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Recycle and Reuse Easter Decorations

5 tips to help you save money and get the most out of your holiday decorations again and again

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Cheapskates like to decorate for the holidays just like everybody else. But the holidays come so close together at the beginning of the year. There's Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and now Easter, followed in short order by Cinco de Mayo. The cost of decorating for each can be a real budget buster.

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Over the years, some cheapskate friends and I have come up with clever ways to get double — and sometimes even triple or quadruple — duty out of various holiday decorations.

Here are some tips for getting your money's worth out of Easter decorations:

A wicker basket with plastic Easter eggs inside.

Think multitasking for Easter baskets and straw: Shy away from buying Easter baskets and colored straw that scream "For Easter Only!" Instead, consider buying plain wicker baskets that can be tricked out with colorful strips of ribbon and other decorations and used for multiple holidays. You can fill such baskets with pine boughs and cones at Christmastime, gourds and fall leaves at Thanksgiving, and rose petal potpourri for Valentine's Day. Also, select neutral colored Easter straw so that it can be used for multiple holidays. Maybe a little Easter straw could accent the Christmas nativity scene or you could use it in gift bags and baskets.

Create a tabletop tree for every occasion: Here's a great "creative repurposing" tip that came out of the Savings Challenge group a while back: An inexpensive "tomato cage" (a wire, cone-shaped device used for staking up tomato plants — commonly available at garden stores) makes a perfect form for a tabletop holiday tree. Wrap it with seasonal roping or ribbon and decorate for the holiday at hand — pine roping and Christmas ornaments for the yuletide season; pastel ribbons and colorful plastic eggs for Easter; and red, white and blue crepe paper studded with miniature U.S. flags for the Fourth of July. A wire wreath form is also a smart decorating investment, since wreaths can be similarly decorated for any holiday.

Make an egg-shaped piñata: With Easter and Cinco de Mayo so close together this year, try making a colorful egg-shaped piñata that can be enjoyed as an Easter decoration and then broken open at a festive party to celebrate the popular Mexican holiday 11 days later. Piñatas are fun and inexpensive to make. Just inflate a large egg-shaped balloon and cover it with several layers of papier-mâché (newspaper strips applied with a paste that is made by heating one part flour to two parts water on the stove for about five minutes, whisking it constantly until it begins to thicken). Allow the "egg" to dry for a couple days, until its surface is hard. Make a small incision in the piñata to fill it with candy and other treats, then seal the incision with masking tape. (Note: If you're really frugal, you might want to wait to fill your piñata until after Easter, when Easter candy goes on sale for half price!) Paint the piñata as you would a fanciful Easter egg and decorate it with Easter straw, crepe paper and other creative adornments.  Display it as a centerpiece or hanging decoration for Easter, and then string it up and let your blindfolded guests take a whack at it during your Cinco de Mayo party.

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