Ivan Penn, who writes the Consumers Edge column that appears regularly in the Times, also answers reader questions about consumer issues on our website (www.tampabay.com/news/business; look for Consumer's Edge heading).
Costume creativity can save time, money
What tips do you have for finding Halloween costumes on a budget?
There are some ways to handle the annual costume dilemma on a budget. Here are some tips from consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch:
• Browse your closet for costume creations. Old clothes and even curtains and sheets can be transformed into festive attire. Unworn shirts can be cut up for a sash or vest, a bridesmaid's dress makes a great princess or harem girl costume and an oversized orange sweatshirt is the perfect pumpkin for your child. Be creative and browse the Internet for do-it-yourself ideas.
• Search thrift stores for inexpensive costumes and accessories. Buying old clothes not only saves money but also helps the environment. Look for used costumes on Craigslist or eBay.
• Use online coupons for costume savings. Sites like PromotionalCodes.com and CouponWinner.com offer money-saving coupons for costumes, decorations, accessories, candy and more. Search the sites' Halloween category to find the best deals quickly and easily.
• Organize a costume swap. Get with friends to trade kid and adult costumes or coordinate a swap within your neighborhood or at your office. Others will appreciate the money-saving idea, and you'll likely score a great costume for free.
• Buy next year's costume at discounted prices after Halloween. Shop after the haunting celebration to score anywhere from 60 to 80 percent off costumes and accessories.
Help available for post-COBRA care
If my COBRA health insurance coverage runs out while I'm still unemployed, what kind of options are there for my family?
There are some options for Floridians who might see their COBRA benefits expire (in particular since concern about federal spending might prevent Congress from extending coverage).
• Check the Healthy Kids Program for your uninsured children. The state Department of Financial Services says, "the program serves as a source of funds by collecting local, state, federal, and family money to pay premiums to commercial health insurers who underwrite the risk. Families who would otherwise be unable to afford the desired coverage can obtain it while paying only a portion of the premium. Coverage can insure services ranging from preventive care to major surgery. You may apply online at www.healthykids.org or call them toll free at 1-888-540-5437."
• Visit the Agency for Health Care Administrations website at FloridaHealthFinder.gov. Uninsured individuals can view an extensive list of resources for medical help compiled by the Agency for Health Care Administration.
For more information, call the financial services consumer help line toll-free at 1-877-693-5236.