Queen of free: Don’t be scared of Halloween spending

Bats, spiders and witches aren’t the scariest part of Halloween.

The most frightening part of Oct. 31 is just how much Americans plan to spend. According to the National Retail Federation, we will rack up a whopping $8.4 billion as a nation on costumes, candy and decor. That breaks down to close to $83 per consumer, a number up 22 percent this year compared to 2015.

We could all probably use a reminder or two of how to make the most of every penny this year. Don’t haunt your budget, be good ghouls and boys by keeping your spending in the black.

Pumpkins

Probably the most prevalent piece of Halloween decor comes in a beautiful orange hue. From the patch to the farmers market to the aisles of your grocery store, it seems you can purchase pumpkins almost anywhere in October.

If you want to save the most money, you’re better off picking yours out of the cardboard bin than the field. If your family has established a tradition of visiting an orchard or farm each year, consider choosing only one pumpkin from that location and buying the rest at a big box retailer or grocer. Discount grocery retailer ALDI features large pumpkins for $1.99 and some years even as low as 99 cents.

No matter where you pick up a pumpkin, there’s one thing you can skip for sure — pumpkin carving kits. The small knives and scooping utensils can be easily replaced by a simple spoon and common kitchen cutlery. Every pattern imaginable can be found online for free. From your favorite Disney character to actors or politicians and even your sports team insignia, a simple internet search yields thousands of options.

To ensure your pumpkin lasts even longer, after cleaning out the guts, spray the interior with a mixture of bleach and water. Then let it dry completely. After perfecting your design, spread petroleum jelly on the exposed edges. You might also want to consider placing the pumpkin on a small piece of cardboard instead of planting it on the sidewalk or concrete surfaces.

Costumes

Probably the worst time of the year to shop for a traditional Halloween costume is October. But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to bury your budget.

One unusual but fun option is to host a costume swap. Outgrown or gently used costumes can be shared among friends and family. You can also hit the thrift store to pick up that perfect get up. Online social media platform Pinterest offers hundreds of ideas that require little to no money spent. You may also have luck at consignment sales, yard sales or Craigslist. Make it your goal to spend as little as possible.

If you are going to invest your dollars, think about costumes that could be worn again whether as dress up clothes, for school projects or even pajamas. My best tip is to of course hit the clearance sales during the first week of November. You can purchase next year’s disguise for one tenth of its original retail cost.

Decor

I love decorating for the fall. Maybe it’s the nostalgia I feel each year as my heart wraps around the traditions of my childhood. Maybe it’s because most of my decor can be set out in September and not removed until after Thanksgiving. I’m thrifty and lazy like that. If you play your cards right, you can stretch your dollar further.

Your best bet is to focus on solid color items that remain suitable for multiple fall holidays. Leaves, scarecrows and pumpkins fare better than skeletons and haunted houses. Choose a few jack-o-lantern themed items that can be turned around during the month of November. Hardy fall flowers like mums are perennial and will come back next year if you care for them well.

Once again, Pinterest offers a number of free printables to help you make the most of a festive season while paying for only ink and paper. You can save some serious cash by printing or making your own cards.

Decor expenses can add up quickly as extras hop into your cart with each trip to the store. Keep a running tally of how much you’ve spent on a physical piece of paper to remain mindful of the total impact of your purchases.

Halloween is the warm-up holiday for three months of extra spending. Pace yourself. Don’t blow your entire budget before the yumminess that is Thanksgiving or the gift giving joy of Christmas.

Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to newstips@dailyjournal.net.