Why I’m okay with buying my kid’s Halloween costume

The reason people have money problems isn’t spending, per se, but unplanned spending.

As part of my job as a magazine writer and editor, I receive a slew of press notifications and news releases about upcoming events, recent studies and other items that companies or organizations are hoping to get coverage on.

One that I got this week particularly piqued my interest. It was promoting the “Frightfully Frugal” Halloween costume contest held by Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.

“Halloween has quickly become one of the largest shopping seasons of the year, with individuals spending upwards of $60 just on their costumes,” says Jeffrey Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit, in the news release. “This year, we want to show Canadian consumers how easy it is to create a spooktacular costume on a budget.”
Fair enough. It’s true that Halloween has become a lot more commercial than when we were kids. And, as a non-profit credit counseling organization that teaches consumers about personal finance, Consolidated Credit is doing its part to raise awareness about out-of-control spending and sticking to a budget.

I agree $60 is steep for a child’s costume—I certainly won’t be paying that much for Adam’s—but I won’t be making one from scratch, either. First off, I’m not particularly crafty and neither is he. Second, Adam isn’t that fussy about what he dresses up as—last year he was a police officer—he’s more into the holiday for the fun of going out door to door in our neighbourhood in the dark (and for the candy, of course). Third, like most working parents my time comes at a premium, and I’d rather spend it having fun with Adam than doing stuff for him (like making a costume). Finally, I live in a big city where reasonably priced costumes (even second hand ones) are easy to come by.

Having said all that, I sort of take issue with the premise of the contest. The reason people have money problems isn’t spending, per se, but unplanned spending. The word “budget” has become interchangeable with “inexpensive”, but what it actually means is itemizing what you expect to spend over a period of time and making sure you have enough money on hand to cover those costs.

So if Halloween is your family’s favourite holiday and you want to pull out all the stops—costumes for everyone (including the pets), decorations, treats—make it a priority by planning for it. Know where the money is coming from and where else you need to cut back throughout the year, if necessary.

Financial smarts isn’t all about deprivation and DIY. It’s also about knowing what’s important to you and planning ahead.

What do you think? Is Halloween worth splurging on?

About the Author

Tamar Satov

Managing Editor, CPA magazine
Tamar is a journalist specializing in business, parenting and personal finance. She blogs regularly in this space with advice and anecdotes on her efforts to raise a money-smart kid.