The National Retail Federation statistics show a growing trend toward spending more on Halloween: In 2009, the average person spent $56.31 on the holiday, while 2011 totals rose to $72.31 per person, the highest in nearly a decade. The scary part? I spent $0 during this entire span, so someone else went way above that to get an average.
“Thanks to creative costumes and décor for consumers of all ages, Halloween has become one of the most anticipated holidays of the year for many people,” Pam Goodfellow, consumer insights director of BIGresearch, said last season. “As a non-gift holiday, even people on the strictest budget can enjoy themselves this Halloween.”
Of course, that’s assuming that candy for trick-or-treaters isn’t a gift. While it is merely one expense in the fall, there’s no sense in overspending in this category when a bit of strategy can keep your budget from sliding into the grave.
Start by deciding when to buy. Retailers began dragging out the mega bags of candy in mid-September, counting on the fact that most of us can’t keep our hands out of the bag over the next six weeks and therefore would need to buy more. Unless you deliberately want the candy, there’s no reason you can’t wait until October 29 or later to buy your stash, as many people we surveyed say they do. It’s not like the stores will run out — and, if they do have a shortage of Snickers snack-size bars, there’s no legal penalty for passing out Dum Dum suckers instead.
In fact, children get so much candy on this night, it’s nearly impossible for them to sort out who gave what. You can save a few dollars by going with store-brand candies over LifeSavers or knock-offs like Sixlets over M&Ms. If this feels too chintzy, why not buy a bag of generic suckers for kids you don’t know, and a smaller amount of the good stuff for your child’s friends and other trick-or-treaters (TOT) you do? Halloween does not run on a democracy platform.
Before you decide where to grab your goodies, you need to determine how many pieces you’ll realistically need. Does your community offer alternatives to door-to-door trick-or-treating, such as mall walks or parties sponsored by churches and other community organizations? This can reduce the number of costumed creatures on your porch as families pursue bigger experiences. And absolutely set parameters: It’s OK to pass out one piece of candy per child, and turn off your light at 8 p.m.If Mom and Dad both want to take their child around the neighborhood, ask a grandparent or aunt to pass out the treats at your own door — setting out baskets of candy is an excellent way to watch your financial investment melt like chocolate on the pavement in July.
Don’t forget to check the weather report for your city. Rainy, cold evenings cut down on neighborhood trick-or-treating.
If your estimated count is more than 100 expected kids, look into buying in bulk at a Sam’s Club or Costco to take advantage of quantity prices. A 120-piece Hershey’s Favorite mix at Sam’s Club, for instance, is priced at $9.77 for the 57.35-ounce bag, compared to a 42.90-ounce bite-size variety pack of Mars candy at Target for $9.99.
And don’t forget to check for manufacturer’s coupons that can bring the price down in grocery stores, department stores, and pharmacies to what could be a better deal than bulk rates.
Whatever quantity and type you choose, save the receipts and open one bag at a time to dump into your serving bowl. This way, you can return any unused bags to the store for a refund.
Finally, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t pass out candy at all. If your TOT estimate is low, or you decide to turn your light off and treat just the special goblins in your life, consider fast-food restaurant gift certificates. McDonald’s is again selling its booklet of 12 free product coupons for $1. Wendy’s deal is similar. Local restaurants may offer products for you as well.
Oriental Trading Company is a go-to source of novelty items such as wearable candy rings at 48 for $5.99 or interlocking bone candy that creates skeletons (think edible Legos) at $12.99 per dozen. Or you can shun the sweets altogether and go for glitter sticky hands, pop-up toys and whistles at prices comparable to the candy stickers. Don’t forget, you’ll pay shipping, too.
What are your strategies for keeping candy expenditures low? Shop early or shop late? Have you seen any good candy coupons yet?
If you liked this article, check out:
- 5 ways to get discounts on haunted houses
- 4 frugal ways to celebrate Halloween
- Want free Halloween costumes? Do a costume swap
- Save time, money with less extreme couponing
- Free & cheap admission to museums and cultural attractions
- Pumpkin latte for 99 cents at Dunkin’ Donuts