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Leisure Spending

Halloween on a Budget

With elaborate parties and spooky decorations, consumers are spending more on Halloween this year than ever before. But you don't have to spend a fortune to enjoy the pagan festival.

Editor's note: This story has been updated since it originally was published in October 2006.

Halloween isn't just for kids anymore. The pagan festival has become one of the biggest party nights of the year for adults and is now the second biggest decorating holiday behind Christmas.

And the amount people plan to spend on Halloween continues to grow. Consumers are expected to spend a record $5.07 billion on costumes, cards, candy and decorations, up from $4.96 billion a year ago, according to the National Retail Federation. The average person plans to spend $64.82 this year on Halloween merchandise -- about $5 more than last year and $20 more than five years ago, according to NRF. (See our slide show for more Halloween facts.)

A big reason Halloween has become a holiday enjoyed as much by grown-ups as kids is the loads of other kitsch that just didn't exist back in the day when adults' role in Halloween was limited to scraping soap off windshields.

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The availability of immature but hilarious tricks has turned Halloween into a holiday that appeals to the tacky side in us all. "People want the chintz," says Tony Bianchi, who owns Halloween Adventure, a New York City shop where it's Halloween every day of the year.

Whether you go tacky or take a more refined approach to the holiday, Halloween doesn't come cheap. Here are six tips to hold down your costs:

1. Get creative with costumes. Costumes consume the biggest chunk of the average Halloween budget. With ready-made getups typically running $30 a piece, dressing up your family for a few hours of fun could deal quite a scare to your wallet. Save a bundle by uncovering hidden treasures in your own closet, borrowing from friends or making a trip to your local thrift store for accessories.

2. Hide kids' costumes on a high shelf until October 31. "The big secret of the industry is that a lot of times children buy costumes twice," says Bianchi. "Their parents make the mistake of letting them try them on and play in them. Then they want a new one for Halloween."

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3. Set a budget for Halloween spending. If you're planning a party, sit down in advance and make a shopping list -- and stick to it. You don't want to wrack up credit card bills that'll come due around the time you start your winter holiday shopping.

4. Buy candy in bulk and split the bag with a friend, neighbor or family member.

5. Shop online for deals on decorations and party gear. At Christmasdepot.com, you can buy a 100-light string of orange lights for less than $5. And check out the collection of tombstones for your (grave)yard at FrightCatalog.com with prices ranging from $7 to $50. If you insist on being tasteful, Martha Stewart's Spooky Scary Sounds CD can greet trick-or-treaters at your door for $9.98 (MarthaStewartStore.com).

6. Shop for decorations on November 1. You can snag clearance-priced items -- typically 50% to 75% off -- the day after Halloween and cut your costs for next year's celebration. But don't bother buying kids costumes early. They could outgrow them or their tastes may change over the next year.

Next: See our slide show of Halloween facts.