Over the river and through the woods... My grandkids recently came to my house for a visit and they were pretty excited when they arrived. "Grandma, there's a lot of 'Halloween' near your house!" they exclaimed.
'A lot of Halloween' is true -- you can't drive to the grocery store without passing yards full of elaborate outdoor displays that rival the ones we have come to expect at Christmas time. A carved pumpkin on the stoop and some dried corncobs on the front door used to do the trick. Now, Halloween decorations amount to giant inflatable Jack O' Lanterns, orange string lights, animated skeletons that talk when you walk by and trees covered with store-bought spider webs. Add in the cost of costumes and candy and this all adds up to a very scary amount of money you could be spending elsewhere. I long for the days of simple, homemade decorations.
Consumers are expected to spend nearly $8 billion on costumes, candy and decorations this Halloween season, and it's obvious that some of the more extravagant families go way beyond the already high average of $80 per person.
When I asked my little goblins what they wanted to be for Halloween, my granddaughter was quick to answer, "Ooooooh, I'm going to be a beautiful princess! I saw the prettiest party dress at the store."
My grandson then chimed in, "I wanna be Spidey-man."
"Simple enough," I said to my daughter. She laughed. "You have no idea," she sighed. "That pretty party dress costs more than my prom dress!" It shouldn't cost a king's fortune to be a pretend princess.
Here are some tips and tricks on how to take control of your Halloween spending:
1. Create a budget.
First and foremost, make a budget with your kids. Get them involved in creating the designs and themes. Have them help you make a list and do the shopping within that budget you created as a group.
2. Get creative.
Get your kids involved in making their own costumes and decorations. Not only will your kids have fun, but they'll learn that a homemade costume is even better than a store-bought one because none of their friends will have the same one. The money you save will be substantial. For some inspiration, check out The Huffington Post staff in their homemade costumes.
3. Don't forget to give.
While your kids are out having fun, have them do their part for charity that you and your family care about. One example is to collect for your local animal shelter. Another is to participate in Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, which has raised more than $167 million to help boys and girls all over the world.
Kids can participate by making a collection container to take trick-or-treating; they can show the container and politely ask for a donation. Once you've returned home, count the money together and you and your kids can take it to the shelter. If you have chosen UNICEF, the money can easily be donated on their website. Talk to your kids about the charity that they are collecting for and why it's important.
4. A sweet treat.
After your kids have had their fun trick-or-treating, put them on a "treat budget" where they get to pick through their loot and choose two items a day. They'll learn a valuable lesson in saving and you'll have the ability to control the rewards. Perhaps some extra help around the house can result in a yummy treat.
5. Make Halloween a little less scary.
Hosting a kid's party at home on Halloween night became an excellent solution for my family because it was safer, cheaper and more controlled. Kids can make spooky masks, tell scary stories and play Halloween-themed games like bobbing for apples, face painting and costume contests. I enjoyed those Halloween parties so much that as my kids got older I continued the tradition by hosting grown-up parties for my friends.
There's no hocus pocus in taking control of your spending this Halloween. With a little creativity, you can save money and spend more time creating lifelong memories while teaching valuable lessons to your children.
Have you made a Halloween costume or do you remember a favorite from your childhood? Please share it with us below.
Follow Neale Godfrey on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NealeGodfrey