Me in the pirate costume. Sigh...
If you’re like me, Halloween usually sneaks up on you – and if you’re like me, you have been sick the last three years on Halloween (I have a fabulous pirate-but-not-a-pirate-wench costume that has never seen the light of day, see picture: left). However, this year there will be no “sneaking up on” of the aforementioned holiday (and hopefully no sickness four years in a row, knock on wood), because I am planning now – specifically for the trick-or-treaters.
It’s easy to go to the store and buy bags of candy the day of, and this is what I usually resort to because: “Oops! Is it October 31st already?!” Unfortunately, this tactic results in spending silly amounts of money on bags of candy, some of which never see the light of day – like my pirate costume – because I usually overestimate and have fewer trick-or-treaters than expected – unlike my pirate costume (hmmm…). Even with the alleged “sales” at drug stores and big box retailers, candy can still be quite pricy.
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent $1.8 billion on Halloween candy last year, and this year, they expect households to spend about $21.05 each! Of course, this number is the average, and I know there are still plenty of households that spend upwards of $50-60 on candy, especially if you live in one of the “cool” neighborhoods (and by “cool,” I mean kids from other neighborhoods come to yours because maybe some of your neighbors hand out full sized candy bars). I can think of some better uses for that money other than candy, as I’m sure all of you could, not to mention that darned childhood obesity epidemic they’re all talking about. However, no one wants to be that house on the street – or apartment in the building, in my case – that gives out boxes of raisins or other lameness. Really. No one likes those. Sorry. And even the bulk boxes of raisins can be just as costly as the big bags o’ candy.
Grape mummies: The only acceptable way to present raisins to your trick-or-treaters. I know, I know, my Paintbrush skills are really too much.
Now, I’m sure a lot of people would frown upon the idea of not handing out candy; after all, it is Halloween. I’m not saying to necessarily cut out all candy, but leave that to the other houses on the street. You, my special GPP readers, you do not have to write on ruled paper! There are other options out there – options that will leave you feeling less guilty and leave your wallet feeling less empty, that is, if your wallet has “feelings.” (I’m pretty sure mine does. Sometimes I think I can hear it crying “Feed me.” “Sorry, baby, mamma’s gotta pay the power bill.”)
So…. In usual form, I have created a list of some Halloween candy alternatives that won’t break the bank and will help you retain the ever important status as one of the “cool” houses on the street. Bear in mind, when creating this list, I relied heavily on my many years of teaching children ages 2-12. It’s key to never underestimate the inventiveness of children and their capacity to appreciate the simple things. (I have seen countless children fall victim to “that shiny thing on the floor,” only to discover it’s a rogue sequin from a past art project or a scrap of aluminum foil from someone’s lunch. Even still, this shiny thing engrosses the attention of the child far beyond what most cartoons are capable of doing.)
Here’s the list – shiny things included – of the GPP’S…
Cheap Halloween Candy Alternatives:
“Silly bandz” (or better yet, a cheaper off brand) – It never ceases to amaze me what children find “cool,” but Silly Bandz are it! Kids love to collect them, wear them, trade them – I think that’s Silly Bandz’s slogan? – And most kids feel they can never have too many. Fortunately for you, soon-to-be-coolest-house-on-the-block, Silly Bandz are Silly cheap (I just couldn’t help myself). The best deal I found was at Oriental Trading Company. Right now, you can get 150 glow-in-the-dark Halloween themed “Fun bands” (an off brand) for $4.99, plus the cost of shipping. If you anticipate having fewer than 150 trick-or-treaters, by all means, give them 2 or 3 each! But whatever you do, don’t let the children pick out which one(s) they want! First they’ll have to see what shape the bands (or Bandz) make when they’re not on their wrist, and then they’ll have to argue with their friends over what the shape is actually supposed to be: “That’s an astronaut!” “No! You’re wrong – it’s a milk cow!” “Oh yeah?! Well, your costume is dumb!!!” It can turn ugly pretty fast (I’ve seen it). Just hand them over, say “it’s a surprise!” and send them off on their silly way, er… Silly way.
Temporary Tattoos – Again, children and their love for the simpler things. Just this past Sunday, I was doing a princess party where they had craft making, face painting, and a tattoo station, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you twice which was the most popular stop. I found two great deals:50 tattoos for $2.99, plus tax at Party City and 72 *Glitter* tattoos for $3.99, plus shipping at the cheese-tastic and politically-incorrectly named Oriental Trading Company. Of course, plenty of other places carry these in bulk, but I thought these two stores had some of the best deals. Usually, they come in sheet form, so just cut them out with scissors or tear along the perforated edges and give one per trick-or-treater. And again, DON’T let children choose. It never ends well.
Varies by state and franchise
Wendy’s Jr. Frosty Coupons – For $1, you can get a booklet of 5-10 Jr. Frosty coupons (I believe it varies state to state and franchise to franchise). By coupon, the bearer is entitled to one free Jr. Frosty. Yeah, I know… I mentioned the whole childhood obesity epidemic, but listen, with the delayed gratification element (a parent would actually need to take them to Wendy’s to redeem it), along with the fact that the Jr. Frosty only has about 160 calories (yeah, I looked it up), I figure it’s not too bad. Oh, and I didn’t mention my favorite thing about the Wendy’s coupon booklets: “90% of all treat book sales go to the (Dave Thomas) Foundation (for Adoption). And in Wendy’s Wonderful Kids markets, all of the proceeds are used specifically to fund grants to support Wendy’s Wonderful Kids adoption recruiters. Since the fundraiser began in 1992, it has generated millions of dollars for the Foundation, and all donations go to help out the communities in which the money was originally raised” – and that’s a direct quote from the Foundation website … but I’m sure you already guessed that. (Three sentences without parentheses or hyphens? That couldn’t be Courtney’s writing.)
Dollar Tree 9-pk. of bubbles
Bubbles! – What child doesn’t love bubbles? At the same party mentioned above in “Temporary Tattoos,” the kids were all playing on what appeared to be very exciting gym equipment, screaming, giggling, faux swashbuckling, the works, until someone brought out the bubbles. A hush fell over the crowd. Amazing. I found the best way to do this for trick-or-treaters is to get the bubbles meant for wedding favors, and by far the best deal – and I know this from when I planned my own wedding – is at Dollar Tree: a pack of 9 costs… a dollar. You can jazz them up with your own labels or Halloween stickers and still keep the price low. In fact, when I first had this idea, I thought “Oh the cleverness of me! I’ll put a label on each one that says ‘Cauldron Bubbles’!” (Get it? Theatre nerd time: “Double, double, toil, and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble!” You know, the three witches from Macbeth?)
So, I set forth to find a picture of one of those small bottles to show you fine folks what the heck I was talking about, but I found this:
Ha. Well, just goes to show what Picasso said about nothing being original… or something. Uh oh, I’m starting to quote and misquote people. It’s time to wrap this up!
I’m sure there are a plethora of other great ideas out there that are equally cool, cost-effective, and (nearly) candy free. Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions below – I’d love to hear them!
Are you giving out candy this year? If so, what kind?
Or are you going the GPP route?
Or will you not even be home for Halloween?
Or . . . do you think Halloween is the birthday of Satan himself??!
Er… I hope not…
Thoughts! Feelings! Go!