Halloween doesn’t have to be scary on the wallet

It’s exciting to get into the spirit of Halloween, but the Ghost-of-Christmas-Yet-to-Come is just on the horizon ready to haunt with credit card bills, gift spending and travel expenses.

It is estimated that Americans will spend $9.1 billion to celebrate Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Foundation (NRF). This is up from $8.4 billion in 2016.

Americans will spend $2.5 billion on Halloween costumes, according to Fortune.com. This breaks down to $1.2 billion on adult costumes, $950 million on children’s costumes, with an additional $350 million for pet costumes.

Fortune.com says celebrants will spend $1.9 billion on Halloween decorations and $300 million visiting haunted house attractions.

Is it possible to celebrate without walking around like a debt zombie?

Local grandmother Kimberly Pasco, of South Williamsport, and former members of the Lycoming County based paranormal group Soul Searchers PA, understands that finances can be scary.

“It’s crazy what people can spend on costumes and decorations,” said Pasco, who is the mother of three daughters and two granddaughters, with a grandson on the way. “When my kids were growing up, money was tight and we made due with what we had.”

A recent example she gave was her granddaughter wishing to dress as a popular Hawaiian-themed cartoon character. A quick check online had a costume priced between $25 and $30.

“I went to a nearby (store where things are a dollar) and bought a grass skirt, coconut top and she looked great,” said Pasco. “I just don’t see spending all that money for something that a child will wear once and then only wear it for a couple of hours.”

Kellie Bates, a Watsontown-based mother of two and child-care supervisor in Williamsport, agreed. She said she spent six years in Philadelphia and watched how resourceful low income families became.

“I saw some amazing costumes made from very little,” Bates said. “This is where I learned to get creative and I learned that spending a lot of money on costumes is a waste. To me, Halloween is a time to get creative and use your imagination!”

Pasco concurred and said this can be done by creating costumes that can be used again and again.

“My kids were not into the popular characters,” Pasco said. “They would dress up as a mummy, a bride or a pirate, but kids are so much more into the trending characters.”

Bates said she was able to have some real fun with her son’s costumes.

“For my son, Jay’s, first three Halloweens, he was a bag of popcorn, a mouse in a mouse trap and then a kissing booth,” Bates said. “All were created with items we had, with a few purchased items.”

Pasco explained it’s best to think simple on costumes and consider the other approaching holidays.

“Honestly, I understand that kids want to wear costumes for characters that are trending and popular, but come Christmas­time, they’ll have forgotten about it,” Pasco said. “It’s better to spend little on Halloween costumes and put the money towards Christmas gifts.”

Pasco discussed visiting dollar-themed stores or even checking out a thrift store. Bates agreed and was optimistic about the prospects

“If you’re resourceful, you can do anything,” Bates said. “The key is to use items you have on hand or can get for a low cost. I think thrift store is the way the go, because you can find a lot of useful items that are very inexpensive.”

A quick trip through a thrift store produced a gray-alien mask, a pumpkin candle holder and a bat with a Halloween sign, styrofoam tombstone, werewolf bobble head figure, a black cat figure, fake owl and plastic chain all at reasonable prices that won’t break the bank.

Halloween decorations are becoming more and more elaborate. Pasco suggested sticking with the simple items.

“When my daughters were in school, they took a roll of toilet paper and wrapped orange and black paper around it and we have a pumpkin,” Pasco said. “I still love pulling that out every year and using that.”

In conclusion, another popular Halloween trend is the “trunk-or-treat,” which is when “people gather and park their cars in a large parking lot. They open their trunks, or the backs of their vehicles, and decorate them. Then they pass out candy from their trunks,” according to TrunkorTreat.homestead.com.

“I like the idea of having parties like this because it is safer for kids,” Pasco said.

Bates agreed.

“I think the trunk-or-treat is a great idea for those that may be new to an area or may not been keen on the ‘traditional’,” Bates said.

The Lycoming County has several trunk-or-treat events that are free for children and family:

• 6-8 p.m. Oct. 26 at Murray Motors of Muncy, 85 Griffith St., Muncy.

• 4-7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at the First South Baptist Church, 89 Kimble Hill Road.

• 10:15-11 a.m. Oct. 29 at the Balls Mills United Methodist Church, 5941 Bloomingrove Road, Cogan Station.

• 6:15-8 p.m. Oct. 29 at St. Joseph the Worker Parish, 711 Edwin St.

• 6-8 p.m. Oct. 30 at The Community Baptist Church, Route 87, Montoursville.

• 6-7 p.m. Oct. 31 at the Williamsport Assembly of God, 1230 Sherman St.