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for 12 hours total during the last power outage, and now they’re upgrading to the newer, bigger model (which will be outdated & ready for Craigslist this time next year…but I digress).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

Advertisements

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

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

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

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

Slash your Air Conditioning Costs! Friday, Jul 19 2013 

Hey, gang!  You’ll never guess where I got the idea for this week’s Column.   Good Lord.   With my July birthday, I’ve found myself thanking my Mom profusely time and again for being nine months pregnant in the July heat way back when.  This year, I felt like I should erect a statue in her honor (Thanks again, Mom!).   If you’re one of the millions who feel that battling this latest heat wave has sapped your strength – and your bank account – read on for fabulously frugal tips on keeping cool, without going broke in the process.
(1) Do your math – In the hottest months of summer, my own frugal experiments show time and again that a simple twenty degree difference between the outside temperature and the inside air is all it takes to feel refreshed and cool.   If it’s 98 degrees outside, and your air conditioner is set to 65, it’s huge overkill that’s taking a monster bite out of your wallet.  Believe it or not, you can easily and comfortably escape your 95-degree outdoor surroundings with an indoor air conditioner set to 75 degrees.  You read right – 75 degrees.   Give it a try!  Trust me, not only is it far less of a shock to your system, it’s far less of a shock to your utility bill at the end of the month. 
(2) Meet your summertime cooking buddy, your microwave – If there’s one thing that goes against the grain in the summertime heat, it’s blasting up the oven to 350 degrees or putting a couple of stove burners on “high” to get dinner on the table.  While you’re planning your meal menus, think big and think cool.  If your family is big time pasta lovers, try cooking two pounds at a time.  Keep the leftovers in the refrigerator and heat them up the next night in the microwave rather than cooking up a whole new batch on the stove.  If your crew is into the protein, try cooking two chickens in the oven rather than just one at a time.  The leftovers will heat up beautifully in the microwave the next day – with much less heat in the kitchen, therefore much less air conditioning required to counteract it – you get the point.  Extra credit to those who also employ their outdoor grills and/or energy efficient crockpots.  

(3) Don’t even think about using your clothes dryer – It’s 95 degrees in the shade, if there’s ever been a better case to be made for giving your dryer a summer vacation, this is it.  Grab some clothesline and string it up around anything that stands still – a tree branch, the edge of your swing set, the side of your garage – trust me, it doesn’t have to be fancy.   Not only will your clothing dry faster than you ever thought possible, but you’ll be astonished to see what you’re saving on your energy bill.  Case in point: I put a batch of towels on the line last week, and not only were they dry within 90 minutes, they were ready to spontaneously combust. 
Whatever you do to combat the heat this summer, try to incorporate at least some of these proven tips so you’re not stuck battling a huge utility bill at the end of summer.  Frugal On!

Today on The Brilliant Frugal Living Show – creating a fabulous Easter for a fraction of what you spent last year! Tuesday, Apr 3 2012 

BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING
The food, the baskets, the clothes, the flowers and décor, we’ll tell you where to find it all for easily 50% off retail.  Why pay more?  Then, Bradley Mattson of 1847 Financial joins me to answer questions sent in from listeners – insurance needs for parents, starting a 401K, and – of course – reducing your tax burden as we get closer to the looming April 17th deadline.  It’s all today on Philadelphia’s News/Talk 1180 WFYL!  Tune in at 11A or livestream us at the link!  www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com