Halloween used to be just for kids, but these days, it's a family affair. Spending for Halloween retail exceeded $9 billion last year. That's a lot of costumes and candy, and the amount we spend grows every year.
Why are we so crazy for Halloween? Because it's low on stress and big on fun. Most major holidays are also major work. When you're stressed out about buying gifts, cooking feasts, or making time to see the whole extended family, it can be hard to actually have a good time. But Halloween is easier to enjoy: You can be a little silly or spooky and eat a lot of treats, and that's something the whole family can get excited about — especially if you don't wait until the last minute to prepare.
All Dressed Up
These days, kids and parents are more likely than ever to watch the same movies and TV shows and get the same pop culture references. That makes it easier to get into the spirit of dressing up like your favorite characters and making it a shared parent-child experience.
Thanks to everything from merchandising for popular franchises to a focus on making Halloween a safer, family-oriented holiday, costumes are a must-have for parties and trick-or-treating. But the later you wait to choose your costumes, the more pricey and stressful getting dressed up will be: You won't have time to DIY, and all the popular looks will be sold out.
If your kids aren't in the Halloween spirit yet, get their creative juices flowing. Show them photos from previous years (or even from your own childhood costumes!) to spark fun ideas. You can also talk to them about their favorite animals, books, or even foods to inspire a creative, silly, and affordable way to save money and stand out. If that doesn't work, make a collage with your kids of looks they like, or start a Pinterest board. Raid your closets, check out thrift stores, and give yourself permission to get a little crazy with the craft glue.
Lastly, don't underestimate the power of hand-me-downs. Hop onto Facebook or email to swap costumes pieces from previous years with friends and family. Your sister's kid may not want to be a ballerina again this year, but your daughter could think it's just perfect.
Someplace to Go
While costumes get all of the attention, especially if you have younger kids, there are some other aspects to Halloween that any prepared parent would be remiss to forget. If you think you want to have a party, reach out to other parents from school or the neighborhood now. Spread the work around, let the kids help make decorations, and embrace the Halloween feeling for a full season, not just a single day.
For that party — or just the trick-or-treaters who will be knocking on your door — you will definitely need candy. In a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation in 2017, 95 percent of respondents planned on purchasing Halloween candy. And with each person spending an average of $16.45 on candy, according to Ibotta, that adds up quickly.
To save money, you might as well snag your sweets as soon as they show up in the stores and before they get picked over, especially if you see a sale. Nobody wants to be the house with nothing but raisins and those waxy peanut butter things. Just be sure to stash it somewhere out of sight so it won't mysteriously disappear before October 31!
Parents, lean in to the fun parts of this silly, spooky season. Let it be a chance to have creative fun with your kids. And if you can convince your kids that a family costume theme is cool, absolutely go for it, because the photos of you all decked out in matching outfits could be the highlight of your year.
Martha Smith is the head of consumer and brand marketing at Tophatter, a marketplace that is reimagining discovery commerce for the mobile era. She loves getting the chance to apply her expertise in content, digital media, and social media in a way that helps consumers remember just how fun shopping can be and stumble across products they didn't know they or their friends and family would love.