Scour pre-Halloween sales, and plan ahead by buying this year's decorations for next October.

It’s October, which is calendar code for — IT’S ALMOST HALLOWEEN!

Sounds insane right? Well, it is. You used to just need October to worry about costumes, what kind of candy you were buying and what you were going to carve into your pumpkin.

But in this post-Martha Stewart/Pinterest crafting renaissance we are in, everyone needs a fully decorated house, themed costumes and only the best candy to fill up the overpriced lacquered bowl decorated with jack-o-lanterns.

That kind of styling takes time and lots of money. I remember watching Hocus Pocus and admiring the “rich girl’s” parents Halloween party. Seeing her character’s Victorian dress had teenage me scouring Halloween pop-up shops to little avail. I found out costumes like that are rentals and usually cost upward of $300. My parents were not amused. (To be fair, prices have come down on these sorts of dresses and you can even buy similar styles online for $100 — which is still pricey if you are on a budget).

How to have a “budget-friendly” Halloween: Start early — really early

So how can you still make Halloween a happily decorated extravaganza without falling into the September-ween trap? It’s simple, start the year before.

I’m sure you are wondering WHAT? But it works. Well, for everything but candy. It might even work for those gross circus peanuts or that unknown taffy-esque candy in those orange wrappers, but I’m not the person to try it.

What I mean is this: This year, get a few decorations pre-Halloween using coupons or during pre-Halloween sales at crafts stores like Michael’s, to tide you over. Then, on Nov. 1, run to that store first thing in the morning and grab up stuff that you wanted when it was full price for 50% or more off. Same goes for stores like Target, Rite Aid, Duane Reade, Walgreens and the like. This way next year you will have plenty of goodies to choose from.

Because stores are starting earlier and earlier with holidays, they need to clear out the last season’s items as quickly as possible. Sometimes waiting until the last minute can get you great deals, but it also depends on where you live. In Brooklyn, stores were out of candy and most decorations a week before Oct. 31. But in the suburbs, there’s usually more selection, as well as more stores to choose from.

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Tips for saving on Halloween:

  • For decorations, start Nov. 1 for the following year.
  • For kids costumes, make sure they are comfortable but don’t overspend.
  • Get a face painting kit or extra accessories that kids can reuse for costumes down the line.
  • Try a costume swap with friends or those in local Facebook groups.
  • For candy, try the dollar store or a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club for slight discounts.
  • If you want, try to go candy free and opt for stickers, temporary tattoos or glow sticks.

When it comes to costumes, it’s a bit trickier. When I was young, my parents made it easy on themselves and just put us in Groucho Marx costume glasses or, my personal favorite dressed us up as “old men” where they just threw an oversized wig on us and put spots on our faces with lipstick.

In college, my roommate and I had a costume drawer that was filled with old outfits, wigs, and accessories that could be combined in myriad ways. But with kids, it’s harder because they are constantly growing out of things and changing their minds on what they like and don’t like.

Where to cut back

To save money, don’t spend crazy amounts on the fanciest costume, it’s only going to wind up covered in sticky candy anyway. It’s also important to think about where you’ll be trick-or-treating. If you are in the Northeast, your kids will likely need a warmer costume. Kids in the South and West may be able to get away with a sleeveless get-up. Kids are happiest when they are comfortable. Use things like face paint and accessories to gussy up an outfit instead of making them feel too hot or itchy.

Last on this list, but first in our hearts, is the candy. I don’t know when it became the norm for a big bag of candy to cost $15, but that’s the going rate in most stores for a large bag of decent Halloween candy. Thankfully there are some places where you can possibly get a better deal, like dollar stores and warehouse stores. Another possibility is to think outside the box. There are some kids who can’t have candy or are allergic to nuts so can’t really trust commercial items. Things like stickers, temporary tattoos, and glow sticks or bracelets avoid the costs of candy and make most kids really happy.

Need help planning your Halloween budget, check out’s page 20 Personal Budgeting Tips.

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About the Author

Jessica Patel

Jessica Patel

Jessica Patel is an award-winning editor and writer living in Los Angeles. She previously served as deputy editorial director of T Brand Studio at The New York Times and as Senior Editor and Analyst of

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