Little girl having fun on Halloween trick or treat

Little girl in witch costume playing in autumn park. Child having fun at Halloween trick or treat. Kids trick or treating. Toddler kid with jack-o-lantern. Children with candy bucket in fall forest.

It’s almost Halloween. Wanna hear something really scary?

According to various media sources, the average wedding in the United States costs more than $33,000. And that doesn’t even include the rings or the honeymoon.

What’s more, $33 grand is the national average, which also includes places that totally tank the median. Like Utah, where a couple of $20 flower baskets placed in the basketball hoops at the local LDS “cultural hall” is considered a swanky wedding reception.

Conversely, in New York City the average wedding budget can slide north of $76,000.

Truly frightening.

Ah, but wanna hear something even scarier?

According to an email from LendEDU.com, the average American will spend $185.50 on Halloween this year. That figure includes $76.05 for candy, $66.78 for costumes, and $42.67 for decorations.

All that? For All Hallows’ Eve?

Now, I realize that $186 and change is quite a bit less than the $76,000 — or even $33,000 — spent on the average wedding. But at least the latter pays for what is ideally a once-in-a-lifetime event. Halloween, on the other hand, keeps repeating itself. Every. Stinking. Year.

So, do we really want to allow this annual celebration to keep bleeding us dry?

Believe it or not, Halloween is the second-most-expensive holiday of the year. While our October spending habit can’t possibly compete with the $929 average we each plunk down at Christmas, it does beat the per-person average for Thanksgiving ($165.14), Valentine’s Day ($143.56), St. Patrick’s Day ($39.65) and even fireworks on the Fourth of July (less than $3 per person).

But Halloween doesn’t have to be a shock to the pocketbook. In the three areas of spending — decorations, candy and costumes — it’s possible to have a fun Halloween at just a fraction of the national average. Which is why we present to you, our faithful readers, “A Brief Cheapskate’s Guide to Halloween” ...

DECORATIONS

Those folks who go all-out to decorate their yards and homes for Halloween? Yeah, they’re trying too hard. In reality, there’s no need to spend more than a buck or two on decorations that will make your house look creepy — in more ways than one.

For example, when I was a kid, the extent of our Halloween decorations was a bunch of those Kleenex ghosts hanging from our trees and rain gutters. You take a Kleenex tissue, crumple it into a ball, wrap it in another tissue, tie it all up with fishing line, use a marker pen to make two large round eyes and a mouth, and you've got your very own facial tissue ghost.

A box of 120-count Kleenex is roughly $1.59, which works out to less than three cents per ghost.

And the best part is, they come in handy if you catch a cold. Because try blowing your nose on one of those store-bought $50 animatronic zombie decorations.

CANDY

Although I would argue this is the one area where you could splurge, it’s also possible to keep your candy-buying costs down. The key? Don’t succumb to the Halloween-as-popularity-contest mentality.

Sure, all the neighborhood kids love that tool who gives out full-size candy bars. But remember, trick-or-treating is all word-of-mouth, and all that does is attract more ghouls and goblins to your doorstep, which increases your candy costs even more the next year.

It’s an unsustainable holiday model.

My solution? Give out packing peanuts.

Well, not literal packing peanuts, but certainly their food-grade equivalent.

We received another email last week from CandyStore.com titled “Worst Halloween Candy Ranked.” And do you know what is the absolute most disgusting Halloween candy — worse than Necco Wafers, worse than those liquid-filled wax pop bottles, even worse than the dreaded candy corn?

Circus Peanuts, that orange, peanut-shaped marshmallow “candy” that’s like eating foam insulation injected with high-fructose corn syrup.

All you have to do is become known as the house that gives out Circus Peanuts and I guarantee your Halloween candy budget can be trimmed each year until, eventually, you’ve zeroed it out. At some point you won’t have to turn on your porch light anymore. (Which, incidentally, provides even more savings on the power bill.)

COSTUME

Frankly, there’s never a good excuse to buy or rent a Halloween costume. Not when there are so many great do-it-yourself ideas out there. Ideas like:

• Take a black permanent marker and write “Error 404 — Costume Not Found” on a white t-shirt. Nerds (who happen to make up 80 percent of the adult-costume wearers) love that kind of stuff.

• Buy a package of those “Hello, My Name Is …” stickers and write a different name on each sticker. Affix them all over yourself and there you have it: “Identity theft.”

• Take an old t-shirt, write “GO, CEILING!” on the front, then make a pair of simple cheerleader pom poms out of shredded newspaper. Hey, you’re a “Ceiling Fan.”

Of course, if it’s a couple’s costume you need, you could always take two of those small Nerf basketball hoops, attach a bunch of plastic flowers to their nets, affix a hoop to each of your foreheads and — VOILA!

You’re an LDS wedding reception.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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