The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend a record $9.1 billion on Halloween this year, an average of $86 per household. Depending on your level of frugality, those numbers may shock you like no movie monster ever could.
Don’t panic, though. It’s not that difficult to celebrate Halloween without a petrifying price tag.
Consider the following advice about how to cut your costs on everything from costumes to candy to jack-o’-lanterns.
Get a discount disguise
According to the National Retail Federation, more than one-third of Halloween spending will be devoted to costumes. (Parents of children who idolize the hottest superhero of the moment can relate.) Fortunately, you do have some alternatives to shelling out big bucks for a brand-new costume, including:
- Make a DIY Halloween costume. You might even be able to transform your child (or yourself) into a favorite character for less than $10.
- Trade or buy gently used. Go online to look for costume swap events in your community or shop a reputable website.
- Check out a thrift shop. You might be surprised at the kind of merchandise you find.
Be a smart sweets shopper
The most practical advice for saving on Halloween candy boils down to three tips:
- Shop early before demand starts to nudge prices upward.
- Shop for generic brands. (When the candy fever hits, will trick-or-treaters really care about packaging?)
- Shop online to see if you can find candy at below retail prices.
Pick a pumpkin yourself
You could save money buying the pumpkin for your jack-o’-lantern at a roadside produce stand or a “you-pick-’em” farm instead of the grocery store.
Also, wait until a day or two before Halloween to start carving that fearsome face. Decomposition can set in quickly, leaving your jack-o’-lantern looking more like a deflated orange volleyball and forcing you to get another pumpkin.
Get crafty with decorations
You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to give your home a charmingly spooky atmosphere inside and out. You could even save on electricity by illuminating your yard with energy-efficient CFL and LED lights.
Save with your cash back card
Some cash back credit cards with rotating bonus categories provide an opportunity to focus your spending on Halloween purchases, including costumes, candy, and decorations. Here are a couple of examples of cash back cards with upcoming bonus categories that could help with your Halloween shopping list:
Category: Select department stores and Walmart
Rewards rate: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases
Category: Target and Amazon.com
Rewards rate: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases (through December 2017)
Even though bonus categories don’t roll over until the first of October, go ahead and activate them now if you can.
Not all cash back cards have rotating bonus categories, but in some cases, their fixed categories can still be conducive for Halloween purchases. Consider the , for example. It offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) and 3% cash back at select U.S. department stores. Supermarkets and department stores are, of course, two places you’re likely to find candy, costumes, and decorations.
So what can you do with your Halloween rewards? Depending on the card, your redemption options may include cash back, statement credits, merchandise, or travel rewards. No matter how you redeem your cash back, it still amounts to a percentage of your spending that goes back into your pocket.
No cash back card? No problem
Just because you don’t have a cash back card doesn’t mean you can’t save money with some plastic tactics.
You can buy partially used or unused gift cards at a discount on marketplace sites such as cardpool.com or raise.com. Go to the website and search for gift cards redeemable at retailers where you plan to do your Halloween shopping. (You can also sell your unwanted gift cards if you want to raise some extra cash for your frightful festivities.)
Shop your card’s online mall
Don’t fear frugality
Your enjoyment of Halloween doesn’t have to be dependent on how much money you invest in it. Visit a corn maze, host a scary movie marathon at home, or brainstorm your own ideas for having fun without turning your checking account into a nightmare.