The Early Shopper’s Guide to Halloween Costume Savings

The Early Shopper's Guide to Halloween Costume SavingsIt’s early September, and you’ve probably noticed that the Halloween costumes are already out at many stores. Should you buy now? Wait until later? When can you expect the best deals?

Here’s an early shopper’s guide to Halloween costume savings. Enjoy!

  • If you like the idea of a handmade costume but don’t think you can do it yourself, check Etsy.com for handmade costumes for less. Etsy also offers lots of accessories to spice up costumes that you may be making or buying. Search for “Halloween Costumes” to find thousands of offerings. Order early.
  • Start watching your local Freecycle.org board now for costume freebies.
  • Try ebay.com for good deals on second-hand costumes.
  • Start shopping consignment stores and thrift stores now for the best selection. Checking in at your local Craigslist board’s not a bad idea either. Used costumes are a great savings. After all, most kids only wear them once or twice.
  • Want a new costume? Do your research now, but wait until you can save at least 30% to buy (25% off if you’re shopping at DisneyStore). Start by making a list of possibilities and scout out a few retailers that carry your top picks. Write down the prices, and make your target price about 70% of full price (or less). Then keep an eye out for sales
  • If you like shopping flash sale sites like Zulily, keep an eye out there for costumes there. I’ve already started seeing them. Be sure to take shipping charges and shipping dates into consideration.
  • When should you buy? We should start seeing deeper discounts on costumes soon. Look for 25% to 40% off online. Retailers will also offer shipping deals and extra savings via coupon codes to help move their wares.
  • Procrastination means better prices, but less selection. Wait until mid-October to buy a costume and you’ll find prices of around 40% off.

Readers, Share your advice below! Do you make your own costumes? If so, what are some easy ones to make? Do you buy your child’s costume? How much do you pay? Where do you find the best deals?

Best Backpacks for Back to School [Shopping Secrets]

A year ago I asked BC readers to tell me which backpacks they preferred for their kids. Over 100 readers responded. Here are the top five brands:Best Backpacks for Back to School | Baby Cheapskate

Reader Faves:

  • LLBean: Kids four to seven can choose from Jr. Original, Original, Original Plus, Discovery, Explorer and Rolling. Prices range from $25 to $50 or so. The Deluxe bookpack (aimed at kids ten and up) is 25% off right now. Free shipping.
  • Lands End: Choose from My First Backpack (toddlers), ClassMate (small through extra large), Featherlight (small through extra large), or Wheeled (medium).
  • Pottery Barn Kids: Available in Mini, Small, Large and Rolling. Non-sale prices range from around $25 to $70 with free shipping.
  • Jansport: Superbreak is a popular model for kids (around $35) and comes in over 50 colors/patterns. Available at Target, Kohls, eBags.com and other retailers.

Shopping Tips:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends lightweight packs with two wide, padded straps and a padded back.
  • Use the weight and height charts at the websites to find the bag that will work best for your child.
  • Mosts in pre-K and up will need a pack that is large enough to hold a standard sized folder. Some schools have rules against wheeled backpacks, so check before buying.
  • Other extras to look for include reflective fabric and water-resistant or waterproof fabric.
  • Expect to see deals on backpacks right up through Labor Day. Last year we saw PBK packs at up to 60% off around the 21st of August, and they were 40% off last week. Look for 25% to 35% off at Lands End and 25% off at Lands End.

I’ll be posting the best deals on backpacks throughout the next couple of months. Stay tuned!

Readers, what brands would YOU add to this list?

Related: Top 6 Lunch Boxes for Back-to-School [BC Reader Faves]

Blackout Shades for Helping Little Ones Sleep Longer: BC Reader Picks and Tips

Blackout Shades: Picks and Tips from BabyCheapskate.com ReadersThe longest days of the year. are so wonderful…unless you’re trying to get a baby to nap or sleep later. For many parents, blackout shades or curtains are a must for preventing those extra early rays of sun from signaling to their kiddos that it’s time to wake up.

I asked Baby Cheapskate readers whether they use blackout curtains and/or shades, and if so, which ones they like best.  Their picks and tips were enlightening (get it?). Take a look:

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 9.39.37 AMStore-Bought Options

  • Several readers like the Eclipse thermal blackout curtains (right) that you can find  at Target and Kohls. Walmart’s blackout curtains are another inexpensive choice
  • Another inexpensive option (just over $5 each!) is the cut-to-fit paper shades from stores like Home Depot. This is what we used when my son was little, to

DIY Options

  • Jessica shared a great travel tip for keeping hotel rooms and guest rooms dark: “When we go on vacation, we cover kids windows using black contractor trash bags and painters tape (the blue stuff). And you can re-use them!”
  • One reader got by for a while by draping a blanket over the window.
  • Another innovative reader says she tapes thick cardboard over the blinds during the summer. She also plans to cover the cardboard with pretty wrapping paper for a decorative touch.
  • One industrious reader even made her own curtains from blackout drapery lining she found at a fabric store.

How about you? Do you use blackout curtains or shades? If so, which ones?

Updated: How to Save Big on Safer Sunscreens

I’ve updated this popular BC post for 2014.

We’re approaching the sunniest season (yay!), and many of us will be buying sunscreen for our tots. Safer sunscreens for babies and kids can be pricey, though. Here’s a little help minimizing costs:

Prices on safer sunscreens tend not to vary too much over the course of a year. Unfortunately, some of the best prices on these products sometimes occur when few people are buying them– during the colder months. With a little luck, though, you should be able to save 20% or so off list price and even more if you’re lucky.

More Savings Tips

  • Watch for vouchers on sites like Groupon, Plum District and Living Social.
  • Scout for daily deals on sunscreens at sites like BabySteals and BabyHalfOff.
  • Sunscreen may be an allowed FSA expense. Check the details of your plan to find out.
  • Watch for site-wide sales and coupons at CVS.com, Walgreens.com and others.
  • Look for “Save when you join our mailing list” offers to save up to 20% or so.
  • Follow the brands’ Facebook pages for the scoop on sales and deals.
Online Retailers to Check

Amazon | Vitacost | The Vitamin Shoppe | Lovely Skin | Green Cupboards | Lucky Vitamin | Vitamins.org | Drugstore.com | Abe’s Market

Tip: Follow their Facebook pages or sign up for emails to be notified of sales and coupons.

The Sunscreens

How to Save on Safer Sunscreens | BabyCheapskate.com

All of the sunscreens below appear on SafeMama’s fabulous 2013 Safer Sunscreen Cheat Sheet (look for the 2014 list to be posted in a month or so). I chose the 12 sunscreens for this list based on her reviews, on price per ounce, and on how easy they were to find online.

To learn more about safer sunscreens and what makes them that way, do take a look at SafeMama’s list.

  • Badger Active SPF 30 for Kids
  • Badger Baby Sunscreen, Chamomile & Calendula, SPF 30+
  • Badger Balm SPF 30+ Sunscreen All Season Face Stick
  • Elemental Herbs Kids Sunscreen 33 SPF
  • TruKid Sunny Days Daily SPF 30
  • All Terrain KidSport Sunscreen Spray
  • The Honest Company – Honest Sunscreen SPF 30
  • ThinkBaby (ThinkSport) SPF 50+ Sunscreen for Kids
  • Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen SPF 30
  • Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sports Stick
  • Dolphin Organics Mineral Sunscreen SPF 32
  • True Natural Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Baby & Family

Have you tried any of these? What did you think?

Shopping Secrets: 17 Handy Websites for Bargain Hunting Parents [2014]

17 Handy Websites for Bargain Hunting ParentsI’ve been at this baby bargain hunting gig for a while, now–more than eight years in fact–and I’ve accumulated so many great resources that help me do job.

When it comes to scouting for bargains and deals on baby and kid gear, here are more than a dozen of my go-to websites:

Scouting for econd Hand Gear

There are a TON of buy-sell-trade groups on Facebook. Here are a bunch to check out. Also, find out if your neighborhood or town has a listserve where you can buy and sell items. Many do!

Finding Printable Coupons and Coupon Codes

  • Coupons.com – printable coupons for major brands (diapers, formula, more). Sort by category to make finding what you’re looking for easier.
  • Target.com/coupons – coupons to print and use at Target
  • RetailMeNot.com – online coupon codes. Printable coupons for retailers, too.
  • MamboSprouts.com - coupons for organic and healthy foods
  • RedPlum.com – the online version of the Red Plum newspaper coupon insert. Printable coupons.
  • SmartSource.com - the online version of the Red Plum newspaper coupon insert. Printable coupons.
  • Sunday Coupon Preview – find out what coupons you’ll find in the newspaper before you buy it.

Check the websites and Facebook pages of major baby brands for coupons, too! Join mailing lists for your favorite brands for the heads up on new coupons and sales.

Hunting for Bargains and Deals Online

  • CamelCamelCamel.com – Lets you track and compare sale prices at Amazon.
  • SlickDeals.net - giant message-board style site with categories for deals on just about everything
  • Patroneer.com – view promotional emails from stores like Gap, Target, and others all in one place
  • Yipit.com – gathers the best flash sale and daily deals for your town from Groupon, LivingSocial and others.
  • NoBetterDeal.com – sells open box, discontinued, and returned items at a discount
  • FrogMama.com Clearance Section (used, recycled and “seconds” baby carriers)

Obviously, there are a bajillion blogs–including this one–that I could have pointed you to as well. To keep it simple, I decided to stick with websites instead.

What sites help you find deals on baby and kid stuff?

Shopping Secrets: Finding Baby Carriers at Big Discounts

Shopping Secrets: Finding Baby Carriers at Big DiscountsLooking to save big on a baby carrier? I’ve got a few ideas for you:

Retailers with Great Deals

A fan’s post on the Baby Cheapskate Facebook page reminded me of what a great resource Frogmama.com is for clearanced, gently used and returned baby carriers. Here’s a sampling from the current inventory:

  • Beco Butterfly (used): $75 (46% off)
  • Beco Gemini (returns and used): $85  (34% off)
  • Moby Wrap (used): $25 (49% off)
  • Boba (clearance): $80 (46% off)

Free shipping when you spend more than $100.

NoBetterDeal.com is another place to look. Take $5 off $20 there today only.

And don’t forget that AlbeeBaby.com has a great deal on an organic ErgoBaby carrier right now.

Buy, Sell Trade Groups

For gently used carriers, don’t forget the babywearing swap groups on Facebook and other B/S/T groups there:

They also come up from time to time on BC’s own B/S/T group, which boasts over 3,000 members.

And finally, the forums at BabyWearer.com are worth checking out, too. Registration is required.

Know of any other great sources of discounted baby carriers? Let us know!

5 Tips for Saving Big at Disney [Guest Post]

This guest post on saving at Disney comes to you from longtime Baby Cheapskate reader Danielle.
Going to Disney? Try using these 5 tips to save money!

Screen shot 2014-01-31 at 10.53.48 AMUse a travel agent

How does using a travel agent save money? Most travel agents work for free to the client (Disney pays them a commission). A travel agent can assist you with finding the best deals for your family, helping book dining reservations and giving invaluable tips on how to save money while inside the parks. If time is money, this will save you the MOST!

There may be extra perks, too. For example, our agency also gives a small thank you gift for booking with us as well as $25 for every family you refer to us that books a package. That money helps a ton!

Bring a cooler

Bring a cooler on your trip. Not a huge, hard Coleman on wheels, but a nice-sized soft cooler. Pack sodas, snacks and necessities. I always bring about 6 Diet Cokes, some sliced cheese and pretzels, gummies and sandwiches. YES, you can bring food in. Feel free to splurge on a character meal, if you’ve saved on lunch!

Choose the right character meal for your family

An agent can really help pinpoint times and a restaurant for you but it’s good to know what to choose. Breakfast is going to be the cheapest meal. Can’t afford eating at Cinderella’s Castle? Try Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot.

Eating a nice character meal late in the morning saves a meal since no one will be hungry at lunch time. Instead, eat the snacks you’ve packed when the kids get hungry in the afternoon.

Screen shot 2014-01-31 at 10.55.14 AMChoose the right food off the menu

Order off the kid’s menu. This seems like an odd tip, but a kid’s meal comes with the main protein plus two sides and a drink. I always switch out the grapes and applesauce with French Fries and a cookie and a soda instead of a milk or juice.

Kid’s meals cost about $6, whereas an adult meal is at least $8 without a drink. Save that extra $3-$4 and grab an ice cream or a souvenir instead!

Bonus Tip: Did you know that you can grab ice water for FREE anywhere fountain sodas are sold? Just walk up and ask! Bottled water is about $2 a pop, so this could be a huge savings for your family.

Bring a stroller

Renting a single stroller is $15 a day and a double stroller is $31, so bringing your own can save you at least $75- $200. There are numerous advantages to having a stroller, even for slightly older kids. We keep our raincoats, cooler and “lovies” inside. It’s also a great place to store your drinks while you are on a ride.

Screen shot 2014-01-31 at 10.56.29 AMBonus Tip: bring in a balloon to tie on your stroller so you can always find it! Cast members re-arrange and organize strollers all the time.

For a free quote in planning the vacation of your dreams, contact Danielle at Danielle at magicalmemoryplanners.com

Early Shopper’s Guide to Holiday Savings: 10 Tips to Help You Save Big in 2013

Early Shopper’s Guide to Holiday Savings: 10 Tips to Help You Save Big in 2013You-know-what is just over two months away, and Black Friday is a month from Tuesday. Some of you have already started your shopping, and I’ll bet there are a few of you who have already wrapped it up (you overachievers, you!)

Here are a few of my best tips for saving on gifts for kids:

1. Kids don’t need lots of toys. As parents, we want to shower them with goodies, but it’s sooo not necessary. If you feel like you might be overdoing it, you probably are. Also, kids could care less if an item’s gently used, so check kiddie consignment stores, BC’s Facebook B/S/T group, Craigslist and Freecycle for big savings. Inspect used toys carefully and check for recalls.

And keep in mind that when you finish your shopping early, it’s VERY tempting to succumb to great deals that pop up and end up buying more than you should. Be strong!

2. Familiarize yourself with Baby Cheapskate’s List of Toys that Get Played With before you shop. These lists are compiled from hundreds of parents’ tips about what toys captured and kept their kids’ interest long after the decorations came down. The first four are updated for 2013, and I’m in the process of updating the rest.

Browse BC’s Toy category for more toy guides, many with buy-it-now prices.

3. Try to buy at 40% or more off list price. Sound like a lot? Many of last season’s most popular toys went to 50% off during the second week of December (still in plenty of time to arrive by December 25). Prices will drop, you can be sure, but how long you hold out before buying will depend on your tolerance for risk.

4. Black Friday (November 29 this year) will rock, especially for those of you who enjoy the sport of it. If you don’t no worries. You can expect plenty of other hot deals. Since BF is late this year, expect plenty of deals BEFORE the 29th. Toy deals usually peak toward the end of the first week of December. Expect sales to continue the pattern of starting a few days earlier each year. You may have seen a few “Cyber Sales” already.

5. Sometimes it pays to wait. You never really know when the best deal on the particular wish list item you’re looking for will surface, so don’t stress about it too much. Count on getting great deals through about a week before Christmas. Just be sure order by December 17 or so to be sure that gifts arrive by the big day. Expect many stores, including Target and Toys R Us, to offer free or cheap expediting shipping for last minute shoppers.

6. Clearance sales on winter clothing traditionally start late in the third week of December through right after Christmas day. Inventory will be best at this time, though the sales will continue long into January and perhaps through February, with the very deepest discounts at the end of the sales. Look for sales at The Children’s Place, Old Navy, Crazy 8, Gymboree, and more.

7. Use Facebook and Twitter to catch time-sensitive deals. Check for coupon codes and sale announcements on retailer’s Facebook pages. The same deals should also show up on Twitter.

8. Watch for Amazon Lightning Deals. Some of last year’s hottest toy deals showed up as limited-time steals at Amazon. You can access them at Amazon’s Today’s Deals page or on the Baby or Toys Department pages.

9. Other retailers–Hanes, Kohls, Overstock, Kmart, Target, and others–will most likely also offer Holiday Deals of the Day.

10. I’ll be posting the hottest toy, baby gear and clothing deals here several times daily here on Baby Cheapskate. Make sure you’ve Liked BC on Facebook to be notified of posts as soon as they go up and to catch lots of deals that you won’t even find on the blog.

Readers: What are your best toy shopping tips?

Registry 101: 10 Baby “Needs” worth Registering For

Registry 101: 10 Baby “Needs” worth Registering ForRegistries and baby showers can help parents cut the cost of preparing for baby dramatically— if you know how to do it right. With a little strategizing your registry can be a real money-saving tool.

My best tip for creating a registry is to focus on the items you know you’ll need–especially items that you don’t think you’ll be getting for free or purchasing second-hand.

By registering for essentials, you won’t be stuck handing over money for items you can’t live without while you have a closetful of adorable newborn clothes that will be outgrown in two weeks and rattles that your baby may or may not ever give a shake about. Here are more suggestions for your registry:

Registry 101: 10 Baby “Needs” worth Registering For10 Baby “Needs” worth Registering For:

  • Crib
  • Crib Mattress
  • Crib Bedding
  • Diapers (cloth or disposable) / wipes
  • Formula (if you plan to use it)
  • Breast pump (if not covered by your health insurance)
  • Bottles
  • Disposable or washable breast pads
  • Car seat
  • Baby thermometer
Where to Register?

When deciding where to register, look for a store with a great selection, low prices, a generous return policy, and free shipping (if online).

Baby Cheapskate readers are big fans of Amazon.com’s Universal Registry, which lets you add items from any retailer in addition to Amazon’s items. Amazon also lets you prioritize items on your registry–a super helpful feature.

Right now there’s a little extra incentive to create a registry at Amazon: If you create a registry at Amazon and add ten items, you’ll be entered to win a $500 Amazon gift card in the Amazon Baby Registry Sweepstakes. One winner will be chosen each week.

In the next Registry 101 post, I’ll discuss baby gear “extras” that make fab additions to your baby registry. In the meantime, browse  a bunch of BC readers’  top registry picks over at Pinterest.

Shopping Secrets: How to Find Printable Coupons on Facebook

There are tons of printable coupons on Facebook, but exactly how do you find them?

One way is to make an interest list with your favorite retailers and scan the feed to see what pops up.

Or, you could check The Savvy Squirrel, which has a whole category devoted to them. The latest list, updated 2/19, features baby and kid-related coupons for Ella’s Kitchen 100% Organic Products, Happy Tot or Happy Baby Pouches, Munchkin Clip Lock Cup, TAG Reading System and lots more. Other sites list them, too, but The Savvy Squirrel is the only one I’ve seen that makes a big list of them organized by category.

Stretching a Buck, The Krazy Coupon LadyFree Coupon Alerts, Expanded Ramblings, True Couponing and Fabulessly Frugal also have categories for Facebook coupons. Bookmark them!

Do you know of any other sites that list Facebook coupons? Let us know!

Related: 19 Baby Swap & B/S/T Groups to Check Out on Facebook

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