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 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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delicious Christmas Gifts that Save Money, Time and Stress! Monday, Dec 16 2013 

Hey gang, it’s happening again. People are freaking out over Christmas gift-giving, and they’re getting set to spend way too much again. The crowds are getting ugly, too – when you start hearing news stories in which the words “Shopping Mall” and “Tasers” go together, you know we’re in for a rough one. When it comes to spending, I’m getting emails you wouldn’t believe, from wonderful people who normally think quite frugally, yet are still convinced that a magnificent holiday is tied to the money spent. So not true! Don’t believe me? Then just gently put the credit card down for a moment and try this little experiment on for size. Think back to your wonderful childhood Christmas memories. Chances are you spent a good 20 years under your parents’ roof. We all have fantastic holiday recollections, but can you name three things you received as gifts as a kid? Many of my readers can recall a cherished bike (myself included, it was a pink Schwinn with red and white tassles, and it was dynamite). Beyond that however, gift memories become extremely hazy; rather, it’s the vivid memories of childhood fun, food, laughter with relatives who came from miles around to celebrate the holiday, and of course, the treasured two weeks off from school that truly stick in my mind. Trust me, your kids and family feel the same way. With that in mind, read on for fantastic, frugal gift ideas guaranteed to be a cherished hit for family and friends, not to mention clients and co-workers!

One of the best gifts of all – fabulous food! Back in Victorian times, the average family spent 25% of their income on food, an incredible number. To add insult to injury, the food of the era often wasn’t even that good, bland due to lack of spices, not to mention created in unsafe conditions a good deal of the time. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that delicious homemade food gifts were a huge hit at the holidays, created with loving care from cherished family recipes, and often sent in tins that were used again and again for years to come. Now that is a memorable gift. For those of you on a tight budget this holiday season (and who isn’t?), it’s time to harness your inner Victorian and put your favorite recipes to work for you. Cookies, candies, brownies, pastries, cakes – whatever your passion, have fun with it, and put the kids to work “helping” (another fun childhood memory of mine). Hit your local dollar store for tins and trays to present them on, et voila! The end result will be wonderful, memorable gifts that will be truly appreciated by the recipients, created for a fraction of the price of forgettable store-bought trinkets. Fabulously frugal side note – these types of gifts ship beautifully as well.

So let’s review – When it comes to frugal gift-giving this Christmas, there are many reasons to indulge your inner Julia Child. First, you’re succeeding in every gift-giver’s goal: You’re sending gifts that will be loved, appreciated, and remembered. Second, when you open your credit card bill in January, you’ll be one of the few that draws a huge sigh of relief at the low number due. Third, you’ll be steering clear of the high-voltage, taser-toting rabid shoppers that are apparently out in full force! Let’s keep the high-holiday wattage to the outdoor Christmas lights, shall we? Merry Christmas everybody, and Frugal On!

Have a Fabulously Frugal Black Friday! Monday, Dec 16 2013 

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Don’t laugh, but I thought it might be a good move to start the Column with that bold statement because – terrifyingly – I’m finding myself getting more questions about Black Friday than Thanksgiving at this point! If you (or someone you know) is getting sucked into that psychological phenomena known as “Black Friday”, where you’re convinced you must do the bulk of your holiday shopping doing hand-to-hand combat with other shoppers while you’re still digesting a pound of turkey, sweet potatoes, croissants and a monster helping of desserts, you’re not alone. Read on for outstanding holiday shopping tips that will have your gift list wrapped up faster than you can say “Alka Seltzer”.

Rule #1 – Remember that it’s called “Black Friday”, not “Black Thursday” – I completely respect a retailer’s need to exercise all options to stay financially afloat in this tough economy. How they manage it is completely beyond me sometimes, and I applaud them for it. When a savvy retailer jumps into the shiny boat of “Black Thursday” opening their doors on Thanksgiving day with spectacular sales, they’re simply trying to get an edge over their competition and keep their staff employed. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you find it completely necessary (perhaps due to work schedules, etc.), by all means join them with abandon. But keep in mind that no human being ever left this earth feeling like they should’ve spent less time around the Thanksgiving table with loved ones… and more time gift shopping. Just putting it out there.

Rule #2 – Remember your best shopping buddy – your Computer! Gang, the days of fighting over parking spaces just to earn the right to wrestle into an overcrowded mall so you can argue over the last overpriced bell-encrusted reindeer sweater are over. Instead, grab a cup of coffee, pull a chair up to your computer, put on some Christmas music and do your shopping in a fraction of the time. For kid’s gifts, remember Craigslist for gorgeous toys, clothes, bikes, books – you name it. It’s all there, it’s waiting for you, and it’s generally about 90% off retail. For adults, give a look to Craigslist as well! Antique china, anyone? How about beautiful crystal, cashmere sweaters, jewelry, fur coats or antique books? I’ve bought them all on Craigslist, and I highly recommend it. When it comes to electronics, if you’re buying for anyone under the age of 18, remember that last year’s must-have, overpriced gizmo is now available on Ebay or Craigslist for easily 95% off, and it’s one of the lightest gifts on earth, meaning low shipping costs. No driving, no parking, no hassle – and it all comes right to your door.

Rule #3 – Remember how you felt last January when the credit card bills started rolling in! There’s two possible answers for this. You might fall into the group that opened their January credit card bills with shaky hands, looking at it with your fingers covering 99% of your eyes (as though the numbers could scorch your retinas) and then – upon seeing the amount due – promptly falling into deep despair. Or, you might be part of the crowd that opens your bills without a care in the world, looking at the amount due, cackling with glee and shouting “WOOT-WOOT!” as you do the “Stir The Pot” dance move from the mailbox back to the house. You work hard folks, you deserve to fall into that second category – this year, make sure “Black Friday” means that your books are in the black by the end of the day as well. Happy Shopping, everyone!

Slash your Back to School Budget in Half! Saturday, Aug 10 2013 

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!

Create a Fabulously Frugal Father’s Day! Saturday, Jun 8 2013 

As another beautiful summer unfolds, we come upon one of my favorite holidays – Father’s Day! When I put out the word to my social media army requesting tips for a fabulously frugal Father’s Day, they didn’t disappoint! For everyone out there with a special Father, Grandfather, Stepfather, Godfather or someone “whose like a Father to me” they’d like to honor on June 16th, read on for a list of four thoughtful sentimental gifts that Dad will LOVE, without breaking the bank!

(1) A Flawlessly Clean Car: Ladies, I hate to break it to you, but you know how you and I personally really don’t mind a somewhat-cluttered car? I mean, really, what’s the biggie about having a baggie of crushed goldfish crackers keeping company with your kid’s empty hamburger wrapper? Newsflash: it makes the guys nuts. This Father’s Day, pull out all the stops with a car-cleaning session that will make him instantly forget the time your daughter left her lunchbox in the hot back seat for an entire weekend…open…with an uneaten dill pickle marinating in 140-degree heat for two days. Plug an extension cord into your vacuum, haul it to the driveway and use every attachment it possesses to reach every crevice from the front seat to the trunk. A couple of rags and some Windex (Febreeze also highly recommended!), and the interior will sparkle as well.

(2) Personalized Golf Balls: For some reason still completely unknown to medical science, 99.9% of Dads are somehow drawn to the sport of golf. Put the paternal DNA in its happy place with personalized golf balls! Get your hands on a dozen or so from his golf bag, scrub them well, and let the kids (or grandkids!) have fun with their favorite markers – I’m told just about every type of marker out there will stick. Make sure the kids initial it and add the year, and you are guaranteed Dad will keep these wonderful mementos for decades to come.
(3) Buffet on the Barcalounger: You know how Moms adore the Mother’s Day Breakfast in Bed? Allow me to introduce the male counterpart: a Father’s Day Buffet on the Barcalounger! Get Dad in his favorite chair, and surround him with the snacks he loves most, as well as a free pass to pick the television programming of his choice (golf, anyone?). It’s a no-carb-left-behind kind of holiday, make sure he does it proud.
(4) Certificate of Achievement: As hard as the Dads in our lives work every day, we exist in an economy where raises and recognition are at undeserved historic lows. It’s time for an Awards Ceremony that shows Dad how much he’s appreciated. Take two minutes on the computer to draft something along the lines of: “For outstanding accomplishment and performance, dedication, commitment to excellence in all aspects of work and home, for being a wonderful husband and outstanding Father, and in recognition of your superb and tireless efforts to support your family well, Happy Father’s Day!” Put it in italics, center it on the page, tweak it a bit here and there for effect, print it out and have the kids sign it. Then put it into a classic frame from the local dollar store. I guarantee you he will hang it with pride.

Above all else, use this wonderful holiday to unabashedly tell the wonderful Dads in your life how incredible they are and how grateful you are for them. A special side note to Victor and my Dad – the two best Dads on Earth – Happy Father’s Day!

A Fabulous Mother’s Day on a Small Budget! Wednesday, May 8 2013 

Happy Mother’s Day, everybody! If you’re a Mother, Grandmother, Stepmother, Godmother, or you often hear “you’re like a Mom to me!” from someone special – this week’s Column is dedicated to you. I love Erma Bombeck’s quote – “Mothers have to remember what food each child likes or dislikes, which one is allergic to penicillin and hamster fur, who gets carsick and who isn’t kidding when he stands outside the bathroom door and tells you what’s going to happen if he doesn’t get in right away. It’s tough. If they all have the same hair color they tend to run together.” Erma’s right – especially about the hair color. When you’ve got two wildly energetic, dark-haired kids zooming by at Mach 2, it’s tough to know which one you’ve got to scold for squirting toothpaste all over the train set, or who sprinkled KoolAid powder into the toilet to watch it mix into cool swirly colors when they flush. Or maybe that’s just in my house.

I have fabulous news for all of the households honoring Mom this Mother’s Day. Moms are – without a doubt – the most sentimental slobs on earth. Making the day ultra-special requires very little money, just a touch of imagination (and a lot of dry macaroni). If you’re ready to create a fabulous Mother’s Day for the special lady in your life, read on for gift ideas that have historically gone off the charts on the brag-worthy scale.

Noodle Necklaces – How important are these little gems? Let’s put it this way – I’ve received bits of jewelry here & there all my life. I can generally tell you where to find the somewhat-sentimental pieces (High School Rings, special earrings, etc.). However, I can tell you with concrete clarity where my wedding & engagement rings are (left hand, 24/7), and my two noodle necklaces, circa 2007 & 2010 (in a protected, cotton lined box way in the back of my “special stuff” drawer). Trust me, Creamettes never had it so good. if the Mom in your life (of any age) doesn’t have one of these, she’s missing out on the most priceless jewelry on Earth. Get to it.

Breakfast in Bed – the perfect gift from kids, and off-the-charts brag worthy to any and all that cross Mom’s path later that day. Fabulous menu choices (that don’t require an insurance adjuster coming out to the house to assess the damages) are toast with jam, cereal, fruit salad, and a big cup of coffee. Four Seasons, Schmore Seasons, let’s see them make a burned piece of toast topped with strawberry jam and mayo that even comes close to your preschooler’s version. Bon appétit!

Homemade Card –Store-bought cards are lovely, I grant you. I’ve received lots of them in my life. They’re all…..somewhere. However, all of the hand-made cards (and I do mean ALL of them), that my children wrote out carefully in crayon, with the words “I Love U Momy” (with the forgotten “m” smushed in later), are now keeping company next to some very lucky macaroni necklaces. Dads, this means you too. A hand-written paragraph or two, with an extra helping of well-thought out mush, is serious currency, I kid you not. If the idea of hand-writing something puts you into a full blown panic, however, I don’t want that on my conscience. Hitting your local dollar store for a fabulous card is perfectly acceptable as well.

However you decide to celebrate Mother’s Day, make it priceless with your imagination, rather than your cash. To all the Moms out there (including mine!) that make our lives so fantastic, Happy Mother’s Day!

Celebrate Easter for Less! Sunday, Apr 7 2013 

Hey everybody – Sorry for getting this Column posted so late on my blog! It came out in plenty of time for the Daily Local & GalTime, but took me forever to blog it! Consider it fabulously earlier for NEXT Easter. Hugs to all! K
*************************************************
Happy Easter, everybody! Despite January-esque weather and frequent snow squalls – Easter is finally upon us, and I’m thrilled. I love this holiday – it’s a fabulous day for so many reasons. We’re *this* close to Springtime, it’s a wonderful day to get together with family and friends and it’s the one day of the year where I can wear a big, obnoxious pastel hat to church without getting (too many) weird looks. What’s not to love?
One of the best ways to celebrate the holiday is with a table full of family and friends. For those who hold back on a full house for fear the costs will spin out of control, read on for fabulous tips on creating a magnificent Easter for easily half the cost of last year!

The Feast: The most highly-effective tactic to slash costs on your Easter Meal is to delegate! I would suggest the host or hostess be in charge of any ham or turkey, but when it comes to the side dishes, it’s time to let your beloved guests show off their best recipes! In my family tree, I’ve got relatives coming in from all directions that are specialists in everything from dips to side dishes to desserts. Everyone coming to your house is going to want to bring something – let them put their special mark on the day with a recipe that they’re famous for! Before you know it, your only culinary task for the day – your turkey and/or ham – will be sitting in your dining room surrounded by gourmet parmesan potatoes, a bottle or two of wine, herbed rolls and a side table filled with desserts, none of which you had anything to do with creating. Score!

Decorations: I’ll be honest, I’m not much for sophisticated decorations on Easter. I pretty much pat myself on the back for setting the table with a pastel green tablecloth & bright pink napkins. However, I know people who take the flowers & placecards to a level worthy of a visit from Queen Elizabeth. Most people are somewhere in between. My advice – if you have any kind of nearby flowering bushes (forsythia, etc.) that are blooming, cut a few dramatic branches for some tall arrangements in vases, or simply line them down the center of the table in and amongst the candles. It looks fantastic, and fits in beautifully with the color scheme. If you want to kick it up a notch and you’re expecting a guest who adores flowers, have them be in charge of the arrangements. Boom, it’s off your list.

The Candy: If you’ve got young kids at your house (like me) you know that the candy costs can rapidly spiral out of control faster than you can say “nuclear sugar rush”. That being said, we all want the kids to have a great time, we just don’t want to break the bank to do it. No doubt you already have last year’s Easter Baskets upstairs in the attic, so all you have to do is hit the nearest dollar store where fabulously fresh Easter candy can be had for a fraction of what you might pay retail. Do yourself a favor and bring your basket with you to measure the amount of candy you’re getting. You’ll be surprised just how little you really need.

Above all else, remember that the idea here is to appreciate this special holiday in ways that won’t wreck your budget – surrounded by loving family and friends, hopefully some Springtime weather, and if you’re really lucky, an obnoxious pastel hat. Happy Easter, everybody!
http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Next Page »