Two in three Americans buy their Halloween costumes, and the average price comes to $55, according to Alliance Data Retail Services, a marketing and loyalty solutions company. Almost three in 10 of the 534 respondents said they'll spend more than last year. But Oct. 31 doesn't have to be a budget killer. From creating a costume out of items you already have to choosing candy carefully, you can spend far less than the average goblin. Here are 10 ways to save on this year's biggest candy-munching day:
1. Make your own costume. Martha Stewart offers costume-making tips on her website, along with instructions for cat masks, parrot glasses and a paper wig made of newspaper. The website Money Crashers also posted a series of easy-to-make options, including how to make a Hershey Kiss out of aluminum foil. Pinterest offers plenty of inspiration and ideas. If you're hosting or attending a Halloween event, consider suggesting a handmade-only rule to further ease the pressure.
2. Use items you already have at home. A child can dress up like mom or dad by donning a parent's old clothes. Family members or friends can each wear a different color and call themselves a rainbow. And anyone can step into the craziest outfit in the house and call themselves Lady Gaga. Real Simple magazine suggests throwing a bike tire around your neck, sticking a thermometer in your mouth and calling yourself "sick and tired." Or staple torn newspaper to old clothes and calling it "breaking news."
3. Trade costumes with friends. Families with young children and neighbors can exchange outfits before trick-or-treating, or use a local listserv to organize swaps. Some towns, including Charlotte, N.C., participate in National Costume Swap Day, when families can trade gently used costumes.
4. Go generic on the candy. Buying small packages of name-brand candy bars is convenient, but it also means paying far more per ounce than you need to. Instead, stick with generic brands to trim costs. Also, be sure to buy candy you enjoy eating, so any leftovers don't go to waste.
5. DIY décor. Fake spider webs, scarecrows and toy RIP markers aren't cheap. Craft websites and a little elbow grease can lead to the same effect for far less than the store-bought options. Martha Stewart, for example, offers a technique for turning cheesecloth into hanging spider webs and making a sitting room look "ghostly" by draping old sheets over the sofas.
6. Shop in November. The day after Halloween, all décor, costumes and other gear goes on sale, so it's the perfect time to stock up for next year. Consider buying the next size up for children and stick with items that store easily. If you have a place to store the goods at home for next year, you can save yourself some dough.
7. Don't buy loads of candy. Some people stock up on Skittles and Hershey bars only to find that they get few visitors at the door, or none at all. Avoid wasting bags of candy by filling only a modest bowl of treats that you'll enjoy yourself if you don't bestow them all on trick-or-treaters.
8. Avoid specialty stores. Those Halloween-themed stores that pop up in October are usually overpriced (unless you go the day after Halloween, in which case you'll find cut-rate sales). Instead, stick with online stores for easy comparison shopping, deal sites and big-box stores.
9. Pick your own pumpkin. You still have to pay for it, but it's usually far cheaper to pick a pumpkin on a farm than to buy one from a local grocery store. Plus, you get the added experience of spending a day in the country. Another option is to plant seeds and try growing your own pumpkin.
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10. Skip the holiday altogether. It sounds ghoulish, but it's not a terrible idea to simply turn your front lights off and let the little vampires get their candy elsewhere, especially if you don't find the tradition of opening your door to strangers enjoyable. Today, about one in three Americans opt-out of the holiday. "The rules have changed in recent years … It's OK not to participate," says National Retail Federation spokeswoman Kathy Grannis.
Just watch out for disappointed zombies toilet-papering your house.