I am feeling a twinge of a Halloween hangover. No, not from a particularly good “monster martini.” Not from a six-pack of “Boo Beer.” Rather, like Dracula sucks the life out of his poor victims, I feel that retailers have done the same with my bank account, leaving me weary and somewhat guilt-ridden.
Let me be clear, though, I was a willing victim. Freddy Krueger did not hold a razor to my throat in the check out lines. I just got caught up in the spirit of the Halloween season. You heard me right. I said season. What use to be a one-day, two-hour jaunt around the block for some candy and the occasional toothbrush from the dentist down the street has turned into a month-long festival of odd celebrations of the macabre, hay rides, pumpkin patches, expensive Haunted House exhibits.
I know I am not the only one in this country running for some post-Halloween ibuprofen. This season everywhere I turned, decorations flapped in my face. Stores, doctor’s offices, schools, and neighborhoods galore were littered in Styrofoam gravestones, spider webs, and pumpkins. Even the employees at my gym got into the spirit. Seriously, the yoga studio was dimly lit with orange and black lights. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are estimated to spend $6.9 billion on Halloween this year. That is a lot of dough, or should I say sugar and spice? No wonder I feel as drained as a worn-out zombie.
I too threw my dough into the pot or shall I say, cauldron. I estimate that I spent at least $200 on Halloween this year, and I this was an improvement over the previous year. This year I took advantage of the weekend holiday and hosted a little neighborhood party. That meant I HAD to buy pumpkins, crows, spiders, glow sticks, items for goody-bags, purple lights, and enough candy to choke Frankenstein’ monster. Of course, this estimate also included food for the party. As a Pinterest aficionado, I made ogre eyeballs (cocktail meatballs), mummy dogs (hotdogs and crescent rolls), spider cookies, apples with caramel, and other more mundane party food. (You know, like chips and salsa.)
I pride myself on being a frugal and a savvy shopper. I rarely spend full price on anything. I put my coveted 40% off Michael’s coupon in a special zippered pouch in my purse. I scour stores for their post-holiday leftover bargains. And, currently I am lobbying for my own personal parking space in front of the local dollar store. So, I get a lot of junk for a little bit of dough.
In September I started taking a mental inventory of what I spent last year on Halloween. My mind kept flashing back to me standing in Party City, slack-jawed and flushed as the cashier nonchalantly said, “That’ll be like $156.24, ma’am.” In shock, I blindly handed the woman my credit card. How could a couple of witch dresses and ninja garb—all of which were one step above the quality of a plastic tablecloth—cost so much? Even worse, why was I paying that much money for something that the kids would wear for a total of two hours?
My only comfort was that I was just one of many credit card wielding fools. According to Bankrate (2015), the average cost for a child’s costume is $29.60, which does not include the cost of accessories. That’s right. That extra ninja sword, Potter wand, and face paint will push the bill even higher. I stewed over this cost for several weeks.
I swiped the cobwebs away from my feeble memory of what Halloween was like when I was a girl around my kids’ ages (10-12). I remember wearing a makeshift gypsy costume culled together from items in my mom’s closet. A long skirt, an old scarf, some dangling jewelry, and I ready for some primo doorbell action. I did not have a fancy bag or bucket embroidered with my name next to a fanged bat. I had a pillowcase to hold my treasures. Mom went all out with the decor by pasting a couple of cardboard black cats on the window and carving one jack-o-lantern—not one for every member of the household. At the risk of sounding like an old crone, I was hankering for days gone by. (Could I get in one more pun and cliché?)
So, unfortunately for my kids, I told them that costume shopping was off the table this year. They had to use their brains and research skills to create their own. When I announced this on October 1, the kids had no response. My proclamation was met with some raised shoulders and grunts. The reaction was significantly different on October 29. Panic ensued. Pleas. Pointless bargaining ploys. They just HAD to go to Party City to buy their costumes because…well, because…, because “We ALWAYS did it like that.” A maniacal laugh resounded in my head, “Ha, ha, ha! Not anymore.”
Leaving the kids to their own devices not only turned out to be cost effective it fueled their imaginations. What they came up with was a pleasant surprise. William put on his First Communion suit (yes it still fits 2 years later), and declared himself a businessman. Annie threw on a dress, marked up her face, and curled her locks to be a creepy broken doll in a haunted house. And, Katie recycled her costume from last year, but ripped it up, dirtied her face and called herself a zombie vampire. I was impressed with their ideas.
Now that I am a few days away from the glitz and glitter of Halloween, I realize I can cut back even further on my spending for this season. I always buy too much candy that eventually morphs into bulges on my thighs. So, I can cut some of that. I don’t need outside decorations in my backyard. With the lights off, it looks pretty spooky as it is. And, maybe the overstuffed goody bags for the party were a little over the top. So, as God and my contention of fans are my witnesses, next year I vow to spend less than $200 total on the Halloween season. Scouts honor.
Psst! Just don’t tell my husband I have a trunkful of Halloween items purchased on November 1 at 75% off. Besides, those items don’t count towards next year’s goals. (Ah, self-denial can be a wonderful thing at times!)