There may be no> way to avoid buying an Iron Man costume this Halloween, but at least you can do it on the cheap. Even as Americans say they plan to spendmore than $66 on costumes, candy and other Halloween gear this year, according to the National Retail Federation up 18% over last year new savings tactics can help keep costs from bubbling over budget.
People are expected to participate more in the holiday this year, with more saying they plan to wear a costume (up 21%), carve a pumpkin (up 9.5%), visit a haunted house or decorate their home, according to the NRF.
Still, retailers are running scared, shaken by slow winter holiday sales and early discounts, experts say. Sugar and cocoa prices both hit record highs earlier this year, but candy-makers and grocery stores have eaten most of the cost increases to stay competitive, says Philip Gorahm, an equity analyst for Morningstar. On the costume racks, leftovers from last year have stores lowering coupon minimums, offering discounts on purchases of as little as $25 instead of last year s $50, says Sok Verdery, the founder of CouponShack.
Retailers fears have also led to bigger discounts earlier in the season, a boon for deal hunters. Here s how to cut costs on three big Halloween expenses.
Average 2010 projected budget: $23.37 (up 13% from 2009)
Newly popular, group-buying sites have gotten into the spirit, offering vouchers worth a 50% discount at Halloween sites and local stores. Groupon recently offered Los Angeles residents $25 of in-store credit at Halloween Club for $12, and LivingSocial users could pay $15 for $30 at HalloweenExpress.com. Payment certificates can often be paired with coupon codes, too.
To maximize savings on costumes, browse the clearance section, Verdery says. Each year, manufacturers typically come out with a new version of pirate costumes, princess dresses and other costumes. Last year s silver Gatsby Girl adult flapper costume is on clearance for $30 at BuyCostumes.com, less than half the price of this year s nearly identical one in black, which costs $70.
Average projected budget: $18.66 (up 28%)
It s a great year for cheap pumpkins. Farmers across the country have reported good pumpkin harvests, which means they need to clear their fields. The average pumpkin costs $4.33 this season, down 10% from last year, according to the Department of Agriculture.
To stretch your budget, think seasonal rather than Halloween. Garden stores continue to cut prices on on chrysanthemums, decorative kale and other fall annuals, which may be 50% off by now, says Susan Littlefield, the horticultural editor for the National Gardening Association. For seasonal d cor through Thanksgiving, just add a few cheap hay bales and some winter squash. (You can also repurpose the hay for yard mulch and the squash for eating, she says.)
If you re in the market for a cackling bat or an animated coffin for the front yard, many of the same group vouchers for costumes can also be used on decorations.
Average projected budget: $20.29 (up 13%)
For chocolates alone, Halloween is the biggest-selling season, with 90 million pounds sold, according to market researcher Nielsen. But while sugar and cacao prices have been on the rise, consumers are unlikely to feel the pinch until the economy improves, Gorahm says. The lag between purchase and manufacturing delays price increases, but stores are also more likely to use candy as a loss leader to pull in consumers this time of year.
To save, look for print-at-home deals, says Stephanie Nelson, the founder of CouponMom.com. Sites such as Redplum and SmartSource.com have twice as many candy coupons this year than they did in 2009, she says, including one for $1 off three Hershey-brand snack-size bags and another for $1 off Hershey s Bliss chocolates. Paired with store sales -- like Rite Aid $5 rebate on a Hershey s candy purchase of $15 or more -- it s easy to walk away with a full bag.