What a gorgeous October! Around here, the leaves are changing, the weather is getting just cool enough so I can pull out the turtlenecks, and we’re coming up on Halloween again. Love it! Personally, I adore this holiday – it’s fun, it’s a great excuse to dress up for a fabulous party or two, and one of my all-time favorite soul foods – candy corn – is as readily available as oxygen. Life is good.

That being said, the scariest aspect of Halloween 2011 seems to be the insane spending people feel is necessary to pull off a decent holiday. I’m hearing stories of $100 (or more!) for costumes, $50+ to purchase treats for the neighborhood kids, $200+ to skip the trick-or-treating and throw a party for the kids instead. Forget the terrifying ghoul masks out in abundance, it’s the idea of Halloween spending running into the hundreds that has me waking up in a cold sweat at night. But never fear – your candy-corn-loving frugalista is here! Read on for some fabulous tips on a fun and memorable holiday that keeps the good times going and your money in the bank.

Costumes –
Let’s attack once and for all the illusion that you need to spend hundreds for great costumes. I’m talking to people who are still spending $50+ for their kids, and $100+ for their own adult costumes for neighborhood parties and office shindigs. Unless nuclear-level anti-frugal sentiment runs in your family (or your last name is Gabor), this thinking has to cease at once. This is not to say you have to skimp on costumes or settle for less than Halloween fabulousness. Far from it! Just rethink your shopping locales, and enjoy the dazzling fun of scouring your nearest thrift stores, consignment stores, even church stores, where any establishment worth its cash registers has racks upon racks of fantastic costume offerings in all sizes, genres and categories. Southern belles, pirates, sports figures, movie stars, you name it – it’s waiting for you there, and as fantastic as the adult costume offerings are, they’ll probably have double that number of kids’ costumes! Get out there and find the perfect get-up for your kids, and for you, for 75-90% off!

If you don’t find the perfect costumes for your kids at the local thrift stores, try your local dollar store, where dozens of costume pieces await you! If your little one is longing to be a pirate, cheerleader, police officer or fireman, you will find just about everything you need for – you guessed it – $1 per piece.

One more costume-creating tip: look online to see if your city or nearby town is having a “costume swap” this year! This swapping trend is growing like wildfire, and is the perfect solution for fellow frugalistas looking to create a great costume for next to nothing.

Candy –
For Halloween aficionados like myself, it’s an already established fact that candy calories consumed just before or during the actual holiday don’t count. Yes, the day after Halloween, calories do count, however, if you find candy for 50% off, I find it morally acceptable to knock 50% off the calorie count as well. But I digress. When shopping for your Halloween candy, keep it simple, steer away from the retail stores, and hit the local dollar stores where fresh, fabulous, name brand candy awaits you at easily 30% off. If you have loads of kids appearing at your door year after year, saving 30% (or more) adds up big time.

The Halloween Parties –
I’m hearing from an increasing number of households that are steering away from sending kids door-to-door this year, opting for an equally fun shindig for the kids, their classmates and nearby relatives at their homes instead. Personally, I love this concept. I live in an area where houses are acres apart, and the idea of my kids having all the fun, the candy, and all of the fabulous Halloween karma right on their home turf is extremely appealing. Don’t let costs go thru the roof, though. Work with the other kids’ parents; everybody is going to want to contribute, and each will have their area of expertise. Let one parent handle the cake, perhaps another will donate the decorations, another will handle the bobbing-for-apples setup, yet another will handle any spider-shaped piñata on the opposite side of the room. You get the picture. When all is said and done, you can create a party that will win you fame amongst your daughter’s elementary school class (no small trick) for very little cost, and save you miles of walking around strange neighborhoods on the scariest night of the year.

Above all else, remember what Halloween is all about – clean fun, lots of laughs for the kids, a great opportunity for grown women to jump into a corset, adopt a southern accent and be Scarlett O’Hara for the night, and – let us not forget – store upon store selling off their excess candy corn for 50-75% off in the days after Halloween. Oh yeah! Happy Halloween, everybody!