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

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

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

Frugal Summer Activity ideas for kids Wednesday, Jul 2 2014 

You might think I’m crazy, but I’m looking forward to having my kids out of school for the summer. My nine-year old daughter and six-year old son have cranked out incredible amounts of work this past year, and I can’t wait to let them play their little hearts out when school lets out in a few weeks.

That being said, I’m getting a good amount of email from readers saying that each year it seems a bit tougher to find fun, safe, inexpensive activities that the kids will love. So, when Susan T. of Frazer emailed me a great article from myblessedlife.net titled 101 Summer Kids’ Activities, it was like striking gold! Read on for my favorite picks of the best Summer Kids’ activities, none of which will break the bank!

1. Lawn Sprinklers – I don’t care how hot it gets, when you pull out the sprinklers, intense summer heat with 95% humidity actually becomes an asset. Now, I’ve seen amazing sprinklers in action that look like they belong in a car wash, and quite frankly, they freak me out. Stick with the easy, dependable ones that you can get at any hardware store for about $30. They last forever. If you really want to see pure delight on your kids’ faces, put two or three of those sprinklers close together in your yard, fire them up, and watch as your kids look at you like Mom of The Year. Add some Kool-Aid to the scenario an hour later and they’re ready to carry you around on their shoulders.

2. The Library – Air conditioned, quiet, and no big bugs. Need I say more? It is a trifecta of Mommy summertime happiness. Add in the fun activities and workshops for the kids, not to mention all of the coolest books and magazines for Mom as you hang out while they’re in the workshops, and you’ve got a great activity that can take up the better part of a hot summertime afternoon.

3. Sidewalk Chalk – If you’ve got kids ten and under, invest in a pack of these delightful little creative gems. Find them a shady spot in the driveway and let their little chalky Michelangelo hands go wild!
4. The Park – It’s free, it’s loaded with mack-daddy swing set equipment that you’d never find in your own yard, and it never gets old for the kids. They also often have excellent, flat, paved areas that are great for the Big Wheels and bikes. Throw in a picnic lunch from home and you kick it up another notch for the 10-and under crowd. From the Mom standpoint, I love connecting with the other Moms as we all hang out and drink in some sunshine therapy after the crazy winter we had! Viva Vitamin D!

Whatever you do, don’t worry about summertime activities costing an arm and a leg. Trust me, the most priceless thing for your kids is being out of school! Add a popsicle and a lawn hose to the scenario, and you’re perfectly set up for another fabulous summer. Frugal 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 The BizTalk Radio Network. 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!

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!

Stay fabulously, frugally warm! Thursday, Feb 13 2014 

Hey gang – looks like January is determined to remind us time and again that we’re in deep winter mode. I’m not trying to whine here (much), but where are the freakishly warm January days that we’ve had in years past? Is having just one January day at 80 degrees too much to ask? Where’s all this global warming I keep hearing about? And my biggest gripe: what’s with the little negative signs next to the temp when we’re talking about wind chills? Who ordered that?

Okay, whining is done. For now. Instead, read on for some fabulously effective frugal strategies to keep your winter heating bill low and your bank account (and body temperature) high – trust me, springtime is right around the corner!

• Time for serious body armor: Some of you know that I grew up in Wisconsin, right off the (windy, freezing cold) Great Lakes. Anyone who grew up in Green Bay knows you’re issued your first pair of long underwear about the time you speak your first words (usually a Lombardi quote). By contrast, I was out shopping recently with a friend of mine (born and raised in Philly), who literally didn’t know what long underwear was. Gang, try them. You’ll not only fall madly in love with the toasty warmth of them, you’ll love the money you save setting the house thermostat just those few degrees warmer.

• Rock those space heaters: Before we had kids, my husband and I wouldn’t hesitate to fire up the kerosene heaters during the coldest days of winter. Now that we’ve got young kids in the house, kerosene heaters (combined with my deeply overprotective parental nature) get me nervous. Edenpure heaters to the rescue! I love these things. Safe, effective, they blast hot air into the room at no risk to kids or pets, and – when purchased on Craigslist – they’re incredibly economical. For extra points, shut the doors in the room as well (or just put easy spring-rod curtains up in doorways) and you’ll find the rooms heat up beautifully.

• Electric blankets and flannel sheets: I am a huge fan of flannel sheets. If you’ve never tried them, I highly recommend it – they hold body heat beautifully and make for a marvelously toasty night’s sleep, even on the coldest winter nights. When it comes to electric blankets, I have to admit I’ve never really gotten into them. However, people who read this column and listen to my show have emailed me more than once to rave about them, so they definitely warrant an honorable mention. At about $25 each, they cost around $1/night to run. Turn down the heat at night and you’ll still have noticeable savings on your heating bill at the end of the month.

• Clean your air vents: We’ve had an entire autumn and winter with the heat running pretty much nonstop. It’s a perfect way to clog up your air vents. If you haven’t cleaned your vents or switched out your air filters in the last few months, be sure to do it soon. Clogged air vents can put a huge (read: expensive) extra burden on your heating system.

Gang, above all else, remember that springtime is just a few months away – until then, hang in there and layer up (with something preferably flannel). You can make it – Frugal On!

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

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!

Have a Fabulously Frightfully Frugal Halloween! Thursday, Oct 17 2013 

Yokay, so the weather hit a tropical 80-something degrees this past weekend (and I loved every minute of it).  Whether your air conditioner is blaring full blast at the moment or not, that doesn’t change the fact that another fabulous Halloween is upon us in just a couple of weeks!  Better still, the inevitable 50-90% off day-after-Halloween candy is on store shelves shortly after that – yeah baby!  But I digress…

If you’re in need of fun costumes for your kids, but you’re as strapped for time as you are for cash, fear not – I’d like to reintroduce you to a Halloween costume classic that is simple to put together, and can easily cost $3 or less with the help of your local Dollar Store.  This Halloween, the fabulously frugal fashion word is – CAPES!  Yes, capes – those easily assembled little numbers that not only effortlessly transform kids into perfectly costumed candy carriers, but also cover a multitude of clothing underneath it if we should have a freakishly odd temperature switcheroo into some winterish weather on October 31st.    If you don’t spot any capes at your local Thrift Stores, hit your local fabric stores instead, where racks upon racks of multi-colored cloth await you.  Depending on the age & height of your child, one square yard (often $2 or less) will do the trick.  Carefully cut a hole in the middle of it large enough for your child’s head to fit thru, et voila!  Your child is costumed!  The finishing touch can be found at your local Dollar stores, where I’m seeing masks of all shapes & sizes – some of them truly freaky.   

When it comes to the best caped costumes, here’s my favorite combos:
(1) Black cape with Darth Vader mask – my 6-year old son gave me the idea for this one.  He recently received a great Darth Vader Jedi sword toy for his birthday, and has yet to put it down.   Draping a black cape over his little head and putting a Darth Vader mask on him was one of the easiest costumes I’ve ever done!  Ever better was the look on his face when he took his Jedi Knight Sword and looked at himself in the mirror in full costume.  Priceless!  I think we’ve got a hit. 
(2) Purple cape – If you’re like me, and you have a red-blooded American daughter in the house who has seen “Tangled” approximately 74329 times, grab her long blonde Rapunzel wig out of the toybox, add this easy purple cape, and you’re set!
(3) Red cape – Little Red Riding Hood in an instant.  Extra points if you have a basket she can skip around in to get candy.   
(4) One more for the Black Cape – a vampire!  Have fun with the makeup, and pair it with vampire teeth found in just about every Dollar Store.
(5) White cape – let us not forget one of the easiest costumes ever, the white “cape” or old white sheet, with two small holes carefully cut out for the eyes, thrown over your child’s eager little candy-loving head.   Let’s face it, the Ghost costume is truly the little black dress of Halloween costumes, the fashion classic that never goes out of style.  Better still, if you have any old sheets in the laundry room you’re no longer using, this costume is completely free!

Happy (almost) Halloween, everybody!

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