Are you spending too much on Halloween this year?
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), more than 171 million Americans will celebrate Halloween this year at a total cost of about $8.4 billion — an all-time high.
Broken down, the price tag for each person is estimated to be an average of $82.93, up from last year's $74.34. But we all know that number goes right out the window if you're a fright-night fanatic. At least mine does — on candy and costume and festivities alone. Tack on decorations, greeting cards, and pet costumes to the list (the latter of which has become BIG business to the tune of $350 million a year), and you can easily spend $100 to $200 on Halloween — a hefty price tag for what's generally considered to be a "kid" holiday.
Ward off such wickedness this October 31 by checking your receipts for hidden spending gremlins.
The National Retail Federation found that 70% of Halloween shoppers plan to purchase decorations, spending $2.4 billion, while 49% — likely many of the same respondents — say they'll decorate their homes or yards. This certainly can become problematic if you're buying new, full-price decorations to add to your collection every year, but there are ways to lessen the cost.
My method, for instance, is to buy new items postseason. I never purchase any holiday decorations, Halloween or otherwise, while the season is in full swing. Even if discounts are available (Target reels you in with discounts throughout the season on its Cartwheel app, for example), you'll pay a fraction of even those discounted prices if you wait until November 1 or a couple days after to snag what's left of the haul. Granted, you may not find high-end items like yard inflatables or animatronic monsters, but I'm usually able to add a few smaller decorations to my overall Halloween aesthetic. Outdoor holiday lights and party supplies also are in abundance on clearance the day after.
2. Greeting Cards
A whopping $390 million is spent on Halloween greeting cards every year, purchased by 35.4% of Halloween shoppers. This might not makes sense to some of you, but anybody who has children in their lives — specifically nieces, nephews, and grandchildren — will recognize how Hallmark and American Greetings continue to make a killing (mostly because of the guilt we feel for not actually being present to celebrate with them), especially when you consider that the average cost of greeting cards hovers around $5. In fact, I've known people who have spent upward of $18 on a single fancy greeting card; they've been drinking too much witches' brew, for sure.
I cut costs on greeting cards for my own nephews by either buying them a year in advance like I do decorations — and I've walked away with cards at a whopping 90% off the day after Halloween — or forgoing the card altogether. Because based on my own personal experience, I can absolutely confirm that children don't care about the card whatsoever when there's also candy in the package. Skip it and it'll never be missed.
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Okay, now we're getting into serious Halloween territory. Candy — the crux of the entire bloody celebration — rakes in an incredible $2.5 billion in September and October alone, with 94.3% of consumers surveyed by the NRF breaking out their wallets for the sugary-sweet treats.
And it's not cheap. The average person will spend $24.43 on candy this year, which represents a big chunk of the total Halloween spend average of $82.93. It's easy to see how it gets there though. Premium chocolate brands, like Hershey's, Mars, M & M's, and Reese's, are priced between $10 and $12 per large bag featuring kids/snack size servings. I've seen the per-pound cost of some of these bags between $5 and $7, which is rather expensive for run-of-the-mill chocolate.
But therein lies your savings tip: Before I purchase any bag of candy, I compare the number of pieces in the bag/how much the bag weighs with the price-per-pound designation listed on the price tag on the store shelf. Most of them have these. While larger bags may seem like the best value, often the smaller bags are more economical, comparatively.
Let's not forget, either, that you're paying for packaging and holiday marketing when you buy holiday food/candy — the brands factor in the cost of unsold post-holiday items into the cost of the bag you're buying — which means that you'll save even more if you purchase the everyday bags in the regular candy aisle opposed to those in the seasonal food section. Of course, you can reduce the price even further with app savings and coupons.
4. Human Costumes
Outside of candy, the other major Halloween expense is costumes, which takes up the biggest portion of the holiday-spending pie at $3.1 billion.
When it comes to costumes, we're already fairly savvy: 35% of costume shoppers search for the perfect outfit online, where you can find great costumes at reasonable or even discounted prices, while 29% shop in store, likely at pop-up shops like Spirit Halloween Superstores. (I receive discounts galore at Halloween by being on their email list.)
What's even more heartening from a savings standpoint is that many of us rely on social media (34%), friend and family (19%), pop culture (16%), and print media (14%) for costume ideas, the pieces for which we look for in our own closets or thrift stores.
Again, I've saved a bundle picking up full costumes, odds and ends, and accessories after the holiday; Spirit goes out of business for the year, end of day November 1, but you can snag tons of great stuff that day. I keep all those items in a box to piece meal a costume together the next year.
Another smart idea is to swap costumes and accessories among friends. Somebody in your circle may have just what you're looking for — Facebook is an excellent way to find out — so you don't have to shell out for one-use-only items.
5. Pet Costumes
We love our pets. So much so that 20 million of us are willing to fork over a combined $350 million to dress up our furbabies as waggy-tailed ghouls and goblins.
I admit that I've dressed up my own dog for a celebration at the dog park or for a neighborhood parade, but I'll let you in on a little secret: He doesn't like it one bit. And it stands to reason that yours probably doesn't either. Which is why I don't do it anymore.
Even a discounted costume is a waste, in my opinion, because if the dog doesn't destroy it trying to get it off, it'll get filthy when your pet rolls around in the dirt and other dogs' poop in hopes of sending you a message to stop humiliating it in public. Thus, if you're looking to shave real money off your Halloween expenditures this year, cut out the pet costume altogether (or reuse the filthy one). No sleep will be lost, least of all by your slobbery companion.