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I can't believe how much things have changed for Halloween since I was a kid.  When I was a kid, 90% of the decorating for Halloween consisted of buying a pumpkin and carving it a few days before Halloween.  There was one or two houses in the neighborhood that did stuff like put cemeteries in the front yard or something cool, and that always got the neighborhood abuzz.

Now, decorations are more and more complex and I see them appearing in yards as early as mid-September (personally, I think that October 1st is the ‘it's OK' mark for decorating, though my wife brought our stuff out on September 26th this year).  Heck, when I stopped off at the Salvation Army store for a routine visit, they had about 20′ of wall space dedicated strictly to Halloween decorations and costumes.

With the explosion in popularity and options, it's always helpful to come up with a few ways to save on Halloween items.  Most of these involve the concept of ‘going back to basics' though by no means does it take away from the fun that Halloween can provide to adults and kids alike.

  1. For costumes, plant the seeds early – We are lucky in that our 4 year old and 2 year old are still rather…shall I say, impressionable.  As such, we have been able to steer them into costumes that are easy to work with, fit the budget, and will still be a lot of fun.  Dropping some hints a few weeks in advance might allow you to steer them toward something that you can make work, but even if they have their heart set on something, it gives you better time to look for the best deal.
  2. For costumes, make what you can – This year, our homemade versus store bought is at 50%.  Our four year old son wanted to be a doctor, and my wife found a great costume that had everything for $17 at Marshall's.  It's also something that can be used down the line for another costume or maybe part of a ‘dress up' collection.  Our 2 year old daughter wanted to be a pumpkin, and my wife was able to score materials and make a fantastic pumpkin costume for just a few dollars.  Score!
  3. Estimate your candy needs – The temptation is to buy way too much candy.  Be mb-201310halloweenrealistic about what you'll need and stick to buying that much.  Otherwise, it'll end up going onto your waistline or you'll end up contributing to the office stash.  Yes, your co-workers will love you but at the expense of wasted candy.
  4. Look for candy deals – Start shopping for candy now.  If you wait until the week of Halloween, you'll likely be paying a premium.  You can find sales now, as well as coupons that can make the deals better.  Look beyond grocery stores.  Drugstores also see Halloween as big business, so you can nab some great deals there if you keep your eyes open.
  5. Don't overspend on decorations – There are a million and one different decorations out there (as evidenced by the Salvation Army Thrift Store display I mentioned above).  But, keep in mind that Halloween still boils down to a few pretty simple concepts.  Pumpkins.  Ghosts.  Witches.  You get the idea.  Don't be tempted by all the high priced items that are out there when moderate to cheap options will give you the same bang for the buck.
  6. Do not throw your pumpkin carving supplies away after you're done – It's a pretty fun night when pumpkins get carved.  The big thing now is to carve your pumpkins in more intricate designs.  Some can be printed out from online webpages, though the most popular thing I've seen is to buy a kit in the store, which has 10-20 different options, as well as the tools you'll need for the various aspects of carving.  If you get one of those kits, keep the items that are salvageable from the tools (wash them after you're done) and the unused sketches.  You might find that one carving kit can last you a couple of years!   Of course, the trick is remembering where you put it the following year, though if Halloween has grown in popularity in your household, you might have an entire bin dedicated to Halloween decorations.  I know we do!

Halloween is a great opportunity for fun and a fun bridge into the cooler fall weather for adults and kids alike.  Take the tips above as a way to stay fun but without a big crunch to your budget.

Readers, how crazy do you go for Halloween these days, and how do you look for ways to save?