By: Charlestien Harris
This year, 65% of Americans are expected to celebrate Halloween, and those celebrating plan to spend an average of $102.74. This means that around $6.3 billion is projected to be spent on costumes and candy alone.
Although this is a planned holiday, you can still get off track with your budget if you did not plan how much you were going to spend on costumes, candy, and other items usually purchased during the Halloween season. Spending money that you didn’t plan on spending is what a financial counselor calls “phantom” or “ghost” spending (terms that should be very easy to remember this time of year). This concept is when expenses are small enough to not be readily noticeable on a bank or credit card statement, or just simply unplanned, small amounts of cash. Either way, these “ghosts” can really add up in the long run, and leave you financially haunted.
Don’t let these unexpected money transactions get you off track with your budget and financial goals. Let’s look at some cost-saving ideas that can save you money around the holidays.
- Set a limit. This is the same as saying set a budget for the amount you are going to spend this Halloween, and stick to it. One of the hardest things to do is to stay within the limits we set. One way to stay on track is to take the amount of money you plan to spend and put it in an envelope. Every time you need to purchase something, go to that envelope and remove the amount needed to cover that purchase. Once that money is gone – it’s gone!
- Stick to a shopping list. Aside from preventing impulse buying, a well thought-out list can help you more easily comparison shop and stay on budget. Sticking to a list will cut down on spur-of-the-moment purchases, and you will more than likely stick to the budget amount you set for yourself in the first place.
- Look for sales! The closer it gets to the holiday in question, markdowns on merchandise become more frequent and larger discounts become available to move the merchandise out the door. Look for candy that has the “Halloween” theme printed on the bag; regular-packaged candy can be sold anytime of the year.
- Use coupons. Clipping coupons is still popular and worthwhile. Sales circulars are often filled with coupons and sales information. You can also search online for coupons to almost any store. Print them out and use them, or use them to shop online. You can find coupons by store name, brand, or other detail. Check the midweek and weekend papers for coupons, too.
- Avoid credit cards. You end up paying a lot more for your candy if you charge them, because interest can pile up quicker than your child’s trick-or-treat bucket. Try to use cash as much as possible. Even though candy is a perishable item, you don’t want to still be paying for it long after the candy has been eaten or given away.
- Visit or share locations of “Trunk-or-Treat” events. If you just have to satisfy your candy craving, you can attend one of those events yourself. The candy is free for the taking and you won’t have to worry about wrecking your budget. Sharing that information won’t cost you a dime either! Several organizations sponsor these events as an alternative to trick or treating from house to house.
- Shop thrift stores for costumes. Many people purchase Halloween costumes for single-use, and then donate them. By visiting your local thrift store, Goodwill, or Salvation Army store, you’re not left shouldering costume depreciation costs and can walk out the door with a costume for less than $10. This is one of my favorite suggestions because I actually love thrift shopping. My husband and I go to find bargains all the time.
- Borrow or trade costumes. For the kids, see if you can borrow last year’s costumes from friends and family with kids around the same age, and offer them your kids’ past costumes in return. You can even try this one out with adult costumes, as well. Everyone gets the fun of wearing a “new” costume without anyone spending a dime.
- Use what you have. Many kids are happy to simply dress up in things they already have such as dance recital costumes or sports uniforms. You can add to the look with creative makeup or face paint to make it special. Or craft a homemade gold medal to add to a sports uniform to turn your child into an Olympic champion. Getting creative with items you already have is one of the easiest ways to save on Halloween costumes.
- Shop deep discount sales after Halloween. Costumes and other Halloween merchandise go on deep discount immediately after Halloween to clear space for merchandise for the remaining holidays of the year. You can save 50% or more if you buy one and put it away for next year. And while you’re shopping, be sure to pick up discounted bags of wrapped Halloween candy to freeze and use later.
Saving money during the holidays – any holiday – can be a daunting task if you let it. But with these simple suggestions, you will surely stick to your budget and stay on track with your financial goals – and avoid those pesky “phantoms.” Discipline is key to making sure you don’t overspend during any holiday, even Halloween.
For more information on this and other financial topics, you can call me at 662-624-5776, or email me at Charlestien.Harris@southernpartners.org.
Until next week – stay financially fit!
Charlestien Harris is a contributor to DeSoto County News. She is a financial expert with Southern Bancorp Community Partners whose articles are seen in a number of publications around the region. You’ll be seeing her columns weekly on the DeSoto County News website and our social media channels.