Halloween's Cool & All — But Don't Blow Your Savings On It

When Kate was 18 and a senior in high school, she made plans to go to a college Halloween party. Convincing herself she had to have a "super expensive" and "scandalous" Playboy bunny costume, Kate felt she couldn't buy the generic Playboy bunny costume from a Halloween store. Instead, she opted for an authentic replica of the real thing, which ended up costing her hundreds of dollars. "I spent over $300 on this costume that I wore one time," Kate said. "That is the one and only time I've done that in my life and I would never do it again."
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Though $300 for a Halloween costume might seem excessive for something you will likely wear only once, Kate's Halloween expenditures aren't exactly out of the ordinary. Halloween is a beloved event in this country, one that many people feel obligated to go all out for. This year, total spending for Halloween in the U.S. is expected to reach $9 billion. Americans, apparently, love to splurge on Halloween candy, costumes, décor, and parties, spending, on average, $86 on spooky festivities. But for millennials, the cost is significantly higher: According to a recent survey, the average millennial spends $183 on halloween-related expenses every year.
Many millennials feel the weight of obligation and expectation drives them to spend more than they would like on Halloween, whether on party tickets, costumes, or other types of entertainment. And, if there's a high-profile party to attend, the pressure can be even greater. We chatted with four readers who shared their Halloween regrets and subsequent hacks that will hopefully help you reframe your Halloween habits and have a happier, and more budget-friendly, holiday.

Halloween Hack #1: Budget money ahead of time for 'fun' expenses.

"My parents throw an 'all-out' Halloween party every year. They rent out their country club and host a party with DJs in every room and costume contests," said 24-year old Leah."[My parents] and their friends are well off, and just having started out in my career, its hard to justify spending so much on a costume."
In order to navigate these kinds of situations, Leah has learned to set aside money for these types of activities and expenses. "I budget an amount from my salary every month that is 'fun money,'" Leah said, adding that this reserve can cover anything from costumes to parties and everything else in between. She has learned to do this to avoid over-spending and the negative feelings that can come along with it. "It's frustrating if I overspend on a holiday like Halloween, because, realistically, I'm buying a costume that will only be worn once. I try to be budget conscious, but it can get tricky around the holidays."
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Halloween Hack #2: Don't leave costume shopping until the last minute.

Even with a budget, Halloween spending can get stressful if it's left until the last minute. Like many of us, 23-year old Michelle tends to leave Halloween planning and costume shopping until the last minute. Because of this, she can find herself under a lot of pressure which can often lead to over-spending.
"I usually procrastinate on my costume until everything is picked over," Michelle said. "With a little planning, I'm sure I could figure something out that isn't that expensive."
Because of this tendency to overspend when under pressure, a good way to make sure you don't end up spending too much on a costume is to do it ahead of time when there are plenty of options and there is ample time to find a good deal. "There are so many expectations around a good Halloween costume," Michelle said. "I feel trapped into getting something expensive or investing lots of time and energy into creating something or otherwise being lame!"
Given this societal expectation to go all out on Halloween, if you find yourself tending to overspend right before a party or event, next time try to set aside a bit of time to brainstorm and figure out your costume ahead of time before the pressure mounts.

Halloween Hack #3: Find versatile costume pieces you can wear again.

Kara, 26, feels pressured to dress up at Halloween. "I feel obligated to get dressed up and go out with my friends," Kara said. "If they’re spending more I feel inclined to spend more, [too]." One way Kara has managed to deal with this obligation is by finding a costume that can be worn again in the future.
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Of course, around Halloween there is often a temptation for a one-stop shop costume that comes neatly wrapped and packaged, with every accessory you need. But, for those who are willing to get a bit creative and spend more time putting a costume together, you can put together a killer costume just by visiting a thrift store.
"I try to make do with what I have at home and will try to stay under the $20 range. I feel stupid over spending if it’s something I can’t use again," Kara said. "To me, it’s a great idea to go for a costume or outfit you can use or wear in the future."
Though a Halloween costume can certainly be re-used, if you buy quality items at a thrift store, you can also potentially incorporate them into your own wardrobe. If you want to dress up as a hippie, for instance, you could spring for some cute patterned pants, a fringe jacket, and accessories you might wear normally, so that you can later weave these items into your day-to-day wardrobe.

Halloween Hack #4: Make your own costume.

Since that fateful Halloween back in high school, Kate has developed a more practical approach to the beloved fall holiday, opting instead for handmade, creative costumes that are both more unique and more affordable. "I'm more of a DIY costume person nowadays and always get a ton of compliments on my costumes every year," Kate said. "I can assure you that none of them come in a package with the word 'costume' on it or have a price tag over $15 attached."
There are plenty of DIY halloween costume resources for lazy or frugal folks who still want to have a good costume for Halloween. Just because you make something yourself doesn't mean that it has to be boring. "For anyone who doesn't feel 'creative' enough to [make their own] costumes, I'd suggest going to the Halloween store and really examining what comes in these costume kits," Kate concluded, "[You can] find similar items at your local stores at half the cost."
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