Halloween spending was estimated at $8.4 billion last year, according to estimates from the National Retail Federation, with more than 171 million Americans gearing up for the event. Between DIY couple costumes, decor and candy, the holiday can be quite a fright for your wallet. Here’s how to celebrate Halloween without killing your budget.
1. Buying a New Costume Every Year
Spending on costumes last year hit approximately $3.1 billion, according to the NRF. In light of the fact that you wear your costume for only a few hours once a year, shelling out for a brand-new costume each year is a waste of money.
What to do: You could borrow a costume, recycle an old one, raid your current wardrobe or simply swap costumes with friends. Be creative and come up with ways to make Halloween costumes for the kids and yourself from items you already have at home. To make costumes come to life, try face-painting and using clothing you already have.
2. Shopping in Specialty Stores
Specialty stores that pop up in October selling Halloween-themed goods are usually overpriced. You could end up paying more in these stores than you would need to shell out for similar items bought elsewhere.
What to do: Avoid specialty stores and look for cheaper alternatives like thrift stores. You can also borrow clothes, costumes or accessories from friends.
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3. Buying Pet Costumes
Sixteen percent of Americans dressed up their pets in costumes last year, according to the NRF survey. And why not? Pets are members of the family, too, so it’s natural to want them to celebrate Halloween with you. This year, though, don’t waste money buying costumes for your pets — make them, instead.
What to do: With a little online research and some creativity, you could come up with a costume that works just as well as a store-bought one. Better yet, skip the pet costume altogether. Just throw a cute hat, ribbon or scarf on your pet to dress him up more simply — and cheaply.
4. Buying Chocolate Bars
If you’re unable to buy in bulk, purchasing name-brand chocolate bars at Halloween can be a significant waste of money.
What to do: Buy a cheaper type of candy instead — like hard candy. Other candies are much cheaper than chocolate bars, especially full-sized ones. When in doubt, buy in bulk from stores like Costco and split the cost with neighbors.
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5. Paying for Halloween Cocktails
Going out and having fun with friends on Halloween is great, but the cost of those creepy cocktails can quickly add up.
What to do: Skip the bar crawl this Halloween. If you must drink, do so at home — it will be much cheaper. You can even find special Halloween drink recipes online.
6. Using an Out-of-Network ATM
Paying ATM fees is always a waste of money. The cost of using ATMs owned by out-of-network banks has risen over the years and can really add up. In fact, according to a recent CNN survey, customers at America’s three largest banks shelled out more than $6.4 billion last year in ATM and overdraft fees.
If you use an out-of-network ATM to withdraw cash, you will likely get charged a fee or surcharge. Your bank will also likely charge you for using an out-of-network ATM.
What to do: Plan ahead and get plenty of cash out from your bank well before Halloween. Doing so will save you from using an out-of-network ATM and allow you to avoid any fees.
7. Putting Purchases on Your Credit Card
When Halloween shopping, it’s easier to waste money — and spend way too much — by paying for items with credit cards.
What to do: Pay for all of your Halloween purchases with cash. You’ll be more conscious of how much you are spending when you have to hand over physical cash than when you hand over a credit card. Plus, you won’t be tempted to overspend and get stuck with a credit card bill you can’t pay.
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8. Not Sharing the Cost of Entertaining
When you throw parties for Halloween, it’s tempting to just cover all of the costs yourself. But not asking friends and guests to chip in by bringing at least some food or drinks is a waste of money.
What to do: Split your entertaining costs by inviting guests to help out by bringing a dish or snack.
9. Shopping Without a Budget
Without a budget, it’s easy for your Halloween spending to spiral out of control.
What to do: Before you make any Halloween purchases, figure out how much you can afford to spend and then draw up a budget and stick to it. Don’t make any purchases that you haven’t budgeted for.
10. Doing All of Your Shopping at the Last Minute
Not planning ahead can cost you big bucks and result in last-minute splurges, ruining any budget you might have had.
What to do: Avoid this problem by making sure you know exactly what you’ll need this Halloween. Plan ahead and make purchases in advance, and only buy items that are within your budget.
11. Buying Treat Bags
Many stores have really cool treat bags and trick-or-treat pails this time of year. It’s tempting to spend money on them, especially if it’s for the kids. But if you buy fancy treat bags each year for a few children, the costs can really add up.
What to do: Try reusing old treat bags or making your own this year. You can even just use the traditional pillowcase or get creative and make something fun from scratch. Several websites offer tips on how to make great treat bags, and you can make this a fun activity to do with the kids.
12. Buying Party Supplies at Local Grocery Stores
Buying party supplies like plates, cups and napkins from your local grocery store can be a waste of money; there are plenty of cheaper alternatives.
What to do: Find out where your nearest dollar store or discount store is and buy your Halloween party supplies there. Supplies at those stores should cost much less than the supplies at the grocery store.
13. Not Buying Some Halloween Supplies Last Minute
Stores start to mark down Halloween supplies at the last minute because they will no longer be able to sell them at full price on the day after Halloween.
What to do: Sometimes it makes sense to wait for those last-minute markdowns and buy a few supplies, or even a Halloween costume, once they’re marked down.
14. Not Comparison Shopping
If you start your Halloween planning early enough, you can comparison shop to ensure you’re getting the best prices for the items you need to buy.
What to do: Go online and check several sites for the same goods and compare prices. A little bit of research ahead of time can save you a lot of money down the line.
15. Buying Instead of Borrowing
It’s easy to think you should buy everything you might need for Halloween. But spending so much on every little thing really adds up.
What to do: Borrow or barter for things you need this Halloween. It can be a fun experiment. You might not be able to find everything you need this way, but you won’t be wasting money on all brand-new accessories or decorations.
16. Buying Halloween Greeting Cards
Some people like to go out and buy Halloween cards to send to friends and family. With so many holidays coming up, buying cards is an extra expense you can avoid.
What to do: Buy supplies from a craft store and make your own cards. Or, better yet, skip the cards altogether and call friends and family to wish them a Happy Halloween.
17. Buying Halloween Decorations From Specialty Stores
Decorating your home and yard can be expensive, especially if you buy from specialty stores this Halloween.
What to do: Cut back on the decorations this year or use last year’s decorations. Better yet, put some time and effort into making decorations and get creative. Let your children and friends help make decorations this year. When everyone pitches in, you save money, and you all can have a lot of fun.
18. Not Shopping at Local Discount or Dollar Stores
You can often get many of your Halloween items at a discount or dollar store for a lot less than you would anywhere else.
What to do: This Halloween, get to know your local discount or dollar store. You might find some interesting costumes at budget-friendly prices or cheap supplies. You could also get a variety of arts and crafts supplies at these stores to make your own Halloween decorations.
19. Not Swapping Costumes
You don’t want to wear the costume you wore last year, and neither do your friends. Costume swapping can be a great way to get something almost new for free.
What to do: Consider getting together with friends and having a costume swap. Talk to friends and neighbors who have children close in age to yours and organize a costume swap for the kids, too.
20. Buying Pumpkins From the Supermarket
Buying your pumpkins from the local grocery store or supermarket is a waste of money, especially if you could go to a pumpkin farm and pick your own.
What to do: Take the family — or your friends — out to the country for a day to pick pumpkins. Many of these farms and orchards also offer fun activities for children like hayrides, haunted mazes and more that could make the experience even better.
21. Throwing Out Pumpkin Scraps
For Halloween, the primary purpose of pumpkins is to carve them and make them into jack-o’-lanterns. But after gutting the pumpkin, what do you do with the scraps? If you simply throw them away, you’re wasting money.
What to do: There are many uses for pumpkin scraps after carving. For example, you could puree the pumpkin for a soup or roast the seeds for a healthy snack. And with Thanksgiving around the corner, you could even puree the pumpkin and store it in the freezer to use later for pumpkin pie.
22. Buying Halloween Masks
Halloween masks can be an expensive addition to a costume. And, most of the time, they’re not needed.
What to do: Skip the Halloween mask this year. Opt for non-toxic paint and makeup if possible. You can also make your own mask out of paper-mache.
23. Not Taking Advantage of Free Activities
If you’re entertaining children this Halloween, don’t waste money on paid events when you can join in celebrations for free. Each year, loads of free activities are organized around the country — you just have to know where to look.
What to do: Look up free Halloween events offered in your area. You could start your research by checking online, but it’s also a good idea to ask friends and family if they know of anything fun — and free — going on in their neighborhoods.
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24. Buying Too Much Food
Having to throw food away is always a waste of money. It’s natural to think you need more than you actually do — especially when entertaining — because no one wants their guests to go hungry.
What to do: Carefully plan out how much food you’ll need, according to how many guests you’ll have. Stick to your budget and don’t be tempted to overspend.
25. Not Shopping a Year in Advance
The day after Halloween, costumes and decor go on sale. Stores need to clear their shelves for Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday items, so they slash prices on Halloween goods in an effort to get rid of them quickly.
What to do: Plan to buy your Halloween costumes and decor a year in advance, so that you will not waste money on overpriced items next October.
26. Not Clipping Coupons
Paying full price for items at Halloween is a waste of money, just as it is the rest of the year.
What to do: Search online coupon sites and print ads for coupons and deals. Save the coupons in your phone or put printed coupons in your wallet right away, so that you don’t forget them when you go shopping.
27. Not Sharing Cab Rides
If you go out drinking with friends, plan how each of you will get home safely. Don’t drink and drive.
What to do: Sharing a cab is a great option, but using a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft with your friends can be even cheaper. Even if you don’t all live in the same place, you could all chip in for the ride and spend the night at one person’s house. Whatever you do this Halloween, make safety your priority.
28. Buying Deluxe Versions of Costumes
If you do decide that you really must buy your Halloween costume this year, try not to waste money by buying the deluxe version.
What to do: Skip the expensive option and accessorize a budget costume yourself. You’ll save a good chunk of change if you add your own embellishments and accessories.
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29. Not Shopping Online
Don’t waste money this Halloween season by doing all of your shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. Do a little research online first, at least.
What to do: Comparison shopping, for instance, can be helpful if you’re thinking of buying a particular costume at a specialty shop. First, go to sites like eBay and Amazon to check if they have the same thing at a cheaper price. Compared with other retailers, most online merchants can save you some extra bucks.
30. Celebrating Halloween
Yes, sometimes it’s okay to be a party pooper. With holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, there will be plenty of time for celebration and spending. You could skip Halloween entirely and save your money for other holidays or other, more important purchases.
What to do: Turn off the lights, ignore the doorbell and watch a scary movie or two at home. You don’t always have to spend money or go out to have a good time. You might just enjoy staying in for a change.
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