WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Thursday thoughts 9-30: Frightening truth about Halloween spending

Posted September 30, 2010

As a child, I loved Halloween. We made costumes from stuff we had around the house, spent the whole evening walking around our large neighborhood and hanging out at our friends houses. It was a big deal and we had a great time for very little money. My favorite Halloween was the year my group of friends and I all dressed up as Fruit of the Loom characters. I was the grapes and my mom and I sewed together purple grapes with fabric she had and stuffed them with pillow stuffing we also had on hand. It was a tad labor intensive but it looked great! I was about 11 years old and we all had such a great time parading around the neighbohood in our combined homemade Fruit of the Loom costume.

This year, families are expected to spend an average of $66.28 on candy, costumes and decorations, according to That's an increase of 17% from last years average. I don't know about you, but $66 seems like a lot of money to spend for this particular holiday. I usually buy candy using sales and coupons and gift cards (earned by transferring a prescription or cashing in credit card reward points) so I spend very little money on the very yummy candy. Costumes are always at least partially homemade and most of the purchased items came from the Halloween clearance the year before. You know I don't pay full price for decorations. Most of those came from the 75% after holiday sales and I usually buy a couple pieces each year to supplement what we already have. I would say we spend about $25 each year on candy, costume pieces and clearance decorations.

I realize that there are some folks who see Halloween as THE holiday of the year. They start decorating  on October first and they have spent hundreds of dollars by the time November 1 rolls around. My neighbor puts on a cute Haunted House each year and they spend a ton of time getting it ready. Of course, her teens do all the work, which suits my neighbor just fine!

The girls and I went to the mall the other day and we walked through the store with all the Halloween costumes. I was shocked to see adult costumes for over $150.00! I could not imagine spending that much money on a costume, but someone must be buying them or they wouldn't carry them, right?

So now I am wondering about how everyone else views Halloween. Take a minute to think about these questions and if you are willing, please share your answers!

  • How much do you spend each year for Halloween costumes, candy and decorations? 
  • What's the most you have ever spent on a costume?
  • What have you done in the past to keep the Halloween budget under control?

Next week I'll focus on some frugal Halloween costumes so please share your ideas.



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  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Oct 1, 2010

    Awesomely frugal Halloween, candiking! Thanks for sharing your frugalness!

  • candiking Oct 1, 2010

    Faye, last year I got off nice and cheap (I come by it naturally, both parent are really cheap). My 2 girls wanted to be Kaya from the American Girl books. So that was 2 side and 2 shoulder seams. The girls cut the fringe and glued on beads. JoAnn fabric coupon so about $5 for 2 costumes. Oldest boy was a soccer player (he played Y soccer) so free costume. Youngest was a ghost (repeat from year before - old sheet costume)also free. We can't go door to door as one kid can't do steps well (wheelchairs and stairs...) So we go to a local church that puts on an awesome party with great food, games, bouncy houses... We have a great time, the adults and teens working are great. We love it. So last year I spent about $5 total! Well, a little more if you count the cost of the photos I took.

  • anclontz Sep 30, 2010

    Well, currently it's just me and my husband with a little girl on the way. We usually buy a bag of candy, and when it's gone it's gone. For costumes, we make our own or find something around the house (it usually ends up being a scarecrow or farmer). The most I ever spent on a costume was probably $25, when I was a teenager and had to look the best (and $25 as a teenager is a lot). I guess you could say we don't consider Halloween a big budget buster. I usually save all the spending for Christmas. Halloween is meant to be fun, but it doesn't need to be expensive. There are tons of activities we find to do that don't cost a thing. However, when our little girl experiences her first Halloween next year, I may go a little more crazy. We'll see :).

  • Nancy Sep 30, 2010

    Faye, I don't believe I have any!!! Seriously! I do still have the costume though, LOL And I even have the 'red carpet' I would lay on the ground at the bottom of the steps of the bus before the students would get off at school :) Ahhh, so much fun!

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Sep 30, 2010

    Care to share some pictures of the famous jester in costume, Nancy?! I'd be happy to post it right here!

  • Nancy Sep 30, 2010

    For a number of years, I drove a WCPS school bus, and each Halloween dressed up as a Court Jester, complete with bells on my curled toed shoes (sneakers with 'shoes' glued over them) and bells on each dangling point of my collar, belt and hat peak.

    Gave all 100+ kids (elementary, middle and high school routes) bags of candy as they got on the bus to go home that day. Managed to do that candy deal (loaded bags) for under $25 each year. I recall one year FL was having a sale on the large lollipops with gum centers, can't recall the name now. You should have seen that receipt! For some reason the cashier could not enter a number and have it multiply! Kids on all routes got a kick out of seeing that one receipt.

    And wouldn't you know two years Halloween was on payday, had to go to the bank in between AM and PM bus routes, dressed up no less. Too much fun!!

  • Nancy Sep 30, 2010

    My kidlets are grown now, so many years of not having to make costumes, but every year I indeed made their costumes myself, usually from a pattern I'd get on sale, fabric gathered on sale or from existing about to be discarded clothing.

    Decorations we don't do, our house is 300 feet from the street and so we meet our neighbors up in the cul-de-sac and hand out candy and chat the night away under the streetlight.

    Candy is interesting. We set ourselves up when we moved here, meaning, we gave away full size candy bars and became 'legend' for having done so. How could we not do that again the next year? So we've done it now coming up on year 17 this Halloween.

    But I work hard each year to come up with a way to provide that oversized bit of candy joy with little OOP. This year it's full size packs of Stride Gum. Coupons, B1G1 free deals combined, spent $5.54 for 68 packs. Kidlets will be happy and so will I, one more year!

  • j3434 Sep 30, 2010

    i had the cheapy costumes a couple times when i was a kid and something always tore or didn't fit right or it was cold and you'd have to wear a coat and it covered everything up! mostly it was something homemade. old woman was the favorite default with my grandmother's clothes. the grandparents bought a couple costumes for my kids when they were babies, but for mostly they have been handmade by me. t-shirts and hoodies with removable decorations serve dual purpose the rest of the year. my favorite-knights last halloween. used white t's with the arms cut off, fabric paint, and iron-on personalized crests i printed from the computer. put that over gray hoodies with the hood up (chainmail) and gray sweatpants. shields made from crests printed on plain paper, aluminum foil, clear contact paper, and computer paper box lids with elastic handles. they wear the shirts as pj tops now. most important ingredient is forethought so you have time to be creative and frugal.

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Sep 30, 2010

    Erin - that is a classic story and clearly it worked!

    Kcampbell - we did the same thing when my girls were little ones and they loved the clearance costumes!

  • erinlikescoupons Sep 30, 2010

    Last year we were broke and didn't feel like doing anything for Halloween or spending tons of money passing out candy to the 100+ kids that come to our neighborhood. I made a sign on my computer at home that said "SWINE FLU, NO CANDY" and hung it above the door bell. We could hear parents outside screaming "Nooooo!" as their kid would walk towards our porch. We only had one person ring the door bell all night.