Carla: Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m an extremely fortunate, loudmouth, married, work-from-home Mom of two wonderful kids that put up with me beautifully. I am also the creator of a little book entitled, Brilliant Frugal Living. In the last two years, Brilliant Frugal Living has evolved into some fun, crazy job descriptions, including, but not limited to, Author, Columnist, Consumer Reporter, Supermarket Spokesperson & Motivational Speaker. All this is has been fueled by tremendous luck and frightening natural hyperactive DNA, combined with a caffeine addiction worthy of a 12-step program.
Carla: You make me feel so lazy with your fast paced life! When you’re not writing for your column or out in the community speaking, or taking care of your family, what’s your favorite thing to do to unwind?
Kristen : First of all, you are one of the busiest super-achievers I know! To answer your question, I love combing through local thrift stores to sustain my uncontrollable designer handbag addiction ($5 for a black Gucci leather handbag, what am I supposed to do, walk away? I think not… J Most of them go as gifts, I swear!!)
I’m also addicted to Julia Child’s “French Chef” episodes from the 1960’s and 1970’s. I have just about all of them. After the craziest of days, when the kids go to sleep, I’ll play one of her shows where – I don’t know – she does zucchini five different ways, and suddenly I’m inexplicably in my mellow zone. Must be the butter. Bon Appétit!
I’m also a library geek, I love to read. Books about fabulous speakers always get my attention at the library. I’m reading a great one about Steve Jobs. The guy is a Motivational Speaking genius!
Carla: Aww…How kind. Thanks, Kristen! Oh, Savings Queen, tell us about your life-changing book?
Kristen: Brilliant Frugal Living details the strategies our household utilized to compensate for losing half our household income (I was making $50,000+ when I decided to quit my Corporate job to start a family). Granted, it’s important to note I had the benefit of growing up in a fabulous (yet frugal) household. We lived in fantastic neighborhoods, went to the best schools, always had great food on the table, wonderful holidays, etc. However, I could see from an early age that my parents made it happen because they always thoroughly researched how to spend their money for maximum benefit (and always in such a way that left money over for saving and investing). A few decades of having those lessons lovingly pounded into my head, combined with modern advances like the internet, made it possible to accommodate for losing half our household income, yet still making it work financially, without sacrificing any of the quality in our lives. In fact, by the time we had Katie home for one year, we actually had more in savings than when my husband and I were both in Corporate America!
Carla: What do you think makes your book unique? How has the economy played a role in the promotion of your book? (Easy one!)
Kristen: The economy has undoubtedly played a role in the book’s success. When I first tossed about the idea for the book, the economy hadn’t taken its latest downturn yet, things were still flying high, and nobody (and I mean nobody) was interested in a story about a two-income household that suddenly went to one-income. Then, the economy went into recession, and suddenly every news story was about two-income households that had to quickly compensate for losing an income (or worse). Now, everybody was interested in saving large amounts of money, and fast. The book took off.
I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with thousands of people in my work, and one thing is overwhelmingly clear is that just about everyone felt that this downturn happened pretty much overnight. It left some individuals without much time to plan or accommodate the shift with personal savings. Once the recession hit, hard-working Americans were absolutely ready to change their spending behaviors to compensate for it, they jumped right into the challenge, but they needed some new tools and strategies to save large amounts of money fast, and I’m humbled to hear that the book seems to help people with that.
You ask how the book is unique: Perhaps Brilliant Frugal Living is a bit different because it shows how to slash spending without a lot of effort. The strategies are easy and result in your living the same life you have now, having the same great food, brand names, etc, except the book gives you the tools to easily find them for 50-90% off. It seems to be filling a niche. I’m very grateful to hear it.
Carla: Do you have plans for a follow-up book to, Brilliant Frugal Living? If not, what projects do you have coming up this year?
Kristen: I’m having a great time in planning stages for a 2nd Edition of the book, one that incorporates all of my blogs and columns from the last 18 months! If I’m lucky, I’ll wrap it up in the next six months. As for titles, I’m thinking Brilliant Frugal Living II – Now Even Fruglier!. (Yeah, I’ll keep working on the title…) The first edition of the book is self-published; this next edition I’m going to scout about for a publisher. If only these publishers would advertise themselves in a way that would be helpful to me, like, “works well with fast-talking, caffeinated frugalistas…”, but alas, no such luck.
As for other projects I have coming up this year, I’m working with some radio stations that are interested in broadcasting weekly Brilliant Frugal Living segments – Should be fun!
Carla: Name the most unusual places you’ve found inspirations for your book.
Kristen: That’s a great question. There are a few places that have really stirred up inspiration for me, all for different reasons. One of the most inspiring locations was a gorgeous, recently constructed, Mack-daddy high school where I was asked to conduct a “Brilliant Frugal Living” lecture for the students. I arrived early and was looking around, and I noticed that this gorgeous, state of the art school had no Home Economics kitchen! I asked a 20-something security guard where it was, and he had no idea what I was talking about. Never heard of the concept. “Home Eco-who?…” Then I tried a joke about “Okay then, so where’s the “Take-Out Chinese 101” class held?”, and that went right by him as well. Crickets.
So here’s this amazing school, with the best of everything, taxpayer-funded by people who (I’m guessing) cooked & ate at home so as to afford to pay the school taxes, only to have those taxes go towards a school that has no intention of giving students Home Economics lessons (a.k.a. “Running the Economics of a Home”!). No cooking, no sewing, no budgeting – I think it’s considered a bit outdated these days. Personally, as a “Class of 1986’er, it completely freaks me out. Amusing that they called me in to do a lecture to students on how to stay out of debt and save money. I think we’ll file that one under “Irony 101”.
Another place I’ve found amazing inspiration was at the Laura Ingalls homestead in South Dakota. I’ve always loved her books, and her personal story. This incredible writer was born into very limited means, not much education, was very poor for the majority of her life (she didn’t start writing the ‘Little House’ books until she was in her sixties), and yet through hard work and ingenuity she and her family always found a solution for any and all situations. She always talks about how blessed and fortunate she was, never feeling deprived. I’m reading the books with my six-year old daughter now, and she loves them. She has a million questions, all from an adorable child’s mindset: “Mommy, why did Laura’s Daddy get that honey from a TREE?! Couldn’t he just get it from the store? Why does she have a corncob for a doll?” I highly recommend it as required reading for all kids.
Carla: What’s the most effective promo you’ve ever done?
Kristen: The most effective promo was the guarantee I put on the book when I first wanted to get the word out about it. I said that anyone who bought the book would save thousands of dollars, or their money back, guaranteed, no questions asked. It’s the only personal finance book on the market that offers that type of guarantee, and it was the type of promo that not only put potential buyers at ease, but also got the attention of local news stations as well. I highly recommend that sort of strategy. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!
Carla: Amazing! Share with our readers the most popular tip you’ve given on how to save money.
Kristen: Absolutely, here’s one of my favorites… We all love our little luxuries, our daily coffee from the coffee shop on the way to work, maybe buying a sandwich for lunch – all of these things are great, don’t get me wrong. But they add up. Here’s a little experiment you can do with your cash instead. Have a ten-minute talk with your bank, and have that $5/day put into a separate bank account instead. Then brew your coffee at home, or throw together a ham & cheese from your own refrigerator. You’re still getting your coffee, still enjoying lunch, nothing has changed, but now you’ve got $5/day going into a bank account as well. By the end of the year, that $5/day becomes $1800. That’s an average mortgage payment for many Americans. Apply that $1800 as one additional principal payment, and you cut a 30-year mortgage down to 24 years instead. Want some even better numbers? Depending on your mortgage rate, you’re going to be saving, on average, about $120,000 of your own money over those 24 years. Now, you could give that money to the bank if you want (you’re currently doing just that), but personally, in 24 years, I’ll be hitting retirement age… and I can think of something I’d prefer to do with $120,000, like KEEP it MYSELF! More fun math: That $120,000 over 24 years comes out to $5,000/year. By investing $1800/year into your mortgage, you’re automatically getting $5,000/year back. It’s a lovely little return on your $5/day investment. Now that’s some Brilliant Frugal Living.
Carla: Great advice! So let’s get right down to the most pressing question of this interview…What did you have for dinner tonight?
Kristen: Fabulous and super-easy Chicken Cacciatore! Sautéed one pound of chicken breasts (on sale for $1.99/pound), combined with a jar of Emeril’s Cacciatore sauce (regularly $4/jar, only $1 at my local discount gourmet grocery!), served over rice – so good! Served with a salad & dessert, would easily cost $40+ for a family of four in a restaurant, but made everything at home for $5 (and have leftovers as well – WOO HOO!)
Carla: Yum, yum! If you were a color, what would it be?
Kristen: Red. No doubt about it. Ultra-obnoxious, hurts your eyes to look at it power-red!
Carla: Favorite vacation spot?
Kristen: I’m close to Lancaster, PA – home of Amish Country. I love going out there on vacation, it’s peaceful, beautiful, quiet, lots to do, AND inexpensive – how many vacation spots can claim all of that?! It’s a great place – I love it.
Carla: Cats or dogs?
Kristen: Ooh, good one! I love both, but have neither at the moment. My kids have three goldfish; all named “Dorothy” after the Elmo’s World character. Does that count?
Carla: Yes, amphibious creatures count. What’s the nicest compliment you’ve ever received, personally or professionally?
Kristen: My beautiful six-year old Katie told me recently that she was really glad I was her Mommy (complete with a bear hug as she said it). Nothing tops that. A Pulitzer Prize would come in far second to that.
Carla: Super sweet! Nothing’s better then that! Where can my readers find your book?
Kristen: You can find Brilliant Frugal Living at my website www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com, as well as on Amazon.com. I’ve shipped the book all over the world, and it’s also can be downloaded to Kindle!
Carla: Please check out Kristen’s latest tips on summer savings – http://www.wfmz.com/sunrise/28256412/detail.html
Kristen Hagopian is the author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”. Her popular book details the easy, proven strategies she developed to save thousands of dollars a year on food, clothing, entertainment and more! In the two years since her book was written, the Brilliant Frugal Living brand has since evolved into a Column read by millions, over 30+ appearances on ABC, NBC, Fox News and The Live Well Network, and she has been selected as the official spokesperson for a popular supermarket chain. She conducts humorous lectures on the subjects of entrepreneurial issues, women in business, personal finance, wealth-building and more to civic, corporate and private groups. Kristen resides in Chester County, Pennsylvania with her family.