A Brilliantly Frugal wrap up to the Year! Thursday, Dec 27 2012 

Happy (almost) New Year! I hope this Column finds you surrounded by family, friends, and fabulous food. Considering we have a solid few days left before 2012 departs for good, I wanted to throw some ideas your way on how we can make the next seven days pack a fabulously productive punch, Frugalista style!

First, let’s talk weather. Who ordered the insane cold, what’s with the wind and rain? If hair frizzing was an Olympic sport, I’d bring home the gold. But hey, it’s winter, best to deal with it, so we’re talking crummy forecasts for the foreseeable future. Have you got a couple of coats in the closet? Long ones, short ones, poofy ones, sleek ones? Ones that you absolutely adore and love and could never part with? Yeah, me too. Push those to the side, and grab at least two (three is better) that have been hanging in the back of your closet in hypersleep for a few years. You haven’t used them, you aren’t going to use them. Well guess what – there’s somebody out there that could definitely use them, and right now, they’re just using up space in your closet. Throw them in a pile, then take fifteen minutes going thru your sweater drawer the same way. Jeans too, if you have the time. Extra points for shoes and boots. Mega extra points if you can get spouse and kids to do the same. Collect everything together (take a moment to marvel at how little time it took) and take the clothes to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or homeless shelter. As fabulous as it feels to help those in need, it doesn’t hurt to discover you’ve just taken the long-unused stuff in your closets and transformed it into a monster tax writeoff. It’s all good.

Then, take a look at your kitchen cupboards. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got cupboards full of food, and yet still go out every week to get more. Sure, some of the stuff we go thru like clockwork each week, like produce, milk, eggs. Then – not so useful – there’s the five cans of creamed corn I bought by accident (thought it was regular), just sitting there, next to the canned salmon that I bought on a lark before I realized it had bones in it (ewwwwww). Sound anything like your cupboards? Grab a box and start throwing things in. Literally, I give you permission to throw. Try it, it’ll feel good – and it will keep other family members away for fear you’ll lob something in their direction. In my box, we had the creamed corn, salmon, 4 boxes of cake mix, canned spinach, 3 boxes of jello, bag of beans, two bags of rice and about 6 cans of evaporated milk. I always evaporated milk at the holidays, convinced it’ll make me look like a fabulous Food Network Chef, certain I’ll get a wild urge to make homemade fudge, only to receive some each year from a marvelous friend who is far better at making that glorious goodness than I ever could be. How fabulous is THAT?! Out the door it goes to the Chester County Food Bank!

There you go, folks. Two of the big necessities in life, food and clothing. Given the latest headlines, I’m feeling over-the-top blessed simply to have two healthy kids running around adoring the holiday. If you’re feeling like your cup is running over at the moment as well, don’t be afraid to show it. Somewhere out there, a person down on their luck who loves outdated poofy coats and creamed corn awaits. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, everybody!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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!

This Christmas, Think Inside The Box Saturday, Dec 17 2011 

Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of connecting with The Chester County Food Bank’s Program Director, Phoebe Kitson, on my “The Brilliant Frugal Living Show” on News/Talk 1180AM. I knew from past experience that any conversation with The CCFB would be informative and entertaining (and it was), but this interview unintentionally became one of the biggest heartstring-tugging chats of all time, leading to loads of email feedback from listeners, and giving me some new thoughts on gift-giving in general.

One of the most touching segments of the interview was Phoebe’s description of an anonymous Middle School student in our area, who broke down in his School Counselor’s office because he wasn’t sure if his house was still going to be there when he got home (at imminent risk of foreclosure), much less if there would be food on the table for dinner that evening. Thanks to The CCFB, his family, and hundreds of others like it, were able to create a Thanksgiving dinner that otherwise would have been impossible. With new studies confirming a staggering number of children (1 in 4) now run the risk of going to bed hungry, this was a story that really hit home.

During the interview, emails and texts started pouring in: “How can I help, what types of food do they need?” (Answer: Just about anything, but peanut butter, canned fruits, vegetables and meats are a great start.), “Does the CCFB take credit card donations?” (Answer: They do!), “Does The CCFB accept food stamps in exchange for food?” (Answer: The food is FREE, there is no need for currency), and so on.

Here’s the statistic that really stuck with me: This holiday season, a box of food, comprised of all the staples and basics a household depends on (see earlier mentioned peanut butter, canned goods, etc.), can be put together to feed a family for a week, for $25. Think about that – for the price of an average holiday gift (NYT bestseller, music box, sweater), you could feed a family desperately in need this holiday season for an entire week. It got me thinking – we all love Christmas for the family times, laughter, fun food, and memories created. Honestly, when it comes to receiving gifts, I’m blessed in that I have just about every single thing I need, and there are probably many of you out there who feel the same.

This Christmas, give some thought to donating a $25 food box to the CCFB, in the name of someone you love (Mom, Dad, Spouse, etc.), and in your loved ones’ Christmas card, try something along the lines of: “Mom & Dad, I remember when I was young, I never went hungry a day in my life, thanks to you. This Christmas, a hungry family in our area can also say they have food on the table, thanks to you. Merry Christmas, love Kris”.

For more information on how you can easily donate to The Chester County Food Bank, please log onto their website at http://www.ChesterCountyFoodBank.org, stop by their Warehouse at 1208 Horseshoe Pike in Downingtown, or give them a call at 610-873-6000. Merry Christmas, everybody!

Kristen Hagopian is an Author, Columnist, Motivational Speaker and Radio Talk Show Host with WFYL 1180AM. “The Brilliant Frugal Living Show” airs Tuesdays and Saturdays at 11:00A. She lives fabulously & frugally just outside Philadelphia with her husband and two kids. Log onto http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com for more information.

Three Easy Ways to Save Big at Thanksgiving Tuesday, Nov 8 2011 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easy Ways to Save on Labor Day Weekend! Tuesday, Aug 30 2011 

“If all the cars in the United States were placed end to end, it would probably be Labor Day Weekend.” – Doug Larson

Yup, this fast-moving summer is winding down and another autumn is right around the corner – it’s time to take that one day out of the year to celebrate our labors with a day built just for us. With gas prices finally coming down a bit, more Americans are looking a bit further away on the map for a fun destination to create some Labor Day memories. Wherever you wind up, always remember: there’s no better way to pay homage to Labor Day than to find a way to enjoy it without spending a lot of money! Read on for some fabulously frugal Labor Day activities that will help you enjoy the weekend without breaking the bank.

Labor Day Frugal Fun Idea #1: CAMPING! Keep it easy and inexpensive by renting a camper or tent from a reputable source (better yet, borrow one from a friend!) and spend some time away from all of the trappings of labor this Labor Day. And need I say it: Leave the laptop at home! It simply does not compute compared to the gorgeous solitude of a beautiful campsite. Leave the computer games at home and instead try a sharpened stick filled with marshmallows roasted over the first campfire of the season to relax.

Labor Day Frugal Fun Idea #2: Labor Day weekend means a three-day break for many, so take advantage of it with activities you wouldn’t think to try on a regular two-day weekend. Take one full day to enjoy a local art museum, take a long hike at a nearby trail, hit a local winery for a tour, linger thru a fabulous festival, or host your own full-day barbeque. The sky is the limit!

Labor Day Frugal Fun Idea #3: Apple picking at your local orchard. It’s harvest time at many local orchards, and regardless of weather, the vast majority of local growers are offering great deals during Labor Day weekend to entice families to come out and relieve them of their extra produce, often at tremendous discounts! So grab your biggest apple picking bags, load up, and bring them on home to create every single apple dish you’ve ever loved. Pies, Strudels, compotes, sauces, side dishes, you name it, it tastes all the sweeter when the apples you use in it are easily 75% off the price of retail.

Labor Day Frugal Fun Idea #4: Yes, I’m saying it – you have permission to eat out. Now, those who know me rarely hear me endorsing the idea of eating out. However, national holidays over long three-day weekends have their own special rules, especially when there are specials galore at restaurants everywhere this holiday weekend. Half price deals, BOGO’s, family specials, the deals are everywhere – check out newspaper ads, online coupons and more. Take a look at your favorite restaurants first and choose the deals that will suit your family best.

Above all else, remember that Labor Day weekend is about relaxing, kicking back, and forgetting about work for a while. The less you spend, the less actual labor you’ll have to expend to make up for it. Keep with the spirit of the holiday by enjoying the weekend in a way that will keep the fruits of your labors right in your pocket, where they belong. Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Minimizing the Effects of the Downgrade Wednesday, Aug 10 2011 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy a Fabulously Frugal 4th of July! Tuesday, Jun 28 2011 

Hey everybody – Happy Independence Day! Read on for some effortless ideas on doing up this wonderful red, white and blue holiday without spending a lot of green!

The Food – Nowhere in literary or movie history have I witnessed a 4th of July menu that required champagne, filet minion and crème brulee. We’re talking hotdogs, hamburgers, chips, lots of cold beverages and some fabulous apple pie here! Et Voila! Fourth of July menu perfection achieved! If you really want to dazzle, finish off the meal with a delicious red, white and blue-themed dessert. Try a light cake topped with white buttercream, blueberries and raspberries! Or perhaps a gorgeous fruit salad loaded with watermelon, blueberries and raspberries! Hit your local discount gourmet grocery to stock up on the best brand names for a fraction of the price, and remember at all times that calories don’t count when you’re celebrating America’s independence. Trust me, Betsy Ross didn’t snack on Fiber One bars while she was creating the American flag. I’m sensing she went straight for the carbs. If weather permits, save on utilities by cooking outdoors on the grill! It keeps the kitchen cool and saves loads on air conditioning.

The Sales! – Stores nationwide of all shapes, sizes and offerings, whether they’re huge Department Store conglomerates or corner Mom & Pop shops, long for a worthwhile reason to drive shoppers thru their doors. Black Friday is legendary in the wintertime, what’s slightly lesser well known is its summertime twin – 4th of July weekend. Sales are everywhere! Have a look in your favorite stores – if you’re in need of housewares, clothes, appliances, even automobiles – 4th of July weekend sale offerings could fit the bill nicely.

The Fireworks – I don’t know about your neighborhoods, but around me, stands and tents are everywhere offering these colorful little explosives (‘scuse me, “fireworks”) for sale. It could be the Mom in me, but every time I drive by one of these lovely tents, I cringe. Huge. If I see anything other than hand-held sparklers in the neighborhood kids’ hands, my pupils tend to dilate wildly. Trust me folks, the statistics on injuries is insane. Save yourself the effort, expense, and potentially painful and pricey emergency room visit by heading to one of the dozens of parks near you for a fantastic, professionally-run, free fireworks display!

The Clothes – Make it clear to the world you’re proud to be an American by wearing your most fabulous red, white and/or blue outfits – and the more colorful, the better! Dig deep into your closets for some fun combinations, or hit your local thrift stores for a few new pieces – the sales are huge! Some ideas? Try a fantastic casual white dress, paired with navy blue pumps and a red scarf or belt. Or have some fun and go totally flamboyant with pumps of different colors (one red, one blue), paired with a white blouse and red skirt. Or just make it a Bruce Springsteen kind of holiday, with your classic blue jeans and a fabulous white t-shirt. Pull some red flats out to complete it, et voila! A fitting 4th of July wardrobe for next to nothing.

The Fun! – if you’re looking for some inexpensive activities to enjoy, check your local newspapers and get online! A few minutes of searching on Google (try entering “4th of July festivities”) will turn up fairs, festivals, and – if you’re lucky – a parade or two within close distance. Important Frugalista Tip: Pack a snack (that $2 soda cart is selling items you can buy for .15 at your local discount grocer… you get the point). Bring small flags for everyone to wave (available on sale in just about every hardware store and dollar store this time of year) and have a ball!

Above all else, remember that thinking, acting, and adoring all things frugal is as quintessentially American as apple pie – what better way to celebrate America’s independence than to do it with some fabulously frugal fun? Happy 4th of July, everybody!

Kristen Hagopian is a Motivational Speaker and Author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”. You can listen to her money-saving tips Wednesday mornings on Montgomery County’s WFYL 1180AM, (stream it live at http://www.wfyl1180.com!) and her book is available at her Web site http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com.

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