Saving Up for Disney

Budgeting Tips for Your Entire Life!


Leave a comment

Halloween on a Budget – Make Your Own Adorable Costumes (and Save a Ton!!)

Halloween Costumes on a Budget - Tons of ideas and pictures on how to make your own and save! {Saving up for Disney}

I’m a crafty girl so of course, I always make my kid’s Halloween costumes. But even if you don’t have a crafty bone in your body, I know you can make a costume this year (or at least vow not to spend an ungodly amount of money on a crummy costume at the store, okay?). I’ll show you how, keep reading!


HATCHING A PLAN

Three months before Halloween I ask the kids to start thinking about what costume they want. Sometimes it takes them a few weeks to decide but this year they’ve been firm and have stuck with their original ideas. Two of the three have a Disney-theme, go figure! *wink*

I’m starting the Halloween planning a full 60 days in advance, which will give me plenty of time to make three kid’s costumes. I highly suggest starting early so you have plenty of time for planning and crafting and avoiding the night-before cram session (been there, done that!).

Some kids have a hard time deciding on a final theme so allow about a week of waffling before you tell them they have to nail it down. Once the planning process starts there is no changing of minds!

Butterfly Fairy Halloween costume {Saving Up for Disney}


IT STARTS WITH A SKETCH

I draw a quick and simple design of the costume idea and present it to each child for approval. Make your drawing very simple and direct (don’t forget to show both front and back). Allow input from the kids about the design as they often come up with the most creative ideas!

I stress this…do not make them a costume as a surprise! This quite often will backfire. Kids want and need to approve what they wear and I believe that they should be involved in choosing their own theme. After all it’s the child that will be bringing the character to life! You want them to be happy and comfortable with what they are wearing (and not refusing to put it on!).

Argh! Brother and sister pirate Halloween costumes {Saving Up for Disney}

One of my favorite years was when my kids decided together that they wanted to be pirates. My son had a pair of glow-in-the-dark skeleton pajamas that became the base of the design. One child chose black and the other red as their main color scheme. I used the same skull and cross-bones design on the backs of their vests (drew out a image, traced it onto white fabric, cut it out and sewed it on). The costumes had a similar look but each one unique with the choice of accessories. My son had a simple sash tied at his waist and a loose vest. For my daughter I made a tighter top (that laced on the sides) and a sash that laced with ribbon in front. I accented her outfit with inexpensive gold braid trim. These costumes look fantastic and I truly only spent about $15 total on the striped and black fabrics.

Argh! Brother and sister pirate Halloween costumes {Saving Up for Disney}


KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE & ONLY BUY WHAT YOU NEED

As a seamstress, I have more than enough fabric and notions in my bins to costume a Broadway production! For this year’s costumes, I don’t think I’m going to have to purchase much of anything but perhaps you’re starting from scratch. Save those fabric and craft store coupons now. Figure out what fabrics you’d like to use for the costume (be practical about what will be easiest to work with and what washes up the best) and watch for sales. Dig through your odds and ends including buttons, ribbons and leftovers from previous craft projects. You might just find a diamond in the rough that will be the inspiration of your design!

Once you have your idea in mind take a look at your closets and see what can be tweaked or reworked for a costume. In many cases I only have to make one main piece and perhaps an accessory to complete the look and the rest is straight from their everyday wear. Like this adorable gnome: My son already had the corduroy pants, I just made a basic tunic (trimmed with white bias tape). Felt is so cheap and it was appropriately stiff so the hat stood up all on its own. I attached an elastic chin-strap and a strip of fur for the beard. This costume cost less than $10, took only a few hours to create and he looked absolutely precious!

Garden Gnome Halloween costume {Saving Up for Disney}


KEEP YOUR MIND OPEN & THE CREATIVITY FLOWING

I haven’t purchased a new pattern since 2007 because I use and reuse the classic styles that I already own. Don’t get hung up with needing a specific “princess” costume pattern or in exactly matching the design on the cover. Don’t let yourself get distracted by a dull or outdated design on the packaging because simply changing up the fabrics and adding trims can make that style a true gem.

Scour the sale pattern bins and look for classics that can be manipulated for your design. A basic tunic pattern and elastic waist pants and skirts are the basis for countless costume designs.

Halloween spider costume on the cheap {Saving Up for Disney}

What do you have around the house that can be recycled for a costume? My son came up with the idea of “Hollywood Super Star Spider” when he was five. He knew he wanted a cane and a top hat. My dad made the cane with leftover PVC piping. I made the top hat from the thin cardboard of a cereal box, hot glue and leftover fabric strips. I spent very little on the actual fabric for the costume and batting to fill in the spider arms. Mono-filament (fishing line) strung the arms together. He wore his own black pants with the tunic. My son was over the moon when his design and character came to life!


THINK CHEAP

Specialty fabrics can be very expensive so try to use them minimally instead of in excess. They generally have a greater impact when used strategically, like in the bodice of a dress instead of in the entire skirt. For my son’s spider costume I used only a small amount of the priciest fabric (the sheer, sparkly red spiderweb design), choosing to place it only on the front of the tunic. Same goes for fancy trims: Instead of edging the entire hem of a skirt, use a pricey trim only around the neckline or sleeves.

When I want to create drama without the expense on a costume, I pull out my fabric paints. A little glittery fabric paint can go a long way to making your look more professional! When my nephew got a hold of this Spiderman costume it had already been through two previous Halloweens over the course of 8 years but the paint pen marker that I’d used to draw the web was still holding up!

Spiderman costume on the cheap {Saving Up for Disney}

If you really don’t want to spend much (or any) money, take a look at what you already own that can be finagled into a costume. My little guy loved the Wizard of Oz last year (and his sister was already dressing as Dorothy) so I easily put together his scarecrow costume with a plaid shirt, overalls, a bucket hat and some raffia. Adorable…and free!

Baby scarecrow costume with items in the closet - totally free! {Saving Up for Disney}


TURN THAT “OOPS” INTO “I MEANT TO DO THAT!”

Did you see my daughter twirling in her lovely fairy butterfly dress? When I tried it on her for the first time it completely fell off her shoulders! I needed a fix and I needed one fast! I improvised by sewing strips on the dress inside the neckline and creating a unique bejeweled collar that became the signature look of the design. When something doesn’t work it’s time to pull out all the creative stops and look at it a different way!

Halloween butterfly fairy costume {Saving Up for Disney}


OUTSIDE THE BOX

My son is nothing if not imaginative and he came to me with the idea of being a bush for Halloween when he was 6 years old. His idea was that he wanted to hide in corners and then jump out and scare people who thought he was just part of the landscaping!

After pricing the cost of fake leaves we had a discussion and I convinced him to be a tree. The cost of completely covering his entire body with leaves was going to be prohibitive, but one strand of fake greenery was acceptable. He could still be in disguise and if he squatted down, he’d still look like a bush. He went for it!

We used an old shirt and I hot glued on the leaves. A bucket hat received an overlay of green fabric, more leaves and even a tiny nest and bird that we had in our craft box! He wore brown pants for the “trunk” and everyone loved his creative costume. And he got the biggest kick out of jumping out at people along the trick-or-treating trail.

Halloween costume - A tree with a bird's nest {Saving Up for Disney}


GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TIME (AND KNOW WHERE TO CUT CORNERS)

This zebra jacket took more time than you’d ever know! Seriously, I worked for hours and hours cutting out strips and sewing them in place. I made the headpiece with a firm piece of latch-hook plastic. I looped the black and white yarn through it and then sewed the plastic in place onto the hood.

But by the time I got to the bottoms I’d run out of time! I’d planned on making black pants and adding the stripes but instead had to resort to tweaking an old pair of soccer shorts with a few stripes sewn on and having him wear a pair of his sister’s black leggings. It all worked out in the end, he loved the costume and he still wears this jacket!

Zebra costume made from a hoodie {Saving Up for Disney}

My point is to judge how long you’re taking on a particular project and know whether it’s worth your time to keep going or to amend the project to suit your time and needs. In the case of my daughter’s fairy butterfly dress, the skirt fabric was two silky layers and I didn’t have the time to hem it in the traditional way. Instead I serged the edge in a contrasting thread so it was still finished off and the pretty threads added a colorful charm to the design.

Very Hungry Caterpillar baby costume {Saving Up for Disney}

For the baby’s first Halloween, I knew he’d been spending the night in his stroller, probably asleep. I didn’t need to make him anything fancy, instead opting for fabrics I already had in a theme he loved from his favorite book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. An simple elastic tube of green fabric trimmed with colorful ribbons up the spine and a quickly appliqued knit cap was enough for his first Halloween.


ALRIGHT, OKAY…YOU’RE GOING WITH STORE BOUGHT.

Remember when I said I always make my kids own costumes. I lied. One year I bought my son a Jack Sparrow Pirates of the Caribbean costume. In all honesty, I had been listing a hand painted pirate costume in my Etsy shop that year and I’d made a half-dozen of them and just didn’t have enough time for my own kid’s costume!

So we splurged and went with store-bought. It was a nice quality Disney store costume (affiliate link) and he “made it his own” by pairing it with my brother’s vintage pirate hat. It was a nice enough costume that it was handed down to my nephew the following year and then I sold it the next year on Ebay!

Halloween costumes on the cheap {Saving Up for Disney}

My Hollywood SuperStar Spider and his cousin, wearing the store bought Jack Sparrow costume the second year.


If you do go with store bought, keep a few things in mind:

Quality vs. Price.

Is the fabric so cheaply transparent that kids will have to wear a second layer underneath for modesty? How many times after Halloween night will the costume be wearable? Could it be resold either on Ebay or to a friend afterwards? There are some really precious costumes out there but is it really worth it to you to spend $80 for a one-day outfit?

Dorothy and the Scarecrow Halloween costumes {Saving Up for Disney}

Shop the thrift or resale shops first. 

It’s what everyone did with last year’s costumes: They donated them and they are yours for the picking! I found my daughter’s Wizard of Oz Dorothy costume at the thrift store last year for a whopping $4! The ruby slippers were $10 and she rewore them for every Christmas event and school dance for the following year so I say that is one bargain Halloween costume!

Start with accessories before buying the head-to-toe costume.

Can you get away with buying a store-bought accessory and using items from your closet for the rest? I present to you, Indiana Jones! An accessories set included the hat, rope and satchel (which was of course, his trick-or-treat bag). It cost me $15 total and I pulled a khaki shirt and brown pants from his closet to complete the look. He added the smolder on his own!

Indiana Jones Halloween costume {Saving Up for Disney}

Is it comfortable?

Is the fabric itchy? Is the elastic too tight? So many store-bought costumes are sealed up inside their packages and can’t be tried on first. Some of the retailers have very strict return policies in regards to Halloween costumes so make sure that you are able to try it on completely before making the purchase. If your child isn’t comfortable wearing the costume in the store, they will be miserable trick-or-treating and who wants those kind of memories?

Will this costume ever be worn again?

Will your kids wear their costumes to play dress-up through out the year? If so, then investing in nice quality pieces that won’t fall apart in the dress-up bin and will provide hours of entertainment are worth it. I can proudly say that every item that I’ve made has either been handed down to another child to use for Halloween or has been worn again and again for dress-up and pretend play.

On a final note, I think Halloween costumes are a wonderful way of expressing creativity and style. Not only just for the person making the costume but for the child who chooses the theme, helps design it and makes the costume come to life with their own personality.

This final shot of my nephew and son, rocking their individual looks perfectly reflects that. Choose a costume that transforms you and makes your character come to life!

Handmade Halloween costumes {Saving Up for Disney}

halloween


Leave a comment

Budgeting Your Time – Streamlining the Morning Routine (Aka: What Keeps Me Sane and On-time During the School Year)

Streamlining Your Morning Routine (Aka: How to Stay Sane & On-Time During the School Year) {Saving up for Disney}

I have mornings down pat! It wasn’t always that way…in fact, I have a decades-old history of oversleeping, scrambling out the door wearing two different shoes, hitting the snooze alarm 13 times and all those other not-so-fun ways to meet the sunrise! Just ask my mom, the poor lady who had the privilege of waking me throughout elementary school…boy, was I a groggy mess!

But live and learn and I’m here to tell you that budgeting your time is just as important as budgeting your money when it comes to household happiness. Nobody feels very excited about their day when it starts in a frantic rush. Read on for my tips to streamline your morning routine and keep yourself sane in the process!

Ask me how many times my kids have been late to school and I will proudly tell you NEVER!


Mornings don’t start in the morning, they start the night before! 

Prepare as much as you can the day and night before. This way mornings are started off in a calm manner and there isn’t any wild rushing around in search of things or trying to get too much done in a limited amount of time.

NO WARDROBE MALFUNCTIONS HERE

Ever since I was in Kindergarten, I’ve planned my wardrobe the evening before. My son has no issues with getting up, pulling out a shirt and shorts and easy-peasy, he’s dressed. But us girls, we take a bit more time on our style, I guess! I work with my daughter to plan outfits for the week and stack them inside a closet organizer along with socks, underpants and hair accessories. All she has to do in the morning is grab the next outfit and get ready.

Wardrobe planning has always been something I take pride in. Every night I decide what I’m going to wear and set it aside in my closet. I pull out my jewelry and set it on my dresser so in the morning I don’t even second guess myself, I just grab and go.

A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING

No mad dash looking for anything in the morning because it will have already been put there the night before. Teach your kids to prep the night before and get them in a lifelong good habit of organization and timeliness! Backpacks should be cleared out every afternoon with all paperwork, library books and homework returned to the backpack in the evening so it’s ready to grab in the morning. Shoes should be sitting together where you can step into them going out the door. Hairbrush, detangling spray and elastics/bows should be together (we keep ours in a bin under the bathroom sink) so it’s easy to style in the morning. Jackets are on a hook next to the backpacks. Bedrooms are tidied up and toys and books are put away before bedtime. We have no morning scrambles for anything because it was already set in the right place the night before!

Streamlining Your Morning Routine

LUNCHES MADE IN BUNCHES

I buy in bulk and portion items out into plastic snack bags and store them in a bin in the fridge (like cheese cubes, melon slices or carrot sticks) or in a bin in the cupboard (like chips and crackers, granola bars or a cookie). The only thing I make the morning-of is the sandwich.  Everything else has already been prepped so in the morning all I do is grab a few pre-portioned bags to make a well-rounded meal.


All is prepped and ready, now it’s time to rest. 

SET THE STAGE FOR SLEEP WITH A CONSISTENT BEDTIME ROUTINE

As I’ve instructed my husband, a tickle-fest is not going to get our toddler in the mood for sleep! Shortly after dinner, we start the routine of quiet playtime, reading in bed, a light snack and teeth brushing before turning off the lights. A warm bath or shower right before bed can help kids relax. We turn off the television long before bedtime to keep stimulus at bay. The pace is slow and calm and our kids know what to expect, even the toddler (don’t try to skip story time!). Keeping your routine the same each night can also help sleep come quickly and have them sleeping all night in their own beds.

GET THE KIDS TO BED AT A REASONABLE TIME

According to the National Sleep Foundation website, elementary school aged kids need about 10-11 hours of sleep each night. My kids wake up at 5:45 am Monday through Friday so that means they should be going to bed no later than 7:45 am! I will admit that a bedtime before eight o’clock isn’t happening but they are going to bed at a reasonable 8:15-8:30 and no later than 9 pm on the weekends. We aim for consistency on the bedtime and the kids show the consistency in their behavior and attitudes. They hop right out of bed in the morning, aren’t groggy in the afternoons and are sleepy enough in the evenings that they put themselves to bed on time each night.

PUT YOURSELF TO BED AT A DECENT TIME, TOO!

I’m the worst offender of this in my family. After everyone else is in bed and I finally find time to myself I find myself puttering around doing nothing, reading too many Facebook posts and starting projects that really shouldn’t be started at 10:36 pm. And then I’m kicking myself in the morning when I don’t want to get up! I’ve pledged to start getting to bed at a decent time, one that gives me more than 5 measly hours of sleep each night. Even after just a week of this I’m feeling better, waking easily and am not “hitting the wall” at 2 o’clock each day any more.

A RESTFUL ROOM IS CONDUCIVE TO REST

A slightly cool room, comfy bedding, white noise (like a fan), darkness, and a soothing scent (like lavender) can all invite refreshing sleep. On occasion (especially during periods of stress), my kids have enjoyed listening to a relaxing story tape or soft music with the lights out. I’ve trained my kids not to require a nightlight because if the lights are on, they are more likely to have their eyes open. If it’s very dark in the room then what’s the point of having your eyes open, there is nothing to look at…close your eyes and go to sleep!


Streamlining Your Morning Routine

Good Morning Sunshine!

AWAKING TO AN ALARM CLOCK

If you have kids who struggle to get out of bed in the morning, get them used to waking with an alarm clock. Looking back, if I’d used an alarm clock as a kid instead of waking to my mom coming in to my room (over and over!) I would have gotten up the first time instead of the tenth. The alarm clock only goes off once (unless you use the Snooze button, but I’ve never taught my kids what that is, they assume that the clock goes off once and that’s it…tricky me!). If you don’t get up you’re going to be late, easy as that. If MOM is waking you, as a kid you know that she’ll keep coming back in as many times as it takes and eventually the kids and mom are trained in the wrong direction!

If you are a habitual snoozer, try to break yourself out of the habit. It’s not good quality sleep anyway. Get up right away and either open the window to let in the morning sunlight or turn on the light in the room to get your body adjusted. Make your bed right away and you won’t be tempted to crawl back in!

THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY: BREAKFAST

We never leave the house without breakfast and I’m surprised when my kids say that so many of their friends don’t eat breakfast in the morning. I can’t imagine trying to function for so many hours until lunch on an empty stomach. I get up early enough to prepare a quick and balanced breakfast for me and the kids. This could be scrambled eggs, toast and a slice of melon. Fruit smoothies with soy milk are a hit.  Or if we are more rushed, a bowl of cereal or microwave oatmeal and a banana. I like a bowl of Greek yogurt with fruit, agave and a sprinkling of granola. I often take mine “to-go” and eat it when I get to work. Sometimes the night before I will make banana or apple nut muffins to include with breakfast.

On weekends when I have time to make pancakes or waffles, I make extras and freeze them to heat up for breakfasts during the week. Add some whipped cream and a few blueberries and voila, a fancy breakfast on a Thursday!

Streamlining Your Morning Routine

FINAL BRUSHING CALL: TEETH, HAIR AND OUT THE DOOR!

I have the kids take turns in the bathroom brushing teeth and hair because mayhem and delays tend to ensue when they attempt to share the sink! I usually give my daughter’s hair a quick style and maybe pop in a bow. We keep a box under the sink that holds hair elastics, a brush and detangling spray so everything is in one place. If a fancier hair style is requested (like for picture day), we allow extra time by getting up earlier.

We keep shoes and backpacks on a shelf in the garage so the kids grab their lunches off the counter on their way out and within a few minutes we’re in the car and on our way.

Streamlining Your Morning Routine

IT’S EARLY…KNOW YOUR LIMITS

Don’t try and cram too many chores in the morning routine. I keep it simple by only requesting that beds be made before we leave the house. If complicated hair styles or made-to-order breakfasts are making your kids miss the bus, save them for the weekends when you have more time. I’ve also been known to set the timer for my daughter when she dilly-dallies over her cereal bowl…when it dings she knows she has one minute to wrap things up and move on to the next task. If you keep finding yourself running late, set the alarm clock for fifteen minutes earlier to allow a little extra time…there’s no harm in arriving early!

Only you know where to draw the line so set the limits for your kids and it will set them up for morning success!

halloween


1 Comment

Budgeting Tip – Don’t Want It? It’s Defective? Tips for Making Returns

Tips for making returns to the store {Saving Up for Disney}

If you got it home and changed your mind, don’t keep it or give it away…take it back to the store and get a refund! It’s broken or defective, even months after you bought it? Again, take it back and either get a replacement or a refund!

My husband has earned the title “King of Returns” for a reason. He knows the policies of the store before he buys so he knows his consumer rights to return or exchange if the item is broken, defective or just simply doesn’t work out.


Don’t want it, Don’t need it

  • Tried on a blouse at Kohl’s but wanted to see how it looked with a particular pair of pants at home. Bought the blouse, it didn’t work out so back to the store it went.
  • Ordered a pair of shoes online from 6pm.com but they were the wrong size. Used their return label to get the right size.
  • Tried a new color lipstick at Target. Oh boy, wrong color for me! Returned it for a full refund, no issues.
  • Purchased clothes from Lands’ End online (free shipping) and whatever didn’t fit, I was able to return directly to my local Sears store.

What do you have in your home that you bought and had second thoughts about once you got it home. You should have taken it back but you kept it instead? From now on, when you bring something home, retain all the packaging and tags for one week. If that blender just doesn’t mix as well as you’d expected, clean all the parts, box it back up and return it to the store. The more timely the return, the more likely the store will accept it back without issue.


Defective or damaged items

  • We had plants die within a week of buying them. My husband took them out of the ground and returned them to Home Depot for a full refund.
  • The hanging loop on my daughter’s backpack frayed and L.L. Bean replaced it for free (they no longer had the same style so we had to choose a new one, which was totally fine with her).
  • My new craft table from Costco had a sway in the middle and was off balance so my sewing machine was bouncing up and down when I ran it…back to the store went the table.
  • The knob on our Cuisinart Griddler melted after we’d had it for a year! I looked at the warranty info online and was told to return the item to any Cuisinart retailer for an exchange, which we easily did at Kohls.

If that t-shirt hem unravels the first time you wash it, take it back with the tags and let them know what happened. At the very least you’ll receive back a store credit and you won’t be stuck with something that didn’t hold up to the proper quality.


Know the Store’s Policy

Kohl’s return policy is legendary…return anything at any time for any reason. Home Depot, Target and CVS are easy as well. Read up on the store’s return policy (in particular before making large purchases) so you’ll know what your return window is and if there is a restocking fee.

My construction worker/electrician husband will only purchase tools from Home Depot or Sears because the return policies are so great that if a tool breaks or wears out, it can exchanged for a new one.


Keep receipts, sometimes.

Some stores will not accept returns at all without a receipt. Some will only give store credit without a receipt. Some stores limit their returns to within a certain timeline. If you are shopping at smaller shops or boutiques, keep your receipts. At bigger stores, they may have a record of your purchase so you may not need your receipt to return.


Handy Links:

Good Housekeeping –How to Shop Smart so You Can Return Almost Anything

Lifehacker – How to Return Nearly Anything Without a Receipt