Financially Real

How To Make Halloween Fun and Affordable

How To Make Halloween Fun and Affordable | www.TheHeavyPurse.comWe’re just settling into October, so it may seem a bit early to start planning for Halloween, but it will be here before you know it. And the reason most people end up overspending (on anything) is because they didn’t give themselves enough time to plan appropriately. The holiday snuck up on them, so now they have to make fast decisions and may not have the money to cover expenses. This year, I’m going to help you plan ahead, so you can enjoy the day and not be spooked by the lack of funds in your bank account afterwards.

The girls are still young enough where they enjoy dressing up for Halloween, although they no longer want to hold my hand while they go trick-or-treating. šŸ™‚ A tiny part of me misses those days, but I love watching the girls grow older too. Or that is what I tell myself whenever I feel a bit stressed as we approach those teenage years! One thing I don’t stress over is how we are going to pay for Halloween. As I’ve shared before, I am a firm believer in budgets, and when used with the right mindset, budgets represent freedom and choice versus restriction.

3 Halloween Money Lessons for Adults and Kids

Halloween offers more than candy and costumes, but also an opportunity to make wise choices with your money, which are important lessons for both adults and children.

Fun and Budget Go Hand-in-Hand

First and foremost, you must decide whether you even plan to celebrate Halloween, especially those of you without kids or have empty nests. For some people, October 31st is no different than October 30th. You are under no obligation to celebrate the holiday, so if dressing up like a blood-sucking vampire and terrorizing kids as you hand out candy doesn’t appeal to you, then don’t do it.

Assuming you have a desire to celebrate the holiday, your first step is to figure out your budget. Most people start by deciding what they want to do or wear, but that is a mistake. Why? Because discovering you don’t have the money to fund your Halloween extravaganza or purchase an elaborate costume you love, is always harder to deal with emotionally. Now your heart is set on your original vision, which makes it difficult to compromise and you’ll be more inclined to increase your budget, even if you really can’t afford to do so.

Safety Tip: Remember, when you create your budget, it’s not just about how much discretionary money you have available. It’s also about where Halloween fits within all your other priorities, so you can make value-based decisions on how you want to celebrate. Some love the holiday (think the Dunphy’s on Modern Family) while others enjoy handing out candy, but they set a modest amount to spend on treats, even when they could afford to spend more. Their spending reflects where Halloween falls within their values versus how much money they have available.

Be Savvy Consumers

I enjoy Halloween, but it is a holiday that doesn’t have the same sentimental value in our home as Thanksgiving and Christmas do. These days it is more of a commercial holiday, which we need to remember. Retailers do a great job of encouraging us to spend a significant amount of money on a holiday that most people are unfamiliar with its origins. Again, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the holiday, because I certainly do as well. However, I am careful to not fall for any “tricks” and spend more than planned or needed.

Buy Used Costumes

Dressing up is fun, but it is for one night only, unless you have a child who plays in their costume year-round (or until it no longer fits). Keep that in mind as you hunt for the perfect costume for yourself and/or kids. It’s a one-night only gig and certainly not as meaningful as your wedding dress and won’t be worn as frequently as the back-to-school clothes you just bought your kids. Since many people do only wear their costume once, you can find lots of lightly used costumes at garage sales and on Craigslist or eBay.

Tip: Consider hosting a pumpkin carving party the weekend before Halloween and include a Halloween costume swap as part of the festivities. It’s an easy way to find a free costume for you and your kids.

Make Your Own Costumes

Depending on how crafty and creative you are, you can help your child make his or her costume. And if you are not the next Martha Stewart, then invite your kids to raid your old clothes (or their grandparents or an consignment store) and create some crazy costumes.

Buy for the Following Year after Halloween

While the choices may be limited, you may find a great costume and deal, combing through the clearance racks on November 1st. Be mindful if you’re buying for kids, since it is hard to be 100% accurate on how much they will or won’t grow over the next year. It’s better for the costume to be a bit roomy than too small. Also, avoid picking trendy costumes, such as Minions, who may no longer be the flavor du jour next Halloween. Play it safe with more more traditional costumes.

Don’t Go Overboard on Candy

Every kid wants to visit as many homes as possible and fill their plastic pumpkin with all sorts of sugary treats. We felt the same way when we were kids, so I don’t begrudge trick or treaters for trying to entice me to give them fistfuls of candy. šŸ™‚ But remember — you’re not the only home they will visit on All Hallow’s Eve. Don’t let them grab candy from your bowl, but dole it out instead. If they request a specific candy, that is perfectly acceptable. Just decide in advance how many pieces you will give per kid and how much money you want to spend on candy.

Tip: To help stretch your candy budget, consider getting a mix of brand name treats with cheaper candy. If you plan to save money by shopping at the $1 store, be sure to compare quantity and not just price to ensure you are truly getting a better deal.

Bonus Tip: There is a reason why retailers start selling Halloween candy in September. In most cases, it will be long gone before your first trick or treater knocks on your door. šŸ™‚

Give Kids a Voice in the Halloween Budget

As important as it is that we demonstrate good financial behavior to our kids, it is equally as important that we give them firsthand experience with making good decisions with their money. Tell your the kids how much you have allocated for their costume and let them take the lead into putting together their costume while staying within budget. This is a good way to teach them how to make compromises and to be a savvy consumer. It is so important to me that the girls not only learn how to make good decisions with their money, but also understand how they can create magic and still have fun while being mindful consumers who honor their budget.

Tip: When you give your kids the budget for their Halloween costume, also give them the option to keep any remaining funds that they can allocate towards their save, spend and share goals. Help your kids figure out where Halloween fits within their values and priorities. They may suddenly become very interested in saving money when they realize the excess money can go towards a goal or something they truly want. This is a lesson that will help your kids become financially confident adults.

A Halloween Candy Game

On Friday, I’ll share a fun game that you can play with your kids to help cement some of these important money lessons you have been demonstrating to them this Halloween.

How do you keep Halloween fun and affordable in your home? Have your kids picked out their Halloween costume yet? And most importantly — do you dress-up? If so, who will be you this year?


October 5, 2015  •  27 Comments  •  Financially Real

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  1. Monday, October 5th, 2015
    I'm at a firm where people dress up on Halloween so for the first time in about 10 years I bought a costume for myself! I have to say it cost a little more than I wanted it to but I bought it from Amazon and didn't have to put in a lot of time (which is worth it right now given my studying / blogging / working)!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 8th, 2015
      That sounds like fun, Natalie! The good thing about dressing up as an adult is you can always re-wear the costume next year. Kids tend to be fussier about doing that or they simply outgrow the costume.
  2. Monday, October 5th, 2015
    Great tips Shannon! We involve the two older kids as well as budget throughout the year for most of the bigger holidays. We've gone the used route, homemade route, etc. to save money. Thankfully with two boys relatively close in age that helps a lot as well.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 8th, 2015
      Thanks, John! Yes, it is always helpful when they kids can re-wear each other's costume and don't put up a fuss about doing so either.
  3. Monday, October 5th, 2015
    I used to have to spend more money for Halloween when I worked in a corporate office because dressing up was required. It was a big deal and you could not wear the same costume 2 years in a row. And trying to find a costume for a female where you are not dressed completely inappropriate, was difficult enough ;)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 8th, 2015
      It is true that some of the adult female costume are not always suitable for work. :) It was never a requirement to dress-up at work for me, although there have been times where I wore a witches hat or something simple for fun.
  4. Monday, October 5th, 2015
    I love the pumpkin carving/costume swap idea! I don't really dress up much for Halloween (I have a few accessories I wear when passing out candy) because I used to get hired to work at a haunted house in beverly hills (a fancy party) and I had a pro costume and makeup so that took care of that need. :) But to save money on candy, I invite friends over and ask them to bring a bag, then in exchange I cook us a dinner. I'm one of the few people that lives in a neighborhood where kids come around, to a lot of my friends enjoy that. But it saves me money on buying all the candy.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 8th, 2015
      That's so smart to invite friends over to handout candy and have them supply the candy while you make them dinner. It is fun to handout candy to the neighborhood kids and to dress-up at least a little bit while you do it too.
  5. Monday, October 5th, 2015
    Hi Shannon,

    I love these suggestions you've shared. I do mix up more popular candies with some lesser known, it sure does help because candy is expensive and can add up quick.

    My kids are older now so they do DIY stuff like painting their face or using masks they already have. My grandson wants to be Spiderman again but he grew out of last year's costume. I'm not going to spend much but I would love a coupon to save either way :).

    Thanks again for the suggestions! Have a great day and new week!

    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 8th, 2015
      A mix of candies can really help stretch the budget while still giving kids what they want too. I've noticed as kids grow older they tend to use clothes they already have and do more elaborate make-up instead, which is a lot of fun. Kids always grow so fast so it is hard even when they are willing to re-wear last year's costume, it may not fit them. Hopefully you can find a good deal for your grandson's spiderman costume!
  6. Monday, October 5th, 2015
    We are going to a Halloween Party this year and will have to come up with some sort of costume. We don't have much free time due to my wife being in school and me working on my book, so it will be easy to overspend on costumes at the store. We'll have to discuss soon how much we want to spend and then try to craft a costume around that budget. Good tips!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 8th, 2015
      Thanks, DC! In larger cities, like Minneapolis, you might also be able to find a place that rents costumes, which may be more budget-friendly too.
  7. Monday, October 5th, 2015
    We actually budget Will's Halloween costumes. If he wants special add-ons or additions to his costume, he has to pay for them himself. If he didn't grow so fast, I would probably make him wear the same costume every year. :-)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 8th, 2015
      I think having Will buy special add-ons to his costume himself is a good way for him to decide whether it's worth it or not. When Mom or Dad always pay, it is always needed. But when kids have to pay, they definitely think it through a bit more, which is so important for them to learn how to do. And yes, kids grow so darn fast that it is almost impossible for them to fit into last year's costume!
  8. Monday, October 5th, 2015
    Last year the beans had super cute costumes courtesy of our family members, but this year we were scrambling to think of a good idea. We decided to dress the beans up as little doctors because we already have almost all the gear we'd need around the house!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 8th, 2015
      Oh my gosh, Cat, you have to share those pictures of the beans in their little doctor costumes! The hubs will be so proud! At their age, they really don't fully understand Halloween yet, so it's really more for you and your family, because you will undoubtedly be taking a ton of pictures for yourself and to share. It definitely make a lot of sense to use what you have, especially when it is going to be something as adorable as twin doctors!
  9. Monday, October 5th, 2015
    Somehow I've talked my daughter into being the same thing she was last year. It is a really cute butterfly costume we bought last year on eBay. There is absolutely no reason to buy new!

    I have three costumes I alternate between; a witch, a Greek goddess, and a hippie. I'm not sure which one I'll pull out this year, but I love dressing up.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 8th, 2015
      I can't believe your daughter can still fit into last year's costume, which sounds really cute. Even if I could convince the girls to re-wear their Halloween costume, they always seem to outgrow them. I take solace in the fact when they were younger, they liked playing in their costumes, so they got more use out of them, than just one night. I have a witches hat that I love, although it really makes me stand out since I already so tall!
  10. Monday, October 5th, 2015
    Hi Shannon!

    I love the idea of letting kids pick out their outfits from your closet. Not only does this save money, but it is also a creativity exercise.

    Some of my most memorable Halloween costumes were ones I made out of clothing I already had. It is helpful to choose a character you already resemble.

    Unfortunately, Jacob is not a Halloween fan like me. Last year I tried to get him to dress up like a hipster with me, but he just ended up wearing a beanie and taking it off 3 minutes after we arrived to our friend's house.Ha!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 8th, 2015
      I think stimulating our children's curiosity and imagination is so critical and an important life skill that we don't always nurture enough. Somehow, it doesn't really surprise me to learn that Jacob isn't a huge fan of Halloween, but kudos to you for even getting him to wear a beanie for 3 minutes!
  11. Tuesday, October 6th, 2015
    Hi, Shannon

    Throughout the years when my kids were smaller, we managed spending in Halloween within our budgets. First we decided how many candy we needed (we usually underestimated the quantity).I made costumes each year for the kids by doing some painting and altering work on the clothing. Sometimes we brought the costumes from second hand stores.
    That served us pretty well; we never experience budget problem and have a lot of fun.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 8th, 2015
      Sounds like you had a great system, Stella, and a lot of fun celebrating Halloween. It can be really hard to know how much candy you need, which is why it is better to buy how much you can afford and accept when it is out, it is out.
  12. Wednesday, October 7th, 2015
    We don't dress up, but the kids certainly are. We are going door-to-door and having a Halloween cookout with friends at a neighbor's house. It should be a fun and cheap night!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 8th, 2015
      I'm actually surprised that you and Greg don't dress-up but if I would have guessed at a couple that would - it would have been you two! :) It sounds like you have a great night planned and I'm so glad Halloween falls on a Saturday this year. It makes it so much nicer when it is not a school or work night.
  13. Thursday, October 8th, 2015
    That's funny you mention buy for the following year after Halloween because I did buy a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle onesie last year while I was pregnant, figuring he'll be able to fit the size that I selected (6-12 months). It fits for the most part, though because he is quite the Michelin baby it's tight on the thighs so I don't know if it will make it to Halloween. :) I hope your girls have a blast this Halloween season (although the way the weather's been, it'll be a hot one!).
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, October 8th, 2015
      Babies, I think, are the hardest to guesstimate sizes for. They either seem to be in the midst of a huge growth spurt or aren't growing at all. You just never which cycle you are in! Hopefully, he's still be able to squeeze into it when Halloween rolls around. :) And I certainly hope that it cools down a little bit by then!
  14. Monday, October 12th, 2015
    I and my little brother have just bought a used costume for their Halloween party in a garage sale. The costume is very inexpensive, but it is very comfortable to wear and looks good on him.
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.ā€ - Shannon Ryan