Superbowl party on a super-low budget! Monday, Jan 26 2015 

Hey gang – are you ready for some (frugal) football?
I have to tell you, as much as I usually ignore the sport in general, even I’m getting excited for this upcoming game.  It’s been a few weeks since the holidays, we’re all sitting around in freezing snow waiting for springtime to throw us a bone – this is the perfect time for some indoor sporty celebrations!  If you’re thinking of getting the gang together for a Superbowl party, fear not – it won’t break the bank!  With this frugal festivities checklist, your Superbowl party costs will deflate faster than a Patriot football (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Your party needs three things to truly succeed – food, beverages, and space to get loud and safely move around (including, but not limited to, wild hand gestures, jumping on/off furniture, hurling small objects, and swearing loudly at the television – depending on your guest list).  Take a look at the room where the game will be watched – haul in as many soft chairs and large sitting pillows as you can.  Not only will it provide extra seating, you’ll be amazed how well it absorbs sound.

Let’s move on to the food – believe it or not, the Calorie Control Council (which I didn’t even know existed until 5 minutes ago) estimates that Superbowl partiers will consume on average 1200 calories during the game!  If you’re having 5 or more people over, those food costs add up huge!  As with all parties, I have one word for you: DELEGATE.  Make sure everybody coming to your party brings a solid contribution of snacks, soda, and/or the beverage of their choice.  The day before your shindig, hit the local Warehouse stores for amazing deals on snacks and sodas and stock up – don’t worry if it turns out you bought a bit too much.  It’ll come in handy for post-game celebratory snacks days after the game, or worst case scenario, a post-game nosh to drown your sorrows when your beloved team loses.

As for food and snack choices,  I have one solid bit of advice that I beg you to take seriously – skip the wings.  The price-gouging on chicken wings in the days before the Superbowl are downright criminal, I mean come on!  We’re talking about scrawny little chicken wings, mostly skin & bone, going for $2 a pound or more!  Give me a break.  Here’s the silver lining.  For the last few years, I’ve noticed time and again how the supermarkets are stocking up on way too many wings – the week after the Superbowl, I’ve seen deals on chicken wings for $0.69/pound or less!  Wait it out, the wing gods will look kindly on you.

Last but not least, the beverages – you know I’m not much of a drinker.  I save my calories for important stuff… like chocolate. Now I’m not suggesting that you go with a dry party for the Superbowl.  I’m basically being told that’s like celebrating Valentine’s day without using the color red.  However, next to over-priced wings, alcohol is without a doubt a party budget buster, one with an easy fix.  Make sure all of your drinking guests bring something with them.  Simple as that.

Here’s to a fantastic game with family, friends & awesome food – 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.  She resides in Chester County with her family.  You can find her online at www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Five Frugal Moves to Save big $$$ in 2015 Monday, Jan 26 2015 

Hey gang – Happy 2015!  So far, my biggest goal for the year has been “Don’t freeze to death.”.  Simple, measurable, I like it.  However, high on my 2015 Goal List is also a serious determination to take our household spending to dramatically low levels, while still keeping a high quality of life.  If you’re like the millions that are ready to stockpile a lot more of your hard earned cash this year, read on for easy moves that will save you thousands.

#1 – Buy yourself a cup of coffee.  If you’re a caffeine addict like I am, get yourself to the local Dollar Store and stock up on a week’s worth of coffee travel mugs for $7.  Each day you brew your delicious caffeinated goodness at home (rather than buy it at your local convenience store), you’re saving yourself $1.50/day.  That’s $500/year back in your pocket by year’s end, and you’re still getting your morning caffeine hit.  Everyone’s a winner.
#2 – Invest in a local Warehouse Club card.  Case in point: your local BJ’s in Downingtown, where a Membership card costs less than $50!  Buying all the basic staples of my cupboards & refrigerator at BJ’s (bread, produce, butter, milk, meats) I often save at least $40/week on groceries compared to shopping elsewhere.  Boom, that $50 membership card just paid you back $2000 in one year’s time.   Nice return on investment!
#3 – Learn to love your local library.  I’ve spoken to people in serious debt who still think nothing of an expensive monthly cable package, not to mention regular purchases of magazines, books and DVD movies at full price, only to look at them once and them put them on a crowded shelf.  Sound familiar?  Behold, your local library, where all of the above are free.   If you’re normally spending $20 or more a week on entertainment like magazines, movies & books, you just saved yourself another $1000/year.  You’re welcome.
#4 – Hit your local Goodwill at least once a month.  There are fantastic locations in Exton & Thorndale that never let me down.  I’m constantly finding outstanding items in there for easily 80-90% off retail.  Home furnishings, kid’s clothing, shoes, suits, gifts, you name it – they’ve got it, for a fraction of retail.  I don’t call it “Tiffany’s for Tightwads” for nothing – It’s a perfect money-saving haven for busy families.
#5 – Dinner’s on!  There’s a staggering statistic out there that states the average American family eats out at last four times a week, with an average $50/check for a family of four.  That can add up to $200/week.  No good.  Trust me, I know being a working parent can be exhausting, but you know what can be even more exhausting?  Realizing next December that you worked hard in 2015 to support a $10,000/year restaurant habit.  Keep it simple, put some spaghetti in a pot at home and have the kids set the table while you throw together a couple of salads.  Et voila – a great dinner with the ones you love, and thousands more in the bank.  Frugal On!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show host, Columnist and Author of “Brilliant Frugal Living.” She co-hosts WCHE 1520’s Morning Show, and “The Kristen Hagopian Show” airs at 4 p.m. Tuesdays. She resides in Chester County with her family. You can find her online at www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com.

Inexpensive last minute gifts they’ll love! Monday, Jan 26 2015 

Okay guys – it’s December 23rd – it’s crunch time.   The entire month has flown by at Mach 2, and you’re looking at a somewhat scary list of people you have yet to shop for.   You’re not alone!  Read on for effortless, fabulous gift ideas that your family and friends will love, that you can put together inexpensively in minutes.

Gift Cards – one of my top picks.  Adults love them, kids love them, they’re highly appreciated and they’re used quickly.   For adults, best bets are gas stations that have not only fuel but excellent coffee – clearly Wawa & Sheetz get top marks.  Come January, just imagine the look on your broke buddy’s face when they had to run out the door without their caffeine fix and see they’re hitting “E” on the gas tank as well.  They’ll pull your gift card out of their pocket and sing your praises all the way to the coffee stirrers.

Magazine subscriptions – in today’s economy, people are cutting back on the fun little luxuries, including magazine subscriptions.  Think about your gift recipient’s favorite hobbies (Sports? Cooking? Hunting? Fashion? Decorating?) then get online to buy them a year’s subscription to a fantastic magazine – or two – that they can look forward to month after month.  Boom, gift giving is complete.

Homemade baked goods – these are still such a hit, and honestly not that hard to create – no mixers required!  Why?  Because in my book, if you take a tube of ready-made cookie dough off the supermarket shelf, and cut it open at home, slice them down into odd-shapes and let the kids add tons of sprinkles and/or icing, that counts as homemade.   It’s appreciated, it’s customized, it’s delicious to boot.  If you’ve got an afternoon to spare, carve an hour out to get these in the oven, let them cool, put them into some inexpensive tins and watch the lucky recipients dive in!

Lottery tickets – Honestly, I’ve never been into the lottery.  Odds are just slightly against my winning (don’t I wish), and I’d rather put my cash into a good cup of coffee.  That being said, there are so-ho-ho many people out there practicing their “Oh my GOD, I WON!” faces, and you and I know they’d love a ticket – or two – to put in their pocket.   Make their day, and make it clear that – if they win – you get a 10% commission.  Everyone’s a winner.

Dollar Store Gift Baskets – These gems have saved me too many times to count!   Easily made within 5 minutes for $5 or less at the Dollar Store.  They have it all gang – gift baskets, colorful shredded paper for fluff, coffee mugs, candy, cookies, chocolate, snacks – even small crafts and toys for kids’ baskets.  Et voila!  The possibility for hundreds of gift combos (all for $5 or less) await you!

This Christmas, I’m hearing from people right and left who find themselves even more cash-strapped (and time-strapped) than last year.  Trust me, whatever you give your buddies, they’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness more than anything.  And if you’re subsidizing their caffeine intake as well, hey, what’s not to love?  Frugal On!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show host, Columnist and Author of “Brilliant Frugal Living.” She co-hosts WCHE 1520’s Morning Show, and “The Kristen Hagopian Show” airs at 4 p.m. Tuesdays. She resides in Chester County with her family. You can find her online at www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com.

Readers send in Fabulously Frugal Holiday Shopping Finds! Monday, Jan 26 2015 

Merry Christmas & Happy Hanukah, everybody!   With the holiday shopping season now in full swing, I sent out a Social Media Challenge to our fabulous DLN readers to share some of their favorite money-saving, gift buying hot-spots.  As usual, they came thru with flying colors!  Read on for some of your fellow DLN’ers top tips for inexpensive, elegant gift giving.

Maggie T. of West Chester swears by the big warehouse stores, especially BJ’s – “I love the one-stop shopping, the gifts are wonderful, and not overpriced.  I honestly get more than half my Christmas shopping done there in one trip.  I find myself buying a lot of books as gifts too, and BJ’s has all of the good ones.  One of my favorite things there are the baked treats, especially the cookies.  My 7 grandkids spend a lot of time at my house during the holidays, and it’s easy to have fresh cookies and goodies in the house when I make a trip there. They also have good heat-and-eat side dishes that I’m going to be using for Christmas dinner.”  Thanks, Maggie!  And Girlfriend, I’m with you.  Hands down, some of the best prices around on food, gifts, toys & batteries.

Leslie K. of Exton makes Goodwill her first big stop when she goes holiday shopping – “I have four sisters, and we all love fun purses and lots of jewelry.   Budgets are crazy tight this year, but I always find awesome designer names for purses, shoes, sweaters, jewelry, you name it.   It’s without a doubt one of the best places you can shop in Chester County.”  Amen sister!  I’ve got two younger sisters, and we will forever adore our bling!  Also just found two lovely Christmas outfits for my rapidly-growing kids at the Goodwill in Exton.  Katie’s dress was originally priced at $180 (I know because the tag was still on it), and I got it for $10! Robbie’s Christmas suit only cost $6, it’s so adorable – and he’ll probably outgrow it by the end of January.

Carmen S. of Downingtown loves to shop local for gifts, and finds that restaurant gift cards are one of the best gifts she’s ever given.  “They’re a hit every single year – most of my family & friends have cut back on eating out to save money, so when you give them a gift card to Buca Di Beppo or some other great local restaurant, you know they’ll like it and they’ll use it – especially when she adds a handmade “gift card” for free babysitting while her friends enjoy a well-earned evening out.   Talk about a huge hit of a gift!

These are just a few of the fabulous emails & texts I got from DLN fans – I want to hear from you as well!  If you have a favorite Chester County shop where you’re finding amazing holiday deals and bargains, find me online at www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com.  Frugal on, everyone – Merry Christmas!

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

8 Best Buys for Fall! Thursday, Aug 29 2013 

As the kids get back to school, it’s time to ramp up for another beautiful Autumn.  The cooler weather, the gorgeous foliage, you have to admit, Mother Nature really outdoes herself around here in the Fall.  With that in mind, read on for phenomenal deals your local stores have to offer as we say goodbye to another Summer.

Air Conditioners – I don’t know about you, but after this year’s blistering summer heat, I’m ready to give my air conditioner the appliance equivalent of the Medal of Honor.  If your air conditioner is ready for a replacement, September is the perfect month to shop for it.  Home Improvement Centers nationwide use September as the month to rid themselves of their summertime stock, and they will slash their prices big time to get it out the door. 

Charcoal Grills and Lawn Mowers – Every store that sold charcoal grills and lawn mowers this summer now has the challenge of getting rid of some very bulky excess inventory.  Keep your eyes open for some super sales that can slash prices by as much as 40% in some stores. 

Swimwear – I know I’m dating myself here, but when did swimsuits start costing $200 or more?  Call me crazy, but I really hate spending that much money on an item of clothing that weighs 2 ounces.   Keep an eye out in the next few weeks for mega sales on swimwear that can reduce prices by 50% or more.

Travel and Airfare – Whether you’re considering a cruise, train trip, flights to exotic locales, you name it – travel agencies consider September the top month for discounts on travel.  If you’re in the market for a fabulous trip at fantastic prices, get to your local travel agency and see what they have to offer – you’ll often find prices are reduced by 25% or less!   On a related note:  If you’re planning on traveling for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s, the best time to book and buy your tickets is 6-8 weeks prior, aka now.   If getting over the river and thru the woods to grandmother’s house involves a jumbo jet, get those tickets soon to ensure your biggest discounts.

Shrubs and trees – your local garden nursery was probably doing a booming business during the summer, but still has lots of bushes and shrubbery to get rid of before the weather gets colder.  Scan the circulars and snag some serious deals, often for 50% off.

Cars – At car dealerships across the country, next year’s inventory typically arrives in September.  What does that mean to you?  Sales on this year’s models, that’s what!  Dealerships are ready, willing and eager to get rid of the glut of this year’s models still on their showroom floors.  Get in there, show no fear and snap up a deal!

Cookware – if you’re in the market for some new cookware, Autumn is the month to snag it.  Department stores are clearing their current inventory to make way for some new holiday offerings, and that means that they need to offer some fabulous sales to make some space.  Time for you to channel your inner Julia Child and get yourself some new pots and pans!  Bon Appetit! 

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 – Calico Corners CEO Bert Kertsetter joins me to talk fabulous fabrics, trends, designers, upcoming Events & much more! Saturday, Aug 11 2012 

Whatever room you’re thinking of redecorating, we’ve got the tips to get it done for much less! 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

Kristen Hagopian is a Personal Finance Columnist, Motivational Speaker and Author of Brilliant Frugal Living. Her weekly Talk Show, in addition to regular segments for ABC, NBC, Fox News and other major networks, bring her wealth-building message to millions.