6 Halloween Costume Hacks for Budget-Conscious Parents

With Halloween just around the corner, parents and kids are already eyeing the racks at stores for that perfect costume. From Disney characters to Marvel comics to irresistibly cute animal outfits, the choices are endless and it’s understandable how families get wrapped up in the spooky celebration. While Christmas is still the most spendy holiday, the cost of Halloween has been climbing. The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates Americans will spend about $950 million on kids costumes alone this year.

1. DIY.
Undoubtedly your child may be set on dressing as one of the hottest characters this season. While there will be plenty of Minions and Star Wars characters patrolling the sidewalks Halloween night, you don’t have to pay a lot to achieve these looks. Ashley Ann Photography has some great DIY tips for Star Wars costumes, while many costume ideas use simple apparel that you can find at craft stores for less.

2. Raid The Closet.
Chances are your child already has something in his or her closet that can be repurposed for Halloween. A ballet leotard is an easy base for a number of costumes, and an old pair of overalls is perfect for a Minion costume. Old costumes from years before can also be re-worn and redecorated to make something new. For more cheap and easy costume ideas, check out this blog post of over 50 ideas for kids and adults.

3. Be Thrifty.
When it comes to Halloween, thrift stores are your best resource. Many stores like ARC and Goodwill sell Halloween costumes for popular characters like Disney princesses and superheros. You’ll pay a lot less buying these gently used than you would from pricey costume stores. Also check out ThredUp.com; during October, the online consignment store hosts a costume exchange so parents can swap outgrown costumes for new ones. Grab ThredUp coupon codes for even more savings from deal sites like Coupon Sherpa.

4. Create a Challenge.
A fun way to let your kids have a blast creating their own costumes is to make a contest out of it! Money Crashers suggests setting a budget for each child and letting them explore the stores. Dollar stores are a great place to let them create, since most things will be cheaper and they can get more for their money. For a little competitive fun, you could host a costume contest afterwards and award the winner a prize.

5. Wait.
If you’re serious about Halloween saving, consider waiting until the last minute to purchase a costume for your child. Most stores mark their Halloween inventory way down a few days before the holiday to make way for Christmas merchandise. Though this method may not work if you need the costume in advance, it can mean big savings for those with flexibility. Also check the stores right after the holiday for savings of 50% or more for next year’s event.

6. Swap with Friends.
Every year, children request to dress up as their favorite cartoon character or animal for this one-day celebration. Since most kids don’t want to re-wear the same look the following year, parents are stuck with unusable costumes. Instead of letting those popular looks collect dust, set up a swap with family and friends to trade gently used costumes and accessories at no cost. Serve light snacks and request that each attendant bring at least one item to exchange.

Five Ways to Throw a Kid’s Birthday Party on a Budget

If you’re looking to throw a kid’s birthday party on a budget, we’ve come up with five things you can do to save money but still have a great time and a party your child and all his or her friends will remember.

These days, more and more parents are embracing the trend of throwing crazy, over-the-top birthday parties for their children, even those who aren’t old enough to understand the concept. For some parents, the idea of a kid’s birthday party on a budget just doesn’t register.

Some parents rent out banquet halls. Other hire actors to portray their children’s favorite TV characters and take over their local kiddie gyms for hours at a time. Those with large enough backyards have been known to rent amusement park rides, cotton candy machines, and snow cone makers to rival the carnival experience. And let’s not forget the celebratory junior spa day, where kids as young as four or five will spend hours getting pampered with age-appropriate face masks, manicures, and mud baths.

Even if you actually have the desire to throw such an elaborate bash, you may quickly run into one major problem: money. Unless your only aim is to impress the other parents, these extravagant birthday affairs are never worth their exorbitant costs. You’ll end up spending  the next 12 months paying off a credit card balance for an event that will last just a few hours. It is a little ridiculous considering that kids don’t care how much you spend; they have just as much fun and possibly much more fun with a low cost affair.

With a little creativity, you can find a cost-effective way to say “happy birthday.” Thankfully, you’ve got plenty of options for throwing an awesome kid’s birthday party on a budget.

1. Open Up Your Home

Throwing a birthday party at home means opening up your space to an influx of kids. It’ll take time to do the setup, and you’re almost guaranteed to be left with a mess. The good news? You can save several hundred dollars by not having to rent out a space.

2. Don’t Serve a Meal

Between food allergies and pickiness, feeding a room full of children is a challenging prospect to begin with. Rather than serve a meal, time your birthday party for 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon so that there’s no expectation of lunch or dinner. This way, all you have to do is serve up some snacks, put out some beverages, and bust out a cake. Speaking of which…

3. Make Your Own Cake

Even if you’re not a baker, you can whip up a simple, delicious cake for a fraction of the cost of a bakery cake. The secret? Cake mix. Don’t be ashamed of it. Lather it with a $3 jar of store-bought frosting, throw on some sprinkles, and you’ll be all set. It may not look as cool as the custom superhero or construction zone cake your neighbor’s son had at his party, but at 1/5 the cost, it’ll probably taste just as good.

4. Forego the Party Bags

Most parents don’t want extra candy or small, plastic toys lying around, so why spend money on stuff nobody needs? Instead, have the kids do a craft for entertainment and let them take their creations home.

5. Skip the Invitations

Every parent has email these days. Rather than print and mail out invitations, use email or free tools like evite.com to let your guests know they’re invited.

As noble as it is to want to throw your child a birthday party he or she will be raving about for weeks on end, it’s not worth busting your budget for a mere two hours of entertainment. And besides, once the party’s over, it’s all about the presents anyway.

Free Things To Do With Your Family in the Summer

Ah, Summer. Long, sunny days when the kids are home from school. It can be easy to wish the kids back into the classroom, but this year consider an alternative: find free things to do with your family in the summer. Doesn’t sound possible, but it is. Communities across the country are committed to offering a variety of activities that families can enjoy for little or no cost. Ready to get in on the action?

Get Moving

Summer is a great time of year to get outside and get moving. With kids (and adults) watching more TV than ever, having the opportunity for some exercise is too good to pass up. Consider biking as a family each day or night. To make it even more fun, you could bike ride to the park with plans to meet friends there, or pack a picnic lunch.

Hiking is another wonderful opportunity to get outside and explore nature. Pack a water bottle and hit the trails.

An alternative to hiking is geocaching. Even though you’re still outside and hitting the trails, you’re also looking for a cache. It’s like going on a treasure hunt, but instead of a map, you use GPS coordinates to find the treasure. With over 2 million geocaches worldwide, there are probably some near you. Search www.geocache.com to begin.

Other free activities that can get the whole family moving include:

  • Swimming at the beach
  • Playing in splashpads
  • rollerskating/blading
  • Go to the park and play
  • Host outdoor neighborhood games

Get together with families from the entire neighborhood to play softball, kickball, kick the can and other games you loved to play growing up.

It’s not entirely free because you have to pay for shoes, but there are many locations throughout the U.S. that let kids bowl up to three games per day. Perfect for a rainy day or those hot days where you just don’t want to go outside.

Learn Something New

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean there’s no learning to be done. Summer reading programs are a fantastic way to get the whole family sharp. The following are just a sample of those available:

Many libraries and book stores have reading hours. You might also see if there are reading programs at local parks. Check and see if any authors of your kids’ favorite books are doing book signings in the area or will be by checking the author’s websites. They might enjoy hearing how they came up with the stories and asking questions. You might even be able to combine the activity with a road trip.

Many businesses offer free classes. Whether your family is into technology and wants to attend Apple Camp, loves working with wood or enjoy crafting, you can learn something new. many of these are free, some may have a small charge to cover the cost of the products.

One on One Time at Home

Some days it’s best to just stay home. But that doesn’t mean you have to watch TV all day. There are lots of great fun that can be had at home. Best of all – it won’t cost you a cent. Consider the following ideas:

  • Build a massive fort
  • Create a scavenger hunt
  • Have a dance party
  • Pull out the board games
  • Make your own board games
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Test out science experiments
  • Create obstacle courses

You could also teach your kids to cook. Whether they’re at the stage where they can just start to add in the flour or can make dinner by themselves, doing it together could lead to new recipes, new things to try and some great memories.

Out on the Town

Does your town have a police or fire station? Why not call up and arrange a tour? Local factories might be willing to give tours, as well. And sometimes candy stores will show you how the magic happens – for free. You might also visit a farm to see where the produce comes from and see some animals.

Do you love to fish? Get a fishing pole (a toy one for very young children might be wise) and teach your little angler how to cast the pole and reel in the fish. Share a favorite fishing spot.

Maybe not much happened in your town, but local museums are sure to have captured the local flavor and history and they usually don’t charge much – they might even have free days.

What about giving back? Maybe a local garden or a school could use your help. Get the whole family involved in a volunteer project.

What’s going on at your park district? Many towns have activities set up throughout the summer that are family-friendly. This could include free days to swim at the pool, live music, free petting zoos and free movies in the park.

If you’re a movie-going family and want the opportunity to see other movies during the summer, consider paying a nominal fee (50 cents to $1 per film). The following are sites where you can see movies near you on the cheap:

You Gotta Eat

Food. Whether you want to cook together or you’re doing all the cooking yourself, a meal is a great way to spend time with family and friends. Visit a local park for a barbecue, take a drive to a picnic or hit up some local restaurants on days where kids eat free. In some towns and cities, particularly lower income areas, the USDA has partnered with local schools to provide kids 1-18 with free lunches.

Spending fun time with family and making memories doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Take advantage of this summer and spend time together doing activities for free.