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.
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.
Light up any holiday: We never pack away the lights with the rest of the decorations after Christmas. Instead, we keep our multicolored strands of LED lights handy to use in decorating for other holidays throughout the year. White lights and solid colors are particularly versatile, whether adorning a holiday wreath, centerpiece or just adding some flare around the front door to welcome guests. And try using twinkle lights to make simple designs on walls — such as Easter eggs, Valentine's hearts or four-leaf clovers for St. Patrick's Day.
Use plastic eggs for more than Easter: Plastic eggs that can be opened make cool containers for small gifts for any holiday. I surprised my wife one year with a dozen plastic eggs in a real egg carton for the 12 Days of Christmas. She was allowed to open one egg each day leading up to Christmas Day, and each egg contained a tiny gift — such as a piece of candy, a homemade coupon for a back rub or other trinket. By the way, you can also put some uncooked rice in a plastic egg, mount it on a stick and — voilà! — you have a ready-made maraca for your Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Also of interest: Take the Savings Challenge Quiz.
Jeff Yeager is the author of The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches and The Cheapskate Next Door. His website is www.UltimateCheapskate.com and you can friend him on Facebook at JeffYeagerUltimateCheapskate or follow him on Twitter.