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Halloween on a budget

Halloween spending is on the rise. In fact more people decorate their houses, host parties and treat their little goblins and ghouls to treats than ever before. But a spooky Halloween can be had on a budget too.

Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices oozing.

Costume swapping
Robin Rivers, national project director of National Costume Swap Day Canada, imported the idea of costume swapping from a woman in Seattle who started a green Halloween movement in the United States. Rivers decided to give the idea a trial run in Comox, N.S., where she lived with her kids and husband. It went so well that this year they went national, based out of their new home in Halifax.

Rivers is an enthusiastic swapper. "I have two kids and we are Halloween junkies around here. I went and priced the costumes and we will probably save $40 or more this year by swapping them, not to mention all the resources we're saving by doing it."

The way it works is simple. First, look up the nearest swap location on the National Costume Swap Day website. Then a few days before the swap or on the day of the swap itself, bring a used Halloween costume into the location nearest you. The person running the swap will give you a ticket for your costume that you redeem for another costume on the day of the swap.

Because Rivers secured sponsorship from UsedEverywhere.com she is able to provide posters, support and other materials free of charge to groups interested in hosting a swap. And even if you miss National Costume Swap Day, you can still host your own informal swap.

Candy on a budget
For people who like to shop online, The Candy Warehouse ships treats anywhere in North America and with items like caramel corn priced at $10.50 for 70 packets, you can get quite a bit of treating done on a budget without ever setting foot in the candy aisle of your local big box store.

Get creative
We spoke to two Halloween enthusiasts for their best creative money-saving tips:

Decorating: "Halloween is my most favourite holiday because there is absolutely no pressure. You can just buy candy and enjoy other's hard work or you can decorate to the extreme and have everyone 'oh' and 'ah' over your display," says Carrie Homuth, who lives with her husband and children in Victoria, B.C. "I don't believe in buying a lot of decorations, but have had great success making large spiders using duct tape, a milk jug and black pipe insulation. We light up the inside of the milk jugs and use black duct tape to create a jack o' lantern look."

Nilufer Erdebil, who lives in Ottawa with her two young sons, says the 'tried and true' never gets tired: "I get my guys to make mini ghosts to hang in trees and in the windows by taking a tissue and scrunching it up. Then we place it in the middle of a second tissue and tie a string around the scrunched up portion. The scrunched up portion becomes the head of the ghost, and we put a face on the ghost with a marker."

Costumes: "We've had groups of people go out dressed in all green -- 'gangrene' or 'gang green,'" says Homuth. "Some simple costumes we've used for school [include] covering your clothes in blank 'Hello my name is' stickers from the dollar store and you're an identity crisis, or tying packages of Smarties to your pants for 'little miss smarty pants.' I believe Halloween is meant to be creative and cheap."

If you're not a do-it-yourselfer, the best way to save money on Halloween is to wait until it's too late. If you shop for next Halloween the day after this year's fright night, you'll save a bundle and have all the fun you want -- next year.

Stephanie Farrington is a Canadian writer living in North Adams, Mass.

-- Posted October 26, 2012
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