The Cost of Halloween in the US

Little girl in witch costume having fun outdoors on Halloween trick or treat.
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2020 was one of the scariest years of all time — so scary in fact, that it wasn’t safe to do many Halloween traditions like gather together for costume parties or go on group outings to popular ghoulish events like haunted houses and hayrides. As a result, consumers spent $200,000 less on Halloween in 2020 than they spent in 2019

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Though the verdict is still out on whether it is safe for kids to go trick-or-treating amid the ongoing pandemic, consumers are ready to celebrate Halloween — and generously open their wallets to do so. 

According to the National Retail Federation, spending on Halloween-related items is expected to reach $10.14 billion, up from $8.05 billion in 2020 and an all-time high. Individually, Americans are anticipated to spend an average of $102.74 on Halloween this year

What exactly are Americans spending on for Halloween and how can they stand to save a few bucks? 

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Candy (Especially Chocolate)

According to the NRF, 66% of Americans are planning on handing out candy this Halloween — and spend a combined $3 billion to do so.  

“Candy sales actually increased last year compared to the previous year,” Jeffrey Cusson, marketing director for Coupons.com, told GOBankingRates. “Halloween may have been different in terms of not having as many options to trick-or-treat with friends and neighbors, but according to our sales data, parents were still making sure their kids had enough candy on hand to celebrate the holiday.”

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This trend is expected to continue with chocolate candy in particular slated to perform well. 

“Last year, we saw a 22% increase in the sales of chocolate candies, so it’s likely those items will be a big seller again this year,” Cusson said. 

To save on candy, buy in bulk.

“If you’re a member of a wholesale club like Costco or Sam’s Club you can find the best deals there,” said budgeting expert Andrea Woroch. “Otherwise Walmart is a great place to stock up.”

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Decorations

The NRF found that 52% of consumers intend to decorate their home or yard — and spend a combined $3.17 billion turning their homes into a freakish wonderland. Taking a look at some of the Halloween decoration options over at Target, it’s easy to see how the bill can add up fast. A 5-foot skeleton costs $86, while a 60-inch string of spider-webbed lights goes for $15

Jeffrey Zhou, co-founder and CEO of Fig Loans, suggests remembering that when it comes to creepy, less can be more and that a scary story can go a long way. 

“Create one scary decoration that’s not so obvious and really spook out the neighborhood,” Zhou said. “You can spread stories about how someone died in your house years ago, then dress up a discarded mannequin in an upstairs window and set a fan so the curtains move. You can use a red light with a timer to make it eerie.” 

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Costumes

Costumes are for everyone — with 46% of Americans planning to wear them (and spend a total of $3.32 billion on them) according to the NRF; but this year it looks like women are especially eager to get back in the chill and thrill of things. 

“So far in 2021, we have seen an average spend of $60.65 on women’s costumes, which is an increase of approximately $5 from 2020,” said Sarah Chamberlain, CMO and co-founder of 3Wishes, an online retailer of sexy Halloween costumes and women’s intimate apparel. “While that may not seem like a dramatic change, we highly anticipate a much higher increase as the season progresses. Not only are more people planning on attending Halloween events this year compared to 2020, but we’ve also seen an overall increase in sales — something we’ve been noticing across the board for e-commerce counterparts.”

3Wishes is seeing a rising trend around topical costumes based on new movie releases. 

“Cruella-based costumes, for example, are wildly popular,” Chamberlain said. “Similarly, costumes based on cartoons that have seen a resurgence, like Space Jam and Scooby-Doo, are progressively increasing in sales.”

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To save on costumes, get creative with a DIY approach. Pinterest is a wellspring of inspiration, and plenty of YouTube bloggers will show you how to do killer Halloween makeup.

You should also scour the internet for coupons on costumes, which is simple to do with CouponFollow.com

“CouponFollow.com has aggregated Halloween coupons in one place making it easy to compare deals to see who has the best savings offer,” Woroch said. “You can find deals like 10% off at HalloweenCostumes.com with code Spooky10, 20% off at Spirit Halloween, and 10% off at Costumes4Less.com.”

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Events

There are so many types of Halloween events that it’s tricky to quantify how much Americans will spend on them. But if history is any indication, we know that consumers are ready to shell out top dollar for a most terrifying evening. 

Tickets to the highly popular Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Orlando cost up to $190 plus tax. Elaborate haunted hayrides such as the one that takes place annually in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park can cost well over $100 per person

To save on Halloween events, consumers should look to cut corners around things like food. Adam Garcia, the founder of The Stock Dork and the father of three children, recommends making a home-cooked meal rather than buying something at or near your spooky destination.

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Last updated: Oct. 1, 2021

About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.

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