A few years ago we lived in a neighbourhood that really got into the spirit of Halloween. Nearly every home was festooned with black ribbons, foam tombstones and ghoulish latex creatures. It seemed that with each passing October, the spooky decorations proliferated and there was a whiff of one-upmanship to the festivities. One nearby family's excessive holiday display, costing tens of thousands of dollars, was even featured on a reality show.
While the average household cost of Halloween still ranks well behind Christmas, spending is on the rise. A survey by National Retail Federation (NRF) found that Americans will spend an estimated $5.8-billion (U.S.) on the holiday this year. On average, they will spend $66.28 on a costume, candy and decorations, up nearly 18 per cent from last year. In recent years, Canadians have typically spent about $1.5-billion (Canadian) on the holiday, or at least $60 on average, according to the Retail Council of Canada.
It's all too easy to let the partying spirit overtake your sense of fiscal prudence. "Most Canadians tend to overspend on holidays of any kind - these habits aren't just limited to Christmas. It's important to remember to include these one-off items in your family's budget so you're not caught off guard when the time comes to pay for these purchases," recommends Jeffrey Schwartz, the executive director for Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada. "Families don't always realize how quickly these expenses can add up, but researching fun alternatives to buying new items can go a long way, and will only add to the success of your family's finances."
Here are some tips from the non-profit credit counselling agency to help you stick to a Halloween budget that won't leave you spooked.
Halloween Costumes: Your kids won't want to wear the same costume two years in a row and they'll only be wearing it for a few hours, so don't invest too much dough in their holiday get-ups. To save money, plan ahead and don't wait for the last minute when you're more likely to pay big bucks out of desperation. You can visit a second-hand clothing store for a costume or for cheap accessories. Stores such as Value Village have dedicated floor space to Halloween costumes. Also, eBay has a section set up for holiday costume shopping. If you feel up for a do-it-yourself project, try your hand at sewing a costume. Check out family websites such as Kaboose for DIY costume ideas. Consolidated Credit also suggests starting an annual Halloween costume swap at your child's school or with your friends and neighbours.
Halloween Candy: While you don't want to be too stingy, try offering one or two pieces per trick-or-treater, rather than handfuls. They will all get plenty of Halloween candy, and you'll cut costs. You should keep an eye out for sales on individual chocolates, candies and chips. Treat-sized portions are available throughout the year and are advertised in your local grocery store flyers. At some stores, you can return unopened candy after Halloween, so ask about the store's return policy, and only open a few packages at a time.
Halloween Parties: If you're having a Halloween party, skip the prefab decorations and store-bought food and get creative. You'll find making your own decorations a cost-saver that can double as a fun activity with your kids. You can prepare homemade snacks as well. There are many Halloween-themed menus available online, but Kraft Foods' website caught my eye with their recipes for "chipotle-spiced steak-through-my-heart" and "monster mash guacamole." Plan some fun games to save on store-bought entertainment. Bobbing for Apples and Pass the Pumpkin (where guests pass a small pumpkin from chin to chin without dropping it) are oldies but goodies. At the end of the evening, instead of offering loot bags, prepare an inexpensive Halloween craft for each guest to create and take home with them.