'Tis the season to be haunting! But have you looked at the price of costumes and candy lately? This modern medieval throw-back to All Soul's Day can really put a crimp in the holiday spending. Coupon Sherpa always says: Thou shalt not buy seasonal junketh until after the season. But I know some of us weren't on top of things last year when the Halloween stuff went on a 90% "take me" spree. If you're just now stocking up for October 31st, don't get crazy--a good time may be had by all for a reasonable budget.
1. DIY Costumes
I'll admit I'm impressed with the improving quality of mass-produced costumes. They are becoming more detailed and plush, especially for the kids. But growing up, I snubbed my nose at the fire-retardant ONFA gowns with cheesy masks. My mom, albeit a gifted seamstress, always made my costumes. From Dorothy to Renaissance princess I always had a unique, authentic get-up that made the other kids drool. Even if you're not gifted with a sewing machine you can still put together a respectable costume for far less than a rental or store-bought outfit. Buy a white sweat suit, black felt, and make yourself into a snow man, cat, or even a cow (and reuse the cow costume at Chick-fil-A in July for Cow Appreciation Day to get a free meal).
2. Seek out alternatives to candy.
No, you don't want to be that house. The one the kids know to avoid every year because they give out raisons and toothbrushes. But fun stickers and bulk plastic toys from Oriental Trading make for a fun yet non-sugary option. Don't buy the Halloween assortments until early November--but instead, select finger puppets, jumping frogs, and other toy varieties. Before you choke on the price, consider that you won't only give one fun-sized candy to the trick 'o treaters. At 3-4 pieces a pop, the non-consumables will save you money. If you can't resist the ginormous bag 'o dental appointments at least buy from Sam's or Costco, keeping in mind that most kids will eat the Sweet Tart and Smarties mix just as much as the Hershey's medley.
3. Use household items to decorate.
Those blinky-light, fog producing, moaning gadgets in the store front window sure do put on a good show, but it's easy to decorate without a blow-up pumpkin or flying skeleton.
4. Combine several family efforts for a progressively spooky party.
If you want a party but aren't crazy about footing the entire bill, get together with two other families to plan a progressive potluck party. Each host house should have a small amount of themed food and one or two activities. Three houses are plenty and the last stop can include scary ghost stories and smore making. Some ideas for cheap food you can make yourself:
From Bat Chip and Brain Dip to smoking Cauldron Stew and Cheese Eyeballs, these appetizer recipes are hard to beat.
For the ambitious hostess, check out this 8-course Halloween meal.
5. Don't forget the drug and grocery stores.
Sometimes the best discounts are at the local corner store and grocery center. If you can stand to wait, Halloween sales start a couple days before October 31st since store managers want to sell as much as possible. In the last couple years Walmart has scaled back on over-ordering seasonal products, so you probably won't be able to find much a couple days before. But grocery stores and pharmacy stores usually have a decent selection left before the holiday.
6. Buy for next year on November 1st.
Aside from candy (which probably won't be edible 365 days from now) stock up on discounted Halloween goods now to avoid the pickle you're in this year. The best times to buy are in September or immediately after Halloween, so if you missed the boat in 2009, gear up for next year.
Related: Costume Coupons