According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend around $9.1 billion – that’s “billion” with a “b” – on Halloween this year. If you’re tight on cash, that figure may sound scary. The good news is you can spend as little as you like, and still have a great time.
• The costume games: Instead of buying a $40 Batman or Star Wars costume for each of your three boys – or sewing some rough-looking versions from scratch – turn it into a family game. Think Project Runway meets Supermarket Sweep.
Here’s how it works: Head to the consignment shop or thrift store with your brood and give each child an envelope with five or ten bucks inside. Split into teams to pick out a costume, or find materials to make a custom creation. When time’s up and purchases are made, head home and have the kids dig into their closets for the rest of their getups. Finally, hit the runway, and may the best designer win!
• DIY decorations: Your attic, basement and coat closets are already overflowing with Christmas wreaths and ski gear. Even if you could afford that giant, inflatable cat in a pumpkin, where in the heck would you to put it? Unless you’re reusing decorations from last year, there’s no need to go all out for Halloween.
Instead, take a sunny afternoon trip to your local pumpkin patch, and let each child pick one small pumpkin. Spend the rest of the day walking around the farm or enjoying a hayride. Back at home, carve or paint your pumpkins and display them on the porch with a few homemade signs to welcome your trick-or-treaters. When Halloween’s over, there’s no need for storage.
• Candy portion control: Just because you live in a neighborhood that gets carloads of kids every year, that doesn’t mean you have to buy carloads of candy. If you already know you’ll be visited by 100 princesses and superheroes, skip the gourmet chocolate bars and grab a bulk bag of assorted candy instead.
And don’t feel like you have to get the brand-name stuff either. Just buy what you can afford, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. These children are getting a lot of sugar, so you’re not depriving the latecomers. Early birds get the gummy worms.
• Free fall activities: There are heaps of harvest and Halloween festivals this time of year. And they’re usually free. So, take advantage of what’s already going on in your church or community, and budget a little extra for any special games, crafts or kiddie rides.
And since fair food can add up if you’re not careful, save some cash by packing a picnic and a cozy quilt before you go. Just be sure to budget for a funnel cake while you’re there – it’s a fall festival essential.
• Family traditions: Carve out a weekend or two for some quality time together. You don’t necessarily have to paint pumpkins or dress up, but it can be fun to start a few new fall traditions.
How about a harvest-themed cooking day? Try caramel apples, pumpkin pie and jack-o-lantern pizzas – use the pepperonis and veggies to make the face. Or have everyone vote for their favorite fall movies, then hunker down on the couch or maybe under a fort to snuggle and munch the day away. And if you’d rather be outside, head over to the park for a scavenger hunt and enjoy the scenery while you search.
There’s no wrong way to celebrate Halloween. As long as your loved ones are together, laughing and soaking in the blessings of the season, you’ll have a blast – even on a bite-size budget.
Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven bestselling books, including “The Total Money Makeover.” The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 13 million listeners each week on 585 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Follow Dave on the web at daveramsey.com and on Twitter @DaveRamsey.