Halloween Spending: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
Recently staff writer Sierra Black wrote about ways to get financially prepared for the holiday season. By thinking about savings and gift preparations now, you can avoid a shocker of a credit card bill after the new year.
But if you think post-holiday bank statements are scary, maybe you should start planning for Halloween expenses, too. Yes, you read that right, Halloween expenses.
According to The National Retail Federation (NRF), more Americans are planning to celebrate Halloween than ever before, with seven in 10 (68.6%) planning to partake in some sort of ghoulish festivity, up from 63.8% last year and the most in NRF's nine-year Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey history.
Outfitting all of those ghosts and witches will be big business: According to the survey, those celebrating are expected to spend an average of $72.31 on decorations, costumes, and candy, up from $66.28 in 2010. Total spending is expected to reach $6.86 billion.
Here's how survey respondents are planning to celebrate:
- Dressing in costume (43.9%)
- Dressing their pets in costume (14.7%)
- Throwing or attending a party (34.3%)
- Visiting a haunted house (22.9%)
- Decorating their home/yard (49.5%)
- Handing out candy (73.5%)
- Carving a pumpkin (47.8%)
- Taking children trick-or-treating (32.9%)
And here's how the survey projects they'll spend that $6.86 billion:
- $26.52 per person on costumes, with a national total of $1 billion on children's costumes, $1.21 billion on adult costumes, and $310 million on pet costumes
- $19.79 on decorations
- $21.05 on candy
- $4.96 on greeting cards
It might sound ridiculous to plan for Halloween spending, but according to the NRF, the amount spent each year on Halloween decorations is second only to spending on Christmas décor.
Spending up, economy down?
This brings me to a very important question: Who pays $26 for a stegosaurus dog costume?!
Okay, I'm really not judging anyone's spending. Halloween is fun, and this former Sookie Stackhouse, Lara Croft, and Xena Warrior Princess has no right to take anyone to task for their Halloween spending habits. But it is interesting that in a down economy, Americans are predicted to blow more money on Halloween than ever before.
TIME writer Martha C. White speculates that a sluggish economy fuels our desire to play make-believe:
…it appears that troubled times drive our zeal for escapism; romance-novel sales boomed during the last recession, just like extravagant musicals that were popular during the Depression. Add to that the fact that Halloween has undergone a shift from a sort of silly, kid- and candy-centric affair to a full-blown event for adults.
It sounds silly, but there might be some truth to it: the NRF survey did find that almost 70% of adults plan to celebrate Halloween this year.
Having a frightfully good time, on the cheap
Halloween doesn't have to blow your monthly budget, though. There are a lot of ways to celebrate and keep expenses in check, without resorting to turning off the porch lights and pretending you're not home. Here are a few money-saving ideas to consider:
- Costumes. Often the best, most creative costumes are the cheapest. Instead of going to a Halloween or costume shop, consider the alternatives to buying something new. Can you borrow a costume from someone? Last year I lent one of my old costumes to a friend of a friend, so it's worthwhile to ask around. You also can go to Goodwill or simply use last year's costume, if you have one. Zombies and vampires are always in vogue.
- Decorations. It'd be very easy to go batty (forgive me for that one) at the Halloween Superstores that pop up this time of year, but most of the decorations are over-priced, disposable items that'll go out with the trash on November 1. Instead, turn to the Internet to find ideas, templates, and projects that you can quickly and easily do at home. A few places to start your search are Martha Stewart's Halloween Decorations You Can Make or Buy; the DIY Network's Halloween decoration ideas; and Pinterest (search for “Halloween”).
- Candy. If you're planning to hand out two tons of candy to the neighborhood goblins, check out your local dollar stores and discount retailers to compare prices.
- Greeting cards. Again, check out dollar stores. Alternatively, get crafty and make your own.
As with most everything, it comes down to planning ahead to save money. If you wait until the last minute to think about your costume, you'll probably end up paying too much in your rush from the house to the Halloween store to the party downtown. But if you start now, you'll have a few weeks to find less expensive alternatives or to make your spooky-yet-free decorations.
If you're planning to celebrate Halloween, how much do you think you'll spend? What are some creative and inexpensive costumes you've worn or seen on others?