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Here, Milwaukee editor and father of three Jon Byman details his family's every last Halloween-related expense as he and his wife tried to stay on budget in a neighborhood where the holiday is a very big deal.
Halloween can be one of those times of the year that’s downright scary for your budget. I should know. There have been some years that — between costumes, candy and decorations — our family has spent upward of $300 to $350 just to keep up with the Halloween spirit on our block. (Seriously, last year a headless horseman on an actual horse rode through our neighborhood.)
This year, though, my wife and I were determined to get through the night unscathed. After many years of overspending, we made a plan to keep to less than $250 this year. The good news is that we’ve managed to collect and keep many of the things that bring the season to life over the years, which helped keep costs in check. But here’s what we did spend this year.
We have three young kids, so that’s three costumes. I’m willing to go up to $90 here ($30 per kid) plus tax. But for that money we had a cute Elsa and a headless horseman, minus the horse. (I think he was inspired by last year’s spectacle.) We also bought a police officer costume, but he changed his mind last-minute and decided to go as a Packers player (a costume we already had).
Mom and Dad’s Costumes
Hat tip to my wife on this one. She found an idea for great couple’s costumes that was easy and inexpensive (thanks, Pinterest!) in time for the yearly neighborhood adult Halloween party. We only needed one black outfit (already had it) and one white outfit (didn’t take much to get there) and a felt S and P to pin on to be a perfect pair of salt-and-pepper shakers.
It tends to get a little crazy on Halloween in our neighborhood. For starters, the kids outnumber the adults in our subdivision by at least a 3 to 2 ratio. The elementary school has to send two buses to get all the kids (and those are just the young ones!). Did I already mention there are a lot of kids? On top of that, we’re a big neighborhood in a rural area. So people who live on farms and in smaller nearby neighborhoods come to ours to trick or treat (our nieces and nephew included). Bottom line: It’s not unusual to have hundreds of kids come to our door. This year, we amassed roughly 800 pieces of candy for all the Disney princesses, Marvel superheroes and headless horsemen. I think the cost is worth it though, to avoid the tricks that might come if we skimped out on candy.
Yes, this is its own cost, because you need one for each person in the family. That’s five, for us. And you need the big ones, right? So those will be $25 total. Oh, and you have to have a gourd-eous seasonal centerpiece for the table. That’s another $5. (The leaves are free, at least.) That may seem like a lot of money just for pumpkins, but this is actually *way* down from previous years.
When our kids were young, we made the mistake of going to the kid-trap pumpkin farm. You go in for a few pumpkins and then get sucked into the rides, kettle corn, caramel apples, maybe an apple pie and pumpkins to shoot out of a cannon (admittedly, those are for Daddy). It’s not hard to drop $100 in that type of setting. Now, we just go to a local spot that has a few free things to occupy the kids and provides a good photo op.
In the past, we’ve typically spent $25 to $75 a year to add to our growing collection of Halloween decor — like my wife’s fake white pumpkins near the fireplace or Halloween-themed picture frames with photos of our young children blowing through $100 at aforementioned kid-trap pumpkin farm, and my decorations and accoutrements I supply for the neighborhood’s adult Halloween party, like a fog machine and black lights. Luckily, this is all stuff that we can reuse each year, and by now, our collection has grown pretty nicely. So, without spending an additional dime, my wife was able to add a little taste of the season to nearly every room in the house. And for the party, I just changed out every light in my neighbor’s house (they host) and added spooky decorations and fog.
Cost: $0. Score!
Total Spent: $225
All things considered, my wife and I are pretty happy with that figure. By reusing past decorations and avoiding some typical Halloween money traps, we came in under our original goal. And that’s good, because Christmas is right around the corner — which will really be frightening, at least from a “sticking to your budget” perspective.