I love holidays! They are my favorite times of the year. However, they always take a toll on my wallet. Decorations, gifts, fun activities for the kids – they all add up quickly. I’ve discovered some ways to save money during the holidays. I’ll be sharing some of these tips with you in my series Holidays on a Budget. As a new holiday approaches, look for a new post. Let’s start with Halloween.
For my family, Halloween means lots of fall activities – apple picking, pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating. Even these simple activities can have a big price tag. Two years ago, we went to an apple orchard near our house that was having a fall fun day. We paid $10 for each of the kids to get a bracelet to do some activities, including drawing on pumpkins and petting goats. Then, it was an extra $5 per person to do the hayride. Lunchtime arrived, and we ordered two meals to share with the kids. I almost fainted when the vendor told me our chicken barbecue sandwiches, french fries, and drinks cost $30. After dropping about $70 on a morning at the orchard, I vowed to bring the fall fun to our house without spending a ton of money.
How to Save Money This Halloween
#1 – Do most of your fall activities at home.
Rather than paying someone else to set up the materials for you, buy them yourself and set them up. It may take a few more minutes, but the money you’ll save will be worth it. Since that expensive trip to the orchard, we decorate pumpkins at home.
#2 – Look for sales.
As Halloween approaches, stores discount their fall products. You can get some great deals! Don’t pay full price for pumpkins, candy, or costumes. Wait until they go on sale before making your purchases.
#3 – Use things you already own.
This works for decorating and costumes. I went through my cabinet downstairs and found some great decorations that I forgot I had. If your kids love to play dress-up, use the outfits as Halloween costumes. Last year, Miss M went trick-or-treating in the Sofia the First dress she received as a Christmas present.
#4 – Make Your Own Halloween Treats
The chocolate cupcakes with the orange icing look delicious at the grocery store. The cutout cookies in the shapes of bats and witches at the bakery are definitely tempting. However, you can make these things yourself. A simple Pinterest search will reveal hundreds of amazing Halloween treats, and you’ll save lots of money by making them yourself. It’s also nice knowing exactly what goes into the foods you’re serving your family. This year, I made the best recipe ever for sugar cookies. They came out perfectly when I used my Halloween cookie cutters.
Here are the fun Halloween activities we did without spending a lot of money.
One of my first dates with my husband was carving pumpkins with some friends at his house. I’ve always been obsessed with Disney princesses, so he bought me a princess pumpkin carving kit. I taped a picture of Ariel to my pumpkin and used the special carving tool to cut out my princess.
Ever since then, pumpkin carving has been a fall tradition at our house. The past few years, we’ve just let the kids color on the pumpkins with markers. They were both too little to use the carving tools, and markers were a lot less messy. This year I wanted to try carving pumpkins again.
I started my search for the perfect pumpkins by looking for deals. The farmer’s market near my house had a sign saying that all pumpkins were half price. I stopped in, and Miss M helped me pick out two beautiful pumpkins. The total price was $4.
Pumpkin Carving Patterns
When I got home, I asked J and Miss M what they wanted to carve in their pumpkins. J answered immediately. He wanted a Plants vs. Zombies Peashooter. Miss M said she wanted a princess. She is definitely my mini me. I searched online and found free printable pumpkin carving templates. I was amazed by how many free options there were! After just a few minutes, I had a peashooter and Princess Sophia printed and ready to go.
The final thing we needed was a pumpkin carving kit. I saw one at the grocery store for $5, but I thought I might be able to get one cheaper. Miss M and I ran to the Dollar Tree the other day, and they had the exact same pumpkin carving kit for $1. We bought two of them and a tablecloth to cut down on the mess.
Now we were ready for our pumpkin carving party.
My plan was to carve the pumpkins outside on the driveway, but it was really cold and windy. I decided to bring everything inside. I spread the tablecloth on the floor in the sunroom and put the pumpkins on it. The carving tools made it easy to cut the tops off the pumpkins. Miss M and J dug right in with their hands and pulled out all the seeds and insides. We separated out the seeds and put the rest of the mess on the tablecloth.
After the pumpkins were cleaned out, I taped the pictures to them and began carving. I’ll admit that Tony and I ended up doing almost all of the carving. It was just too hard for the kids. My hand is still sore from it now, but the kids absolutely loved the pictures carved into their pumpkins.
Cleanup was really easy. We just picked up the tablecloth, and everything came with it and went in the garbage. The kids were so excited to put the jack-o-lanterns on the porch. They are perfect decorations for Halloween.
Total Cost: $7
Since we saved the seeds when we cleaned out the pumpkins, I roasted them with some butter and salt. This was the first time eating pumpkin seeds for both kids. They liked the flavor but found it hard to chew them. That just means there are more for me!
Next, we worked on something I knew the kids would like more. We made Halloween sugar cookies. We used the Best Sugar Cookie Recipe EVER from Katrina at Katrina’s Kitchen. They really were the best sugar cookies I’ve ever made, and they were so easy! The Halloween shapes came out perfectly, and the kids absolutely loved them. I will never make any other sugar cookie recipe again!
Total Cost: Nothing. We already had the pumpkins, and I had all the ingredients for the sugar cookies.
Costumes can be one of the most expensive parts of Halloween. I learned the hard way. For J’s first Halloween, I spent $50 on his costume. He was the most adorable little lobster you’ve ever seen, but he only wore the costume for about an hour.
As a new mom, I didn’t think about the fact that trick-or-treat started right around his bedtime. We did put the costume on him a few more times for some family members, but it was not enough to make it worth $50. That costume is still in the back of his closet, since I haven’t been able to part with it yet.
I know some people who make their children’s costumes. I’m just not crafty enough for that. I have found some other ways to save on costumes, though. Miss M loves playing dress-up. She always asks for princess dresses for her birthday and Christmas. She has a whole collection of these outfits in her closet. I asked her which princess she would like to be for Halloween, and she said Princess Sophia. She already has the dress, tiara, amulet, and shoes. She is ready to go trick-or-treating.
J isn’t quite as easy. He wants to be Freddy from Five Nights at Freddy’s. I’m not even sure how he knows what that game is, but apparently they “play” it at recess. When I looked for costumes, the cheapest one was $20. Tony searched and found a mask for $5. J has a brown sweatshirt and brown pants to wear to complete the costume. He is happy with his mask and is already wearing it around the house.
Candy for Trick-or-Treaters
We live in a neighborhood with lots of kids so we need to stock up on the treats for Halloween. Once again, CVS is my go-to store. This week’s deal is $5 Extrabucks if you buy five bags of candy. They also mailed me a coupon for $2 off of Halloween candy and $2 of free Extrabucks. I had a coupon that I cut from the paper for $2 off of three bags of candy, and I printed one from Coupons.com for $1 off of two bags of candy. With all of these coupons, I was able to buy five bags of candy for $3. Plus, I received $5 of Extrabucks at the end of my receipt.
Now we’re completely ready for all of those trick-or-treaters. Of course I have to keep myself and the kids from snacking on it before then.
We are celebrating Halloween this year for only $15. Even though I didn’t spend a lot of money, my kids are having lots of fun. The activities are more spread out than they were that morning at the orchard. The kids enjoy them more because they aren’t rushed, and we don’t have to worry about crowds of people trying to do the same activities. I’m enjoying Halloween more, too. We’re spending a lot of family time doing fun activities without spending a lot of money.
What are your favorite Halloween activities?
Let me know in the comments below.