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How to Save on Halloween Candy

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Burning Jack O' LanternAs the sugar-fueled, much anticipated mischievous holiday of Halloween draws near, frugal families are trying to figure out how they can save money on Halloween candy. Unfortunately for the money conscious, this year’s Halloween falls on the worst possible day, a Saturday. A Saturday Halloween means trick or treaters will be out earlier and longer than if it were on a workday and that means there will be more ghosts, pumpkins, and football player zombies wandering up to your door asking for candy.

However, if you’re smart about how you approach Halloween, you can save yourself some a little bit of money and every little bit counts.

Don’t Be Home

The simplest way to save money on Halloween is to be somewhere else. :) Turn off your outdoor lights, go see a dinner and a movie, and don’t give out any candy. Nothing requires you to stay home and give out candy, so if you really want to save money, don’t give any out! Heck, you don’t even have to leave, just don’t answer the door. If you want to participate, wonderful, but you don’t have to.

Recycle Candy

(This only works if you have children) When I was a kid, we used to “recycle candy.” As a safety precaution, my sister and I would trick or treat when it was still light out, usually between 5 – 7 PM. We would go out trick or treating and head home once our baskets were full. We’d sort through the candy in the living room, pick out the ones we really liked, and put the rest in the bucket our parents used to give out to trick or treaters visiting our house.

As kids, we loved doing this because there were candies we received but didn’t like. I was never a fan of primarily sugar based candies so those always went into the bucket. A lot of the generic candies weren’t very good either so they usually went back into the bucket (think of the lollipops in clear plastic you would get from the doctor’s office). If my sister and I weren’t going to eat them, it was better to give them back out than throw them away.

Buy Cheaper Candy

Sugar based candies are significantly cheaper than almost any candy that contains chocolate. You can buy sugar based candies or buy a mixture of sugar and chocolate based candies. Avoid the desire to get “good” candy because it’s not a contest. You don’t get anything, except for visitors, by getting a reputation of having “good” candy

One other strategy you can employ is to get a mixture of cheap and less cheap candy and give the better stuff to the better costumes or your neighbors’ children. The random kid won’t remember who gave them a snack-size snickers bar, but your neighbor’s kid might (plus they’re your neighbors, you probably want to be nicer to them anyway).

Give Out Candy Yourself

When my sister and I would trick or treat, the perfect house was the one where the owner would “let us pick our own candy” from the bucket. We would invariably take several pieces and always the good ones (duh! kids aren’t stupid). If you want to budget your candy, you’ll want to give it out yourself and be smart about pacing yourself as not to run out.

It’s OK to Run Out

I think a lot of homes buy way too much candy for fear of running out. Don’t be afraid of running out, it happens, and the kids won’t remember or care. If you have bad candy or run out, they’ll just go to the next house and forget all about you. If you run out, leave a note outside and don’t answer the door, unless you want to see the costumes and deliver a personal apology (that they will forget).

Those are just a few tips we’ve used over the years to save a little cash on Halloween candy. Do you have any good tips I haven’t mentioned? Please let us all know in the comments.

(Photo: euart)

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26 Responses to “How to Save on Halloween Candy”

  1. lostAnnfound says:

    I really like the recycle idea. It makes sense to do that instead of just throwing it away.

    We used to split up (one stay home and give out candy and one take the kids out) or go to a friend’s Halloween party for families. But since the kids are now teens and going to their own parties or dances on Halloween, we go out now. It is our anniversary (22 years this year) so it’s nice to have some couple time at a dinner out or a movie.

  2. Nansuelee says:

    Wow, I save funds on candy by watching sale flyers and using coupons. I look at sites such as this to get ideas on how to save but these ideas are just cheap and in poor taste as far as I am concerned. I guess if you are too cheap to buy candy, it would be better to leave the house than just not answer the door. But wouldn’t you spend as much on dinner and a movie as you would on candy?

    • Jeff says:

      Maybe the point is NOT the amount of money spent, but the fact that they have other things they would rather do than hand out candy all evening to a bunch of troublemakers, or maybe they are elderly and cant physically be at the door all evening handing out candy, or maybe….just maybe they dont want anything to do with a holiday which is all about Satan!??

      • Wayne says:

        HAHA… Since when is Halloween about Satan? It was always to scare off Demons… not celebrate them! So all kids that participate are trouble makers? SAD. You are very sad.

  3. Give less amounts but better quality candy. It’s perfectly OK to cut back on amounts — the kids will have plenty by the time they get home anyway.

    Also look at the cost per piece. Some candy bags have a lot fewer pieces than you might think. Pick up the bag and read the serving label. The quantities will vary quite a bit even among bags that appear to be the same size!

    And if you would rather err on the side of “too much candy,” then pick out candy that will carry over to later use: Snack size candy bars can go in a lunch box, candy corn can be a treat at Thanksgiving …

  4. Jeremy Olexa says:

    heh, I like your first point. “Save money on Halloween by spending money and going out” =D

  5. MICHELE says:

    I always buy more candy than we use. Around here, most Halloween has set hours, usually 4 to 6 or 6 to 8 pm, so you don’t have millions of kids coming and coming and never ending all night. I take a certain amount of pleasure in listening to the kids go down the drive telling thier friends, “they gave me two! They have real chocolate!” Halloween is supposed to be fun. If you don’t want to participate then keep your light off and don’t buy candy. There are plenty of people who give out candy. I just can’t begrudge a child one day a year like halloween. I set a budget, usually $40, look for sales, buy a little extra cuz my 83-year old dad really likes Milky ways and 3 musketeers, and when its gone, or time is up, I stop. But usually I don’t run out.

    We had a new development of McMansions go up the next street over from ours, there were people giving out candy that would literally ask, what street you live on, and if they were not from the new development, they would tell them to go back to “their own neighborhood” despite the fact that their kids were making the rounds on our streets. I can’t imagine telling a kid that, but thats just me. Its one day, if you can’t spare the money, then don’t do it.

  6. Neil says:

    Another option – live downtown. There’s kids in my neighbourhood, I know it, I see loads of them at the park during the summer. But they don’t trick or treat (or maybe they just drive out to the suburbs to do so, not sure). I haven’t seen a trick or treater since I moved out of my parents house (and they saw precious few after moving to a somewhat more central neighbourhood than where I grew up).

    • zapeta says:

      I’d second this. We live in an apartment complex with a ton of kids, but apparently they must not trick or treat because nobody has come to our door.

  7. Kevin Cesarz says:

    All good ideas. But if you give out crappy candy you run the risk of getting TP’d (toilet-papered) the next night. Trick or treat, remember.

  8. You don’t want to be this frugal all the time, do you?

    To me, frugal means not wasting money. It doesn’t mean ‘be stingy.’

  9. Caitlin says:

    Seems to me you’d spend more going out for an evening than you’d spend on candy (unless you “go out” to McDonald’s and eat off the dollar menu, or something).

    I do like the idea of getting a mix of “good” candy and “cheaper” candy if you want to save a few bucks. I usually buy the “good stuff”, though, since I get to eat any that’s left over (makes nice little lunch snacks), and I don’t want crappy candy any more than a kid does.

  10. Glen2Gs says:

    Prepare Small Sacks..Don’t give out all Candy…Instead give out some of those lunch size bags of Chips…May not be any cheaper…But the Parents will thank you.

  11. Every year I buy candy for trick or treaters, but I never get any! I think about 2 kids came by last year. So I just end of bringing the candy to school and giving it my students. I buy the good stuff though! ;)

  12. Nicole says:

    If somehow you bring too much candy home to give out, (you know “recycling”) give some to your child to bring to school for their friends. (Unless they would like to eat it of course!)

  13. Nurture a reputation as the crazy family that lives in the haunted house. That’ll keep the kids away.

    The recycling makes a lot of sense. It’s definitely better than throwing it out.

  14. Pam McCormick says:

    Okay no one will like this but why do we let our kids go out to strangers houses( we don’t really know all our neighbors well enough to be safe) and take candy? in my opinion it is not necessary.Most kids don’t need the sugar/calories and it is a waste of money plus could be dangerous.If this really needs to be celebrated then a party at school or neighborhood would be enough.Country of using our resources poorly and tons of excesses this is just one example.

    • Laura says:

      Pam, did you not trick or treat when you were a kid?

      have you forgotten this is something kids look forward to every year?

    • Sarah in Alaska says:

      I’m so disappointed! I’m not going to steal your kids. I just really enjoy having kids around, seeing them having fun, and sharing a treat with them.

      If you don’t want them getting treats, have them collect for UNICEF instead. I’m more than happy to give them a quarter instead.

  15. Pam McCormick says:

    I was pretty sure no one was going to see my point but to answer the question yes Laura I did trick/treat as a kid did not like it then any better than now.Thought it was a waste of time and resources.Sarah in Alaska I actually like the idea of UNICEF collection to be the theme of Halloween.To address the safety issue, you may not want to steal or hurt the children and enjoy having them around to share a treat but it is a very risky behavior none the less.In a safe setting as I said before(school,church,block party)but not just random trick or treating.

  16. Laura says:

    wow.

    my condolences.

    if i had kids, i’d have no qualms walking them around my neighborhood. i know all of my neighbors…we took the time to get to know the majority of the neighborhood over the past year. i can see a safety issue if you live in an unsafe area (hell, i live in Baltimore City. i know unsafe areas.) but if you take the time to get to know the people around you, it’s not as unsafe as you’re making it out to be.

  17. Patrick says:

    HAHA. I love the first one. I have actually noticed that I am always buying too much candy. For some reason, there doesn’t seem to be as many kids trick-or-treating as when I was kid (not too long). I will just have to make sure to buy less this year.

  18. Gui says:

    And another good idea is to get the money that you would spend on the candies, go find a homeless person and share a McDonalds meal with them.

    You will do the homeless person good. It will be the best Halloween they could ever get. The kids who knock on your door will get less sugar rush. And you will feel good too for having helped the person who really needs.

  19. Chris says:

    Every year seems to bring less and less trick or treaters. I always end up with a lot of candy left even though I only bought two bags.

  20. hoht says:

    Great post Jim, I like the first option. When I was little my parents use to turn off all the lights so that the kids don’t come to our house. However, as I got older, I started to give candy even though my parents still don’t. Only until recently have they explain why they don’t. They say that Halloween brings evil spirits in to the area. Hilarious.

  21. Kaye says:

    Wow I am SO disappointed in this article, people shouldn’t be encouraged to boycott an exciting and fun holiday. Sure if you want to be known as an uptight grouch who has no spirit go ahead and shut your lights out but just know you are dampening the spirits of children and people who enjoy being fun. I’m sure everyone can afford some dollar store candy or even a can of pop ( yes my kids have gotten cans of pop before). It’s fine if you just can’t afford it and not everyone can but don’t encourage it among everyone as a money saver and suggest spending the money on a regular movie night, that’s just selfish and Scrooge-like.
    Sincerely, one of the many people who supports ALL festivities


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