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

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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 Gorgeously Frugal Porch and Patio Project! Saturday, Jul 13 2013 

Hey, everybody – I hope you had an outstanding 4th of July! Now that we’re in the middle of another gorgeous summer, the timing is perfect to tackle an inexpensive home improvement project you and your family will love – your porch and patio! This time of year, your outdoor spaces are extensions of your home, extra “rooms” that can provide immense value for outdoor living and entertaining. Put your porch and patio to fantastic use with inexpensive projects that help them look their best.
(1) The Furniture – You’ll want a comfy set of furniture if you’re going to entertain outdoors. Here’s the good news – friends, family and neighbors that went out to buy a pricey new set for their 4th of July parties now need to unload their “old” set. If they haven’t traded up, no worries, dozens (if not hundreds) of people who live within quick driving distance will be trying to get rid of their old set via Craigslist. Time for you to come to the rescue! If you’re one of the lucky recipients of what looks like somewhat-banged up pieces, never fear. Porch furniture is designed to withstand the hard knocks of Mother Nature, and chances are excellent your “weathered” loveseat, sofa and/or chairs will come right back with a little TLC. Your best bet – hit your local hardware store for some outdoor furniture spray paint and go to town! If you have a handful of scratched-up (originally) white pieces, even if they’re from different sets, it’ll spruce right back up with a fresh coat of paint and look completely new by the time you’re done. Perhaps you want to be daring with a dark cherry brown color this time. Maybe the kids want to paint the wicker rocker cherry pink – who cares? Considering what you (didn’t) pay for the set, show no fear and have some fun! If the cushions are looking worn as well, no worries – local department stores, discount stores and thrift stores often have them by the truckload for at least 50% off retail.
(2) The Paint! – Have a look at your porch and patio floors and railings. If the floors are banged up, one can of paint and a huge roller should take care of the job in no time. If the railings need a touch-up, get to it! A small can of paint (and an even smaller brush) will cover scratches and make it look better than ever.
(3) The Plants – One of the best eye-catching colors for your porch and patio is vibrant, summertime green. One of the easiest ways to acquire it is with plants. Many of your local hardware stores and home improvement centers are in the midst of a full-scale “unload it now” mentality with regards to their lush-looking summertime plants. Get your hands on a few tropical beauties (trees, hanging plants, palms, potted flowers) and place them in the corners of your porch and patio where they can pick up the breezes.
Whatever the size of your porch or patio, a weekend, a can (or two) of paint, and a fearless attitude can transform it into an entertaining paradise for family and friends. Viva summertime!

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

Easy Ways to Save on Labor Day Weekend! Tuesday, Aug 30 2011 

“If all the cars in the United States were placed end to end, it would probably be Labor Day Weekend.” – Doug Larson

Yup, this fast-moving summer is winding down and another autumn is right around the corner – it’s time to take that one day out of the year to celebrate our labors with a day built just for us. With gas prices finally coming down a bit, more Americans are looking a bit further away on the map for a fun destination to create some Labor Day memories. Wherever you wind up, always remember: there’s no better way to pay homage to Labor Day than to find a way to enjoy it without spending a lot of money! Read on for some fabulously frugal Labor Day activities that will help you enjoy the weekend without breaking the bank.

Labor Day Frugal Fun Idea #1: CAMPING! Keep it easy and inexpensive by renting a camper or tent from a reputable source (better yet, borrow one from a friend!) and spend some time away from all of the trappings of labor this Labor Day. And need I say it: Leave the laptop at home! It simply does not compute compared to the gorgeous solitude of a beautiful campsite. Leave the computer games at home and instead try a sharpened stick filled with marshmallows roasted over the first campfire of the season to relax.

Labor Day Frugal Fun Idea #2: Labor Day weekend means a three-day break for many, so take advantage of it with activities you wouldn’t think to try on a regular two-day weekend. Take one full day to enjoy a local art museum, take a long hike at a nearby trail, hit a local winery for a tour, linger thru a fabulous festival, or host your own full-day barbeque. The sky is the limit!

Labor Day Frugal Fun Idea #3: Apple picking at your local orchard. It’s harvest time at many local orchards, and regardless of weather, the vast majority of local growers are offering great deals during Labor Day weekend to entice families to come out and relieve them of their extra produce, often at tremendous discounts! So grab your biggest apple picking bags, load up, and bring them on home to create every single apple dish you’ve ever loved. Pies, Strudels, compotes, sauces, side dishes, you name it, it tastes all the sweeter when the apples you use in it are easily 75% off the price of retail.

Labor Day Frugal Fun Idea #4: Yes, I’m saying it – you have permission to eat out. Now, those who know me rarely hear me endorsing the idea of eating out. However, national holidays over long three-day weekends have their own special rules, especially when there are specials galore at restaurants everywhere this holiday weekend. Half price deals, BOGO’s, family specials, the deals are everywhere – check out newspaper ads, online coupons and more. Take a look at your favorite restaurants first and choose the deals that will suit your family best.

Above all else, remember that Labor Day weekend is about relaxing, kicking back, and forgetting about work for a while. The less you spend, the less actual labor you’ll have to expend to make up for it. Keep with the spirit of the holiday by enjoying the weekend in a way that will keep the fruits of your labors right in your pocket, where they belong. Happy Labor Day Weekend!