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Celebrate a Budget-Conscious Halloween

October 31, 2011


Coupons. Why make the exhausting trip to the corner Rite-Aid when you have a Sunday newspaper supplement and a pair of scissors? They don’t call it “clip and save” for nothing. When you think about it, a dollar-off coupon for a bag of fun-size Milky Ways is essentially like handing out cash. And if you run dry on coupons, there’s always the circular for a free storm window consultation. Whether or not the bottomless little candy fiends take advantage of your largesse is completely up to them.

Leftover Carry-Out Ketchup Packets. Look at the ingredients panel on a bottle of ketchup sometime. At Halloween, anything with sugar is fair game. Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile to find a few soy sauce packets for the diabetic kids in the neighborhood.

Sand. You ever see a bunch of kids together in a sandbox? And how much fun they’re having? Don’t tell me they’re not gonna love a generous helping of castle-ready sand, ladled directly into their goodie bags.

Records. Let’s face it—you’ve been planning to take these to a swap meet for years, yet there they still are, next to your cobweb-covered Hot Dogger. What better way to introduce the younger generation to the likes of Tony Orlando and Dawn, Jim Nabors, or Zamfir, Master of the Pan Flute? Explain to any skeptical kids that a record player is like an iPod, only bigger, and therefore better. More adventurous trick-or-treaters can be shown how to play Alice Cooper LPs backward to receive a special Halloween message directly from Satan.

The “Candy Ponzi.” Send your kids out to gather candy from the neighbors, then distribute it to trick-or-treat visitors as your own. Repeat. If desired, add your own adhesive address label to each box of Milk Duds for extra credibility. Reserve Mary Janes and root beer barrels for the worst little shits in the neighborhood. At the end of the night, give your kids their well-deserved 10% cut of the remaining candy.


Dollar-Store Cashier. Send your kid out in a red smock bearing a small plastic name tag, with a can of off-brand dog food. Instead of “trick or treat,” have him or her say, “May I have your zip code, please?”

Bowler. Have your kid carry a bowling ball in one hand. In the other hand, use the empty bag to collect treats. Garish shoes optional.

The Only Kid in Their Class Without an iPhone. Make a cardboard sign that says “I’m the only kid in my class without an iPhone.” Don’t forget to include a string for wearing around the neck. To drive home the point, have him or her carry an old-fashioned phone with rotary dial.

Mickey Mouse. Have your kid dress in his or her street clothes. Using a desktop publishing program, create imitations of three standard forms of ID—say, driver’s license, Social Security card, and birth certificate—using the name “Mickey Mouse.” If asked who s/he is supposed to be, have your kid display the ID and, once verified, demand a treat.

Hand-Me-Down Time Traveler. Dig through your elderly parents’ basement to find a “fad” novelty mask from one of your own childhood Halloweens. Explain to your kid how cool it will be to go out as Spiro Agnew. If there’s any hint of balking or backtalk, pull out a paper grocery bag and threaten to make him/her go out as The Unknown Comic.


Replace the cut-out plugs from your jack-o’-lantern and return the pumpkin to the store as “defective.”

Unwrap and place any leftover candy into a loaf pan. Heat in a 300-degree oven for 30 minutes, adding, if necessary, several Bit-O-Honeys as a binder. After cooling, unmold and freeze. Slice, garnish with SweeTarts, and serve at Christmas as a tasty alternative to fruitcake.

Save decorative black crepe paper and jointed cardboard skeletons for the next time you host a funeral luncheon.

If you’re the type who gives out pencils or pennies instead of candy, congratulations. If the pencils were Halloween themed, repaint them in pastel shades and regift them at Easter. Paint the leftover pennies silver and pass them off as dimes to inattentive cashiers; an insincere compliment is often effective as an adequate distraction, as is counting out several while loudly saying, “That’s ten, twenty, and … thirty!”

Sheets with two eye holes cut into them can be patched with areas cut from new sheets. Return the new sheets to the store as “defective.”

19 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2011 6:00 am

    Why I never thought of this before, I have no idea.

  2. October 31, 2011 11:54 am

    I liked pennies and nickels and that occasional quarter best. Kept the chocolate and gave the rest to school mates following week. Was treated like a god.

  3. October 31, 2011 1:39 pm

    The “Candy Ponzi” is genius and teaches kids valuable business skills.

    • November 1, 2011 4:28 pm

      It gives them a chance to practice with Jujyfruits before moving on to people’s retirement accounts.

  4. October 31, 2011 1:52 pm

    ace costume ideas :]

  5. October 31, 2011 2:40 pm

    Great ideas! For Mickey Mouse, be sure to add a city of Chicago voter ID.

    • November 1, 2011 4:24 pm

      I hear that Mickey Mouse was just edged out by Rahm Emanuel in the last mayoral election. If he’d been a Kennedy, he probably could have pulled it off.

  6. October 31, 2011 3:07 pm

    Good ideas!

  7. October 31, 2011 3:56 pm

    You don’t live in a neighborhood with real children who want real candy who will cover your house with real eggs when they get real miffed at a coupon or ketchup packet instead of what the little hoodlums really want.

    I’m afraid of Halloween, but not for the same reason as many people are… 😉

    By the way, clever post if you don’t open your door to kids…

    • November 1, 2011 4:16 pm

      True … I rarely even get a knock on the airlock of my bunker.

  8. October 31, 2011 11:23 pm

    NOOOOOOO! You are so much more funny than me. It’s not fair.

    • November 1, 2011 4:13 pm

      Well, as they used to say in high school, I’m sure you have a great personality.

  9. November 1, 2011 4:17 am

    I feel so stupid — giving out sand never occurred to me. I actually made a special trip to the store today instead of dishing up the kitty litter I already had in the house.

    • November 1, 2011 4:11 pm

      The problem with giving out kitty litter is that it causes all of the caramels to clump.

  10. November 3, 2011 12:19 am

    I’m definitely handing out my old junk next Halloween. Kills two birds with one ancient, useless stone.

  11. November 3, 2011 1:07 pm

    Now that we have finished Halloween, I am going to start sneaking candy from my kid’s bags and saving it for their Christmas stockings. That way I can also give them extra chores for “eating” so much of their candy so quickly. When they start to argue and say “I didn’t eat that, it is just gone” I just tell them “I argue at 6:00 Saturday mornings. I’ve never had one take me up on that offer, although they have stated…”I can hardly wait till Saturday,” For some reason they never wake themselves up.

  12. November 6, 2011 9:59 pm

    I swear I still have Zamfir and Tony Orlando on my playlist. I’ve never given Jim Nabors a try but I’ve heard good things.

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