4 last-minute ways to fill your Easter baskets for less

If you celebrate Easter and like to delight family members — young and old — with Easter baskets filled with toys and treats, there are a few ways you can stick to a budget. Before you start shopping, try these two strategies to significantly curb your spending: Determine a limit and check what you have in your house.

Like with some of the bigger shopping holidays, starting with a budget can help keep your spending in check. Know exactly what you can afford and create a shopping list to stay on track. As you make your shopping list, first take inventory of any supplies from last Easter, then check on what else you have around the house that might be useful. Holding onto baskets and plastic eggs to use year after year is a smart way to save money before your Easter shopping even begins. You might even have a “basket” on hand to use, albeit a nontraditional one, such as a storage box, bucket or other miscellaneous container. If you do need to purchase a basket, stick to something neutral or plain instead of a fad item. This season’s favorite cartoon character might not be loved quite as much next year.

Once you have your vessel, you might be tempted to fill in the bottom for a festive look and to make the contents inside look fuller. While you don’t necessarily need basket filler, consider a few cost-friendly and eco-friendly alternatives outside of plastic Easter basket grass. Not only is plastic grass hard to clean up and keep track of, it can be hazardous to pets and small children. Instead try colored tissue paper, shredded construction paper or a cozy throw.

Here are a few frugal ideas for how to fill your baskets.

[See: 12 Habits of Phenomenally Frugal Families.]

Free printable coloring pages. There are many online resources where you can find printable coloring pages for free. Search for Easter, spring or any other topic you think little ones might like. You can even find free adult coloring pages that are a bit more challenging, perfect for teens or friends.

Get creative with eggs. If you don’t have any plastic Easter eggs on hand, you can easily find them in bulk at a box store, party store or online. Plastic eggs are very inexpensive, and you can use them over and over.

For filling your eggs, buy larger bulk bags of candy rather than individually wrapped “treat size” bags to save money. Generic candy will be priced lower than those marketed for Easter in pastel colors — most kids won’t know the difference. Before you buy, always search for store or manufacturer coupons at your favorite savings website first.

[See: 10 Ways to Shop Smarter at the Grocery Store.]

Beyond the candy, you can also fill eggs with homemade mini-cookies, treats or candy. You can also try your typical household snacks, such as goldfish crackers, trail mix or raisins and chocolate chips. Including a mixture of sweet and healthier snacks will cut down on extra shopping, plus your kids will avoid a sugar high.

You can also supplement these tasty treats with homemade coupons. Write out a few redeemable coupons your kids will love, such as “Your movie pick for Friday night” or “Dessert before dinner.”

[See: 8 Big Budgeting Blunders — and How to Fix Them.]

Drop by the dollar store. The dollar store, dollar bins and sections at your favorite box store are the perfect destinations for inexpensive Easter basket fillers. You can find countless fun items: bubbles, stickers, sidewalk chalk, pencils and crayons, notepads, fun and colorful accessories or pairs of socks. They even have brand-name candy for a fraction of its normal price.

Help them grow. Along with the arrival of Easter comes the beginning of spring. Seed packets are a small investment to include in an Easter basket, but they can provide hours of entertainment. Helping your child understand how to plant, care for and grow flowers or even a vegetable garden is a wonderful bonding activity, an excuse to get outside and a lesson in responsibility and science, all wrapped up in one small packet of seeds.

For those who are looking forward to Easter, these frugal ideas will take the focus off the money spent and allow you to truly enjoy the celebration.

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4 Last-Minute Ways to Fill your Easter Baskets for Less originally appeared on usnews.com

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