Family life

Halloween: How much will you spend?

Canadian households will spend an average of $75 getting ready for the gruesomely fun day. Sandra thinks that's a heck of a lot of mini-chocolates.

By Sandra E. Martin
Halloween: How much will you spend?

Cheap and cheerful Halloween costumes. Photo: Sandra E. Martin.

My kids, like many kids, go gaga for Halloween. They spend months talking about their costume ideas, changing their costume ideas, getting their costumes ready and one-upping each other about whose candy haul will be heavier.

Then, every year, the same thing happens. Their initial excitement about their giant bags of candy fade within the first few weeks, and I find the bags (still almost full) sometime around Easter, when they're anticipating another injection of sweet treats.

We live in a transitioning neighbourhood — and by that, I mean until probably eight years ago, there was not one single young family on the street. The small, postwar homes in my area were still largely owned and occupied by their original owners, or maybe the middle-aged couple that bought the house from the original owner. Then, as second storey top-ups were built and younger couples were priced out of their first-choice neighbourhoods, growing families started moving here.

What that's meant is few kids trick-or-treat, so that when my kids ring a doorbell on October 31, the person who answers tends to be very (very) generous with their offerings. After three blocks, the kids are already carrying more than they can hold.

Certainly, that's not the case in every neighbourhood, but I do think many of us tend to ignore history and continue to over-buy for Halloween every year. I'm certainly guilty of it, as well — because heaven forbid I run out of chocolate before the cute, costumed kids stop knocking on the door and the scary teenagers take over (usually around 8:15 p.m.).

According to a recent Harris/Decima poll conducted for the Retail Council of Canada, the average household in this country will spend $75 on Halloween — and 75 percent to 100 percent of that sum will go towards candy. I don't spend anything like $75, and I always have leftovers for weeks (that's over and above the kids' collections).

And, of course, there are the costumes. I get it, I get it — a baby or a toddler in a super cute purchased dinosaur suit will give you photos to smile over for the rest of your life. In general, though, I don't believe in spending a lot on Halloween dress-up, either. Occasionally, I'll sew a homemade costume, like the Sleeping Beauty dress Bronwyn wore in her younger days (see the photo above; yes, I am a geek). But we get years of use out of those items, what with playdates and younger sister Isobel eagerly waiting until she can wear it on a subsequent Halloween. If you don't sew, or don't have time, there are always tons of ways to repurpose dad's cast-off dress shirt, or an '80s prom getup from Value Village.

This year, Bronwyn plans to dress up as her best friend, who plans to dress up as Bronwyn. (They look quite similar from behind, but other than that I'm not sure how their plan is supposed to work.) And Isobel will wear the pioneer dress I sewed two years ago for Bronwyn's school trip to the Century Schoolhouse, adding a straw hat we already have and braids made out of inexpensive orange yarn (to be purchased) and she'll go out as Anne of Green Gables.

Our one "splurge" on outdoor decor, which I also discourage (because I don't like it, not because I think it's too expensive), is a faux wrought iron fence adorned with plastic skulls — $1.25 plus tax from Dollarama.

What's your family's financial position on Halloween? Is it a fun holiday that's worth splurging on, or do you try to celebrate on the cheap?

This article was originally published on Oct 19, 2012

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