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Author of The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living
and Have Yourself a Thrifty Little Christmas
Do you want to know what’s REALLY scary about Halloween?
The amount of money that people are spending on it!!!!
In 2018, Americans spent – are you sitting down? – more than NINE BILLION DOLLARS on Halloween. In 2021, it is estimated that will increase to $10.14 billion. And it isn’t even a “gift-giving” holiday like Christmas.
2.7 billion of those dollars were spent on the sweet stuff. The average spending on candy across the country was $61.80 per person. This included candy to eat themselves and candy to hand out.
Costumes clocked in at 3.4 billion dollars. Not only are we dressing up the kids, but we’re also dressing up grown-ups and pets. Men spent an average of $96 on costumes and women spent $77.
Home décor was equal to candy with 2.7 billion dollars spent. The average expenditure for spooky home décor was $37.70 according to one survey. (Which means a family of four is spending over $150 a year on Halloween decorations!)
Scary stuff. Families are spending upwards of $250 for ONE NIGHT of fun. This is the definition of insanity.
You can still have fun without spending all that money!
Here are some ways to be frightfully frugal but no less festive this Halloween. Not everyone celebrates Halloween, which of course, saves you the most, However, if you enjoy it, I would never say to totally ignore it. When you skip things that are family traditions in order to save money, that just makes everyone feel deprived.
Remember: Epic frugality isn’t about skipping all the fun. It’s about doing it cheaper and without causing harm to your budget.
Here are some ways to save money on costumes.
- Hit the thrift store. You may find used costumes and if not, you will at least find the components for something completely unique.
- If you can sew, you can easily make your own costume.
If you can’t sew, look for ideas that use safety pins and fabric tape. I once made a truly glorious long pink tutu for my daughter with nary a stitch. We safety pinned a waistband and pinned on a bunch of pink roses I found at the thrift store. She wore it with a black leotard and leggings she already owned. We topped it off with a flower crown and she was the most adorable ballerina.
It’s easy to make skirts and capes, which bring a lot to any costume.
- Wear your PJs. When we went to Target recently, we noticed that in the pajama department, there were all sorts of one-piece pjs that were different types of animals in both the children and adult section. They were less than $20 and came with an attached hood to complete the look. The good thing about this is that you can wear them as regular PJs throughout the year – no one-hit wonders for YOU!
- Paint faces. You don’t even have to buy actual face paint. Tap into your inner make-up artist and watch some YouTube videos. You probably have everything you need to turn someone into a mermaid or another mythical creature.
- Use what you have. Check your closets to see what you have for the basis of a costume. White clothes can be the basis for an angel or a bride. Black clothes can be a witch or a vampire. Green clothes can be the Hulk or a Ninja Turtle. If you use what you have, you only need to pick up a couple of accessories to complete the look!
Whatever you choose, be creative and you will find that you’re completely original.
After Halloween, relegate the costumes to the dress-up box so that your kids can enjoy them year-round. I used to always pick up leftover costumes the day after Halloween for even more dress-up fun.
Gone are the days when we could make delicious homemade treats to hand out. (At least in most neighborhoods.)
- If you DO give out homemade treats…If you feel like local parents would be fine with your homemade goodies, be sure to package them up and include your name and address so they know where the treat came from.
- Buy candy FOUR days before Halloween. According to research by marketing specialists, that is the cheapest day pre-Halloween to make your purchase.
- Buy in bulk. The bigger the bag, the cheaper the stuff inside the bag is going to be.
- Go off-brand. Instead of buying from Hershey or Nestlé, consider buying something that isn’t name-brand.
- Order non-food treats online. You can visit a site like Oriental Trading Company to buy large bags of novelty toys. One of their bags will probably be enough little goodies to last you for a couple of years. Parents who have children with allergies will be really grateful, too. Be sure things will arrive before Halloween if you order online.
You don’t have to spend $150 to have a super-spooky house!
- Keep your decorations. Keeping your decorations from year to year gives you a lot more oomph after you’ve been at it for a while. We’ve had a Halloween witch collection that I started when my oldest girl was two and added to for 20 years now.
- Use things that aren’t official Halloween decorations. Do you have some fun antiques or other collections you could use for Halloween? We have things like old books, dingy antique bottles, candelabras, and decorative ceramic skulls that have a place in our normal décor. Not so spooky when they’re spread out, but if you put them all together and add some dollar store black roses, you’ve got a Halloween display for your mantel.
- Go to the dollar store. You can get so many great things there for short-term decorations. Window clings, cheapo plastic tabletop decorations, and garland for a mere dollar! Don’t forget the outdoor “spiderwebs” and spiders and remember to add some old-school streamer garland.
- Cut your Jack-o-Lanterns on Halloween. We always cut our Jack-o-Lanterns on Halloween or the day before, roasting the seeds that day. After the trick or treaters have come and gone, wash the inside of the pumpkin well, cut it up, and roast it. (I hate wasting food!) If you want your pumpkins to be festive before it’s time to carve it, you can draw faces on them with black Sharpie or make your design with black electrical tape.
Pinterest and YouTube
As with just about anything DIY, Pinterest and YouTube are the very best resources to find great ideas for a frugal Halloween. Be sure to search “frugal Halloween” to get the most budget-friendly tips.
Kids will have fun without big spending
For most kids, as long as they have a costume and they get to go trick or treating, they’ll be happy. Sometimes we as parents are the ones who go overboard unnecessarily when the children would be just as happy doing things on a dime.
What do you do to save money on Halloween? Do you have any fun traditions you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments.
(This is an excerpt from my book, The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living)
updated with 2021 spending estimates
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites. 1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2) The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.
Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.
3 thoughts on “How to Have a Frightfully Frugal Halloween”
We just had this conversation with my kids, who were requesting loudly new costumes. Which were over priced and not made well. So they wouldn’t last beyond one wear. So nope no dice. Doesn’t matter how loud you are no means no. We are still in lockdown so we can’t go trick or treating anyways. So we went through the costumes they had and mums clothes. Who doesn’t love to stress up in mums clothes. I brought the candy already and stayed up late and printed out free Halloween treasure hunt cards, free I spy, free Halloween bingo, most years we buy a DVD to add to our Halloween collection. Not this year, we’ll have a movie marathon of the ones we have and I’m cooking up spooky food. I need to keep to budget.
When I was a kid I made all my own costumes from the time I was capable of doing so, and had a blast. I was everybody from Galileo to Ellie Mae Clampett to Athena. I still dress up when I get a chance, a pretty easy thing to do is to just add zombie makeup to normal clothing and be a dead version of yourself. Or get vampire teeth and dress in normal business clothes, then reveal the fangs and important moments.
A cheap way to make colored makeup is to add food coloring to hand lotion, it tends to wash off better. The Tightwad Gazette (Yes, Daisy, I bought the compendium) has some great recipes for makeup too.
Fall vegetables make great decorations – just don’t do like I did and let them get squishy before using them up! Squashes, pumkins, gourds, etc. Even bowls of apples are pretty festive looking. Same goes for Thanksgiving.
Oh by the way, if you put an artfully cut head of cauliflower into an old pickle jar and fill it with vinegar, you can make a really cool looking “pickled brain.”
I love how simple, yet so elegant everything is! Those bats add the perfect little touch around that gorgeous mirror – and it’s great that you involve the girls!