To be honest, Halloween isn't my favorite day. Strangers walking around in strange costumes—even little ones!—gives me the creeps. That's the point! But I do love to shop for Halloween goodies, especially the decorations (yay gourds!) and the treats (I say forget the costumes, bring on the candy!). Forbes interviewed me recently about my tips for saving on Halloween. Here are my answers to the reporter's questions (for the Forbes article, click here.):
1. When is the best time to shop for Halloween costumes and decor—have you purchased any yet for this upcoming season?
I wait until the last minute when costumes, decorations, pumpkins, and candy are marked way down. The week before Halloween—or even a few days before—is a great time for bargains. And the week or two after Halloween is GREAT for stocking up on half-price chocolates for the upcoming holiday season and for next year’s Halloween decorations.
2. Do you have any tips for saving on Halloween expenses, especially for people who have kids with high expectations?
Use cash-back programs like eBates or Piggy so if you are going to buy whatever your kids want, at least you’ll get cash back on the deal. Also, Piggy is great because it will automatically call up coupons for you at checkout.
Also, try an app like Flipp, which gives you access to all of the weekly flyers so you can see which stores are offering the best sales right at your fingertips. Another favorite of mine is the Coupon Sherpa app, which helps you find coupons on the go. Retailmenot is also worth downloading for coupons.
Another way to save is to shop at dollars stores or buy candy and other supplies in bulk at Costco. You can split bulk buys with other parents.
3. Can using credit cards for cash back/rewards or a store credit card that offers a discount help stretch your budget?
Yes, always use a cash-back credit card! Target’s REDcard gives you 5% cash back in the store and free shipping. That’s a very generous cash-back offer—most regular credit cards give you 1 or 2%. TJ Maxx is another great place to shop for Halloween costumes and decorations and its credit card gives you $10 credits for every $200 you spend— also 5% cash back. I’m a fan of TJ Maxx so I’ll be shopping there for Halloween.
If you don’t already have the card, you’ll get 10% off your purchase for signing up. And Amazon offers 3% cash back and a $50 gift card when you sign up for its card or if you’re a Prime member you’ll get 5% cash back and a $70 bonus. Sign up for the Discover It credit card on Amazon and you’ll get 5% cash back and a $75 sign-up bonus.
4. Even though it's not yet Halloween, does it make sense to already look ahead to holiday budget planning now?
Absolutely! September is when layaway plans start but I’m not a fan because of the fees and restrictions —that said, they’re better than racking up credit-card debt. Instead, my advice is to set a budget right now and start making a list of gifts, travel, and holiday supplies, including food for big meals, so you can target what you want to spend on everything. Use that list to start tracking prices so you’ll know a good deal when you see one!
A list will also help you avoid overspending because you’re less likely to make impulse purchases. Black Friday is a great time to shop but it’s easy to go overboard with impulse spending when you see sales —the trick is to commit to that list. And just in case you end up overspending later, now is a good time to shop for a new credit card with a low rate.
You can compare credit cards at bankrate.com or creditcards.com. The cards with the lowest rates usually don’t have the best rewards programs, so if you have credit-card debt you’ll want to stick with a low-rate card. If you've got any debt, odds are the rewards you rack up will quickly get erased by monthly payments with high interest rates. Now that's scary!