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

Frugal Summer Activities for Kids – The Sequel! Wednesday, Jul 2 2014 

What a fantastic response to my “Frugal Summer Activities for Kids” Column back on May 13th! Thanks so much for the emails, texts, voicemails and Facebook feedback – you guys are the best! This week’s Column is dedicated to even more ideas for keeping the kids entertained this summer without draining the bank account and/or driving Mom & Dad crazy. Win-win in my book! Gleaned straight from crafty, creative DLN readers – here’s a list of even more great indoor and outdoor activities that are proven hits with the soon-to-be-paroled school age crowd.

Discount Movies – Hannah P. of West Chester emailed to tell me that last year’s heat wave will be etched on her mind forever (Amen, sister!). Despite the heat, her sons were great about playing outside and keeping busy, so once a week, she’d treat them to discount matinees at local theatres. I did some checking, and sure enough, Management at Regal Cinemas in Downingtown confirmed they have a kids’ movie festival starting June 24th, ending August 20th. Every Tuesday and Wednesday, kids can attend morning movies (starting by 10A), for just $1 per ticket. That’s a couple of hours of highly-entertaining air-conditioned goodness right there. Just to put the cherry on top of it, when the movie is done, you can take your ticket stub to the nearby Chick-Fil-A (same day) for a free chicken sandwich (like they’re not addictive enough to begin with). Sweet!

Stargazing – Charlie T. of Glenmoore bought a second-hand telescope three years ago on Craigslist for his teenage kids to enjoy, and it’s been popular beyond his wildest expectations. Each summer, when the sun goes down, the kids spent hours checking out the moon, planets, stars, and anything else in the night sky that caught their attention. They often invited friends over to join them, and sure enough, they got hooked as well! (X-box, Schmex-box, I can see Jupiter’s rings in my telescope!) Side note from Charlie – even his older model digital camera had enough of a zoom lens for his daughter to get some great close-ups of moon craters, creating some wonderful framed pics for his daughter’s room, not to mention a budding astro-photographer. Get your own teenage astronomers on the case this summer, and get them psyched for the spectacular Perseid Meteor Showers in August!

Other Fun Chester County Venues — Gee, if only there were a detailed website telling everybody where they could find inexpensive kids’ fun in Chester County… oh wait, there IS! Debbie Z. of Exton sent a link to a great website called kidschesco.com, and it’s packed with fantastic ideas that are not only close by, but inexpensive. Festivals, fairs, please touch museums, camps, workshops – Chester County is buzzing with terrific, inexpensive activities for kids!

Whatever you do to keep the kids entertained this summer, don’t let it break the bank – Chester County has you covered. 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. When she’s not at WCHE, she’s usually shopping the fabulous deals at Swann’s Pantry Grocery Outlet in Exton. 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

Three Easy Steps to a Fabulously Frugal Easter! Friday, Apr 11 2014 

Hey everybody – we made it! Winter is officially in the rear view mirror, and we’re about to hit one of my favorite official Springtime holidays – EASTER! In my opinion, we have earned the right to maximize this wonderful day, complete with fabulous warmer weather, pastel-themed holiday clothes and an Easter table surrounded by our favorite people and surrounded with our favorite foods. My mission for this week’s Column is to blitz the notion that a fabulous Easter has to cost big money – nothing could be farther from the truth! I’m hearing from people spending $120 on a child’s dress because it was “on sale” – are you nuts? Don’t make me throw an Easter egg at you! Rather, read on for a wonderful one-two-three punch that will create a beautiful Easter for a fraction of what you might have paid last year.

First things first – the Food! The time has flown since January, and if you’re like me, you’re about halfway towards your summertime dieting goals. Keep up the great work! That being said, I officially give you permission to relax the usual dieting rules at Easter dinner (kind of like I did a month or so ago when Valentine’s Day candy went on sale for 90% off). When it comes to your Easter feast, the best bet to keep your sanity and wallet intact is to delegate with pure abandon. Everyone coming to your home is going to want to be helpful, so let their Easter contributions to straight to the dining room table! Let family and friends bring side dishes, desserts, wine, even the flowers! Before you know it, the only thing you’re responsible for is the main dish ham or turkey, et voila! Your Easter table is set, and you didn’t have to spend your Easter stressing over an oven and four stove burners simultaneously.

The Easter Baskets – My kids love a good Easter candy hunt around the house. I have to admit it, I still love it too. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years, it’s that I have a tendency to purchase way too much candy. Shocking, I know. Do yourselves a favor and bring one of last year’s Easter baskets with you to the Dollar Store when you buy your candy. You’d be surprised just how little you need to fill the baskets and make a fabulous candy hunt. Add a good size chocolate bunny, and you’re in great shape.

The Clothes – There are precious few occasions in the year when I can justify buying a new outfit for a holiday. Easter is one of those occasions. My beautiful kids are growing like weeds, and I love marking that fact with brand new outfits for Easter. Hit your local thrift stores and consignment stores where you’ll find beautiful new clothing (worn once counts as “new” in my book!) for easily 90% off department store prices. Fabulous side benefit – those same thrift stores are often a glorious gold mine of one of my Easter fashion favorites – Easter hats. The bigger, the better and all at fantastic prices. Ladies, I kid you not, try wearing a hat to Easter Mass just once – you’ll never go bareheaded again.

Above all else, remember the reason for the Season – have a wonderful time with family and friends, and don’t forget to send me family pics of the whole crew in their fabulously frugal Easter glory – extra credit for hats! Happy Easter, everybody!
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

A Fabulously O’Frugal St. Patrick’s Day! Friday, Apr 11 2014 

Okay, I don’t mean to make a lot of what is essentially a “Hallmark” holiday, but I have to be honest – with this ridiculous winter wrapping up (It IS wrapping up, right?…. please?), it’s time for a great excuse for some fabulous Springtime celebrating. St. Patrick’s Day to the rescue! Whether you’re full-blooded Irish-American, or you’re like me and can’t claim a drop in your family tree, read on for fun St. Patty’s Day ideas that will help usher in the warmer weather without frying your wallet.

(1) The Food! – On St. Patrick’s Day, keep it simple and delish with fabulous Irish favorites like Ham and Cabbage, Sausage and Potatoes, etc. Easy to cook, fun to eat, and remember – carbs don’t count on St. Patrick’s Day! I had some great crock-pot ideas sent in from readers (thanks, gang!), and for more super-simple recipes that your family will love, try hitting the “Taste of Home” or “Food Network” websites for fun lunch, dinner & party ideas. For dessert, let the kids decorate a fabulous green themed cake (sprinkles, anyone?) and if you head out for some St. Patrick’s Day fun, and find yourself driving by an extremely popular fast-food chain that features a little (inexpensive) treat called a “Shamrock Shake”, indulge with no guilt. St. Patrick’s Day just comes once a year!

(2) The home décor! – Keep it simple with a trip to your local Dollar Store. I swear, the local stores have taken St. Patty’s day Décor to a whole new level. Highly impressive, and very reasonably priced. Take even moderate care of it, and it’ll store beautifully for next year as well! Side note – if your kids are feeling creative but your schedule is too strapped to get out of the house, dig out the remaining green, white & yellow construction paper from the Christmas holidays and create loop chains to hang around the house. It’s easy, the kids love doing it, and trust me – they look hysterical draped over ever, single, conceivable nook and cranny of your house.

(3) The Crafts! – One word for you crafty types out there. Pinterest. Good Lord – Martha Stewart with a cappuccino I.V. drip running thru her veins couldn’t compete with all of the crafty ideas that Pinterest has to offer. If you’ve never looked before at that website, I urge you to give it a review. Squelch the urge to feel completely overwhelmed, and instead rejoice in all of the fabulous craft ideas that will fit your brilliantly creative kids skill levels perfectly.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everybody – Frugal On!

Get Rid of Fallen Branches – FRUGALLY! Friday, Apr 11 2014 

Hey guys! Again, you’ll never guess where I got the idea for this week’s Column. Good Lord. If your yard is anything like mine, you’ve got huge fallen branches and limbs everywhere. If Mother Nature took out some serious wrath on your yard as well, read on for easy, inexpensive ways (gleaned from readers’ fabulous emails and texts) to rid your yard of the wooden carnage.

One of the most popular responses from readers – rent or borrow a chipper! Around here, rental rates range anywhere from $50-$80 for a few hours, and it’s a fabulous way to transform ugly fallen branches into decorative mulch for your house, or fantastic nutritious mulch for your garden. If you borrow the chipper from a neighbor or friend, make sure you compensate with some mulch they can use in their garden, as well as some fabulous baked goods and/or the beverage of their choice. If you’ve got more mulch than you can possibly use, put out the word to neighbors on social media. One West Chester resident tells me he got rid of a six-foot pile of mulch in one day by mentioning it on his Facebook page!

If you’ve got big piles of branches downed in your yard, and the branches are decently thick (perhaps an inch thick or more), think about listing them on Freecycle or Craigslist. We’ve got a lot of people around here who heat their homes with wood, and giving away your branches for free kindling and firewood is an great solution for everybody involved. If you don’t have the machinery or strength to cut the wood into stackable piles for pickup, make sure that’s clearly stated in your ad. Even if there’s work involved, chances are excellent that the prospect of free wood will still have people responding.

Another great option sent in by readers is to donate the wood to local charities. If you’re interested, start by contacting your local Church or charity and spread the word that you have wood available for free. You get rid of ugly branches in your yard, the tree goes to good use and a needy household gets some extra warmth. Talk about a win-win!

Without a doubt, the most popular method for getting rid of wood in your yard cheaply and quickly – cut it, stack it and put it in your front yard in neat-ish piles with a big sign saying “FREE”. According to readers, cars driving by your property will notice it, and put out the word. Without fail, readers report that even the biggest piles are often gone within 48 hours.

Above all else, pat yourself on the back for surviving another nasty mood swing from Mother Nature. Here’s to a fabulous Springtime!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host & Columnist, Consumer Reporter, Motivational Speaker & Author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”. The Kristen Hagopian Show airs Nationwide via Business Talk Radio Network Wednesday nights. She resides in Chester County with her husband and two children. You can find her online at http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Brilliant Frugal Investments for 2014! Thursday, Feb 13 2014 

Hey gang – ready for spring yet? Me too. Until then, let’s focus on some great January investments that will reap big returns on your hard earned money over the course of 2014. Many think investing requires large amounts of money – not true! Read on for three inexpensive investments that can save you hundreds or more by year’s end.

(1) Warehouse club cards – We’ve got three clubs in this area: Sam’s Club, BJ’s & Costco. Here at the Hagopian house, we’re proud to carry cards for all three! They offer tremendous discounts on items compared to retail, and each have membership fees that run about $50/year. If used correctly, they’ll easily pay for themselves in a month. Extra credit to Sam’s Club for their tremendous prices on top notch tires and amazing meats, not to mention a free cookie for the kids and cream and half & half at about 50 percent off retail. Given my undeniable caffeine addiction, you can understand why I’m at Sam’s on a weekly basis.

Check out your local warehouse clubs to see which one best fits your needs (Management should be happy to let you look around before you commit to a membership). Important Note: resist the urge to impulse buy. Many times I’ve heard the tale of those who ran into a warehouse club to buy bread, and emerged dazed and confused an hour later with the bread, 10 bestsellers and a leather sofa. Buddy up with a trusted friend for those first trips if necessary.

(2) Continuing education – We’re lucky around here in that there are schools near everyone to take classes in just about any subject matter you wish. Head online to see what your local schools and colleges have to offer and learn something new this year – it’s empowering. Whether you’re interested in learning Spanish (looks great on a resume), yoga (great for the looming 2014 swimsuit season) or perhaps you’d like to take a class on how to change the oil in your car or how to do your own haircolor (personally, I save about $150/month on that skill alone).

Think outside the box and learn something new – the benefits could extend well beyond your wallet.

(3) A library card – For every 100 people reading this, 95 don’t own a library card. It’s time to unleash your inner book-geek. Library cards are not only free, but can save you hundreds in one year’s time alone. Magazines, cookbooks, instructional videos, workout DVDs, they have it all.

Remember the dozen or so movie DVDs you bought at full price last year (for $15 each), only to watch them once and never touch them again? You just spent $180 on dustcatchers. Or perhaps you went that one step further into debt and saw those movies last year at (gulp, shudder) full movie theatre price. A family of four hitting the movie theatre once a month, sharing one tub of popcorn and two large sodas will shell out $720/year (don’t hate me, I just work here, hate my calculator instead!). Instead, try renting those fabulous flicks at the library for $3 and enjoy with as many friends as you wish, not to mention large amounts of homemade popcorn.

Gang, you get the point – you work hard for your money, don’t let it go to waste in 2014! Keep an iron grip on it, let it grow like bunnies in your bank account. Final thought: Don’t forget to find all of those movie-themed toys at Goodwill for about 95 percent off retail in a few months or so.

Here’s to a fabulously frugal 2014!

Kristen Hagopian is a syndicated radio talk show host and columnist, consumer reporter, motivational speaker and author of “Brilliant Frugal Living.” The Kristen Hagopian Show airs on Philadelphia’s WWDB-AM TALK 860, and nationwide via Business Talk Radio Network. She resides in Chester County with her husband and two children. You can find her online at http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

The Fabulously “Frugal” Days of Christmas! Thursday, Dec 26 2013 

I’ve loved the non-stop comments from Daily Local News readers regarding their shopping habits this Christmas season (thanks, everybody!). That being said, it was the email from DLN reader and fellow frugalista Marge W., who suggested someone write a “Frugal Days of Christmas” song that really got me thinking. I put out the feelers to get everyone’s input on the best items to focus on, and DLN readers didn’t disappoint – that’s so much for your emails! It was those suggestions – and some serious caffeine – that yielded this festively frugal song, for all of you.

“F” is for the FUDGE – a Christmas staple. Although my Mom still makes the best, Seth M. of Frazer sent me a fantastic recipe that costs just $2 per batch, but makes me look like a million bucks! Perfect for gift giving, hosting guests, and yes, the ideal pick me up for midnight wrapping marathons. Note to self, don’t calculate the carb count. Just don’t go there. Let’s talk carbs in January, shall we?

“R” is for the REINDEER – As in the big, plastic light-up jobs you can put in the yard. The new ones in the stores are a smidge pricey, so I’d suggest you aim for the antique ones on Craigslist that are being practically given away. James R of West Chester apparently has quite a herd of them on his front lawn, much to his kids’ delight, and he paid a fraction of retail for them. James, when that electric bill shows up in January, throw me an email and we’ll figure out how to knock that sucker out.

“U” is for the UGLY SWEATERS that are required by Pennsylvania State Law to be worn, given and received as gifts this holiday season. Extra gift-giving points if the sweaters have obnoxious reindeer horns, hoofs or noses knitted into them. Super bonus points if you find matching mittens. I’m finding that your best bet is to head to your local Goodwill or Thrift Store, although I heard from Annabeth T. in Exton that she found awesome ones for $1 each on Craigslist – you go, girl!

“G” is for the GIFTS – and the more homemade and heartfelt, the better. This Christmas season, I hope you threw out all those outlandish ideas of expensive gifts, and stuck with the presents that were memorable, easy, homemade and inexpensive – see my earlier notes on fudge! See also my notes on how carbs won’t count until January. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

“A” is for AMAZON – as in, the website. Home of tons of holiday gifts, priced at a fraction of retail, and many even offered free shipping this Christmas. Kudos to DLN readers who saved yourself the hassle, parking, long lines (and in some cases, tazers) of the local malls and did your shopping right at your computer. When you’re driving around today, have a look at the UPS, Fedex & Postal Service drivers scurrying about. Notice the professional-yet-nearly-panicked looks on their faces? There’s a reason for that – all of the online shoppers kept them in business big time, and those delivery drivers don’t disappoint!

“L” is for the LIGHTS — This was the overwhelming “L” response from DLN listeners – thank you all! You’re all so right, after the craziest days, there’s nothing like driving about and seeing the light displays on homes everywhere – to those who outdid yourselves yet again this year, you rock! Put them all together, you’ve got a fabulously frugal holiday that focuses on all the right things. God Bless you and your families this Christmas, and frugal on, everybody!

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