Halloween: where to spend your money

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Halloween is just around the corner! In my neighbourhood, there are streets with rows of houses decorated with Halloween stuff. From around 6 pm, you start seeing ghouls, zombies, vampires and all sorts wandering around on the streets. It’s not just the kids, but some adults really get into the spirit of things too (no pun intended)! There’s of course trick or treating, which is the real reason we allow our young children to roam the streets past their bedtime.  It’s all very fun and exciting.

But it can all be very costly to participate. First, there is the costume. Depending on how many children you have in your household, if you choose to buy the costumes, the costs can add up. Secondly, there’s the cost of decorating your home. There are some pretty scary-looking homes leading up to Halloween that is decorated beyond just the basic cobwebs. Last year, we visited a home with very realistic-looking decapitated head, together with a mummy lying in a coffin, with smoke coming from a cauldron of eyeballs floating in red cordial. Finally, there’s the cost of the lollies themselves. Kids somehow don’t appreciate apple slices as much as a handful of lollies as their treats.

Before spending an insane amount of money on costumes, decorations and lollies, take a step back and ask what it is that makes Halloween special for your family.

Is it the costume? The decorations? Handing out lollies? Or the trick or treating on the streets in the evening asking for lollies? Whatever makes it special for your family is where you should spend your money on.

For my children, it is wandering the streets and getting lollies from houses. They aren’t impressed with the gruesome decorations, nor are they too concerned about their costumes. In fact, if my youngest had his way, he wouldn’t wear a costume at all. However, in the spirit of Halloween, I believe dressing up is still very much part of the tradition. Once I figured out what makes the family happy on Halloween, I realised we don’t really need to spend much for the occasion. We spend almost nothing on decorations because we live in a high-rise apartment and no trick or treaters come knocking. We also don’t spend on lollies because we accompany the kids to trick or treat and aren’t home to hand out lollies. So the only thing we spend money on is costumes.

The usual way to do Halloween on a budget goes something like this – make your own, borrow, buy second hand – in that order. Rather than repeat the same mantra, I’ll just give you examples of each category. Remember though, my children aren’t all that fussy with their costumes either.

  1. Make your own Halloween costume

I am no seamstress and I can’t sew if my life depended on it. So ‘make your own’ in my household means finding ordinary pieces of clothing and putting it together to make a costume. Not all of these costumes are scary or ghoulish, but it’s at least a costume.

  • Pumpkin: Orange t-shirt shirt and orange pants. Orange face-paint with black stripes and white fangs on his mouth.
  • Vampire: Black long coat, white work shirt, black tights, black boots, red scarf. White face-paint with blood-red lips. Slicked back black hair.
  • Ghost: White bedsheet with holes cut out for eyes.
  • Black cat: cut out triangles on black cardboard and stick onto a headband. Black top, black pants, black socks or stockings stuffed with material and then sewn onto the pants.
  • Mulan’s cricket: Blue skivvy, black pants, black pipe cleaners stuck onto headbands for antennae, black socks as mittens, wings made from plastic bags.
  1. Borrow Halloween costumes

My children have older cousins and they get a lot of hand-me-downs. Sometimes we’re lucky and get hand-me-down costumes. We also ask friends if they have costumes they no longer wear.

  • ‘Disorganised Woody’: any t-shirt, any jeans, gumboots and school hat. Hand-me-down cowboy vest.
  • Skeleton onesie. Obviously went as a skeleton that year and the year after (it was slightly too big the first year and slightly too small the following year, but still fit comfortably).
  • Clown: colourful shirt and pants, clown wig.
  1. Buy second-hand Halloween costumes

We’ve been lucky in that we haven’t had to buy many costumes. Partly it’s because I insist my children wear whatever is in their dress-up box, partly it’s because my children aren’t too fussy about their costumes. They just want to wander the streets and ask for treats!

  • Witch: buy a witch’s hat. Black dress, black stockings, black shoes, broomstick
  • Bunny: Bunny ears, white shirt, white pants (NOT recommended, especially when chocolates are involved!)
  1. A word of caution

Your children are likely to come home with A LOT of treats, so much that you wished you hadn’t agreed to take them trick or treating. One way to deal with this is to agree with your children that they will ‘donate’ some lollies back to households who have run out of lollies for the night. If you want to encourage your child to be entrepreneurial, you could ask them to sell some of their lollies to households that have run out.

  1. Have the conversation

Halloween is a fun tradition, but different families find fun in different aspects of Halloween. Some families enjoy decorating their home and some families have fun making their costumes. Other families simply enjoy the trick or treating aspect (either asking or handing out lollies). Rather than spend money trying to do all three, spend money on what brings you and your family the most joy.

As with many of the decisions we make involving money, it’s the conversation we have with our children about what we’re doing that will further their understanding about money.

Trick or treat!