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

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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 Fabulous Valentine’s Day on a Frugal Budget! Thursday, Feb 13 2014 

I have to be honest, between the snow, school closings and power outages, not to mention being the last house in my neighborhood to put away the Christmas decorations, this year’s Valentine’s Day snuck up on me. How is it February already? If you’re like me, stuck in the solid grip of a “Will this winter ever end?!” mindset, Valentine’s Day — when embraced with the proper frugal thinking — can be a holiday godsend that gives us a temporary break against Mother Nature’s wrath. I heard that the average consumer could spend close to $150 on Valentine’s Day this year! Unless a solid chunk of that is on a good pre-owned snowblower, I urge V-day spenders to read on for a trifecta of Valentine’s Day happiness that doesn’t demolish your debit card.

(1) The flowers – You all know me to be a solid, upstanding, card-carrying Frugalista, not easily sucked in by overpriced gifts with a fleeting shelf life. That being said, I’m a huge fan of roses on Valentine’s Day. It’s embedded deep within my DNA, and it shall not be silenced. The trick here is to get them at a fraction of retail, and I know just the places. Hit your local Produce Junction, where a dozen long-stem beauties can cost less than $20, or hit your local warehouse stores where gorgeous flowers await you at very reasonable rates. Side note: If you think the odds of your significant other bringing you roses are about as likely as you being abducted by an alien life force, take the bull by the horns and buy yourself a beautiful bunch!

(2) The jewelry – I have as much need for glamorous jewelry as I do for the long-stem roses. However, see my earlier notes about the chick DNA. Add to that my lifelong adoration of old movies, and you can see where my addiction to vintage jewelry comes from. Guys, take it from me, when the ladies open up a box with a beautiful piece of bling inside, they’ll see jewelry, but you’ll see the solid gold “get out of trouble free” card that could come in handy as the year progresses. Again, the trick is knowing where to find it. Answer: hit your local consignment stores & thrift stores, where jewelry case upon jewelry case awaits you, filled with vintage bling that will make her heart sing, right along with your wallet.

(3) The chocolate – Valentine’s Day with no chocolate makes about as much sense to me as Thanksgiving without a turkey. I mean, really, what’s the point? You could try making your own – I’ve heard from people who do just that, and they earn a huge A+ for effort in my book. However, if your schedule is as pinched as your budget, opt for easier homemade chocolate goodies – chocolate cupcakes get rave reviews, and they’re super simple to create. Remember, chocolate calories don’t count on Feb. 14!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!

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!

A Fabulously Frugal Family Room! Sunday, Sep 22 2013 

Hey gang!  How’s the late summer treating you so far?  Around here, I’m being uncharacteristically productive in this gorgeous weather, perhaps because I know that the cooler temps can’t be far behind. 
For me, it’s become absolutely therapeutic decluttering during the last month or so, and I thought I’d kick it up a notch.  Read on for a great one-two-three decluttering strategy that will not only get your house looking fabulous, but put some fabulous money in the bank as well!
First Step – Declutter.  Look around your house – if your home is anything like mine, I suggest starting with the Family Room.  With a busy husband and two active kids, my living areas were starting to look like a cross between the show “Hoarders” and the Film “Twister”.  Honest to God, I have no idea how it got that bad, but having both kids in school for the last two weeks gave me an amazing opportunity to declutter and reclaim the room back.  It’s fabulous!  If you’re looking for a Fall Activity that will have you feeling like a million bucks, take a day to clear out anything and everything that’s cluttering up your most active spaces.  My wiggle-space-only Family Room now feels like a gymnasium.  It’s that good.  But it gets better.

Next Step – Turn Clutter into Cash.  Now that you have a pile of books, clothing, shoes, magazines, knickknacks, lamps, furniture, videos, DVD’s and more (none of which you’ve used in ages), it’s time to transform it into cash.  It’s easier than you’d think.  If your Community is holding a yard sale, throw your stuff into the mix and keep the prices LOW to move everything.  Easier still – get out the digital camera and put everything on Craigslist.  Easiest of all – detail everything, donate it to your local Salvation Army or Goodwill and be sure to count every penny of it on your next tax return. 

Last Step – Invest Cash into Heating Fuel for Winter before the prices go up!  So now you’ve cleared out your living spaces and completely decluttered.  Awesome.  Then you got rid of the mountain of unneeded stuff online, at your local Garage Sale, or by donating it.  BRAVO!  If you have cash in hand for your efforts, a serious gold star for you.  Don’t even think of springing the cash at a trip to the casinos.  Rather, call your local fuel oil company and fill up your tanks to the brim now, before the prices go up.  If you donated everything, fantastic!  When your tax return shows up next Spring, it’ll be another outstanding chance to fill up your oil and fuel tanks when the prices are lower.  Whatever you do, don’t fill them up when prices go sky high in winter!
Et Voila!  Your house is looking fabulous, you’ve got enough room in your most active living areas to do an arms-wide, Julie-Andrews-on-a-mountaintop spin (singing optional), and you’ve got some serious cash to show for it.  Here’s to another productive Autumn! 

Celebrate a Fabulously Frugal Autumn Sunday, Sep 22 2013 

Well gang, it’s official: we’re headed into another beautiful Autumn.  The kids are back in school, the weather’s getting cooler, I’ve officially given up on my summertime dieting plans and gone with my ever-so-clever Plan B (covering up with the bulky sweaters I just pulled back out of storage – et voila! I can pretend I’m a size 4 under that heavy wool monster sweater – hooray!).   

I find the key to enjoying this beautiful season to its fullest is to fill it with activities, projects and celebrations that utilize all of the loveliest aspects of Fall for maximum enjoyment.  One of the best things you can do for frugal fun is enjoy some local Workshops and Events that benefit you and your local area!  It’s a win-win for you and your Community!

Case in point: For those of you connecting with me via email and Facebook looking for fun, frugal ideas for a great night out, I just found out about a Chester County Octoberfest coming up in West Nantmeal township that’s a combo of everything I love in local entertainment.  It’s fabulous fun, reasonably priced, and ticket sales benefit the Community big-time with a restoration effort to rebuild the gorgeous historic stone walls in and around Isabella Furnace.  What’s not to love?  The more I learn about the historic stone walls in NW Chester County (including my own), the more I want to learn about restoring them, so long as it can be done at a cost that doesn’t destroy my back or my bank account.  If you’re like the thousands of people in Chester County with a yard full of hidden rocks that you’d like to find a good use for, think about signing up for the Dry Stone Wall Workshop at Isabella Furnace on October 20th!  Hit their
website for more info: westnantmealhc.org.

Knowing myself the way I do, I’m certain that I shall emerge from the Dry Stone Wall Workshop with my usual delusions of Martha Stewart-esque abilities, and shall throw myself into an ambitious Fall project to rebuild my own stone walls.  After that, it’s time to celebrate with some fabulous fall fun!   However, if your entertainment budget is anything like mine (tighter than Joan Rivers’ forehead), spend it in fabulous frugal fashion with an Event like the Chester County Octoberfest Event at Wyebrook Farm, offering you a great night out that benefits your local area as well.  Tickets are only $40 for this adults-only Event, and includes dinner, beer, a German band and much more.  FYI, carbs don’t count when you’re enjoying a meal that benefits the Community, so with the dinner I’m expecting, I can only hope the dress code includes marvelously bulky sweaters!  To buy your tickets, call 610-286-9722, or hit their website at westnantmealhc.org. 

Viva Autumn! K

Celebrate Hanukkah – For Less! Saturday, Dec 1 2012 

Hanukkah starts December 8th, and already I’m receiving emails from people looking to keep their spending lower than in years past. Hanukkah may last for eight fabulous nights, but it doesn’t mean you have to emerge broke on the other side of it. With some simple strategies, your holiday will be a wonderful affair for a fraction of the cash!

The Food –I have friends who have always been master cooks – during Hanukkah, they take it to an art form. Latkes, doughnuts, anything and everything fried in oil taste like they belong on a dessert cart at the Four Seasons. I’ve asked their secrets on occasion, and I’m told they always cook with only the best ingredients, usually purchased in rather pricey custom groceries. Now, if you’re cooking Kosher, you do indeed have to hit some specialized stores, but even famous online kosher groceries have sales pretty regularly (example: check out http://www.kosher.com). As for your local kosher groceries, keep up to date on their sales and be sure to schedule your shopping trips around those sale items you’ll use the most. If you have some latitude working in your favor (you’re cooking for Hanukkah but not cooking Kosher), resources are everywhere to bring down your food bill considerably! Best bet: hit your local discount gourmet grocery’s kosher aisle. Every single discount grocery I visit has Hanukkah and kosher items. Take a look at the ones nearest you, you might be amazed.

The Gifts –We all want to be generous at the holidays. That being said, I’ve heard from too many people whose lovely generosity was always surpassed by a crushing post-holiday spending hangover. By all means, be generous with gifts – simply find them for less! Wherever you live, chances are excellent that untapped resources are everywhere to find all of your favorite designer names for greatly reduced prices. My best tip is always to head towards your local thrift stores and consignment shops, where fashion meets frugal fabulousness. Examples? Try the Jimmy Choo boots I found for my sister, which I’m guessing retail for a bit more than the $2 I purchased them for. How about Louis Vuitton & Coach bags, Ralph Lauren scarves, cashmere sweaters, golf shirts from the Masters, bestselling books, outstanding DVD’s and more, easily for 95% off the retail price. Get yourself to your nearest shops, and see which ones best fit your needs.

The Kids –Everyone wants to make the holidays a spectacular time for kids, but there’s no need to equate “Wow, this is GREAT!” with “Let’s overspend!”. Trust me, down the road, they’ll be glad you sunk your extra income into a college account year after year rather than the latest holiday gadget that gets outdated within a half hour. Stick to the same consignment and thrift stores where you find friend’s and family’s gifts for 95% off, and you’ll no doubt run across kid’s clothes, gadgets, jewelry and electronics that will dazzle. I’ve also heard charming comments from people my age who are reverting back to the Hanukkah gelt gifts consisting entirely out of chocolate coins, rather than actual money. Now, if you’re a parent or grandparent with a lot of wiggle room in your budget, by all means go for a couple of real coins. But note, I’m in my forties, and I’d shriek with delight if someone gave me a bag filled with chocolate.

Above all else, remember that the holiday is about friends, family (and perhaps a touch of fabulous food). Happy Hanukkah!

Brilliant Frugal Living – Loving The Makeover! Tuesday, Sep 25 2012 

OK, I’ll admit it.I love makeover shows. All of them.I don’t care if we’re talking about making over a home, car, person or pet, I love seeing what creative professionals can do in a short amount of time with the right materials.

What I’m not so crazy about is the money people are often shelling out to transform themselves from their “before blahs” to “after-aaahhhs” – give me a break! Truth is, if we’re talking about updating your style, you’ll be amazed how you can achieve the same magic as the big shows, for easily 95 percent less!

First of all, let’s talk hair.Keep your style simple, and beautiful. Don’t go for elaborate styles that require a $150/month cut, color or treatment (I’ve connected with many in dire financial straits who admit to spending double that, enough said). I’ve called wonderful salons that inform me my own low-maintenance style and color would require a $150 monthly appointment. Sorry, that’s just not happening.Instead, I keep the cut simple, easily maintained at home.If you currently have your hair colored at a salon for hundreds a month, it’s time to launch a bold initiative and attempt it at home. I’m no stylist, but I’ve dyed my own hair dozens of times at home, kids running about, phones ringing, emails announcing themselves in the background. Hardly a serene, pampering environment, it’s more like a beauty spa’s evil twin.But with an extra $1,800/year in the bank to show for it, I’ll dodge the hot wheels cars underfoot in the powder room as I snap on my plastic gloves and get to work.

This close to the hairline, let’s talk eyebrows. I know many who indulge in a $25/month wax treatment.My sophisticated math (and a calculator) tells me you’re spending $300/year.Allow me to direct your attention to my $10 salon-quality tweezers.Go get some.

On to the nails. Mine are awful, courtesy of admittedly poor maintenance, washing dishes with no rubber gloves, running after two fabulously active kids and an active writing/emailing/blogging (and OK, yes) Facebooking day. You ever hear of those people who sleep with their hands slathered in luxurious lotions slipped into those heated gloves?If they have a secret club, their clubhouse features a dartboard with my picture on it.All that said, I adore the look of well manicured nails.If I’m heading out to a speaking event, I love to perpetuate the illusion that I’m the sleeps-with-gloves-on-diva.I could head to the salon, but then I’d be paying $50-plus for the full treatment.Don’t think so.Instead, I head to the beauty supply store for their fantastic supply of medium-length, salon-quality, no-chip guaranteed, custom-fit French nails instead.They’re $6 or less, take 10 minutes to apply at home, they’re beautiful, and they last for days afterwards, even when you use them to unscrew your screens as you put in the storm windows for winter.Great multitasking, no?

If you’d like to update your style, go for it with no fear (and no overspending)! A fabulous new look awaits you, for 95 percent less than the cost of a salon – Frugal On!

— Kristen Hagopian is a Radio Talk Show Host, Columnist, Consumer Reporter, motivational speaker & author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”. Her radio talk show airs Tuesdays & Saturdays at 11 a.m. on Philadelphia’s 1180AM WFYL. You can find her online at http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Today on The Brilliant Frugal Living Show: Five outstanding strategies to earn more income from home! Tuesday, Jul 17 2012 

Then, Isagenix millionaire Jimmy Smith joins me on the air to discuss his story – a butcher for 40 years who retired due to injury, he turned to a Network Marketing career, and has earned thirty million dollars in the last 10 years. Sound interesting? It’s all today on Philadelphia’s News/Talk 1180 – tune in at 11A (Eastern) or livestream us at the link! http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Today on The Brilliant Frugal Living Show – how to easily save thousands of dollars on your favorite summertime activities! Tuesday, Jul 10 2012 

Vacations, Sporting Events, Summer Blockbusters, have all the same fun without spending a ton! Then, Bill O’Brien, Director of Development for BLOCS, discusses how businesses large & small can easily redirect thousands of dollars of their state taxes to local schools instead.  Sound interesting? It’s all today on The Brilliant Frugal Living Show – tune in at 11A (Eastern) or livestream us at the link!  www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com 

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