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Have a Happy Halloween Without Scaring Your Budget

Americans love Halloween. What other night can you dress like a hot dog and eat all your favorite sweets? But the problem is, we may love it a little too much.

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans planned to spend around $10.14 billion—that’s billion with a B—on Halloween last year.1 That’s about $102 per person! And it looks like the trend might continue.

If you’re tight on cash, spending that much might sound scary. But the good news is: You don’t have to spend a zombie arm and a leg to have a good time. Try these seven tricks to stick to your Halloween budget.

1. Costumes

One of my favorite parts of Halloween is the costumes, hands down—from seeing adorable babies dressed as koalas to entire families decked out as the Addams Family. But when you start buying costumes for your own family, you realize just how pricey they can get! So, instead of buying a $40 Ninja Turtles costume for each of your four boys or sewing some DIY versions from scratch, turn hunting for costumes into a family game.

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Here’s how it works: Head to the consignment shop or thrift store with your family and give each of your kids an envelope with $5 or $10 inside. Split up 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 costumes. There’s nothing like a happy homemade Halloween!

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

2. Decorations

Halloween is a really big deal for some people—and a single pumpkin on the front porch just won’t cut it (especially if you’re easily inspired by fall décor on Instagram and Pinterest). 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 to stretch a dollar, hit up your local dollar store for decorations.

And if you love going all out for Halloween, start saving and reusing your decorations. Since Halloween is almost as big of a deal as Christmas at your house, prep for it the same way. Instead of throwing away decorations at the end of the season, save some to reuse each year. Store your ghouls and goblins in a reusable tub once the season is over, and pull them out next year.

3. Candy

It’s no secret that candy is pricey stuff. But living in a neighborhood that gets carloads of kids every year doesn’t mean you have to buy barrels of candy. If you know you’ll be visited by 50 to 100 princesses and superheroes, skip the fancy 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 need to get the brand-name stuff either. Just buy what you can afford, even if that means store brand.

Trick-or-treaters get a lot of sugar, so don’t think you’re holding out on them if you buy generic. And when the candy’s gone, it’s gone. Early birds get the gummy worms, and when you’ve run out, you can turn the lights off and relax.

And one more tip when it comes to candy—keep track of how many trick-or-treaters 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, pumpkins sure cost a pretty penny. And they’re kind of like potato chips: You can’t have just one. It can be super tempting to stage 20 pumpkins across our porches, decks and tables.

Don’t get me wrong—pumpkins are fun. But it’s way too easy to overspend on them. So give yourself a pumpkin budget. Seriously. Let the kids each pick one or cap yourself at $15. That way, you can keep the spending in check.

And when you’re ready to buy pumpkins, going to the pumpkin patch is a blast, but not the best place to buy them if you’re on a budget. Instead, buy pumpkins from the grocery store, and look for two-for-one deals that pop up. Because when it all boils down to it, a pumpkin is a pumpkin.

5. Greeting Cards

Do people really send out Halloween greeting cards? When was the last time you got a “Have a Batty Halloween” card in your mailbox? Well, nearly 45% of those surveyed by the National Retail Federation in 2021 said they planned to buy Halloween greeting cards, so somebody’s doing it.2

But you can make a spooky greeting card without dropping $6 on a glitter-bomb skeleton card for your favorite niece. Use some cardstock and get creative by drawing all kinds of creepy characters. Don’t forget to tape on a little something sweet too! However, if your heart is set on a store-bought card, look for the two-for-a-dollar kind. And remember, you don’t have to send a card.

6. Fall Activities

There are plenty of harvest and Halloween festivals this time of year—and they’re usually free! Plus, there are plenty of other budget-friendly activities for the family. Spend the day walking around a farm or enjoying a hayride. Take a drive out of town to look at the leaves changing colors. 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

Pick out a weekend or two for some quality time together with friends or your family this fall. If you’re tired of carving pumpkins or dressing up, why not start some new budget-friendly traditions?

How about a fall-themed cooking or baking day? Try caramel apples, pumpkin pie and jack-o’-lantern pizzas (use pepperoni 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 while you watch. 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.

It’s 100% possible to have a memorable Halloween on a bite-size budget! Trust me, you’ll have more fun knowing you’re not wrecking your money goals to celebrate. Don’t let Halloween haunt your budget—so make sure you know exactly where each dollar is going this season with EveryDollar, our free budget tool.

 

Rachel Cruze

About the author

Rachel Cruze

Rachel Cruze is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, financial expert, and host of The Rachel Cruze Show. Rachel writes and speaks on personal finances, budgeting, investing and money trends. As a co-host of The Ramsey Show, America’s second-largest talk radio show, Rachel reaches 18 million weekly listeners with her personal finance advice. She has appeared on Good Morning America and Fox News and has been featured in publications such as Time, Real Simple and Women’s Health magazines. Through her shows, books, syndicated columns and speaking events, Rachel shares fun, practical ways to take control of your money and create a life you love. Learn More.

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