Money with Mia

You can organize a costume swap with your friends. Bottom line: regardless where you get your outfit, keep your budget in mind and have a strategy in place before you begin.

Changing leaf colors, Candy apples, Charles Regatta! Fall is by far my favorite season and Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, but if you are not careful it can wreck havoc on your budget. Growing up in California, my family went all out in decorating our home using spider webs, hanging plastic ghosts that waltzed across our lawn shrieking “boooo,” trash bag pumpkins stuffed with newspapers, and R.I.P. tombstones scattered along our entryway.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), in 2008 consumers in the U.S. spent an average of $66.54 per person on Halloween-related expenditures, which is higher than in 2007 mainly due to the fact that consumers wanted to add some excitement to their lives after the global financial system started visibly falling apart in September 2008. However, this year the NRF 2009 forecast is down about $10 to $56.31 per person. So, how can you have an amazing Halloween and not spook your wallet? Follow my personal finance tips on how to save money on costumes and Halloween activities below.

Halloween is not Halloween without a costume that is.let’s face it, better than your friends’. To ensure your costume is different you can create your own or buy one. Making your own requires a little added effort and imagination, but it is well worth it. To create your own costume, stop by the Garment District in Cambridge to pick up cheap clothing sold by the pound. It is $1.50 a pound every day of the week except Fridays, when it is $1.00 a pound. I asked some of my HBS friends for some cheap costume ideas and I got the following:

Costume: Facebook wall
What you’ll need: White/grey sweat suit and Sharpie (ask people to write messages on your clothes).

Costume: Yale graduate student of management What you’ll need: Harvard Sweatshirt, duct tape with “Yale SOM” over the “Harvard.”

Costume: Egg head
What you’ll need: White hat, white pants, yellow shirt, paper taped to your tummy that reads “yolk.”

For other cheap Halloween costume ideas check out // In addition, at the Garment District you can also buy ready-to-wear costumes which retail for about $60-$100. I’ve shelled out the money before for last minute costumes, but if you want to save money, buy your costume online. My friend last year bought her costume on eBay for $30, which was half the retail price.

Other ways to save money on costumes is to look inside your closet and repurpose some worn-out clothing or an old Priscilla Ball outfit. Also, you can organize a costume swap with your friends. Bottom line: regardless where you get your outfit, keep your budget in mind and have a strategy in place before you begin.

Affordable Halloween Activities
Horror Movies
If you are like me, you get a thrill out of being scared. Check out for horror, thriller and suspense videos online. Every Wednesday they show free movies available on demand all week long. FEARnet also features exclusive original series, movie trailers, and exclusive scenes from soon-to-be released horror films. So check FEARnet for a cheap and chill Halloween night.

Haunted Houses
New England boasts some of the scariest Haunted Houses in the country, but they can cost you a pretty penny. To save money check out the following cheaper haunted houses available. Many offer student discounts. I listed the ones all located close to Boston that are really scary but inexpensive.

– Factory of Terror: $15 with coupon //
– Barnum and Buckley’s Haunted Farm: Free Admission //
– Bedford Haunted Mansion: $6 for adults //
– Barrett’s Haunted Mansion: $12 with coupon //

Booze Parties
If you are going to throw a House Party and aren’t looking to break the bank follow the tips below.

Decorations are super cheap. You can get spider web, dangling skeletons, and discounted candy at Target. Before you walk in have a clear idea of how much you are planning on spending, so you don’t go over your monthly budget.

Booze is sadly rarely on sale. I would suggest you tell everyone to bring their own beverage of choice. My bartender friend says if you want to stick with the Halloween theme, tell everyone to bring either J„germeister, Grenadine, or Orange Juice. You can make a Jaeger-monster by stirring 1 ounce of each of the alcohols together and adding OJ.

Candy. It is expected that families will spend over $2 billion dollars on Halloween candy this year. To save money, don’t buy name brand candy, especially if you are giving it to trick-o-treaters. Save money by purchasing generic brands. If you are loyal to Snickers like I am, purchase in bulk at Costco and not at CVS.

Pumpkin Carving. The best pumpkin deal I’ve seen so far is at Whole Foods. Most places charge you per the pound, but at Whole Foods you can get any two pumpkins of your choosing for $12. Can’t beat that! Plus, it’s a brisk walk away from campus, and you can enjoy the autumn colors along the way.

ECs I hope these Halloween tips are helpful to you as you go through Hell week (good luck!) and RCs remember that you can use your Priscilla costume as a Halloween costume (at least the girls can.guys you might want to think twice if you really want to save that extra buck.).

Happy Halloween!
Your HBS Money Honey,
Mia Saini

Mia Saini is a born and raised California girl. She is earning her MBA and plans to be a business broadcast journalist. She graduated from MIT and honed her journalism skills at CNN, WB, CNBC, and as a TV reporter at Jim Cramer’s She is the Founder of HBS TV and is a video host for MBA PodTV on Each week she writes a “Money with Mia” column about Money, Business, and Personal Finance, so email HBS’s Money Honey your questions, story ideas, and feedback.