophisticated decorations on Easter. I pretty much pat myself on the back for setting the table with a pastel green tablecloth & bright pink napkins. However, I know people who take the flowers & placecards to a level worthy of a visit from Queen Elizabeth. Most people are somewhere in between. My advice – if you have any kind of nearby flowering bushes (forsythia, etc.) that are blooming, cut a few dramatic branches for some tall arrangements in vases, or simply line them down the center of the table in and amongst the candles. It looks fantastic, and fits in beautifully with the color scheme. If you want to kick it up a notch and you’re expecting a guest who adores flowers, have them be in charge of the arrangements. Boom, it’s off your list.

The Candy: If you’ve got young kids at your house (like me) you know that the candy costs can rapidly spiral out of control faster than you can say “nuclear sugar rush”. That being said, we all want the kids to have a great time, we just don’t want to break the bank to do it. No doubt you already have last year’s Easter Baskets upstairs in the attic, so all you have to do is hit the nearest dollar store where fabulously fresh Easter candy can be had for a fraction of what you might pay retail. Do yourself a favor and bring your basket with you to measure the amount of candy you’re getting. You’ll be surprised just how little you really need.

Above all else, remember that the idea here is to appreciate this special holiday in ways that won’t wreck your budget – surrounded by loving family and friends, hopefully some Springtime weather, and if you’re really lucky, an obnoxious pastel hat. Happy Easter, everybody!
http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Three Fabulously Frugal Investments for 2013! Saturday, Jan 12 2013 

Every January, I detail a list of inexpensive “investments” that I personally recommend for hard working people looking for smart purchases. By “investment”, I mean that the cash you shell out to buy it will be (without a doubt) rewarded with even greater value that its purchase price within a short amount of time. Past suggestions included warehouse club cards (My Sam’s Club card pays for itself as soon as I buy tires for my car) a crock pot (Pot Roast, come to Momma!), continuing education (learn how to change the oil on your car), a library card – you get the point. Without further adieu, I give you the list for 2013! Invest your hard-earned money in some (or all) of the following items, and watch your investments reward you with a marvelous return!

(1) A fake gorgeous Christmas Tree – yes, the holiday season is just past, so it may seem odd to bring this one up. However, January is – by far – the best month to purchase one of these beauties. Several retailers found their holidays falling short and still have them available on their showroom floors at huge discounts. I recommend taking the frugal route in an even more delicious direction and hitting your local Goodwill or Consignment store, where already 75% discounted trees, still new in their boxes, have been discounted yet again for an even more reasonable price. It’s divine. We have a spectacular eight-foot fake Christmas tree in our living room, purchased seven years ago on Craigslist for the bargain-basement price of $80. It’s beautiful, looks real, is easy to put together, and – given the skyrocketing price of real trees in past years – has saved us easily $600 in the past few years. Cha-Ching!

(2) Programmable thermostat – These are delightful little devices that automatically program the temperature in your house according to your wishes. If you don’t have one of these brilliant little gizmos, stop what you’re doing and go get one. They’re marvelous, and getting better every year. For less than $50, you can get a thermostat that may easily save you 20% on your energy bill. Depending on the size of your house, we’re talking about $500-$700 in savings in one year’s time. Hard to beat!

(3) A backup power generator for your house – Thunderstorms, high wind, hurricanes… you name it, we’re enduring it, year after year. Summertime brings the storms, fall brings the hurricanes, winter brings the snowstorms. Chances are excellent we’re all going to get smacked around this year as well, and yet another power outage is entirely likely. Save yourself the hassle, stress and upheaval of packing the bags, kids and parents and bundling off to the nearest hotel for a cramped hotel room at $150+/night. Invest in some serious peace of mind with a generator. You’ll love it. The power goes off, no worries – the generator goes on. As Hurricane Sandy barreled up the coast last year, thousands of people invested in new, mack daddy generators at top prices… and now no longer need last year’s mack daddy model. Hit Craigslist to find deeply discounted ones near you, you’ll see the vast majority of them are being offered at well over 50% off, and have been used 10 hours or less. Chances are they might even deliver it to your home if you offer a couple of extra bucks. Viva electricity!

You work harder than ever for your money, by all means invest it in useful items that are guaranteed to make your life easier, and your bank account even bigger. Here’s to a 2013 filled with many happy returns – Frugal On!

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