How We Do Frugal Halloweens

Halloween is a big deal at our house. Bean is an October baby and has been obsessed with the trappings of the season since she was small. The first book she ever paid attention to was Five Little Pumpkins, which she and I can still quote word-for-word. She comes by her love of the spooky rightly–Mr. Steward is a huge horror movie buff and we both have a dark sense of humor. As much as we take celebrating Halloween seriously around these parts, though, we don’t let it break the bank. Here’s how we celebrate Halloween frugally, while still engaging in all the season has to offer.

Costumes – $22 for Four

We are really lucky to live near a fabulous children’s resale store. They buy Halloween costumes all year, then open up their selection on a pre-announced day. The prices are generally $4-$6 per costume, or about 25% of the retail price. One of the few days I’ll brave a big shopping crowd, Mr. Steward and I arrive when the store opens and snatch up several.

We buy more than one because we treat costumes as year-round toys (“dress up clothes”), not just as one-off holiday clothing. For that reason, we buy costumes that are a size or two bigger than our child, so she can grow into them throughout the year. We also try to get a couple of different weights (so we can withstand different Halloween temperatures), and different types. This year, we got a thin tiger costume, a heavy puppy costume, a doctor coat, and a Belle princess dress.

We’ve also historically used the sale to get Christmas gifts for our nieces and nephews. They love to dress up as superheroes, so we’re always on the lookout for good-looking costumes to give to them for Christmas.

We use the same pumpkin pail from year to year, bought for $.99 at Goodwill.

Candy – $15

Our neighborhood gets a serious amount of trick-or-treaters. Our subdivision is nestled between a low-income apartment complex and a rural area where the houses are too far apart to easily walk between. Families come by the van load, adding to the large number of young families that live in our subdivision. This year, I bought 7 pounds of candy, and I will run out.

Halloween candy is one area where I refuse to buy generic, because I was always so disappointed to get generic candy when I was a kid. Bags of name-brand chocolate bars are really expensive, though, and would easily double the cost of our candy. My compromise has been to buy Child’s Play, the bulk bag of candy from the Tootsie Roll company. They run around $7 for a 3.5 lb bag at Aldi.

Decorations – $12

Last year’s front window at night

Our big Halloween splurge is for pumpkins. Each year, our church hosts a pumpkin patch, with proceeds from assisting high school missions trips. We try to spend $10 or so each year at the patch. This year, that got us one large pumpkin plus six baby pumpkins (all chosen by Bean) that we spread across our porch rail for decoration.

Beyond that, we pick up one or two items each year from the Dollar Tree. You may have noticed by now, the Dollar Tree is my go-to store for seasonal decor. At $1 for anything, it’s hard to beat. This year, we got window clings and a door cover. In previous years, I have purchased reusable plywood signs and a creepy cover for our front window. We mostly go for big impact items that are visible from the road, although I also enjoy the window clings because they involve Bean in the decorating process.

Entertainment – Free!

To stay in the Halloween spirit throughout October, we adults rely on our ridiculous collection of horror movies. (I’m not joking, they form a whole closet of our house.) For Bean, we focus on reading her Halloween books, supplemented with books from the library. There are also a multitude of YouTube videos with Halloween-themed kids songs, and lots of downloadable colouring pages. With the wealth of options available, we don’t spend to keep ourselves entertained during the Halloween season.

One random tradition that has cropped up since buying our house is to walk or drive very slowly past a particular house in our neighborhood with enormous inflatable decorations every day. Bean will name each item, staring with fascinating for many minutes.

Our town offers a huge list of Halloween activities throughout October, including trick-or-treating events at the university, mall, nature trails, library, churches, and so on. While we are glad for so many options, we limit these events. We think trick-or-treating is more special when relegated to a single night, and done in the traditional door-to-door fashion. Nonetheless, work offered a few Halloween functions that we attended this year, including one with free admission to an amusement park. Another had a chili cookoff and costume contest, where Bean won “scariest” costume for her performance as a roaring tiger.

On Halloween night proper, we take Bean trick-or-treating and pass out candy to the cutely costumed kids who come by our house. Mr. Steward and I typically trade roles throughout the night. This year, though, I mostly took on candy distribution duty, what with being 8.5 months pregnant…

That’s really it for us. Each year, we spend less than $50 for a whole season of fun times and excitement.

What are your frugal Halloween tips? Do you have other ways for finding cheap costumes and candy?

4 Replies to “How We Do Frugal Halloweens”

  1. Emily

    Halloween was when having a super-artistic stepdad came in handy. I had awesome homemade costumes constructed out of literally whatever was laying around. Mom grew pumpkins. We didn’t really decorate (and I still don’t), but have awesome memories!

    • Ms. Steward

      I wish I was more crafty to make the costumes. Definitely not, though.

      We usually got a pumpkin growing up, but that’s about it. My big memory was my great-grandma making an passing out popcorn balls each year.

  2. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    Oh I’m so jealous of your candy prices! We paid $9 for 2 pounds of candy, although it was “the good stuff” (Snickers, M&Ms, etc.). We didn’t renew our Costco membership but I do wonder if it would be worth the bulk bags of candy since Aldi is 40 minutes away.

    • Ms. Steward

      A bag of the candy bars (maybe 3 lbs or so?) would have run us $15 at Aldi, even. That Tootsie Roll stuff is just cheap, I think!

      We have an Aldi really close to our house, but no Cosco, alas. They might indeed be even cheaper.

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