Have a Happy Halloween Without Scaring Your Budget

We love Halloween. What other night can you dress like a hot dog and eat all your favorite childhood sweets without having someone judge you? The problem is that we may love it a little too much.

According to a the National Retail Federation, Americans plan to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $10.14 billion—that’s “billion” with a “b”—on Halloween this year. That means the average American will drop about $102 on the holiday.

If you’re tight on cash, that amount might sound scary. But the good news is: It doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to spend a zombie arm and a leg to have a memorable time. Try these seven tricks to stick like Laffy Taffy to your Halloween budget.

1. Costumes

The best part of Halloween (other than candy) is the costumes, hands down—from adorable babies dressed as koalas to the entire family decked out as the Addams Family. Costumes are all fun and games . . . until you realize what a money suck they are. Instead of buying a $40 Ninja Turtles costume for each of your four boys or sewing some rough-looking versions from scratch, turn hunting for your costume into a family game.

Here’s how it works: Head to the consignment shop or thrift store with your brood and give each child an envelope with five or 10 bucks inside. Split into teams to pick out a costume or find materials to make a custom creation. When time’s up and purchases are made, head home and have the kids dig into their closets for the rest of their getups. There’s nothing like a happy homemade Halloween!

Don’t forget, just like kids grow out of clothes, they also grow out of their Halloween costumes. Check with your friends and neighbors to see if they’ll let you borrow a costume this year. Don’t drop big money for a brand-new Hulk outfit when little Timmy down the street has one your kid can wear for the night.

2. Decorations

For some people, Halloween is a really big deal (you know who you are). And for those guys, a single pumpkin on the front stoop just isn’t going to cut it. But if you’re not careful, buying Halloween décor year after year can really take a bite out of your budget. Pro tip: If you need your buck to stretch further, hit up your local dollar store for decorations.

And if you really do go all out for Halloween, start saving and reusing your decorations. Since Halloween is almost as big of a deal as Christmas at your house, then prep for it the same way. Instead of trashing your decorations at the end of the season, start collecting items to reuse each year. Store all your ghouls and goblins in a reusable tub once the season is over. Now figuring out where to keep the giant headless horseman—that’s on you.

3. Candy

Just because you live in a neighborhood that gets carloads of kids every year doesn’t mean you have to buy barrels of candy. It’s no secret that candy is pricey stuff. If you already know you’ll be visited by 50–100 princesses and superheroes, skip the gourmet chocolate bars and grab a bulk bag of assorted candy instead. Be on the lookout for coupons and any two-for-one deals, but don’t feel like you have to get the brand-name stuff either. Just buy what you can afford (even if that’s knock-offs of Dum Dums and Smarties).

And when the candy is gone, it’s gone. You know those kids are getting a lot of sugar, so you’re not really cheating the latecomers. They’ll be fine, really. Early birds get the gummy worms! Oh, and once you run out of candy, turn the lights off. There’s no need to get egged!

One last tip when it comes to candy—keep track of how many trick-or-treaters actually visit your house so you can plan for next year. There’s no need to overbuy and get stuck eating all the leftovers (unless that’s what you were hoping for).

4. Pumpkins

For something that turns into a pile of moldy mush a few weeks after you buy it, a pumpkin sure costs a pretty penny. And it’s kind of like potato chips: You can’t have just one. Oh, no. Because of Instagram and Pinterest, we now think we need no less than a variety of twenty pumpkins spread across our porches, decks and tables.

Don’t get us wrong—pumpkins are fun. But it’s way too easy to overspend on these soon-to-be rotting gourds. So, what’s a pumpkin lover to do? Easy. Give yourself a pumpkin budget. We’re serious. Let the kids each pick one or cap yourself at $15—whatever you need to do to keep the spending in check.

Going to the pumpkin patch is a blast, but don’t buy your pumpkins there if you’re looking to save some money. Instead, just go get pumpkins from the grocery store and be on the lookout for two-for-one deals that pop up. Because when it all boils down to it, a pumpkin is a pumpkin.

5. Greeting Cards

Wait. Does anyone really send out Halloween greeting cards? When was the last time you got a “Have a Batty Halloween” card in your mailbox? Nearly 45% of those surveyed by NRF this year said they planned on buying Halloween greeting cards, so there—somebody’s doing it.2

It goes without saying that you can make a boo-tiful greeting card without having to drop $6 on a glitter-bomb skeleton card for your favorite niece. Use some cardstock and get creative by drawing all kinds of spooky characters. Don’t forget to tape on a little something sweet too! If you have your heart set on a store-bought card, stroll the aisle looking for the two-for-a-dollar kind. But remember, you don’t have to send a card either.

6. Fall Activities

There are heaps of harvest and Halloween festivals this time of year—and they’re usually free! Plus, there are plenty of other budget-friendly activities sure to please everyone in the family. Spend the day walking around a farm or enjoying a hayride. Take a drive out of town to look at the changing colors of the leaves. Go apple picking or enjoy a fall festival. Take advantage of what’s already going on in your church or community, and budget a little extra for any special food or rides. Festive fall food can really add up if you’re not careful, so save some cash by packing a picnic and a comfy quilt.

7. Family Traditions

Carve out a weekend or two for some quality time together this fall—you don’t even have to leave your house! If you’re tired of carving pumpkins or dressing up, why not start some new, budget-friendly traditions?

How about a fall-themed cooking day? Try caramel apples, pumpkin pie and jack-o’-lantern pizzas (use the pepperonis and veggies to make the face). Or have everyone vote for their favorite fall movies, then hunker down on the couch to get cozy and eat all those tasty treats you cooked up. And if you’d rather be outside enjoying the leaves, head over to the park for a scavenger hunt and enjoy the scenery while you search.

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