Nothing says Halloween like trick-or-treating. Whether you take your kids around the neighborhood or stay home to pass out candy to the visiting ghosts and goblins, the annual event brings out the kid in all of us. That’s why it’s so fun to participate.
But the price of candy is enough to scare off any Halloween shopper, especially since most of us need multiple bags to ensure we have enough to go around. But never fear! With a few money-saving tips, you can survive Halloween without destroying your budget.
Tips to Save Money on Halloween Candy
You want to be generous with every adorable princess, superhero, witch, and vampire that comes to your door. But you also don’t want to break the bank. And when you’re buying for the whole neighborhood, the cost of trick-or-treat candy can add up fast. So try a few tricks this year to save on all your Halloween treats.
1. Determine How Much Candy You Need
One of the trickiest aspects of buying Halloween candy is knowing how much you need. And while a little extra means you get to sneak some for yourself, it also means you spent more than you had to.
While it’s challenging to calculate amounts precisely, the first step is to gauge your needs based on the previous year. Generally, you’ll get the same average number of trick-or-treaters every year.
If you’re new to the neighborhood, talk with your neighbors about the expected turnout. And if you live in a nicer neighborhood, you’re likely to get kids from other areas. Parents often bring their kids to trick-or-treat in communities they consider safer, though some kids are there just to score bigger and better candy bars.
But don’t go overboard. Underestimating is better for your wallet. And if you run out of candy, you don’t have to forage through your cabinets for granola bars. It’s OK to turn out your lights or hang an out-of-candy sign.
2. Set a Budget
Once you figure out how much you need, make a budget. Decide on a reasonable amount to spend, and don’t waiver from it no matter how tempting those giant bags of candy seem.
That can include finessing a few bulk-size bags of fun-size candy out of your weekly grocery budget. Alternatively, creating a separate fund for holiday spending is an excellent way to manage these kinds of extra expenses.
Many of us are used to setting up holiday budgets for buying Christmas gifts but may not think about it for other holidays and birthdays. But having a holiday slush fund ensures there’s always fun money to pull from so you never feel you have to miss out.
3. Clip Coupons & Use Rewards Points
You don’t need magic spells to conjure substantial savings on candy. Just look out for candy coupons in September and October, when they’ll arrive in abundance. Check coupon websites and mobile coupon apps like Coupons.com and Flipp.
Flipp allows you to peruse the circulars for all the stores in your area so you can easily compare sale prices across stores. The app also lets you “clip” coupons from the circulars and use them electronically in-store.
Also, keep an eye on the unsolicited coupon circulars that arrive weekly in your mailbox. If you prefer digital methods, the same circulars are typically available on the store’s website.
You may even score some coupons at the store, from tear pads in the candy aisle to the peel-off kind on the candy bags themselves. And check all your store loyalty accounts, which feature their own online and in-store coupons and rewards points.
4. Use Rebate Apps & Browser Extensions
You can use rebate apps and browser extensions whether you’re shopping in-store or online. Rebates are like coupons in reverse. They don’t help you save money upfront, but they return money to you after your purchase.
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5. Shop the Sales
Don’t rush to the store the moment you spot the first sign Halloween is coming. And yes, that could actually be a Halloween candy display in August.
In the months leading up to the holiday, stores often have multiple sales, from buy-one, get-one to routine supermarket price drops. So shop smart by waiting for them. Be conscious of the typical prices, and buy Halloween candy when it’s anywhere from 25% to 50% off.
Store sales are typically cyclical. So keep an eye out for candy sales at the end of September, right after back-to-school sales settle and Halloween deals start rolling out. Then check again several days before Halloween.
6. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
According to a 2017 study by Ibotta, the absolute best sales typically come four days before Halloween. And the worst time to buy candy is the day before. The grocery rebate service attributes the price spike to a lack of selection and last-minute shoppers who are willing to buy whatever’s available.
So you can wait until the week of Halloween to shop if you know you’ll be tempted to eat the candy yourself before Halloween gets here. After all, if you eat it while waiting for Halloween, you just have to head back to the store, potentially doubling your costs.
Just don’t wait so long you have to take whatever you can get.
7. Match Coupons With Sales & Rebates
To get the absolute best deals on candy, stack everything together — coupons, sales, rebates, and store rewards points. This common extreme couponing strategy can even result in scoring free candy.
If you’re a novice at extreme couponing, all it really takes is some planning. Starting in September, when the candy coupons begin appearing in abundance, clip and save them.
You can rack up even steeper savings by pairing manufacturer’s coupons with store coupons. That’s typically allowable, even at stores that don’t allow coupon-doubling, since they come from different sources.
Then scan your apps for rebates that match up with your coupons. Keep checking back since apps update frequently. And don’t forget you can sometimes stack your rebates across apps. For example, I search Ibotta for rebates on food before I go shopping. And once I have the receipt, I scan it into Fetch Rewards.
Once you spot a sale on candy, head to the store armed with your coupons and rebates. And if you’ve managed to rack up any store rewards points in the meantime, don’t forget to apply those at checkout.
Alternatively, keep an eye on a coupon-watching site like The Krazy Coupon Lady. The team watches all the coupons, rebate apps, and store sales for you and lets you know when everything matches up for an extraordinarily low-cost deal or even freebie.
8. Stock Up Post-Halloween
Even better than waiting until the last minute, the clearance prices on post-Halloween candy are unbeatable. So mark your calendar for Nov. 1 to cash in on discounts up to 75% off. Just don’t wait too long. With such low prices, other shoppers will scoop it up fast.
And don’t worry that it will spoil before Halloween next year. Most candy stays fresh for about a year. Just check the expiration dates and store it in a cool, dry place.
Alternatively, you can use some types of steeply discounted Halloween candy to save on your Christmas baking. For example, no one will know the difference if the Hershey’s Kisses on your thumbprint cookies came in Halloween wrappers or Christmas ones.
9. Save Candy Throughout the Year
Some candy won’t make it a year. But you can still take advantage of after-holiday sales by stocking up at other times of year.
Candy is central to most holidays, including Valentine’s Day, Easter, the Fourth of July, and Christmas. Once a holiday is over, stores need to get rid of all the leftover candy on the shelves to make room for whatever holiday is coming next. So clearance sales on candy aren’t exclusive to Halloween.
And kids don’t generally care if candy is shaped like a bunny, heart, Christmas tree, or pumpkin. They only care that it’s delicious.
10. Purchase in Multiples
Every retailer wants you to buy as much candy as they can talk you into, and one way they do that is to offer incentives to buy more than one bag at a time. In general, this is a shopping trap, a common retail tactic to get you to buy more.
But if you’re planning to buy more anyway, it’s a win-win. Plus, you can cut down on overbuying by teaming up with another household and splitting the cost and the candy.
11. Buy in Bulk
If you’re expecting a lot of trick-or-treaters, buy the big bag of candy instead of several smaller ones. Groceries are almost always cheaper when you buy in bulk — and candy’s no exception.
Most of the time, a 100-piece bag of Halloween candy is a better deal than buying five 20-piece bags. Occasionally, there are exceptions, as when smaller bags go on sale. So price-check and look for sales. But generally, you’ll save money buying in larger quantities. To find those giant-size bags, visit your favorite big-box store like Walmart or Target. Or check out the offerings at a warehouse club like Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s.
12. Avoid the Dollar Store
You might find your favorite candy at dollar stores like Dollar Tree, but you won’t find them in bulk sizes. In fact, candy is one of the worst dollar store buys — from over-priced candy bars in the checkout lane (no king-size bars for $1 there) to comparatively small movie theater-style boxed candy in the aisles. (You can buy larger movie theater boxes at big-box stores for $1.)
Package shrinkage is the No. 1 way dollar stores justify their prices. Anything name-brand at a dollar store isn’t a deal. It’s just a smaller package. You can almost always find a better deal buying a larger size at a big-box store, warehouse club, or grocery store.
Dollar stores also sell lower-quality off-brand candy. But as with the name-brand candy, it isn’t typically a deal. It never hurts to compare prices, but you’re generally better off buying in bulk, especially if you have coupons and rebates.
13. Team Up With Friends
To cut down on the total amount of candy you buy, pool your resources. Every year, a friend and I take our kids trick-or-treating together while our husbands sit in the driveway and pass out candy.
Since it’s a joint effort, each of us buys half the candy we would have if we’d gone it alone. Plus, it’s an excellent excuse to get together for a social evening. We get to chat while our kids get a sugar rush.
13. Avoid Chocolate
Candy expenses vary significantly based on the type you buy. For example, at the time of this writing, a mixed bag of 100 Hershey’s fun-size chocolate candies costs about $15 at my local Walmart. But an 80-piece bag of Mars-manufactured fruity candies (including popular brands like Starbursts and Skittles) is only about $7.50.
And you can save even more if you opt for lollipops. For example, I can get a bag of 300 Dum-Dums for $12, which means I can hand out three times as much candy for less than the cost of the chocolate pieces.
Old-school Halloween favorites like Tootsie Rolls, SweeTarts, and Smarties are some of the cheapest candies you can buy in bulk. Plus, even if you decide to give more than one piece to each trick-or-treater, ounce for ounce, hard candy beats out chocolate every time.
For example, you can give two fun-size chocolate candies to each trick-or-treater or a handful of 10 Jolly Ranchers for around the same price. That means you can give a few more pieces, save some money, and the kids will still be thrilled they’re getting multiple pieces of candy — especially since it might give some kids an advantage in post trick-or-treat candy trading.
According to the official, very scientific candy-trading guide at Cup of Jo, eight Jolly Ranchers are worth two fun-size Twix, Kit Kat, or M&M’s. So kids who prefer fruity candy can get more for their trade.
14. Buy Whatever Is Cheapest
If you’re worried about seeming like the cheap house, don’t. Most trick-or-treaters won’t remember what kind of candy you gave last year unless it was unusual, like a full-size candy bar. So don’t sweat the type of candy. Kids are going to be excited to get it and eat it all the same.
15. Give Non-Candy Treats
Even cheaper than a handful of Jolly Ranchers is a small plastic toy. Online retailers like Oriental Trading sell Halloween toys in bulk. It sells things like plastic spider rings, tiny plush characters, squishies, slime, slinkies, and rubber balls. And the prices can be as low as $0.12 per toy.
The bigger an assortment you buy, the more you can save per piece. So this tactic works best for neighborhoods that get a lot of trick-or-treaters.
You can buy similar small plastic toys at dollar stores. If you look in the seasonal or party-supply aisles, you can find small toys meant as favors for goody bags. But they work equally well for Halloween. Plus, they come in packs of several, so you can get anywhere from five to 10 toys per $1 bag, making them $0.10 to $0.20 per toy.
Other suitable non-candy goodies are pencils, sheets of stickers, glow-in-the-dark bracelets, and erasers.
And these are an excellent option for trick-or-treaters who have allergies to common candy ingredients like peanuts, chocolate, and wheat. If you go this route, put out a teal pumpkin, which signals that you have allergy-friendly treats. It’s called the Teal Pumpkin Project, an initiative of nonprofit advocacy group Food Allergy Research & Education.
16. Don’t Buy Candy You Like
If loading up on candy for your own consumption makes you happy, go for it. But if saving money is your aim, skip buying candy for yourself. If you stock up on bags of your favorites, they’re not likely to last until Halloween. And that means running back to the store to keep the neighborhood ghosts and goblins happy.
So buy a type that’s not your favorite for the trick-or-treaters. Then wait for the after-Halloween clearance to load up on candy for yourself at 75% off.
17. Skip It This Year
There’s no rule you have to pass out candy. It’s OK to spend the evening doing something else, whether you curl up with a good book or go out for the night. Just remember to turn off your porch lights so families know to pass you by.
Even if you have kids you take trick-or-treating, it’s still OK to skip passing out candy — especially if you decide to trick-or-treat in another neighborhood.
Alternatively, check out any community Halloween events that feature trick-or-treating. For example, many communities sponsor events during which kids can trick-or-treat from business to business in a major business district. And these events are always free.
Or try a trunk-or-treat event. Community centers or religious organizations typically sponsor them, and they’re generally free. Those who volunteer to pass out candy decorate their cars with fun themes and displays. And the events are typically held in blocked-off parking lots, in the open air, and during the day, making them fun and safe for kids.
Celebrating holidays is fun, especially one like Halloween, which lets you act like a kid again, regardless of your age. And you can participate in the festivities no matter your budget.
Or do like my family does and stock up on candy during those post-Halloween sales and save them for your family movie nights. That way, you don’t have to pay a fortune to snuggle up at home watching scary movies and eating chocolate until the kids are up way past their bedtime.