Halloween on the cheap

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK
SHUTTERSTOCK

As soon as the back to school displays come down, stores shift their marketing efforts to selling Halloween costumes, decorations and treats.

A survey conducted by Harris/Decima for the Retail Council of Canada reports that in 2012 Canadian households with children plan to spend an average of $75 on Halloween purchases. Fully half who planned to spend on Halloween said that 75 per cent to 100 per cent of their budget would go on candy.

But we all have neighbours or friends who up the ante by turning their front yards into elaborate haunted houses complete with sound effects. And for some reason, your lace shawl and a home-made crown can’t compete with an expensive princess costume from the Disney store.

So how can you do Halloween on the cheap and still keep your family happy? Here are a few ideas.

  1. Manage expectations: By October 31st it is often rainy and cold in most parts of Canada. Therefore elaborate costumes that will be covered by a coat won’t even be seen. Tell your child if a store-bought costume is unaffordable and present other more practical options. Make-up and a hat can go a long way.
  2. Organize a costume swap: Use social media and invite your friends with children to a costume swap. Not only will you get rid of all the stuff that no longer fits, you may end up with some real gems for almost nothing.
  3. Be crafty: If you are a busy, working parent and don’t do crafts, skip this one. Otherwise, check Pinterest for creative costume and decorating ideas that use low cost and recycled materials you already have around the house.
  4. Visit a thrift store: Take the kids on a trip to the local thrift or second hand store. Great finds like used prom gowns, dramatic capes and dashing fedoras can be key elements of creative costumes.
  5. Buy on sale: The day after Halloween, most costumes go on sale. While it is difficult to know whether this year’s Batman will want to be next year’s Darth Vader, it may be worth stockpiling a few costumes in bigger sizes will give you a head start on next Halloween.
  6. Healthy treats: The most economical option is to buy in bulk and package treats in ziplock bags.  However, parents are more worried about safety than ever. So unless you give out factory wrapped individual items, they will likely end up in the trash. But you can read ingredients and offer more nutritious choices like pretzels, popcorn, raisins, fruit leather or sugarless gum.
  7. Have a party: If there are few children in your neighbourhood, it may make more sense to invite a small group of your children’s friends over for a Halloween party. Dim the lights bob for apples and tell ghost stores or rent a spooky (age-appropriate movie). Hot dogs or pizza, cut-up veggies and dip and home-made cupcakes are inexpensive, easy to serve and clean up.
  8. Buy less: There are few young children in our neighbourhood anymore, but every year I dutifully buy several boxes of chips or chocolate bars to hand out. We never give it all out, and my husband and I end up eating the leftovers. I tried buying stuff we don’t like but then we just end up pitching the rest, which is a waste of good money.

Can you suggest other ways to do Halloween on the cheap? Share your tips with us at http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

24-Oct Charity How to raise money for almost anything on Indiegogo
31-Oct Winter travel Planning your winter getaway
07-Nov Augmenting your income Seasonal jobs

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