The Easter holiday can be hard on a family’s budget. You’ve just made it through Christmas and Valentine’s Day, and now you’re looking at buying new outfits, filled-to-the-brim Easter baskets and lots of delicious food for a special Easter dinner. The cost can add up quickly.
How much do Americans spend on Easter celebrations? According to the National Retail Foundation’s annual survey, “consumers will spend $5.7 billion on food (purchased by 87 percent of shoppers), $3.2 billion on clothing (48 percent), $2.9 billion on gifts (61 percent), $2.6 billion on candy (89 percent), $1.3 billion on flowers (39 percent), $1.1 billion on decorations (42 percent) and $780 million on greeting cards (46 percent).” That averages to about $150 per person, the survey finds.
You’d like to celebrate Easter on a budget, but don’t want to give up any of the festivities. Follow these tips to having a frugal Easter, and learn ways to save on Easter dinner, flowers and decor, dresses and outfits, Easter baskets, and egg hunts. You’ll get the most out of your holiday budget, while still having a special Easter that you and your family will treasure.
Easter dinner on a budget
Make your meal potluck
Ask everyone to bring something to share. Just because you’re hosting doesn’t mean that you have to do all the shopping and cooking! You provide the main course and ask each attendee to bring something with them.
Make sure you ask them to bring something from a specific category but still give them the opportunity to decide what they’ll make. For instance, assign someone a side dish but allow them to pick whatever side they want to make. That way you don’t end up with a lot of desserts and no side dishes, or all drinks and no desserts!
Plan your main course based on local grocery store sales
Meat products like ham, pork or lamb are popular at Easter, so they tend to go on sale. Watch your circulars and stock up when there’s a sale. If you have a bargain grocery store like Aldi or Shop-Rite near you, make sure you watch them closely. You can often get discounts on their already low prices. Then make the most of your Easter dinner by getting the most from your leftovers.
Don’t overload the table
If you’re tempted to make all the sides for a Easter special dinner, resist the urge. You’ll bust your budget and end up with more leftovers than you can possibly eat. Stick to a main course, vegetable side, a starchy dish like potatoes, bread and one dessert. Each dish can be simple, as long as they’re flavorful. In addition to saving money, you’ll reduce your shopping and cooking time, so you can actually enjoy the festive day with your family.
Host an Easter brunch
Who says your holiday meal has to be dinner? If Easter’s all about the eggs, why not host the eggiest meal — brunch! You won’t have to splurge on expensive ham, when cheaper breakfast meat will do. Baked French toast and breakfast strata are cheap yet fancy make-ahead casseroles your family and guests will love. For a crowd, serve bagels or pancakes with a toppings bar, or whip up fruity smoothies using leftover or frozen fruit.
BONUS CHALLENGE: Can you shop your pantry? To cut down on your grocery bill, inventory your pantry and your freezer and plan your Easter dinner recipes around the ingredients you have on hand. Perhaps you have a frozen turkey you can serve instead of buying a fresh ham, or you can make a pie from the frozen fruit and premade pie crusts in your freezer. The dried beans and stock in your pantry can be turned into a hearty soup course, and you might have enough leftover baking supplies from the winter holidays to pull together a cake or batch of cookies.
Easter baskets on a budget
You can spend a small fortune filling your child’s Easter basket with candy and toys. How much should you spend on Easter basket goodies? A quick look at some parenting forums shows families spending anywhere from $25 to $100 per child, but you don’t need to turn Easter into a consumer holiday. Try thinking about the baskets in a new way this year, and your kids won’t even realize you’ve stuck to a budget.
Reuse Easter baskets
Likely last year’s baskets are abandoned in a corner of the playroom or in your kid’s closet. Dust them off and use them again — no need to buy a new one. Or hunt through your storage closets for baskets you received as gifts, and spruce them up with ribbons or spray paint to reuse for the holiday.
If you don’t have a basket, don’t buy an expensive one. Get a cheap Easter basket at a dollar store (they only get used for a few minutes every year anyway) and then save them to reuse for years to come.
Use a basket alternative
Your kids aren’t going to cry if their Easter “basket” is actually a box or bag or plastic bowl. Get creative with what you have at home. Cover a shoe box with wrapping paper or put bunny stickers on a pastel-colored paper gift bag. The kids will be more interested in what’s inside anyway.
One Living on the Cheap local editor created a new Easter basket tradition by buying her daughter a new school backpack or lunchbox at Easter time, rather than at the beginning of the school year. She’d put Easter treats in the new bag, which her daughter could then use at school. Do your kids need new baseball hats for spring or winter hats after the snow season? Fill those up with trinkets and candy like you would a Christmas stocking.
Give useful Easter gifts
Maybe it’s time for new shoes or a new piece of sporting equipment for their baseball games or art supplies for their lessons. These are things you probably have in your budget already, so make them a special Easter gift instead. Add a few pieces of candy for a festive touch, but spend the bulk of your money on new items you were planning to buy anyway.
Shop the post-holiday sales
What happens after Christmas and Valentine’s Day? Candy and gifts go on sale. Stock up on these items during the sales to fill Easter baskets on the cheap. Or keep Easter in mind when you shop Black Friday sales, and save some discounted presents to give on Easter instead of Christmas.
Trust me — no one’s going to grumble if the M&Ms are Valentine’s reds and pinks rather than Easter pastels, especially if they still get their chocolate bunny.
Gift your time
Kids love to spend one-on-one time with a parent. Use your child’s Easter basket to plan that next time together. If your child loves to bake, find a couple of fun new recipes to try and put them in the basket along with a baking tool or a chef’s hat. If your child loves movies, buy a box of candy and an inexpensive DVD he doesn’t have and set a time to turn out the lights and watch it together at home. Or purchase a membership to their favorite museum or attraction, so you can enjoy their Easter “gift” all year long.
Find free gifts
Kids often want privileges more than anything else. Draw up homemade gift certificates for extra TV or video game time, a get-out-of-chores day or stay-up-late night. Gift your teen extra time with the car or an extended curfew for a night. You might find that these types of Easter treats are wildly more popular than toys and sweets.
Stand strong and simplify
Don’t let social media force you into overspending on Instagrammable Easter baskets or beautiful gift arrangements you brag about on Facebook. If it’s not your tradition, or if you don’t want it to be, Easter doesn’t have to be a major gift-giving holiday. A simple gift of a heartfelt card, a little candy, maybe a small toy or stuffy that costs you $10 is perfectly fine. You can teach your kids that this holiday is about spending time together as a family and, if you’re religious, celebrating in God.
BONUS CHALLENGE: Can you do it for free? Clean out your gift closet for gift bags and baskets, ribbons and bows. Perhaps you’ll find toys or art supplies you bought during a sale that you can add to an Easter basket. Ask your local Buy Nothing group for toys or books, or craft supplies to help you crochet an Easter bunny stuffy or make a DIY bunny puppet.
How to save on Easter outfits
Any parent knows that the expectation is a perfectly dressed child on Easter. But dresses and suits for children can be very expensive, and they are often worn only one time. Beyond the usual thrift store searches, try these ideas that will give you well-dressed kids on Easter but keep your budget intact.
Phone a friend
You probably have several friends who have kids a year or two older than your child. Don’t be afraid to call them and ask if they have something you could borrow or even purchase for just a few dollars. Fancy kids’ clothes are only worn once or just a few times per kid, so a used suit or Easter dress will still look brand-new.
Take it one step further and ask if you can be their go-to person when they’re ready to donate clothes, and you might find your child’s closet stocked year-round for years to come!
Shop clearance racks
Check clearance sales at your favorite stores. You might find a fancy outfit left from the holidays that is marked way down now and will work for Easter. If you shop the week before Easter, you’ll find that most of the merchandise is already significantly marked down. You may not get to be picky, but you’ll still have a kid dressed to the nines – and for a fraction of the price. Or consider buying next year’s Easter dress during post-holiday sales and save it for next year.
Set up a swap
Gather some families together in your neighborhood or your church and set up a clothes swap. Trade gently worn clothes between you and your kids will all have “new to them” outfits.
Shop consignment sales
I’ve had great luck finding fancy dresses for my daughter at consignment sales for just a few dollars. I’ve seen plenty of suits, as well. Kids’ consignment sales typically take place in the spring and fall.
Or, join your local Facebook kids’ yard sale sites or Buy Nothing groups, or look on Marketplace or Nextdoor or other online neighborhood groups. I’ve found nice outfits for free or cheap this way.
BONUS CHALLENGE: Buy only one new item for your child and then use what you have. Find a cute, inexpensive skirt for your daughter or a dressy, on-sale shirt or sweater for your son. Look for your child’s favorite color, animal or design. Then dress those up with items that your kids already have in their closets to make brand new outfits.
Find more tips for clothing your kids on a budget.
Cheap Easter Egg Hunts
You can easily spend a small fortune on the candy you need to fill the eggs for your Easter egg hunt. Try these new ideas instead for a fun —and less expensive! — twist on the classic egg hunt.
Set up a scavenger hunt
Decide where you want to hide your child’s Easter basket. Spell out the location on a piece of paper, then cut out the individual letters. (For instance, if you hide the basket in the attic, cut out five small pieces of paper and write one letter from the word “attic” on each piece of paper.) Put one slip of paper in each egg. Tell the child how many eggs she has to find and once she has found all of the eggs, have her unscramble the letters to find out where her basket is!
Write love notes
Kids love affirmations so take a few minutes to write out reasons why you love your child on small slips of paper. Put one in each egg and hide them around your home. Your child can keep the affirmations in a jar or box in his room to remind him throughout the year that he is loved.
Make it a puzzle
For smaller children who can’t read, buy a simple puzzle from a dollar store and put a piece (or two, depending on how many eggs you want to hide) in each egg. Once the child has found all of her eggs, she’ll have a puzzle to put together and keep.
Dye your own eggs to hide
Instead of buying the cheap plastic eggs, you can always hide real eggs that you’ve dyed. Here are some fun and different ways to dye your eggs. Bonus: Egg dying is a fun craft project your entire family can do together.
LOVE THESE IDEAS BUT HAVE MORE THAN ONE CHILD? They can all still work for you! Simply designate a specific egg color for each child to ensure that each child only gets the eggs meant for him or her.
Decorating for Easter on a budget
It’s important to be festive, but your décor doesn’t have to bust your budget. Whether you’re looking for cheap Easter flowers or ways to decorate your dining room for less, you have plenty of options for making your home holiday-ready.
Shop smart for your décor
Shop your local dollar store for one-color or plain white paper plates, cups, table cover and plasticware. You often get more for your money when you buy a plain color, and then you can spend a little more on festive Easter-themed napkins to add color. Put a simple wide ribbon (also found at a dollar store) down the middle of the table. For decorations, fill a few small bowls with the eggs your kids have dyed, and let the brightly colored eggs be your centerpiece!
Arrange your own flowers
Don’t pay the markup to get flowers delivered by FTD and the like. Instead, put together a beautiful Easter flower arrangement by buying colorful and cheap flowers at your supermarket (Trader Joe’s has great prices) and mixing and matching them yourself. Use vases you already have at home. (If you don’t, I promise your neighbors will have plenty you can borrow, buy for cheap or get for free.) Carnations are often cheap and come in a rainbow of colors.
Invest in decorations you can reuse
Hit your local crafts store for silk or fake flower arrangements that you can repurpose year after year. Shop after-Easter sales for signs and tableware you can use next year and the years following. Laminate your kids’ bunny and egg drawings, or have them craft salt-dough Easter eggs, and bring them out each year to display. You’ll get the most value out of Easter décor you can reuse every year at holiday time.
BONUS CHALLENGE: Can you do it for free? If you’re up for the challenge, try not spending any money on décor this Easter. Instead, clean out your china cabinet between now and Easter. You likely have a tablecloth you haven’t used in a while, and what better time to dust off the china you don’t often use and let it shine at your Easter dinner! Make the dessert that one of your guests brings into the centerpiece or use the dyed eggs. You can also use spare tissue paper you have on hand, and have children make paper flowers and fill bowls with them.
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