Halloween might come from an ancient Celtic tradition of honouring the dead, but in America, it has morphed into another excuse to go shopping.
Between costumes, pumpkins, candy, and decorations, the average person will spend just over $72 on the holiday this year, and as a country, we’re on track to spend $6.86 billion, the highest amount recorded since the National Retail Federation (NRF) started the survey nine years ago.
But October 31 doesn’t have to be a budget killer.
While the NRF found that about half of those celebrating Halloween buy new costumes, about 1 in 5 said they would make one, so DIY-ers need not feel alone.
Martha Stewart offers costume-making tips on her website, along with instructions for cat masks, parrot glasses, and a paper wig made of newspaper.
The website Money Crashers also posted a series of easy-to-make options, including how to make a Hershey kiss out of aluminium foil.
If you're hosting or attending a Halloween event, consider suggesting a handmade-only rule to further ease the pressure.
A child can dress up like mum or dad by donning a parent's old clothes. Family members or friends can each wear a different colour and call themselves a rainbow. And anyone can step into the craziest outfit in the house and call themselves Lady Gaga.
Real Simple magazine suggests throwing a bike tire around your neck, sticking a thermometer in your mouth, and calling yourself 'sick and tired.' Or stapling torn newspaper to old clothes and calling it 'breaking news.'
Families with young children and neighbours can exchange outfits before trick-or-treating, or use a local listserv to organise swaps.
Buying small packages of name-brand candy bars is convenient, but it also means paying far more per ounce than you need to. Instead, stick with generic brands to trim costs. Also, be sure to buy candy you enjoy eating, so any leftovers don't go to waste.
Over at the Parenting Squad, Nancy Flanders urges parents to hand out candy themselves instead of setting it out for greedy trick-or-treaters or letting them reach into the bucket.
'Hand out one piece to each child, and if they complain about the piece they got, tell them you are sorry and that you are sure they can trade with a friend or sibling,' she says.
Fake spider webs, scarecrows, and toy RIP markers aren't cheap. In fact, NRF found that more people than ever reported that they will buy life-size skeletons, large, inflatable pumpkins, and other classic Halloween décor, for an average of almost $20.
Craft websites and a little elbow grease can lead to the same effect for far less. Martha Stewart, for example, offers a technique for turning cheesecloth into hanging spider webs and making a sitting room look 'ghostly' by draping old sheets over the sofas.
While 3 in 4 respondents in a Pricegrabber survey said they will decorate their homes for Halloween, only 30 per cent said they'd make those decorations themselves.
The day after Halloween, all décor, costumes, and other gear goes on sale, so it's the perfect time to stock up for next year. Consider buying the next size up for children and stick with items that store easily.
The Bargain Babe blog recently posted tips on how to have an 'old-fashioned' Halloween, by hosting a potluck party, making popcorn balls and candied apples, and making a 'witches brew.'.
Block parties also work well.
Those Halloween-themed stores that pop up in October are usually overpriced (unless you go the day after Halloween, in which case you'll find cut-rate sales).
Instead, stick with online stores for easy comparison shopping, deal sites, and big-box stores.
You still have to pay for it, but it's usually far cheaper to pick a pumpkin on a farm than to buy one from a local grocery store.
Plus, you get the added experience of spending a day in the country.
It sounds ghoulish, but it's not a terrible idea to simply turn your front lights off and let the little vampires get their candy elsewhere, especially if you don't find the tradition of opening your door to strangers enjoyable.
About 3 in 10 Americans don't plan to celebrate Halloween this year, according to NRF's survey.
Just watch out for disappointed zombies toilet-papering your house.
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