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Family recession guide: Thrifty tricks and insider tips to save you money at every age & stage

  Tip: Go for free, check out free calendar events.

Chances are you’re cutting back on spending in 2009 — maybe even giving up goods and services you used to enjoy. But maybe you don’t have to! Here’s a list of some money-saving tips that can take some of the bite out of those family expenses, whether your child needs a haircut, baby needs new clothes or you’d just like to be able to relax and enjoy a date night out with your husband — without stressing about the bill.

Health and beauty care

Dental hygiene students need patients upon whom to practice. You can call Pierce College Fort Steilacoom (253-964-6694) for a free screening appointment to see if you fit their criteria. Piggy bankIf you do, you’ll pay 20 percent to 25 percent of regular prices for dental services. Right now, the school is looking for adults with gum disease, but its needs continually change.

Tacoma’s Lindquist Clinic (253-539-7445) is the only nonprofit dental clinic in Pierce County specializing in children. If a family doesn’t have dental insurance, fees are based on total family income and a sliding scale. However, no child in need is turned away because of parents’ inability to pay.

At the Gene Juarez Academies at 10715 Eighth Ave. N.E. in North Seattle (206-365-6900) and at 2222 S. 314th St. in Federal Way (253-839-4000), haircuts for children and adults run $12.95. A basic pedicure for you or your child is $17.95; a basic manicure is $12.95.

Farther south in Tacoma, the Salon Professional Academy, 3702 S. Fife St. (253-617-7008), charges $10 for a haircut, shampoo and style for adults and only $6 for a child younger than 12.

In Bellevue, at the Evergreen Beauty School, 14045 N.E. 20th (425-643-0270), boys’ haircuts run $10 and girls’ haircuts cost $12. Keep in mind that students do the cuts, so it may take longer than at a traditional salon.

Clothing is not optional

If you’ve yet to discover the fiscal thrill of secondhand and outlet shopping, 2009 might be your year! After all, kids tend to outgrow clothes long before they wear them out, so used kids’ togs tend to be in great shape. Great kids’ consignment stores abound in our area; here are just a few:

Check out the 99-cent room at Saturday’s Child, 18012 Bothell-Everett Highway in Bothell (425-486-6716), where you’ll find off-season merchandise and some “as is” items needing minor repairs. Tag sales are also a staple here, with certain color tags offering 30 percent to 50 percent off the original price. Saturday’s Child carries preemies through a child’s size 14, maternity clothes, puzzles, books, games and more.

At Heaven Sent Children’s Resale, 1200 S. 324th St. in Federal Way (253-946-2229), clothing comes in preemies to size 10. You’ll also find a wide array of toys, books, videos, baby equipment and furniture.

The Cotton Caboodle Outlet, 203 W. Thomas St. in Seattle (206-352-3763), sells high-quality new cotton clothing for babies, children, tweens and women. All items are American-made, preshrunk and discounted 50 percent or more off retail prices. Some of the clothing comes from overstock or off-season, but seasonal items are also available.

Talk to most any teen and they’ll tell you how much they love Plato’s Closet, because Plato’s not only have the latest teen fashions at bargain prices, but the store staff also pays cash on the spot for clothes teens bring in from home. There are four locations in our area, including Bellevue, Lynnwood, Tukwila and Olympia.

Babies and children grow so rapidly, it’s hard to keep them in clothes that fit. Friends with children run into that same problem, so why not set up a children’s clothing swap?

Set a date, invite as many moms as you can find and ask them to invite others, provide some snacks, and set out the children’s clothing so that guests can take what they need.

Online swap meets are fun, too. You can look at Baby Swap or Swap Baby Goods to see if either site might have items you could use.

Books, books, books

If your child likes to read, Half Price Books (Bellevue, Everett, Lynnwood, Redmond, Seattle, Tacoma and Tukwila) is for you. Not only does it have a vast array of reading material for both you and your child, but it buys books from you, too.

You already know about checking books out of both King County and Seattle Public libraries, but did you know that most King County libraries have carts containing books for sale? Most of these books sell for $1 or less, and the selection changes frequently.

Linda Carlson, of Parenting Press, says local publishers sell “scuffs” at a discount. These are books that have been scuffed or scratched and can’t be sold as new. Call Parenting Press at 800-992-6657 or the regional publisher of the book you want and ask if they have “scuffs” of that title.

Online book-review sites such as Book Reporter regularly give away new books to readers who promise to write a review of the book.

Parents’ night out while kids play

Great low-cost baby-sitting abounds, if you know where to look for it. The Northshore YMCA, in Bothell (425-485-9797), offers a Kids Night Out every second Saturday of the month from 5:30 p.m. to midnight. Kids can swim, play gym games, do arts and crafts and have dinner for as little as $30 per child.

You can find kids’ night out opportunities like these at most YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, churches, community centers or parks and recreation departments — or you can start your own babysitting co-op, trading baby-sitting duties with other parents.

Eating out

Restaurants in the region offer certain days and times when kids can eat for free. At Denny’s, it’s Tuesdays from 4 to 10 p.m., and you get two free kids’ meals with the purchase of an adult entrée. At the Mezcal Grill, 9739 N.E. 119th Way in Kirkland (425-820-8448), kids eat free on Monday nights with an adult purchase. IHOP and Shari’s usually have a kids-eat-free day, as well. To find out how your kids can eat out for free every day of the week, visit the Ruby Slipper Guide and click on “specialty guides.”

If your child wants adult portions now, your best bet is the two-for-one coupons in the newspaper and those that come in the mail. If someone threw away your coupons, visit www.valpak.com to print off the ones you need.

Buying an Entertainment Book can save you tons of money on restaurant meals. Because the 2009 edition has been out for a while, regional books are now selling for $16.25, a far cry from the $40 they sell for when they first come out. Most of the restaurants in the book offer two-for-one meals, and after using it twice you’ll more than pay for it. Visit Entertainment Book to find out more.

For teens only

At the Boys & Girls Club EX3 Ron Sandwith Teen Center in Federal Way (253-681-6500), teens can take DJ lessons with Andrew Baker every Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. Baker also helps them record their own music. On Thursdays at 4 p.m., teens learn to cook in the Wild Waves Café. These activities are free when a membership is purchased for $36 a year. Visit EX3 for more program information.

Looking for assistance

If you’d just like to speak to someone about a job loss or the current downward economy and how it’s affecting your family, the Fremont Community Therapy Project may help. According to its director, Dr. Laura Brown, currently there’s no waiting list and they have a multilingual staff that is there to help. The fee is determined by a sliding scale, and is no more than $45. Call 206-633-2405 for more information.

Do you have a legal question, but can’t pay hefty hourly attorney fees? Visit Avvo and ask away for free. Mark Britton, CEO of Avvo, which is based in Seattle, says questions are typically answered within 24 hours.

Heather Larson is a freelance writer based in Tacoma who frequently writes about parenting and is always looking for a bargain.

Smarty arty
Great deals on family entertainment

Children’s theater performances are generally bargain-priced to begin with ($15 or less, for the most part), but if you’re looking for deals at regular theater companies, keep in mind that many of them offer discounted preview, student and rush (day of) tickets or pay-what-you-can performances. Discounted ticket prices aren’t necessarily easy to find online — I’ve clicked around plenty trying to find deal information — so your best bet is to call the box office early in a show’s run and just ask.

Score $10 tickets to selected performances at Seattle Children’s Theatre (remaining 2009 dates are March 28, April 18 and May 9), courtesy of Target. Tickets are available only by calling the box office at 206-441-3322.

Cash-strapped kids ages 13–18 can join the Teen Tix program for $5 day-of admission to Seattle Center performances, from opera to IMAX shows — and on Sundays, they can bring a friend (or parent, ahem) for the same price. Bonus: It’s open to everyone, not just Seattle residents.

Visit area museums whenever you like and pay full price, or hold out for free days and save some (not insignificant) cash. This is a particularly nice program if you have toddlers and preschoolers at home; you can visit a new museum without worrying about the cost of short attention spans.

  • Participating museums: Seattle Art Museum (first Thursdays, second Fridays, 5–9 p.m.; ages 13–19 with student ID); Burke Museum (first Thursdays until 8 p.m.), Museum of Flight (first Thursdays, 5–9 p.m.), EMP | SFM (first Thursdays, 5–8 p.m.; includes live music), Museum of History & Industry (first Thursdays until 8 p.m.), Northwest African American Museum (first Thursdays), Wing Luke Asian Museum (first Thursdays and third Saturdays until 8 p.m.), Bellevue Arts Museum (first Fridays until 9 p.m.), Seattle Asian Art Museum (first Thursdays, first Saturdays), Shoreline Historical Museum (free crafts on fourth Saturdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.), Tacoma Art Museum (third Thursdays), Washington State History Museum (third Thursdays, 2–8 p.m.), Museum of Glass (third Thursdays, 5–8 p.m.). The Frye Art Museum is always free.

  • Children’s museum deals: Imagine Children’s Museum, Everett ($3.50 on Thursdays, 3:30–5:30 p.m.), KidsQuest Children’s Museum, Bellevue (Fridays, 5–8 p.m.), Children’s Museum of Tacoma (first Fridays free; $3 Mondays–Fridays, 3–5 p.m.), Hands On Children’s Museum, Olympia (first Fridays, 5–9 p.m.).

That AAA card is good for more than emergency tows and locked-in keys: members get admission discounts at Northwest Trek, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Museum of History & Industry, Rosalie Whyel Museum of Doll Art and the Museum of Flight. Walk and talk with the animals for less during the off-season. Admission to the Woodland Park Zoo will set you back $8–$11 between Oct. 1 and April 30, instead of $11–$16.50 (ages 2 and younger are always free).

If you’re up for a museum marathon, visit Tacoma on Wednesdays. The Midweek at the Museums program gets you into the Tacoma Art Museum, Museum of Glass and Washington State History Museum — yes, all three — for $14–$18 per person. Visit each museum’s Web site for more information.

Pierce County residents who have a library card can check out an Art Access Pass and receive free admission for as many as four people to Tacoma Art Museum, or a Play Pass (same deal) to the Children’s Museum of Tacoma. Check out the Art Access Pass at the Fort Lewis Library System, McChord Base Library, Pierce County Library, Puyallup Public Library, Roy Library and Tacoma Public Library. Play Pass is available at Pierce County and Tacoma Public libraries.

—Kris Collingridge

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