Halloween trick or treating
With the economy tighter than it's been in decades, I bet you'd like to save a little money this Halloween. With a little creative thinking, it's entirely possible to do just that.

Get Crafty! 
You absolutely do not have to buy a prepackaged costume for your kids. Last year, we took a clear plastic garbage bag, cut out a couple of holes at the bottom for legs, filled it with colorful balloons and my daughter went as a bag of jelly beans. She looked great. The year before that, my 12-year-old son pulled off a great Will Ferrell in Anchorman by taking a red blazer from my closet and putting on a cheap wig.

The National Retail Federation says the top three costumes this year are expected to be a princess, a pirate and Spider-Man—all things you can easily put together at home, says Amanda Formaro, founder of the crafts magazine FamilyCorner.com.

  • A princess dress can easily be fashioned out of a little fabric from a discount retail store if you have even basic sewing skills, or you can even use hot glue since it will only be worn for a few hours. Then, just attach a piece of tulle to a cone hat made out of cardboard, and make a wand out of tinfoil.

  • The pirate costume is equally easy and inexpensive if your kid has a striped shirt and a pair of black pants. Just add a bandanna, an eye patch made out of black fabric and a cardboard sword.

  • And for Spider-Man, your best bet is the movie-themed pajamas, if you have them, or a little face paint on a red, long-sleeved T-shirt. "Whenever you're making a costume out of something that's just hanging around, it sparks your kids' creative sides and really makes it a lot more fun," says Pattie Donham-Wilkinson, craft expert for the Lifetime Network.

If You Have to Spend, Spend Wisely 
Sometimes you just don't have the time—or the patience—for a DIY project. I know how it goes. But if you're going to buy a costume, at least head to the thrift store. "Thrift stores are an amazing place to find costumes, believe it or not, because people will buy $30 or $40 costumes and then give them to Goodwill. You can usually find them for anywhere from $1 to $4," explains Formaro. They're also a great source for costume jewelry, shoes and even fabric. You can buy a shirt or dress for a couple dollars and cut it up for the material.

Use What You Have
Your kids don't need a special container to carry their haul. A pillowcase or paper shopping bag does the job just as well as a $5 plastic pumpkin. As for decorations, you likely have a good supply of art supplies around the house. All it takes is a little construction paper, some markers or paint and a pair of scissors to mimic the decorations you'd find in a store. Kids will have fun drawing pumpkins for the windows or making cardboard into a graveyard for the front yard. And think about what's lying around the house from other holidays that you could put to work. White twinkle lights work just as well for Halloween as they do for Christmas or New Year's.

Don't Splurge on Candy
You can actually save a lot of money if you buy your Halloween candy in bulk, not only in stores like Costco or Sam's Club, but online at websites like OrientalTrading.com or TheOnlineCandyShop.com. Even if you don't need a whole big bag for yourself, you can buy one and split it with a friend or neighbor. Before you start shopping, do what I did and search online for candy coupons. Couponing is back with a bang because of the downturn in the economy, but these days some of the best deals are online rather than in your Sunday circulars.

Finally, I know I'm not the only parent on the planet who would be grateful if everyone gave each child just one piece of candy—and I don't mean a jumbo one. If you can answer the door for each group of trick-or-treaters instead of putting out a big bowl so they can freely dig in, you'll control how much they take and how much you spend. You'll also keep a lid on dental bills.

More ways to have a spook-tacular Halloween!


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