Welcome to my monthly Reader Suggestions feature! Every month I post a question to our Frugalwoods Facebook group and share the best responses here. The questions are topics I’ve received multiple queries on and my hope is that by leveraging the braintrust of Frugalwoods nation, you’ll find helpful advice and insight. Join the Frugalwoods Facebook group to participate in next month’s Reader Suggestions!
Halloween is one of my very favorite holidays! Well, that plus Thanksgiving and Christmas… I’m basically in a state of holiday-related bliss for the entire fall, which–not coincidentally–is my favorite season! I can’t help myself, I’m a devoted lover of all things pumpkin, spice, autumnal, leaf-related, and bearing even a remote resemblance to Halloween itself.
I’m not so much into the spookier side of things (just ask Mr. Frugalwoods who refuses to watch horror movies with me because I insist on pausing at every scary part, which means we usually never make it through the movie… ). I’m more of a It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown type of person. And a candy-corn eating person…
I adore the fall to such an extent, in fact, that I’ve devoted several posts to the topic over the years. Clearly I’m a tad obsessed. Should you like to scroll through my obsessive celebrations of fall, here they are:
- Frolicking Through Fall With The Frugalwoods
- Weekly Woot & Grumble: Frugal Hound’s Halloween Costume Is…
- Weekly Woot & Grumble: Autumnal Sugar Rushes
Given my un-containable adoration for this time of year, I had to devote this month’s Reader Suggestions to the topic of frugally celebrating the holiday. Obviously, the most frugal thing to do would be to skip the holidays altogether. To ignore the calendar, bah hum bug about the trick-or-treaters, and pretend you live in a holiday-less world. But that sounds awful! And we’re all about sustainable, enjoyable, luxuriously frugality around here–NOT deprivation. Mr. FW and I don’t skip a single holiday; rather, we celebrate each one in our own unique, frugal style. According to CNBC, “Consumers are expected to spend an average of $86.10 each for Halloween, compared with last year’s $82.93.” Seriously?! $86 on Halloween? Clearly, we have an opportunity to discuss frugal options for spooky celebrants.
How The Frugalwoods Do Halloween
Frugally, of course!!! Here’s the breakdown on how we handle each traditional element of this holiday:
Hand-me-down, free, or homemade, of course! Last year, Babywoods 1 was a bumblebee, wearing a costume handed down from my sister, which all three of her kids wore. Next year, Babywoods 2 will be the fifth kiddo to dress in this adorable bee-fit! Since Halloween costumes get so little wear, this bee looks brand-new despite being trotted out year after year.
I’ve noticed on my various online free/cheap/used baby stuff groups that many parents are selling their kids’ costumes for dirt cheap prices right now. If you’re not able to secure a hand-me-down, check out Goodwill, garage sales, Craigslist, FreeCycle, the Buy Nothing Group, or any other online buy/sell/trade group. Inexpensive costumes are everywhere! For added frugality, consider buying/sourcing next year’s costumes AFTER Halloween when they’ll be on super clearance.
As with all things frugal, I don’t get my heart set on a specific costume or theme–I embrace whatever happens to come my way on the cheap. As for Mr. FW and me, we just sort of cobble together a semblance of a costume from whatever we happen to have on hand. This year, I’m thrilled I’ll get to wear my baby-mama skeleton maternity shirt again! Handed down from my sister, this’ll be the fifth (actually I think the sixth or seventh as I’m pretty sure it was handed down to my sister originally… ) pregnancy to enjoy such a hilarious costume. Mr. FW, for his part, is a big fan of the “black sweater and headband” combo whereby he wears a black shirt and a bumblebee headband or a cat headband or a duck nose… as with all things in his life, the man prefers to be a minimalist. He told me he’s going as a lumberjack this year, which to be honest, is pretty much what he looks like every day ;).
We don’t get any trick-or-treaters out here in our middle of nowhere, deer-covered woods. And so, last year we went to a delightful Halloween potluck at our town center and Babywoods crawled around in her bee costume. Back when we lived in the city, we’d sit out on the front stoop with our next door neighbors to hand out candy. We brought out wine and beer to enjoy and had buckets of candy for the neighborhood kiddos.
I purchased a gigantic bulk bag at Costco several weeks before Halloween for a very reasonable price. Buying in bulk is the way to save! Any leftovers went into my office. There’s no need to hand out whole candy bars or super expensive chocolate–find some cheap bulk candy and call it a day.
I am the recipient of quite a few hand-me-down Halloween decorations from my parents and my in-laws. When they clear out old decorations, I gladly take them! I love having these memories of my childhood (and Mr. FW’s) to help us celebrate in style. A few years ago, I purchased (on sale) a pack of fake little pumpkins as well as a fall wreath, which I use every year. Aside from our ghost candle holders, which I grew up with and LOVE, all of our decor is generic “fall” so that it can stay up from September to late November (which is when I paper our house in all things Christmas). And let’s be honest here… I’m lazy so I also leave the ghosts up… what!? They’re cute!
I primarily use artificial decorations so that I don’t have to buy new pumpkins/gourds every single year. Less expense and less waste. I’ve been using the same fake pumpkins for at least 8 years now and will continue to use them probably forever!
It’s not like this stuff goes out of style, so there’s no need to buy new every year. For the first time ever, we grew our own pumpkins this year, so we’ll be adding them to our decor before we cook them up and eat them!
Adding to the low cost and ease of our decorations, I strike a somewhat minimalist tone with my fall decor. I don’t have it everywhere, which means I don’t have to unpack and then repack tons of decorations. Saves time and money!
How Frugalwoods Readers Celebrate Halloween Frugally
I received too many fabulous responses from readers to include all of them below, but you can check out the full conversation on our Frugalwoods Facebook page. And now, onto the reader suggestions!
Priscilla shared, “I absolutely love Halloween, and I think this is in large part due to the fun, frugal, homemade Halloween traditions I grew up with. When I was little, my mom and I would make scarecrows each October. The clothes were my old children’s clothes stuffed with newspaper. The scarecrow heads were sewn from some of my dad’s old plain color work shirts with a face drawn on the front. Hands and feet were made from corn husk or strips of brown paper bag. Halloween traditions like this made the holiday so much fun and cost almost nothing. We also had a nice collection of children’s Halloween books most of which were from thrift stores or garage sales.”
Julie says she dresses her dog up with outfits from the dollar store mixed with items she already has around the house (photo at right!).
Kari wrote, “My husband and I got in the Halloween spirit last year by hosting a Pumpkin Massacre! It was a potluck party with pumpkin carving (BYOPumpkin) and campy Halloween movies. We don’t have children, but in the past we have assembled our own costumes from thrift stores and our parents’ closets. I also used to volunteer with, and later organize, a Halloween can drive through our hometown church in support of a local food bank. This was a fun (and free!) way to get out on Halloween and meet our neighbours, and we collected literally tonnes of food. We handed out flyers a week or two before Halloween letting people know who we were and that we would be coming by during Trick or Treating, and the response was amazing, and only increased over the years. People would have shopping bags full of dry good and flats of cans waiting for us at the door, and would often leave bags of food on the doorstep for us to pick up if they weren’t home. We got permission from a nearby grocery store to borrow some shopping carts for the night, as we couldn’t carry all the donations, and we would have a few volunteers in a truck picking up full shopping carts and dropping off empty ones to volunteers whose carts often filled up after one block!”
Lucy reports, “I feel like Halloween is always cheap for people in the UK! I carve a pumpkin, watch a horror film and that’s it.”
Bethany shared, “My sister bought my middle daughter a cheetah costume…it was one of those warm polar fleece ones from Old Navy. Great for a Minnesota Halloween! Anyways, she wore it every year as long as it fit and now my youngest wears it. She’ll wear it until it doesn’t fit…or she starts to have an opinion about her costume…whatever comes first! ”
Melissa wrote, “I live in Salem, MA (Halloween capital of the world) so there’s a ton of free stuff to do… parades, historical reenactments, and of course people watching… It’s great for kids so if you are in the area (eastern MA, southeastern NH) definitely make a day trip and look on the Haunted Happenings website. Come early in the day to get Street meter parking and stay out of spots designated as resident only- tickets can be tripled in the month of October.”
Mallory reports, “Halloween decor is all from the dollar tree or hand-me-downs. We’ve also gotten into costumes that use ‘real clothes’ which we either already have or get from a thrift store or Buy Nothing (i.e. Last year we were Luke and Lorelei from Gilmore Girls and this year we’ll be Peanuts characters).”
Kerri wrote, “I usually shop consignment first for my two daughters costumes. I have also used Freecycle to get free costumes for my girls. I do not give out candy on Halloween. We go trick-or-treating outside of our neighborhood and so I don’t leave a light on or candy out. I also have a pumpkin that light up that my mother bought for me years ago and we use that along with a few other decorations that we recycle each year.”
Laura and Angela both report using the same inexpensive Halloween costumes for their kids for several years in a row.
Laronda says, “Freecycle, thrift stores, and cheaply homemade costumes for our three kids–one homemade octopus will be getting its third wearing next month. 🙂 Also, we are members of a couple of local parents’ groups–one has a $12 annual membership, and it’s getting our family of 5 into a local pumpkin patch/petting farm/amusement park for $22, which is less than half price. That one annual discounted event has saved us quite a bit over the past 7-8 years, and we’ve also gotten discounts to everything from baseball games to indoor play spaces–plus another group of people circulating free or nearly-free children’s costumes!”
Bodhi wrote, “My mom used to sew us little animal costume onesies out of ‘animal print’ fabric from the fabric store. We added ears and our costumes were complete! And warm!”
Staci shared, “I found a super cute puppy costume for my little at a big consignment sale that just happened in our city – $3.00 and it has enough room underneath for her snowsuit in case it is necessary (super cold Canadian). That and a pumpkin to carve and then cook afterwards for baking and we are set!”‘
Amy said, “I LOVE fall, Halloween, and pumpkins. In years past I’ve spent $$ on buying a bunch of jack-o-lanterns as well as smaller, decorative pumpkins. After a little research I learned how easy pumpkins are to grow, so my husband and I planted 16 plants of 4 different varieties. So far this fall we’ve harvested 45 pumpkins! They are covering the porch, the deck, the kitchen counter, even my desk. And thanks to a whole summer of growing the pumpkins, I’ve been in a Halloween mood for months! Overall we spent maybe $10 on seeds, plus another $30 on Neem Oil and Liquid Fence (but we have plenty of those leftover to use on next year’s crop as well).”
Jessica shared a great tip for keeping costs low on the treat-or-treat front, “We found that giving out fruit snacks instead of candy is just as popular with our neighborhood kids, and a lot cheaper. Plus, any leftovers go in our work lunches.”
Jill said, “I sew capes and cloaks for costumes out of unwanted tablecloths. The material for most tablecloths is perfect for kid’s costumes because it is usually stain-resistant and expected to be washed several times. I made a red-riding hood cloak out of a red Christmas tablecloth I found at the Goodwill for $3.” Nicely done!
Morgan wrote, “My husband’s and my favorite tradition: carving a $2.99 pumpkin from Aldi, baking some yummy pumpkin/apple/cinnamon baked good, and watching a scary movie at home. That and a bag of candy (which we usually eat ourselves… not many trick or treaters come down our street), and I’d say our total is generally under $20.”
Julie suggests buying Halloween items after the holiday itself, when they’re usually “75-90% off… even the dollar store.”
Hannah reports, “I’ve received a bunch of stuff from my Buy Nothing Group. We now have tons of fall decor as well as a monkey costume for my little boy.”
Jenny shared, “I have a lot of the Halloween decorations my mom used around the house when I was young, so it’s fun to get those out every year and enjoy them with my own kids. We also pick out a few pumpkins together to carve a few days before Halloween, enjoying roasted pumpkin seeds after the fact! We do family costumes, and so far I have always been able to piece everything together with items found at thrift shops and making whatever other pieces I need. As for candy, there are usually so many sales the few weeks before Halloween that I am able to snag a few bags for relatively cheap. My trick for not eating it all beforehand? Make sure I don’t buy my family’s favorites!”
From growing your own pumpkins to making costume capes from table cloths (an idea I will most certainly be implementing when my girls are older), Frugalwoods readers once again demonstrate that it’s possible to do anything and everything with frugal aplomb!
Being an avowed, lifelong frugalist doesn’t mean living a life of miserly deprivation or avoiding the holidays. Rather, it’s all about being creative, inventive, and not turning to the boring, store-bought route for everything.