• Check out Chief Family Officer's Valentine's Day Pinterest board for fun crafts, party ideas, recipes, and more!
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  • Morning Coffee: Shopping deals at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls

    T.J. Maxx and Marshalls sent me a couple of gift cards to check out their stores. I didn’t have time to look for clothes for myself, but I did pick up some Star Wars action figures for the boys at 35% off regular retail price, and a boy’s winter jacket for almost half off regular retail. If you’re still looking for bargains, it’d be worth checking out these stores for discounted holiday gifts. You may also want to enter their “Carol-Oke” contest, which will give one lucky winner a $5,000 shopping spree, just for singing their favorite holiday carol (ends 12/20).

    Amazon’s Holiday Lightning Dealstoday include quite a few toys, DVDs and jewelry again. You can see all of the day’s Lightning Deals in Toys hereand Electronics here.

    Staples is offering $10 off any digital picture frame 7 inches or larger, today only. You can use this coupon in store or online.

    For most retailers, tomorrow is the last day for standard shipping orders to arrive by Christmas so many are offering free shipping. FreeShippingDay.com has a list of retailers who are offering free shipping tomorrow (minimums may apply).

    I got an email yesterday from P&G eSaver stating that starting January 1, 2010, their coupons will no longer be available for Kroger-affiliated shopper cards, including Ralphs. Although I rarely used the P&G eSaver coupons, I’m still a little disappointed. I do hope it doesn’t mean that P&G is going to start cutting back on coupons in general!

    For locals: The LA Times reports that through December 23, you can get a free cupcake when you donate a new, unwrapped toy at any SusieCakes.

    Being Frugal reminds us that the most important thing about holiday parties are the people, not the things. Having just attended the fifth annual Christmas party for what started out as a breastfeeding support group, I can attest to the truth of that! I am so grateful to still be in touch with women I first go to know when our oldest children were only weeks old.

    I love the message in this post at The Happiness Project: Let go of perfection and do it anyway. I struggle with perfectionism myself, so I could really relate. I too have found that life is still good even when things aren’t perfect.

    No Purchase Required is giving away a $25 American Express Gift Card. Ends 12/18.

    My Four Monkeys is giving away a $100 gift card to Kids Foot Locker. Ends 12/18.

    There are some fascinating ways of saving money. Over at Under $1000 per Month, they’ve stopped by buying soda and tonic water and instead are making their own “soda” using kefir.

    It’s illegal to throw batteries into the trash here (since 2006, I think), so I’ve been collecting the used alkaline batteries as we recover them from toys and such. Until recently, I’d planned to take them to IKEA, but I discovered that they no longer accept such batteries. However, it turns out that you can take them to these Jiffy Lube locations in Los Angeles. You can also search Earth911 for a disposal location in your area (though it may not include all locations; it didn’t list Jiffy Lube for me). (Hat tip: GovGab.)

    NYC Recession Diary is giving away $50 American Express Gift Cards. Ends 12/18.

    Kroger shopper card holders can load $6 in Huggies coupons onto their card from Softcoin.

    Get a printable coupon for $1.50 off 2 Rosetto frozen pasta (coupon link is at bottom right; expires in 30 days). (Via Printable Grocery Coupons and Deals.)

    Banner via MySavings.com – Read my MyPoints review!

    Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate and/or referral links, and may refer to items that were sent to me for review. However, all opinions are my own. You can read Chief Family Officer’s full disclaimer and disclosure policy here.

    Flashback: Halloween Safety Tips

    Here’s a post that ran one year ago – stay safe!

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission sent out these safety tips for a safe Halloween:


    • When purchasing costumes, masks, beards and wigs, look for flame-resistant fabrics such as nylon or polyester, or look for the label “Flame Resistant.” Flame-resistant fabrics will resist burning and should extinguish quickly. To minimize the risk of contact with candles and other fire sources, avoid costumes made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts.
    • Purchase or make costumes that are light, bright and clearly visible to motorists.
    • For greater visibility during dusk and darkness, decorate or trim costumes with reflective tape that will glow in the beam of a car’s headlights. Bags or sacks also should be light-colored or decorated with reflective tape. Reflective tape is usually available in hardware, bicycle and sporting goods stores.
    • Children should carry flashlights to see and be seen.
    • Children should wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes. Oversized high heels are not a good idea.
    • Tie hats and scarves securely to prevent them from slipping over children’s eyes and obstructing vision.
    • If your child wears a mask, make sure it fits securely, provides adequate ventilation, and has eye holes large enough to allow full vision.
    • Swords, knives and similar costume accessories should be made of soft, flexible materials.
    • Supervise pumpkin carvings to avoid lacerations.


    • Warn children not to eat any treats until an adult has examined them carefully for evidence of tampering.
    • Carefully examine any toys or novelty items received by trick-or-treaters under three years of age. Do not allow young children to have any items that are small enough to present a choking hazard or that have small parts or components that could separate during use and present a choking hazard.


    • Keep candles and Jack O’ Lanterns away from landings and doorsteps where costumes could brush against the flame.
    • Indoors, keep candles and Jack O’ Lanterns away from curtains, decorations and other combustibles that could catch fire. Do not leave burning candles unattended.
    • Remove obstacles from lawns, steps and porches when expecting trick-or-treaters.
    • Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, such as UL. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets.
    • Don’t overload extension cords.

    Image credit: Firefighter costume at Amazon.com.

    Children's Place
    Ads via MySavings.com

    Trick or treat alternatives

    We don’t live on a street where there are a lot of houses or families, so trick or treating on our street isn’t an option. Here are some non-traditional alternatives to consider if you’re in the same situation:

    Halloween Party – My mom’s group has thrown a pot-luck Halloween party every year since our kids were born. The pot-luck makes it easier on the host, and it’s a nice chance for us moms to catch up. The party is generally on a Saturday even if Halloween is during the week, so it’s usually just an extra chance for the kids to dress up.

    Go to the mall – Our local shopping mall has a trick-or-treat event in the early evening on Halloween. I recommend going early, since some of the stores run out of supplies within the first half-hour. The great thing about this event is that some stores give out non-candy items

    Reverse trick-or-treating – This works especially well if your child is very young. Take him to an office, hospital or retirement home and give out candy.

    Go to a friend’s house – If you have a friend who does live on a friendly street, ask if you can join them for trick or treating.

    Invite some friends over – Maybe you’re not the only one who doesn’t want to go trick or treating in your neighborhood. Invite a few friends with kids over and decorate or carve pumpkins, watch a Halloween-themed movie, or tell spooky stories. Alternatively, your child could host a sleepover with close friends.

    Attend a special event – Many churches and community centers host trick or treat events. A friend’s church does a “trunk” or treat in the parking lot, with parishioners handing out candy from the trunks of their cars.

    Whatever you do, be sure to discuss your plans with your child before Halloween. Meltdowns are much less likely if your child knows what to expect!

    WFMW: What do you put in an inexpensive Easter basket besides candy?

    This week is a reverse Works for Me Wednesday, when the participants get to ask their readers for help. And I need your help! Tell me: What inexpensive non-food items can you put in an Easter basket?

    I don’t let my boys eat candy, so I don’t want any food in the basket. And the last time I checked the Salvation Army store, they didn’t have a toy section. (I’m afraid to go to Goodwill, they have the worst parking lot ever. But I may brave it, if I have time.) Also, we have enough craft supplies to host a dozen crafting parties without spending a dime.

    So … any suggestions?

    Find more Works for Me Wednesday tips dilemmas at We are THAT Family.

    Works for Me: Start shopping for next year’s holidays right now

    I’ll let you in on a little secret: I love after-Christmas sales.

    Most stores will put their holiday items on 50% clearance the day after Christmas. If you have your eye on something particular that might run out, this is the time to pick it up. For example, I always try to buy my cards for the next year on the day after Christmas because I have certain criteria that my cards must satisfy, and there’s too good a chance that the few cards that meet those criteria will sell out.

    About a week after Christmas, the clearance price drops to 75% off and about one week after that, it’s 90% off. The actual dates vary according to store, so it’s worth popping in often to see what’s going on. I’m not nearly as particular about wrapping materials as I am about cards, so I always wait until there’s a 90% clearance for paper, ribbon and tissue paper. I try to buy a couple of wrapping paper rolls that have a neutral pattern and white tissue paper – that way, I can use them year-round and no one will know how cheap they were.

    I’ll also look for anything that can be given as a gift throughout the year. For example, I’ve picked up multi-packs of little Playdoh tubs in the past (although this year I got a whole bunch during Halloween clearance sales).

    I will caution against buying the cheapest wrapping paper because it tends to tear extremely easily (yes, that was a lesson learned the hard way). But the reverse side makes for inexpensive and huge sheets of paper to draw and color on.

    Another word of caution: While the prices are tempting, especially at 90% off, try not to go overboard. The very first time I shopped an after-Christmas sale, I bought half a dozen bags of bows because they were about 25 cents per bag. It’s now five years later and I still have two full bags left. The lesson: There will always be another sale next year, so you only need one year’s worth of supplies!

    More on buying holiday photo cards

    As I mentioned last week, I decided to see if I can get all of my holiday photo cards for as little money as possible. The price I want to beat is 15 cents per card, which is what I paid for a set of 10 and what made me realize that my cards don’t need to match, they just need to be cheap! I’ve come to realize, though, that 15 cents per card is probably going to be unbeatable, and that anything under 30 cents is actually a pretty good price.

    I’ll probably wait a couple more weeks to see if there are any more outstanding deals on photo cards, and if not, I’ll just order a set from Costco. (Thanks to Clean Clutterfree Simple for the reminder that they’re usually the most inexpensive place for these things.)

    Gina at Mommy Making Money has some great tips on saving on holiday cards. After calculating what I’ll end up paying this year to send out holiday cards, I’ve decided to borrow one of Gina’s ideas for next year. As I always do, I’ll pick up boxes of cards on clearance after this Christmas. Next year, I’ll get a stack of inexpensive or free prints of the photo I would have used on a photo card, and simply enclose it with the holiday card.

    I like to enclose a little note each year with an update on our family, but I hate writing the same thing out over and over by hand, so I end up printing out letters on full size holiday paper. But with the photo already in there, I’m afraid it’s going to get too bulky. So what I’ll do next year is print up a brief note on a large shipping label and affix the label on the inside of each card or to the back of each photo. I think I should be able to fit my note onto labels like these.

    In fact, I may even try the label thing out this year . . .