Create a Mega-Mother’s Day on a Modest Budget! Tuesday, Apr 26 2011 

Erma Bombeck, one of America’s favorite Moms, once said “Before you try to keep up with the Joneses, be sure they’re not trying to keep up with you.”. Talk about fabulous – not to mention frugal – advice to live by! This year, honor the special Moms in your life (including Grandmothers, Stepmothers, Godmothers and Mothers in Law!) with wonderful, personalized gifts that they will adore, yet won’t break the bank.

Mother’s Day Cards: Sure, they’re everywhere in the stores. They’re also pricey, unimaginative and completely forgettable. If you have school age kids, help them create a card out of colored paper and – depending on their writing skill level – a small note in crayon. Trust me gang, the standard Hallmark card will be appreciated, but it’s the jaggedy cut-with-the-kindergarten-scissors construction paper special that your child spent 20 minutes carefully writing “Thank you for being my Mommy!” in 5-year old script that will really get Mommy bawling with pride. While the Hallmark might eventually find its way into a keepsake box, rarely to be seen again, the handmade one will be framed, hung with beaming pride in the family room, and quite likely insured.

Breakfast in Bed: A timeless, priceless classic, off the charts on the brag-o-meter scale, and loads more potential for fun stories than taking Mom out to eat in an over-crowded, over-priced restaurant. Depending on the age of your kids, menu suggestions range from toast, jelly & a juice box (don’t forget to put the homemade card on the breakfast tray!) to older kids carting scrambled eggs, a scone and perhaps a champagne glass of sparkling apple juice up the stairs. Whatever you decide for the menu, trust me, Mom will adore it – proudly taking it to new brag-worthy heights as she recalls it in perfect detail to friends, family and strangers on the street later that day.

Mommies need bling too!: Whatever age the Mom/Grandmom/Mom-in-Law on your shopping list might be, chances are excellent she would love to add some new jazz to her wardrobe. Hit your local consignment stores and thrift stores (a.k.a. “Tiffany’s for Tightwads”) for a fantastic selection of jewelry, scarves, handbags and other fabulous accessories. My favorite finds at local thrift stores: Hermes scarves for $5 each, Prada and Coach handbags for $7 each and gorgeous antique diamond jewelry sets for $10. Nuff said.

New Mommy Gift: When there’s a new baby in the house (especially if it’s their first), Moms will find it virtually impossible to throw out anything the baby uses, drools on, talk to, teethes on, adopts as a woobie, or generally smiles at. A perfect gift for the new Mommy is a keepsake box to hold anything and everything that commemorates Baby’s Year One. Take any larger-size box (a box used for copier paper, compete with lid, is perfect, and often available for free at your local copier, Staples, Kinkos, etc). Cover it with sturdy wrapping paper in appropriate colors, ribbons, whatever makes it fabulous. Mom will love it.

Nana/Grandmother’s Gift Idea: My daughter and son are blessed with grandmothers that adore showing off anything they create. When it comes to my kids, seeing their artwork on Nana’s refrigerator door is the equivalent of winning the Pulitzer Prize. Somehow, defying all science, their creations constantly manage to stick to the door despite none of the prior artwork being removed first. To keep up at this rate, ever more powerful magnets are clearly called for. A fantastic and appropriate gift: a small, framed picture of your kids with their Nana, with a (need I say it) powerful magnet attached to the back, the perfect accessory to attach future artwork to the refrigerator door. It’s a fabulous gift from miniature Michaelangelos to their Art-Affecionado Grandmothers.

However you decide to celebrate May 8th this year, make it memorable and priceless with your creativity, rather than your cash. To all the Moms out there (including mine!) that make our lives so special, Happy Mother’s Day!

Easter on a Budget – Five Big Ways to Save! Wednesday, Apr 6 2011 

Springtime is finally here (emphasis on “finally”!), and it’s the perfect time to start planning for Easter. It really is a wonderful holiday, and our desire to make it beautiful is completely understandable, but those gorgeous touches (from clothes to décor to candy) can add up quickly. Thankfully, some easy tips can create a holiday that’s not only lovely, but light on your pocketbook as well.

The Clothes – Easter is one of those holidays where dressing up takes on an art form, the more colorful the better. Come on, it’s the only day of the year where pastel suits are not only fashionable, they’re a given, and it’s time to have some fun here. When it comes to kids’ clothing, hit Craigslist and your local meticulously-run consignment and thrift stores. You’ll be amazed at the selection of Childrens’ boutique-quality Easter dresses and suits awaiting you in perfect condition, often for 90% off the original price. As for the adults, if you’re looking to freshen up your Easter wardrobe this year, go for it! Hit those same Consignment stores and Thrift stores for gorgeous designer suits, new shoes and bags to match. Ladies: don’t you dare forget the hat!

The Easter Baskets – I’m one of those Moms that naively dives head-first into every Easter determined that this is the year I keep the candy baskets small, tasteful and relatively healthy. Come Easter morning, those lofty goals are hip-checked out of the park and replaced with a sugar-induced blur of pastel M&M’s, Coconut Eggs and Peeps in all colors. Anyhoo… heck, it’s just once a year. If you know thyself well enough to realize a well-stocked Easter basket is going to be an expected part of the holiday, head to your local Dollar Store, where a fabulous selection of name brand sweets, treats and beautiful straw Easter Baskets await you, often for a fraction of retail prices.

The Meal – Everybody wants to throw a Spectacular Easter meal for friends and family. Likewise, guests coming to see you are going to want to bring something thoughtful (and helpful) to your home as a hostess gift. Satisfy both of these goals by letting each guest bring their specialties! If you’re baking a ham for dinner, have one guest bring their world-famous sweet potatoes. If another friend just gleefully told you about her garden bursting into Springtime bloom, warmly congratulate and inform her she’s now in charge of the flowers. If one of your guests makes dreamy desserts, guess what they’re encouraged to show up at the door with? Putting a meal around your table that is truly a creation of all the guests not only creates a fantastic atmosphere in which everyone feels they’ve contributed, but it also brings down the costs – and work – substantially for you.

The Decorations – if you have kids, decorating the house for Easter is one of the biggest joys of the holiday. Keep it fun – and inexpensive – by hitting the local dollar store. Toy chicks, bunny cut-outs, wall hangings, cards, games, Easter-themed coloring books, pictures… chances are excellent your local Dollar Store has it all. The décor is adorable, affordable, and often sturdy enough to be carefully put away to be used again next year. You can’t go wrong.

The Flowers – Easter flowers, just starting to bloom, make a charming, lovely gift for family and friends. While some roadside stands en route to Easter dinner may seem like godsends for time-pressed travelers, one look at the price can have you rethinking a gift at all. Do yourself a favor and hit a local warehouse store, as they usually carry a fantastic selection of flowers year round. The potted azalea that would have cost you $40 on the corner of Costly & Costlier should price $15 or less at one of these warehouse goldmines. Use part of the money saved to splurge on some melons, grapes and pineapple, and whip up a gorgeous pastel-inspired fruit salad to ring in the Spring. Bon Appetit, and Happy Easter, everyone!