10 Ways to Keep Halloween Costs Under Control
The amount consumers are expected to spend on Halloween costumes, candy and decorations this year is downright scary: $6.9 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. No, that's not a typo -- billion with a B. Part of the reason spending will be so high is because more people than ever are expected to take part in Halloween festivities, according to the survey.
You don't have to blow your budget, though, to have fun on this spooky holiday. Over the years, I've found several ways to keep the costs of candy, costumes, décor and festivities low. Here's how:
Try something different. My mother saved money by handing out freezer pops, such as Fla-Vor-Ice, that kids could take home and, well, freeze. And trick-or-treaters always thought it was cool to get a popsicle. You can buy a box of 100 for $8 or less.
Buy in bulk. If you want to stick with candy, you'll get a better deal if you buy in bulk. You'll also pay less for suckers and bags of assorted hard candies than for name-brand candy bars. For example, a bag of 300 Dum Dum Pops is about $7 versus a bag of 80 Hershey's assorted candy bars for about $8.50.
Look for deals and coupons. The best time to buy costumes is after October 31, when they are marked down 50% to 90%. But if you need to outfit your trick-or-treaters for this Halloween, you'll find sales the week before the holiday. Or check deal-a-day sites, such as Groupon, BuyWithMe and KGB Deals, for special offers on costumes earlier in the month. Dealnews.com also has a page devoted to Halloween deals. And CouponWinner.com has a long list of Halloween coupon codes.
Swap or recycle. Not crafty enough to whip up an original costume? No worries. Just ask friends and family if they have costumes they would want to swap. Send out an e-mail listing the costumes you have on hand and let people know what you're looking for this year. Or if your daughter takes dance, for example, last year's recital costume (which you probably paid a pretty penny for) could easily become this year's Halloween costume. Same goes for costumes your children wore in school plays, sports attire or other themed clothing.
Hit the thrift stores. You probably did this in college when you needed a costume because you couldn't afford a store-bought one. So what's stopping you now? Old bridesmaid dresses can be used for princess gowns. Some clothing from the '70s (and the right hair-do) can turn a group of three women into Charlie's Angels. You might even find used costumes at thrift stores.
Get in touch with your crafty side. According to the NRF survey, more people this year than in the survey’s history say they will buy Halloween decorations, spending an average of $19.79. But why pay big bucks for a large inflatable (tacky) pumpkin or ghost for your yard when you can create a festive or eerie scene for a few dollars? I bought black and orange tulle fabric for 99 cents a yard and draped it around my front door. You can spray-paint fallen branches and sticks black and put them in a planter outside or a vase inside. Hang a few homemade ghosts on the branches to add to the effect. Poke holes in tin cans to create luminaries. Cut several bats out of black construction paper and tape them to a wall. Stuff an old shirt and pants to create a "body" you can hang over a balcony or set on a bench outside.
Check out dollar stores. I found paper lanterns with a variety of Halloween designs (pumpkins, skeletons, bats) on them for $1 each at a dollar store. The lanterns have battery-operated lights, so they can be hung anywhere.
Ask others to chip in. The cost of providing food and drinks at a party can quickly add up. So ask guests to bring a spooky appetizer, treat or beverage so you don't have to foot the entire bill for feeding everyone. Make it fun by offering a prize for the most creative dish. If you host a pumpkin-carving party, ask guests to B.Y.O.P. If kids are invited to your party, ask an artistic friend to paint faces or borrow an inflatable bounce house to keep the little ones entertained.
Send free (or cheap) invitations. You can go the free route by using Evite.com. Or you could spend just a few bucks to create your own invitation using clip art or asking the kids to draw a spooky picture that you could add text to, photocopy and mail.