Give your kids an awesome Halloween on the cheap
Jar o’lanterns are a cleaner and quicker alternative to pumpkin carving
Photo by Saraline Grenier
When stores start preparing for yet another holiday, parents everywhere begin thinking, “Aw, man, does this mean I have to spend more money on a bunch of stupid crap? I have bills to pay, dammit!” Don’t be dismayed if your kids are looking at Halloween displays with wide eyes and getting excited, though. You can still give them an awesome Halloween and have enough money left over for a couple of beers.
Have you been looking at flimsy costumes that your kids won’t even be able to play with after Halloween because they’re so crappy they’ll just fall apart? Have you been saying, “Forty dollars! Are they out of their minds?” while looking at these costumes? Then it’s time to get creative and make one yourself.
Can’t sew? Neither can I! That’s why I keep an eye out for boxes in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Last year, my son was a bulldozer. This year he wants to be a bumblebee Transformer that actually transforms. He’ll probably end up looking more like Marjorie the Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock, but whatever — he’s four. He won’t notice.
If you don’t sew or make things out of boxes, don’t worry, you’re still not up shit creek without a paddle. You can just do what you used to do for your own costumes before you had kids: get some wacky outfits at the thrift store and accessorize with dollar-store merchandise. Good news, kids: you all get to be rock stars for Halloween.
Don’t shell out for an Addams family-style makeover of your home. You can have a spooky porch, balcony, window or door without dipping into your kids’ piggy bank. The obvious answer, of course, is to make the decorations yourself. You can make it a fun project for the kids, too. Are your kids too little to carve a jack o’lantern? If you don’t want to be stuck cleaning out pumpkin guts by yourself when your kids get bored, make some jar o’lanterns. Take some jars, have your kids paint them any colours that they want, and then glue some construction paper jack o’lantern faces on them or draw on them with a marker. Put a lit candle inside and admire your kids’ handiwork.
Did you know that if you take your kids door to door on Halloween, people will just give them candy for free? I shit you not. We usually stick to the places that have Halloween decorations, because people who put up Halloween decorations are expecting trick or treaters.
The thing is, the trick or treaters are also expecting you to hand out candy, especially if you made some of the awesome decorations that I mentioned earlier. How do you do that cheaply? You can’t really make treats, because the other parents will think that you’re trying to poison their children, and they will throw your homemade treats where they belong: in the garbage. What is a parent on a budget supposed to do?
First of all, don’t go overboard with the candy. You need to know roughly how many children you expect at your door. If you live in an apartment building, you might not get any, so you don’t need a large amount of candy. If you have a door that is accessible from the street, you’ll probably get more. Try to remember how many kids came last year. If you’re in a new neighbourhood, ask your neighbours if they remember. Some people probably laugh at those little bags with 12 little chocolate bars in them, but if you only had two trick or treaters last year, then they’re probably perfect for you.
But what if you do get a lot of mooches showing up on your doorstep? Then get the big bags of cheap candy. If you feel like a jerk giving one little candy to each kid, then throw two or three cheap things into their bags. Remember, these kids are still going to get a lot of candy from a lot of other people, so it doesn’t really matter how much candy you’re giving them in the grand scheme of things. But for god’s sake, don’t buy the candy too early. You or someone else in your family will just end up eating it all before Halloween and then you’ll have to buy more.
If you run out of candy on the big night, you can turn your lights off and put your decorations away. However, when my mom was a kid, they would get more than 100 trick or treaters at their house, and my mom and her siblings would give away some of the candy they had collected while trick or treating. I have a friend who also does this with her son, and he doesn’t mind. He gives away the candy that he doesn’t want, anyway. ■