How To Have A Cheap & Happy Halloween

Our family went for our Friday night walk at Target last weekend.

Once we entered the store, I just couldn’t help but notice all the Halloween decorations displayed at the front.

I started to feel really warm and fuzzy inside.

College

Growing up in Vietnam, I didn’t know much about Halloween before coming to America in 2005.

When I was in college, Halloween meant lots of parties, drinking, and costumes on campus (for other people).

Halloween always rolled around the time when I had many mid-term exams and papers due.

I’m saying this at the risk of sounding like a hermit, but I have never gone to any Halloween parties.

The main reason is that I don’t want to spend money on a costume.

I remember at one point in my sophomore year, I got invited to a Halloween party by a guy I kind of liked.

Part of me wanted to go, but part of me was thinking about how I didn’t have any costumes and didn’t want to part with my money for one.

Although he insisted that a tiara or something simple would suffice. I just turned down his gesture.

I was also too shy to show up at a crowded party looking funny among a bunch of drunken college kids. As you can already guess, that story has no happy ending. But I don’t even know if I regret that decision.

Post-college

As I’ve warmed up to the festivity in America, I’ve always wanted to buy some decorations for my own place.

When I was renting with other roommates, they’d usually get something really simple for the holiday. I always told myself I’d get lots of Halloween decorations and some pumpkins once I had my own home.

The tiger costume I got for Baby FAF. And as you can already guess, this is not Baby FAF ;). Source: Amazon.com

Mr. FAF and I have been talking about taking Baby FAF pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating.

I’m pretty sure our son has no idea what Halloween is since he barely talks and just came back from China four months ago.

He doesn’t have any favorite character since the only thing we let him watch is random ABC songs on YouTube.

He doesn’t eat candy and doesn’t even know candy exists because we don’t let him eat sweets.

The idea of having Baby FAF enjoying a happy Halloween is probably mainly for us.

We want our son to experience the American culture as many other American kids do.

We want him to grow up knowing what it’s like to be an American and to have the childhood memories that he can share with his friends.

When Baby FAF turned one, I bought him a tiger costume from Amazon for $13.96 (the price has since increased).

I put the costume on him, took a couple of photos to send to Mr. FAF and our family, and then put the costume away.

It was a bit cold at Halloween, so we didn’t go outside at all. I was afraid that our son would get sick.

The Mid-Autumn Festival

The moon fairy who lives on the moon (姮娥 in Chinese – Chị Hằng in Vietnamese)

I’ve always associated Halloween with the Mid-Autumn festival, a harvest festival celebrated by the Vietnamese and Chinese.

The festival takes place on the 15th of the 8th month of the lunar calendar.

According to the Gregorian calendar, it’s usually at the end of September or early October when the moon is full, bright, and beautiful. This year (2017), it was on October 4th.

When I was in Vietnam, I grew up looking forward to the mid-autumn festival every year.

There would be one particular street in my city displaying and selling cartoon character masks, star lanterns, animal-shaped lanterns, and other other fun toys a kid can dream of.

Although my parents didn’t make a lot, they always took me out to those streets to celebrate the festival before I started first grade.

Even when I grew up, our whole family (grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins) would usually get together and enjoy mooncake at the moon festival.

Those nice memories have stayed with me all those years. And now I want Baby FAF to have the same and even better experiences with a similar festival in America – Halloween.

The Mid-Autumn Festival street would look something like this. And no, this is not me. 

 

We also eat mooncake to celebrate the Moon Festival. 

The dilemma

I have been asking Mr. FAF what we will be doing for Halloween. On the one hand, I want to take Baby FAF to a pumpkin patch so we can take some nice photos of him.

I also want to buy a warm and cute costume for him so that we can take him trick-or-treating no matter how cold the weather is. I want to decorate our house with all the cute, pretty, and fancy-looking items I can find. Our house will be all orange for the holiday.

On the other hand, I don’t want to give in to the culture of commercialized holidays: buying stuff to celebrate festivity. In other words, I don’t want to drop $100 on a holiday that lasts one day.

In the weeks leading to Halloween, we would see all kinds of Halloween decorations, lights, and props, from ghosts, tombs, skeletons to beautifully carved pumpkins. Every time I looked at our neighbors’ houses, I felt a bit happier feeling the festivity floating around in the neighborhood.

There’s no rule in our community that we have to make our house look pretty for the occasion. And many families don’t do that, so I don’t feel too guilty about enjoying my neighbors’ creativity.

Sometime I also wonder how much my neighbors spent on their props and the electricity bill that month. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, Americans were expected to spend $8.4 billion on Halloween candy and costumes in 2016 (or $82.93 per shopper).

If we had invested $82.93 in a 5% index fund at Vanguard for 10 years, it would be $1,178.17 in 10 years or $2,962.20 in 20 years. If course, sometimes we just need to live in the moment and enjoy what life has to offer. Converting all of our purchases into investment will not make us happy all the time.

However, this is to show that celebrating Halloween costs money. And despite all the joy it can bring to us and our kids, we need to budget carefully to not let the joy get in the way of our long-term goals.

Our Halloween purchases

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Since this is our first year as a family and our first time celebrating Halloween with Baby FAF, Mr. FAF wanted to buy some new items from Target.

After a lot of back and forth, we ended up spending $25 on a lion costume for Baby FAF, $10 on a spider prop, and $15 on a pumpkin light ($50 in total).

I told Mr. FAF that I can try making a costume for Baby FAF (which I wasn’t even sure about since I’m not good at making handcrafts).

But Mr. FAF said that we can afford to buy something new for our son. After all, he was away from us for more than a year.

I eventually agreed. I will save the costume for our future children.

We can also use the prop spider and pumpkin light for the next Halloween. Those are one-time purchases that will provide value for years to come.

Also, about five months ago, I found a wooden ghost prop on the curbside and took it home. Now it’s also part of our Halloween decorations.

Halloween at work

After I started my first ever full-time job about two years ago, I’ve known what it’s like to enjoy the holiday together with my colleagues. Our office has a box of Halloween items that we use every year.

Something as simple as a fake spider or a straw-man can make the office look so cozy and festive. I usually get a couple of props to put at my desk and feel the festivity in the air. It just makes me smile.

I heard that before I started my job, my employer held a contest every year to see which team could decorate their corner the best. The winners would win a gift card (I’m not sure how much, but it was something!).

Last year, we had a costume contest for the most creative costume. A colleague with a hand-made dinosaur costume won the $50 prize. We also had some Halloween treats to enjoy during the show and judges’ deliberation. It was a fun experience.

Conclusion

If someone offered me $10,000 now but wanted to take away all the memories that I had about the Mid-Autumn Festival, I wouldn’t take it. If it were $100,000, I might rethink my decision. At the end of the day, the joy that we had during our childhood can be priceless.

My parents were struggling financially when I was little. But they still took the time to take me out to see the full moon and all the nice toys displayed on the street.

One time, I saw a neighbor make a lantern out of an empty Coke can for his daughter and asked my mom to make one for me. It was surprisingly one of my most favorite toys during my childhood.

It wasn’t as fancy as all the electric lanterns for sale. It didn’t play the nice music. It was lit up by a tiny candle. But it was made by my mom with love. And no one else would take the time to make a hand-made lantern for me. You can see the instructions here.

We might be debating whether to buy Baby FAF a costume now because he does’t know what Halloween is. But once he’s older, we will make sure to let him experience one of the festivals that any kid would enjoy and remember forever.

And next year, we will try to plan our celebration better by trying to find free and/or hand-me-down items. I will also try to use my limited art skills to make a Halloween costume for Baby FAF just like how my mom hand-made a lantern from a Coke can for me.

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23 thoughts on “How To Have A Cheap & Happy Halloween”

  • Thankfully no one can take your memories away from you (well not guarantee anyways). They’re great memories and obviously you don’t need anything fancy to feel all fuzzy. Baby FAF won’t remember it probably but you’ll have photos and video because yes it is for you. I think that’s the biggest plus about being a parent – you get to make new memories with your little ones.

    • “Thankfully no one can take your memories away from you (well not guarantee anyways).”

      So true! This is totally random, but you just remind me of all the Korean dramas that I watched where the main actor just lost memory at the beginning of the movie and gained it back at the end @_@

  • My birthday is days before Halloween, so I think I’m a bit numb to it’s fun. But I will say that my kids remind me of the natural joy that it’s all about.

    We try to purchase used costumes, although this year didn’t manage that. If you love decorating for it, try to add a bit of room in your November budget and buy some decor off the sales racks. Plus, go for some decorations that are more for Fall and just a few to add in to make it look like Halloween.

    I’ll be honest, I don’t decorate except for Christmas. But that’s just my personality. My daughter is going to be the one that goes crazy with all the decor ?

    • Hehe your daughter sounds so cute! I think I will buy a costume for Baby FAF after Halloween is over and will save it for next year. Buying decor off season is a great idea! I’m gonna stock up on some Xmas decor on sale too! 😀

  • Hahaha I like your $100K comment.

    I agree that there are ways to make memories for cheap.

    For example, for Halloween, we buy our decor from the Dollar store. Our pumpkin is also one of those electrical ones so we get to use the same one every year ???
    And this year, we are skipping the costumes and only buying candy.
    We can get away with this, because the kiddo is only 15 months old, and doesn’t know or care much about Halloween. We will see how it will work out in the future.

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    • Ahh we bought an electric pumpkin too. We can’t eat it, but we will be able to keep it forever (hopefully). Forever Halloween!

  • I don’t decorate or celebrate Halloween, but I do like to carve a jack’o lantern on most Halloween. It’s really fun. Last weekend, I took my kids to a farm, we went on a wagon ride to the field and pick a pumpkin and see the farm animals. The kids really love it. If there’s a farm close to the DC area, you should take baby FAF.

    • Aww your family trip sounds so sweet! I didn’t know there was a farm close to DC. I’ll look it up and inform Mr. FAF. Thanks for the suggestion, Leo! 🙂

  • I’ve gone as the same thing (Quail Man from the cartoon show Doug…if you aren’t precisely 30 chances are you never even watched this show lol) since my freshman year of high school. At this point it’s a tried-and-true classic. Predictable, but awesome.

    The best thing is I’ve not put much money into it in the past ten years when I got a new vest/shirt to wear. Everything can be purchased for cheap at a thrift store, so I think the whole ensemble probably ran me $20 or so.

    At the end of the day making memories is what it’s all about, and even $50 a year is a small price to pay for some great memories. 🙂

    • Haha I haven’t seen the cartoon show Doug before, and I’m 30 😀

      $20 is a great price for an ensemble! I have to admit part of the Target trip was also bc of laziness. Target is about a 5 min drive from our house while the closest Goodwill is 20 mins away >_< Laziness costs money! Will try to work on that 😀

  • We are going to have a very cheap Halloween this year because our kid does not like Halloween. He wouldn’t mind skipping the whole holiday altogether. We tried to have him dressed up and getting into the spirit when he was younger, but he just wasn’t interested. He likes Christmas a lot more.
    We always get a pumpkin and carve it, though.
    Going to a pumpkin patch is a great idea. It’ll give you a chance to enjoy the last few days before winter arrives. You don’t have to spend much.

    • RB40 Jr. and I share a similar interest. I like Xmas too although I didn’t grow up celebrating it. It reminds me of the Chinese New Year’s (which I did grow up celebrating) with all the red color and the festivity. I have never exchanged Xmas gifts with Mr. FAF because he thinks it’s a waste of money @_@

      Carving a pumpkin sounds like fun! We have never done it before. Maybe we should give it a try. Thanks for the suggestion, Joe! ^.^

  • I think it’s so, so sweet that you want Baby FAF to experience Halloween, even if you don’t want to spend the money. Sometimes experiences are totally worth it.

    Halloween was my favorite holiday actually, because you get to be creative! I’ve never bought a costume from the store, but I’d go to thrift stores and piece things together. Or make myself something. And as a good compromise, there are always lots of kids costumes at thrift stores, so you can save money that way.

    • Wow you must be creative! Part of the reason why I’m hesitant to make a costume for Baby FAF is because I can’t think of anything I can make that’d look nice. We will need to make a trip to the thrift store to get all the holiday purchases. 😀

  • This is our first Halloween with our little one. My wife found some cute clothes so we can dress up as cowboys/cowgirls and walk around the neighborhood looking for treats! All-in- I bet we only spent about $20 for the clothes and some candy!

    • Cowboys/cowgirls costumes sound absolutely adorable! I’m glad you wife found such a great deal for the whole family. We haven’t bought the candy yet but will need to do that soon!

  • My husband and I don’t really celebrate anything, but after we had our son, we contemplated whether or not we wanted to dress up for Halloween. If anything, we would want to do a simple costume (like Charlie Brown) since I agree that decor and costumes can be pricey. This will be my son’s first Halloween, and we still haven’t decided what we want to do. Glad to know that someone else thinks the same way!

    By the way, just found your and Lily’s blogs this past weekend and loving both of your blogs 🙂

    • Charlie Brown would be such a cute costume! I totally agree that decor and costumes can cost a lot, but they don’t have to be.

      I’m glad you found us. And it’s great to have you here! ^.^

  • My sis in law gave us a hand-me down costume, our baby will be a ‘chicken’ and my friends suggested I dress up as a farmer. I have a plaid shirt and rubber boots. She also decorated her house ‘all out’ and she buys the decorations from Walmart on November 1, she says things go down by 75% because they are clearing it out. My fave part of Halloween is buying candy at a discount the day after.

    • Oh my that’s such a great tip! We have a Walmart nearby and will make a trip there to get all the nice items on discount! Yay! Thank you for the great tip! xoxo

  • I think you are on the right track. I have always done what little I do with time and money in consideration. Now that I’m elderly I get out the decorations that I have gotten at garage sales, etc., and feel pretty festive. I have known women to spend hours making a costume that will be worn once unless of course, there are younger children in the family, then it might be worn more often. Kids usually want what they want to be not what an older sibling wanted. You can’t blame merchants for wanting to sell as much as possible, but people don’t have to be gullible and go overboard with their buying.

  • I respect that you think through every purchase and the opportunity cost associated but I was glad to hear you made the purchase. I would agree you will never get back a holiday with a family and you hardly blew the budget. Sometimes in the personal finance community I think frugality is over done. Happy Halloween!

  • We have like a dozen costumes in a box, all were homemade creative ones or bought from goodwill/ after Halloween sales. Check Target the week after Halloween, you can get super cute markdowns costumes candy or decor for like 90% off!

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