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

Feeding 4 (fabulously!) for less than $300/month! Day 26 Update – In The Homestretch! WOO HOO! Wednesday, Jan 26 2011 

BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING
AMELIA’S GROCERY OUTLET – SAVE MONEY!
Okay, so we got stomped with snow this morning. And we’re about to get stomped again late tonight. And probably again next week. Yes, it stinks, BUT so long as my popcorn crunch therapy holds out, I refuse to take on a negative attitude. I’ll take my cues from my Kindergartner, whose “Hooraaaaaaaaaay! School’s Cancelled!” shrieks of glee was probably heard for a mile in every direction. The girl has some serious voice pitch, as well as contagious enthusiasm. The house is a wreck, but we had a blast today. Go Fish, anyone?

Both kids are doing great, bouncing back from this rotten cold & getting closer to 100% every day. I’m thinking Katie is going to have another snow day tomorrow. And can I tell ya?… Thank HEAVEN you can print out those “Highlights Hidden Pictures” online! It’s a hit! Buys me at least 10 minutes at a time to do something productive of my own. Side Note: I think all Kindergarten Teachers should be sainted.

Okay, onto the Challenge Update! Day 26 Total: $8.69, total for the month is $233.08!

Today’s Menu:
Morning Coffee: (1.00) Okay, yes, I’m embarrassed. A double-double batch, a.k.a a quadruple batch. The kids ARE getting better (so proud of them!), but are still calling me in for a snuggle (or two) during the night. I adore it, but I’m whipped. It should be noted that I didn’t drink the WHOLE quadruple batch, a good part of it is in a mongo mug in the fridge, just waiting to nuked at the proper time tomorrow.

Breakfast: ($1.00) — apples & cinnamon toast for little people, 2 HB eggs for Victor, just coffee for me.

Everybody’s Lunch: ($0.25) Leftover soup! Served pureed over elbow macaroni (topped with parmesan cheese) for little people, served straight to the adults. No salad, just the bare basics.

Afternoon Snack – ($.70) Kids snacked on apples again, somewhere between the “Toy Story 3” and “The Incredibles” Double Feature.

Dinner: ($4.74) – So far today, I’ve been shoveling, cleaning, baking cookies with the kids (most of which will go to the VERY COOL guy who plows the driveway, blogging, and basically watching the house get turned into a tornado debris field by two little people (it really DID sound just like a freight train coming thru, I swear!!). so we’re taking it easy for dinner. Smoked sausage sauteed in a frying pan (1.99) with a side of baked macaroni & cheese ($2). Fast & easy, and the oven really heated up the kitchen beautifully! Didn’t do a salad with it, but we DID do chocolate cake for all (.50). It should also be noted that the kids will be eating about a half dozen of the cookies we made, so I’ll count them here (.25).

Evening Snack: ($1) Can I tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to popcorn all day? Great way to wrap up a great day. I didn’t actually witness it, but I assume Victor is finishing up the rest of his chips doing computer work upstairs, so I’ll add that too.

Total for today: $8.69, total for the month is $233.08!

Take it easy out there everybody! And for God’s sake people, learn from my experience — When you shovel your back steps, lift with your legs! (I’m getting so freakin’ old.) 🙂

Feeding 4 (fabulously!) for less than $300/month – Day 24 Update! Monday, Jan 24 2011 

BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING
AMELIA’S GROCERY OUTLET – SAVE MONEY!
Happy Monday guys! Know why? Cause the royal spanking from Mother Nature has (to my knowledge) been massively downgraded. Thank the LORD. It’s all good. Another reason it’s a great day? Because I cooked & baked my brains out yesterday and now my refrigerator is stuffed with easy heat & eat food. Viva leftovers! Katie is home just ONE more day, knocking out the remnants of Hurricane Pneumonia from whence it came. She’s being such a trooper, but she’s totally pooped.

Day 24 Total: $4.00, total for the month is $214.71!

Today’s Menu:
Morning Coffee: (0.50). Back to “just” the double batch. Aren’t you proud of me?

Breakfast: ($0.0) — leftover French Toast for all! Even more appetite on little people today, I’m so happy!

Everybody’s Lunch: ($0.00). More leftover soup for little people, and leftover beef ravioli with organic marinara sauce (from two days ago) for the adults.

Afternoon Snack – ($1.50 ) Two pounds of fantastic apples – I love the super crunchy ones. Easy to slice up for little people, everyone’s happy.

Dinner: ($1.50) – Leftover pork loin roast and sweet potatoes from last night, plus another salad (.50), another can of corn for the kids (.50), and chocolate cake for dessert (.50)

Evening Snack: (.50) Popcorn. I think I know how to make this stuff in my sleep by now. Extra butter, light on the salt. LOVE it.

Total for today: $4.00, total for the month is $214.71!
Hang in there, everybody – one day closer to Springtime!

Day 18 Update! Feeding four (fabulously) for less than $300/month! I am so in the mood for Italian… Tuesday, Jan 18 2011 


BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING
AMELIA’S GROCERY OUTLET – SAVE MONEY!

Hi guys! Well, the snow kept Katie home from school today (Robbie was delighted), so the day became a bit of a blur of Go Fish games, coloring books and a Toy Story 3 marathon, but still managed to get a couple of things done. Updated the website, confirmed a couple more speaking engagements. It’s all good! If you’re anywhere near the East Coast, WHAT is with the ICE?! Is it Springtime yet??

Day 18 Total: $9.68, Total for Month: $167.36!
Today’s Menu:
Morning Coffee: (0.50). Still on the double batches – both kids have colds, which is making for rough nights for them, followed by ugly mornings for yours truly. Poor little boopers. Coffee might not be a nice smushy pillow with soothing music lulling me off to sleep, but it’s a nice 2nd place.

Breakfast: ($1.56) — Four HB eggs for the adults (two each), Cheerios with milk for little people ($1)

Kids’ Lunch: ($0.0) Kids are both home, so they had the leftover chicken & corn from last night.

Adults’ Lunch ($0.70): Leftovers for the adults too – salmon & green beans (Victor brought his to work, along with two big apples, about a pound, $0.70)

Afternoon Snack – ($1.00) More apples & bananas. Life’s good, and it’s a perfect tide-me-over snack for little people.

Dinner: ($5.57) – Huge batch of spinach tortellini with cheese (no preservatives or artificial coloring, LOVE that stuff!), comes in a 1-pound package ($1.39 each), I boiled two packages to ensure leftovers, topped the tortellini with Organic Muir Glen Marinara Sauce ($1.19), parmesan cheese, added a side salad (.50), and baked a gorgeous Simple Sweets Berry Pie for dessert. The berry pie ($1.19) is small, only 4 servings, but only the adults are into it, so the kids had cookies (.25). There will be leftover pie for tomorrow night, so I’m only counting $.60 of the pie’s cost tonight.

Evening Snack: (.35) Popcorn is ON, I’m eating it as I type this.

Total for today: $9.68, total for the month is $167.36!
Off to chill with my good friend TiVo (here’s hoping the kids get more sleep tonight). Night, all!

Can you really feed 4 people for just $300/month? Absolutely, if you know where to shop… Monday, Jan 17 2011 

BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING
AMELIA’S GROCERY OUTLET – SAVE MONEY!
Hey all – Hope Monday treated you well! With any luck, you had today off for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. If not, if your day was anything like mine, it FLEW. Had a fantastic time in Allentown this morning with two live spots on WFMZ’s “69 News at Sunrise”. Working with Morning Anchor Eve Tannery is always so much fun! And can I tell you guys, the kitchen set at that station is absolutely sweet. LOVE IT! Many thanks to everyone at the station for making things run so smoothly, as usual!
SEE TODAY’S LIVE SPOTS HERE!

Okay, folks – we’re on Day 17, more than halfway thru, and today was phenomenal in that we received a record number of hits on the blog today, 10x more than usual – such fun!

Day 17 Total: $9.09, Total for Month: $157.68.
Today’s Menu:

Morning Coffee: (0.50). Going with double batches the last few days (hazelnut today), and generally blitzing thru it over the course of the day. Scary caffeine intake, but I’m getting lots done!. What was that joke Jeff Bezos once made about coffee? “In Seattle you haven’t had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine while it’s running!” That’s about where I’m at right now.

Breakfast: ($0.56) — Four HB eggs for the adults (two each), and the three remaining slices of leftover French toast for the kids. Super easy, everyone’s a winner.

Kids’ Lunch: ($0.99) Katie had off for the MLK holiday, so she’s at home. Went with Chef Boyardee’s no preservatives mini ravioli with meatballs (15 oz for .99)

Adults’ Lunch ($0.70): Victor brought two large apples (1# = .70) to work, along with leftover pork loin & pilaf from last night that he microwaved at work ($0.0). I had the same thing at home!

Afternoon Snack – ($1.00) Apples & bananas for little people, one pound of each.

Dinner: ($4.99) – Trying to wake up my brain a bit here – coffee will only take me so far – so I’m going with fabulous brain-friendly Santa Fe Salmon with Corn & Bean relish ($1.99). Green Beans (.50) and a salad (.50) to go with it. Kids aren’t into salmon so much yet, so I sautéed ½ pound of chicken breast ($1) and gave them corn (.50) as a side dish. Yellow cake with buttercream icing for dessert (.50). Salmon with all the trimmings for adults, chicken breast with the trimmings for the kids, and yellow cake for dessert, ALL under $5? THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about!

Evening Snack: (.35) Loving the buttery popcorn every night. It’s a special treat that I and I alone can hog. No matter what you’re watching on tv, if you’re eating hot buttery popcorn at the same time, it’s a great show.

Total for today: $9.09, total for the month is $157.68!
Have a great night, everybody! K

Day 16 on the “Feed 4 for $300/month” Challenge: Halfway there, and I’ve spent $148.59! Woo Hoo! Sunday, Jan 16 2011 

BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING
AMELIA’S GROCERY OUTLET – SAVE MONEY!

Hey guys, hope you had a great weekend. Went by WAY too fast, BUT I’m psyched about a morning spot I’m doing on Allentown’s WFMZ’s Channel 69 tomorrow morning. Can’t wait! Topic will be how to save big money in 2011, and easy spending tricks that will give you the $5,000-$10,000 raise you deserve! Should be on between 8:40-8:50A!

Okay, back to da blog… halfway there, and feeling GREAT about the totals.
Day 16 Total: $11.15, Total for Month: $148.59

Today’s Menu:
Morning Coffee: (0.50). Hello caffeine, my old friend. Yup, another double batch today. I’m so whipped this weekend, what’s up with that?

Breakfast: ($0.0) — leftover French Toast from yesterday. So fast, I love how I look like a hero when I get this on the table in 5 minutes. I even have a couple of slices left for tomorrow. SWEET!

Lunch: ($3.00) I’ve got a big Sunday dinner planned, so we kept it easy for lunch & went with one package hotdogs & a box of macaroni & cheese.

Afternoon Snack – ($2.00) Apples & bananas for the hungry masses.

Dinner: ($5.30) – pork loin marinated in lemon & garlic ($4). Melt in your MOUTH! Made a big batch of rice pilaf (.30) and a side salad (.50) to go with it. Also made another yellow cake with buttercream icing for $2. If it’s anything like the other cakes I did, it’ll last four days, so I’m pricing it out at .50 per day for dessert.

Evening Snack: (.35) say it with me now…POPCORN! Didn’t catch a good Saturday night flick last night (wound up with some fabulous Nigella Lawson on TiVo), so hopefully tonight the movie gods will hook me up.

Total for today: $11.15, total for the month is $148.59!
Have a great night, everybody! K

“Feeding 4 for $300/month” Challenge – Day 15: If my microwave breaks, I’m basically doomed. Saturday, Jan 15 2011 

BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING
AMELIA’S GROCERY OUTLET – SAVE MONEY!
Hey all!! Hope you’re having a fantastic weekend! Got loads of overdue housework done today (miracle). Loving that the Mt. Pinatubo of dirty laundry has been transformed into a Mt. Pinatubo of clean laundry. Progress! Hugely helpful that I had a refrigerator full of leftovers today. Way cool.

Day 15 Total: $9.65, Total for Month: $137.44!
Today’s Menu:
Morning Coffee: (0.50). Went with the Hazelnut this morning, extra strong. Woke up this morning feeling whipped, so I made a double batch in case I need it for medicinal purposes during the day.

Breakfast: ($3.50) — big batch of French toast w/maple syrup, lots of leftovers for quick breakfasts for the next few days.

Lunch: ($2.00) Kept it easy, defrosted some leftover soup I had from last week ($0.0), and made whole wheat grilled cheese sandwiches to go with it! ($2.00).

Afternoon Snack – ($2.80) Apples all around, about a pound per person. Apple addicts.

Dinner: ($0.50) – leftover spaghetti marinara for the kids, and leftover General Tso’s for adults. And yes, if my microwave breaks, I’m completely screwed.
Everybody had sugar cookies again for dessert (.50).

Evening Snack: (.35) You’ll never guess – POPCORN! And hopefully a cool Saturday night movie to go with it.

Total for today: $9.65, total for the month is $137.44!
Have a great Saturday night, everybody! K

Update! Feeding 4 (fabulously!) for $300/month, and a brief word on Experts, Schmexperts… Thursday, Jan 13 2011 

AMELIA’S GROCERY OUTLET – SAVE MONEY!
BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING

Hey gang! Happy Thursday – one day closer to the weekend, AND, if you’re off for Martin Luther King Day on Monday, a 3-day weekend to boot! It’s all good.

On a somewhat serious note, I’m hearing experts on the news today predicting (with well thought-out reasons) that food prices are to make a 4% jump over the course of the year, meaning that a family of four (previously spending an average of $800/month on food), will now “have to” spend an average of $832/month, or nearly $10,000 to feed their family this year. Combine that with a similar increase in the price of oil, utilities, etc, and it can create a bleak picture, especially given the current trend of pay freezes, pay cuts, and of course, the higher unemployment rate.

One of the biggest points I’m trying to make in this month’s unsubtle, loudmouth frugalista blog is that there is NOTHING more satisfying than taking these experts numbers and shredding them into confetti. Come on now, $10,000 “required” to feed a household of four for a year? Hogwash. The whole idea of this month’s blog is showing how easy it is to do it for $3600/year instead! If I can do it, anybody can! Decide what your budget will allow, then make any necessary changes to accommodate today’s budget constraints. Resources are everywhere to make your money stretch further than ever. When it comes to food, if you’re living in Southeastern Pennsylvania, take a look at your local Amelia’s Grocery Outlet. Chances are excellent you’ll find everything a growing household needs, and for much less than you’re spending now! Let’s show the experts how it’s done! Tell a friend!

Alright, enough of the nightly news, back to important topics. Like cheap snacks to veg out with in front of the tv.
For last night’s menu, I aimed for Mexican food, so tonight I’m leaning towards some old fashioned stick-to-your-ribs fare.

Day 13 Total: $7.44, Total for Month: $117.36!
Today’s Menu:

Morning Coffee: (0.25). Back to Snickerkicker coffee. Buckets of it. FAB.

Breakfast – ($1.56) — four HB eggs total (0.56) for Victor and I (he brought his to work), and the kids had cheerios w/milk (.50) and some sliced apples (.50)

Kids’ Lunch: ($1.20) – Tacos for Robbie! Last night’s taco shell container had twelve taco shells, and we only ate half of them, so we had plenty to go around for lunch today. Kids loved them! I’m thrilled (and shocked!). It wasn’t quite feasible for Katie to bring tacos to kindergarten, so I sent her off with the usual fun fare – apple juice box (.15), cheesy crackers for snack (.05), PB&J sandwich (.50), and a fruit cup (.50). Even after lunch we had enough taco shells, meat & cheese left over for the kids to enjoy over the weekend.

Adult lunch: (0.39) – Tacos for parents too. He also brought a pound of bananas with him to snack on. (.39)

Afternoon Snack – ($1) kids and I snacked on another pound of apples and one pound of bananas. It’s quick, it’s easy, it tides the kids over until dinner. All cool.

Dinner: ($4.25). Went with a huge slab of Berks Hickory Smoked Ham (.99/#, I used two pounds to ensure leftovers), baked it in the oven at the same time as a pan of Au Gratin potatoes (.75). Side of green beans (.50) and salad with dressing (.50), and we’re set! Sugar cookies for dessert! (.50)

Evening Snack: (.35) Popcorn, popcorn, come to Momma you awesome popcorn. ¼ cup of popcorn popped into around 6 cups, topped with ¼ stick of melted butter.

Total for today: $7.44, total for the month is $117.36!

Hang in there gang, only one more day until the weekend! Frugal On!

Day 8 total: $0.90, Total for June: $5.03 Tuesday, Jun 8 2010 

www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Hey all! Sorry tonight’s blog is so late, I’m still coming down from a fantastic time in Philadelphia today. Off the charts amazing.

The menu for Day 8 underwent a bit of a shakeup, courtesy of my previously mentioned trip to the city. No big deals in budgeting, just skipped the eggs for b’fast & the planned lunch & the canned peaches for a snack. AND, best of all, instead of Overstuffed Ravioli & canned peaches, I ate the most amazing fruit salad I’ve ever had in my life. Yes, it was that good. Truly.

Breakfast – coffee = .15

Lunch – ’86’d the ravioli, and instead had a few bites of a friend’s generously offered amazing fruit salad. Bite of mango, touch of pineapple, bite of strawberry there, I was a mere mortal in fresh fruit heaven! It all became a bit a blur very early in. Not sure if they saw the blog or not, but their generosity was very appreciated. 🙂 Tempted to cost it out at zero, considering it was a gift, but in the interest of exact accounting, I’d estimate the cost at around $0.50.
Cost = .50

Dinner – 2 oz of whole wheat linguine (.09), with a small portion of “Four Cheese” spaghetti sauce that I opened earlier in the week (the entire can was .05, I’m calling this serving .01 worth…)
Total cost: = .10

Nighttime (blogging) snack – my beloved Dagoba organic chocolate bar. I’m ready to call this ritual “chogging”.
Cost: .15

Total cost of food for today: $0.90.

Great ideas sent in by bloggers & facebook buddies suggesting I invest in the upside down tomato plant that hangs from a hook outside, one person wonderfully recommended that I hit a local orchard and see what they want for “drops”, and one other reader recommended joining some kind of a recycling co-op. Great stuff! Keep up the fantastic suggestions! Have a great night, everybody. K

Brilliant Frugal Living’s “Frugalista Diet” – Menu for Day 8, AND a shocking, unexpected development! Tuesday, Jun 8 2010 

www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Howdy fellow frugalistas & frugalistos – hope the day is treating you great! Over here, a truly shocking, “deflating” development. I lost a pound on this diet! WOO HOO! Truthfully, not eating this way for weight loss, and I’ll NEVER argue or question the forces that help me to lose weight, but truly didn’t expect it! Lovin’ it!

The menu for Day 8 is as follows:

Breakfast – coffee, two eggs = .23

Lunch – necessity (and 20 cans in the inventory) dictates that I return to my culinary love, Chef Boyardee, for lunch. Going with Overstuffed Ravioli.
Cost = .05

Daytime Snack – Can of Dole Peaches.
Cost = .05

Dinner – B&B had their usual sale on pastas (some that cost as much as $2.60/box all selling for .60 a box instead!), so our heroine has some wiggle room in her diet. Going with 2 oz of whole wheat linguine (.09), with a small portion of “Four Cheese” spaghetti sauce that I opened earlier in the week (the entire can was .05, I’m calling this serving .01 worth…)
Total cost: = .10

Nighttime (blogging) snack – my beloved Dagoba organic chocolate bar.
Cost: .15

Total estimated cost of food for today: $0.58.

Keep sending in your thoughts, ideas & suggestions!
Have a great Monday, everybody! K

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