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Free-to-cheap Halloween stuff to scare off credit card debt

Get what you need and want for Halloween without it turning into frightening credit card debt


While inflation concerns are still prevalent, you don’t have to go into debt or forfeit fun with these free-to-cheap Halloween ideas.

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Prepping for the spookiest time in the U.S? You’re in the majority. According to the 2022 National Retail Federation Halloween Trends survey, 69 percent of Americans will be taking part this year, and they plan to spend an estimated $10.6 billion on associated costs.

However, inflation concerns are also prevalent. According to the August 2022 Census Bureau report, roughly half of all U.S. families find the recent rise in consumer prices to be “very stressful.” And with even more expensive holidays ahead, scaling back wherever possible makes sense.

That doesn’t mean you have to forfeit fun. Here are ways you can get what you need and want for Halloween without it turning into frightening credit card debt.

Free-to-cheap costumes

According to a National Retail Federation report, the average Halloween costume will be $33.75 per person in 2022. Not bad for one person, perhaps, but if you have a family of four, $135 may be too much.

When cash is tight — or if you’d just rather spend it on something else — budgeting expert Andrea Woroch suggests digging through your closet to see what you can put together with what you already have.

“Often, you can add just a few cheap accessories to create the look you’re going for and that’s going to cost you a lot less than buying a full costume,” says Woroch.

You can buy those extras for next to nothing, too, says Katie Ellison, senior manager of public relations, Dollar General. Head over to the retailers that specialize items for a buck. “Grab some new spooky accessories like headbands, capes or masks,” says Ellison. “Then, add glam with temporary tattoos, wigs, colorful makeup and nail products.” With this strategy you can put together a costume for a few dollars.

Rather buy a complete costume? Look for online coupons and try to score a “buy one get the other for half price” deal, which is especially helpful if you need multiple costumes.

Pre-owned costumes are also great when you’re bargain hunting, so check out what’s available on sites such as eBay, Poshmark and Tradesy. You can even use a tool like Beni to hunt down lower-cost used options based on the new item you’re looking at online.

“I was looking at a basic Wonder Woman set priced at $24.99 on Amazon, but the Beni tool found me the same one in the same size on eBay for just $10,” says Woroch.

Free-to-cheap parties

Throwing a party involves at least some purchasing, especially for food and beverages. So, this is the perfect opportunity to use the best credit card for grocery shopping you have in your wallet.

Some cards offer higher reward-earning potential when you use them at supermarkets. For example, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card offers 5 percent cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category — which includes grocery stores — each billing cycle, on up to the first $500 you spend. So, if you do charge that maximum amount for your monster bash, you’ll earn $25. Pay the bill in full and you’ll already come out ahead.

And if you really want to lower the expense, Woroch suggests throwing the party in-between meals so you don’t feel pressure to serve a lot of food. Or, make it a potluck style and assign dishes, drinks and desserts to various guests.

Free-to-cheap decorations

The NRF report found that 51 percent of U.S. consumers will be decorating their homes or yards this Halloween. If you’re among this group and want to keep expenses down, tap into your imagination rather than buy expensive items that you pull out only once a year.

“You can turn an old white sheet into a hanging or flying ghost in your tree,” says Woroch. “Cut out black bats to tape along your front door from black construction paper.” Total cost: nothing but your time. This DIY approach is especially appealing if you have children who enjoy crafts.

Or, budget for one stand-out item to purchase rather than doing up the entire home, says Ellison. And if you have stuff from last year, dust it off and bring it out. This is a fun holiday, not a competition. Resist the urge to compete with neighbors.

Free-to-cheap candy

One of the more affordable elements of the season is trick-or-treating. The NRF report found that 67 percent of Americans planned to hand out candy this year. According to statistics gathered by Wilstar, the per-household spend for it was around $25 in 2021. When you’re counting pennies, this can be just one more financial stressor.

While you can dim the lights and pretend you’re not at home, you have a few different options to minimize the cost.

  • Redeem your credit card rewards. If you have a little cash back banked, this is a great time to redeem your rewards. For example, if you have a Capital One card, you can set the app so your rewards are automatically redeemed every time you earn a preset amount, starting at $25.
  • Buy in bulk. The best deals are often at warehouse club stores, says Woroch. Go online and choose what you want in advance. If you don’t have a membership but a friend does, ask them to pick it up for you.
  • Use dollar store coupons. Dollar stores are always inexpensive, but you can lower the cost further by taking advantage of the coupons, says Ellison. A large bag of popular candy costing $10 can be whittled down to $8 with a coupon, putting your household spend well below the national average .
  • Wait until the last minute. Consider buying candy the day before Halloween or even that morning. Many grocery stores and drugstores will mark down prices on seasonal merchandise, says Woroch, often allowing you to save between 50 percent and 70 percent off. You may end up with a big bag of mints instead of the most desirable Halloween candy, but you’ll enjoy the sweet savings.

Bottom line

Out of all the seasonal celebrations, Halloween should be the one with the least financial pressure. Yes, it comes with some costs if you choose to participate, but by using your cash and credit cards carefully, you can start November without any additional debt. Then you can start preparing for the next batch of fall and winter holidays.

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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