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Kristen Hagopian's Six Easy Ways to Jump Start Big Savings in 2011!

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'BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING' WITH KRISTEN HAGOPIAN'BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING' WITH KRISTEN HAGOPIAN

Hey gang! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! As for your holiday spending, how’s that post-consumer hangover treating you? If you’re shaking in your boots at the thought of your January credit card bill, you’re not alone. The average American household of four spent $1500 or more on the holiday season, the vast majority of which was put on credit cards.

But never fear, the Frugalista is here! I’ve got some fabulous strategies at the ready to kick your saving mode into high gear for a fabulously frugal 2011! Put even a few of these tactics to work, and you’ll be pocketing thousands of your hard earned dollars over the course of the year!

Morning Coffee Routine – Now that I’m in my 40’s, I’m a total coffee snob. It’s pathetic. I’m also a caffeine addict worthy of a 12-step program. Doesn’t mean I’m going to shell out $3 a day for my daily caffeine rush – that’s $1100/year! Buy the best brands on the market and brew it at home. You still get your quality coffee, but keep about $1000 in the bank over the course of the year. It’s a no brainer, folks. Make it happen.

Groceries – An average household of four spends $800/month on groceries. Our household easily cuts that number in half. The simple trick? Find yourself a discount grocery near you. They’re everywhere, and the best ones possess everything a family needs – fabulous produce, quality meats, dairy, you name it. Check out the ones nearest you, identify the one that best fits your needs, and do all of your shopping there. You’ll eat like kings, and have a bank account to match.

Clothing / Shoes – Chances are excellent you will spend close to $1000 on clothing, shoes, coats, stockings and other apparel this year. If you’re buying clothes for an entire family, the cost skyrockets, especially if you have children like mine, where last autumn’s too-big jeans are now too small to fit come January. Hit your local meticulously run consignment and thrift stores for your next perfectly tailored suit, cashmere coat, Italian shoes and European crafted handbags, not to mention racks upon racks of brand name children’s clothing in perfect condition. You’re still dressing in the best, just paying 90% less.

Rethink transportation – There’s a terrifying little trend emerging, one that’s just a bit baffling to those of us who adore our cars. There are households out there that – brace yourself – are actually going from three cars down to two, or perhaps two cars to one. There is also an exploding trend amongst those living in an area with public transportation, in which they’re giving up a car altogether, saving gas, inspection, repairs, and of course, insurance.

According to AAA, the average driver used 533 gallons of gas last year. AAA logo: www.wiltonlibrary.org/.../At $3/gallon, that’s $1600 for gas alone, not to mention insurance at an average of $1500/year, repairs (let’s say $500/year), and if you work in the city, parking, which can easily add up to $3600/year. Ready for this folks? That’s $7200/year. That doesn’t even include the cost of a car loan or lease, oil changes, etc.

By comparison, an average train pass in and out of the city is no more than $2400 for the year. Can it be a occasional pain to go with public transportation? Absolutely. It can also be a monster financial pain to own a car! Give some thought to cutting down on your car’s usage. If it’s feasible, try taking the train to work once or twice a week, see how it feels. If it’s a good fit, try doing it for a month. Every single person I’ve spoken with who has tried it has marveled at the thousands of dollars saved each year.

Eating out – You’re exhausted after a hard day’s work. Trust me, I get it. But when a hard-working family of four eats out for $50 two or three times a week, it just translates into you being exhausted AND broke. Pare down your restaurant meals by just one a week, eat at home instead, save yourself that $50, and it translates into easily over $2000 in the bank at the end of the year. Frugal Tip: pick up a top of the line Crock Pot from your local thrift store for and put it to work. Nothing like walking in the door at the end of the day to a perfectly cooked pot roast. Have the kids set the table while you change into comfy clothes and enjoy the pleasure that can only be had in your Vogue Magazine cover: http://cocoandcreme.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/340x_halle_berry_vogue_110810.jpgown quiet kitchen enjoying a fabulous family dinner for $10 or less. That “ka-ching” sound you hear is either the ice cubes hitting your water glasses or your hard-earned cash staying put in your bank account.

Books / Magazines / Movies – Time to channel the inner library-geek! Next time you’re in the mood to be entertained, hit your local marvelous mecca of geekdom as soon as possible, where you can read New York Times bestsellers for free, buy last month’s $6 Vogue magazine for .50, and the whole family can see the latest DVD at home for $1.50, rather than spend $50 for four movie tickets and a tub of stale popcorn. Have a movie night at home with the family once a month instead of hitting the local theatre, and that’s another $600 in the bank at year’s end.

These are just a few ideas that can pack a fantastic punch into your bank account. As a starting point, take a look at last year’s expenses, see where you were hit the hardest, and tackle those areas of spending with easy, low-cost alternatives. Above all else, trust in your abilities to lower your spending and watch your bank account grow as a result in 2011.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Kristen Hagopian is a 40-something wife & mother of two who eliminated the need for a second income by saving over $50,000 a year with the proven frugal strategies found in her book.  Kristen resides happily in her as-of-yet unfinished fixer-upper in Chester County, PA.

For more information on Kristen or to contact her, go to  www.brilliantfrugalliving.com

Vogue magazine cover: http://cocoandcreme.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/340x_halle_berry_vogue_110810.jpg