Wednesday, October 3, 2012

10 Halloween Do's and Don'ts

Here’s the deal: I kind of suck at Halloween. I spend too much money and I get stressed out that I'm doing it wrong. If I don't decorate my house, invariably ours is the only one on the street without decorations. If I do decorate, it always looks like the outside of my home has been vandalized by drunken interior decorators.


So this year I did some research, asked some other moms what they thought, and tried to learn from my past mistakes. One of those mistakes has always been that it sneaks up on me - "It's when?! Next week? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!" So this year, we're putting it on out radar a little early. 

Here are 10 Halloween Do's and 5 Don'ts - Mommyland style.

DON’TS:

1. Don’t spend a schmidtload of money. Especially not on a costume that your kid will only wear once or even worse - decide they don’t want at the last minute. It's happened to me. [Editor's note: Me, too. Last year my 1 year-old had a fit and wouldn't wear his adorable $30 monkey costume the night of Halloween and instead wore an old fireman hat and his raincoat. I felt like an asshat for spending any money at all. -Guru] Hit the thrift stores. Borrow stuff from neighbors and friends. Seriously, I bet one of your mom-friends has a Jedi costume in a size 4 they’re not using. Just put the ask out on Facebook and see what happens. 

2. Don’t try to get all crafty and Pinteresty with the treats you give away at the door. We all know anything not individually wrapped ends up in the trash. Sad but true.

3. Don’t let your kids get completely cracked out on candy for a week solid. I know from experience that it’s tempting to let them gorge themselves in an effort to just get it all out of your house. But by the end of the week their teachers will want to kill you with a dry erase board.

4. Don’t kill yourself crazy decorating the house with sound effects and spider webs unless you want to. If it makes you happy – then rock on with your bad self. If it stresses you out – just skip it. Not to get all King of Thrones on you or anything, but winter is coming. We are about to enter the Halloween to Holidays Death Spiral and it ain’t pretty. Relax while you still can.

5. Don’t be a Judgey McJudgerson with other parents about what they let their kids wear or do or eat on Halloween. I did this last year. I spouted off how I thought the Monster High costumes were tramp-tastic and gross without realizing that a friend's daughter had begged her for one and worn it trick or treating. I'm still cringing a year later at how I made my friend feel. Those costumes aren't my thing, but you know what's REALLY not my thing? Making another mom feel bad about something silly like a Halloween costume.
Still not my thing. Also? Not my business.
DO's:

1. Do have a chat about lowering expectations. My kids want to go batshit crazy every Halloween. I'm not just talking about buying fancy costumes. They want to have a huge party with a million people where we transform our family home into a Disney-style Haunted Mansion. It's not going to happen. They offer to do all the work themselves and everything, with earnest expressions on their little faces. Just like they did with their birthday parties. BWAAA HAAA HAAA! (wipes tear) Isn't that adorable? I slaved for a week over those stinking birthday parties while they watched TV and complained about addressing invitations. No way. Let's find a compromise - preferable something cheap and easy (like me).

2. Do have a plan if you're going to buy new costumes. At $15-$30 per kid, it can be really expensive. Here's what I started doing last year - I ask my kids in early October what they want to be. We write it down together. I wait a week or two and ask again. If the answer is the same as the one we wrote down, we are now free to buy the costume.


OMG. Plaid Stallions.
3. Do sort through all your old costumes early in October and figure out what can be reasonably re-used. If it’s truly gross, toss it. If it has potential save it. If it’s in decent shape but your kids don’t want it – donate it right away to a local homeless shelter or domestic violence shelter. (I always make sure to spiff it up first, though. Wash it, spot treat stains, or spray it down with Febreeze because I really think those kiddos deserve nice stuff – not just free stuff.)

4. Do find a place to donate candy for the day after Halloween. Here’s a great list of suggestions of places that might work. Get your kids in on this donation thing, too. If they’re on board from the beginning, they might be cool with giving some of their loot away. Another mini-do: Do go through their candy before you donate it and find a couple of really good things to stash for emergency PMS consumption. No one needs to know.

5. Do make traditions as a family. Carve or paint pumpkins together. Watch that Charlie Brown special or a scary movie together. Make it a tradition to eat carrot sticks before you go trick or treating (they're orange). Take silly photos of your kids in their costumes pretending to be the thing they're dressed up as. 

I know it sounds corny, but that's the stuff they'll remember. That's the stuff I remember. I remember my mom making my Princess Leia costume when we couldn't afford to buy one. I remember her trying to make Halloween special for us, and so it was. I need to remind myself of that and not stress out about $40 costumes and all the other stupid schmidt that doesn't matter.

Do you have any Halloween do's and don'ts? Or better yet - cheap/free family traditions to make it awesome and special? I'd love to hear them because like I said - I suck at Halloween.

xoxo, Lydia

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2012

35 comments:

  1. I got my kid's costumes from Marc's this year for $5.99 each! They are just like the $30 costumes you find in those fancy-shmancy Halloween Catalogs. Score!!!

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  2. Yes, yes, yes!!!! Halloween is out of control! I love the holiday, but why does that always mean we have to spend ridiculous amounts of money? I have two candle holders (jack o lantern and ghost) that I break out every October. I buy a couple of mini pumpkins and multicolored decorate corn... that's it kids. We go do fall stuff - hay rides, apple picking, and pumpkin decorating/carving. And that's enough already!

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  3. My only daughter will be 8 months old on Halloween and although she's really too young for it, one "DO" that I am doing this year: DO take your infant trick-or-treating early in the evening, in a relatively inexpensive but cute-as-all-get-out costume (Old Navy!), mood permitting (hers AND yours), if you so choose. Instead of candy, order UNICEF fundraising kits and use the one year you have where your kid isn't aware that she needs to be fiending for candy to do some good AND show off your little cutie patootie all at the same time.

    Also, family traditions: making a special trip to K Mart to buy candy to hand out at the last minute to save money, pumpkin carving the night before, and pizza!

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  4. Do she eat all if your kids candy after they go to bed!

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    Replies
    1. shame eat all of your kids candy! shame eat! stupid Siri!

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  5. Our favorite family tradition is going to the pumpkin patch to pick pumpkins (and get fresh picked apples). We go to a farm that has been in the same family for over 100 years. They do a hayride, and their pumpkins are way cheaper than going to the grocery store and buying pumpkins. We also carve them as a family the week before Halloween. I hope this is what they remember!

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  6. Another place to donate candy is your local firehouse, whether it's filled with career or volunteer firefighters. Halloween is a busy night for these guys, and they rarely get the recognition they deserve for what they do for the communities they serve. A homemade thank you card from the kiddos to accompany the candy makes it that much better.

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    Replies
    1. Our tradition is homemade costumes. My mother made my costumes when I was a kid. When I was old enough to work a sewing machine, I made them. I have made all of my 4 year old son's costumes too. He wants to be Gumby this year!

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  7. I corral my kids on the front porch steps and take a photo every year - so fun to see how they have grown, and they love looking at those. Also, Halloween is always pizza night - nobody wants to cook - and we watch the Great Pumpkin and Halloween is Grinch Night. The treat for mom and dad after all the herding of kids around the neighborhood and handing out candy is hot apple cider and brandy : )

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  8. Thanks for making me feel better about my son insisting on being Spiderman for the 3rd year running! He is being thrifty and I can spend the $$ from his costume on my daughter's because part of her's will double as layers for about half of her winter clothes this year!

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  9. Do look for costumes that can double as dress up. And something that doesn't have a million bells and whistles for those sudden bathroom urges. Speaking of which, network with neighbors and nearby parents to see who will be home and have an open bathroom so you don't have to run back home praying you make it.
    I lucked out this year. My baby is just wearing her sisters old costume, and my older girl wants to be Doc McStuffins. I already bought the bag and tools for Christmas, so she'll get to use the bag for candy, and we picked up everything else we need at the thrift store for six bucks.

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  10. My Mom made me a Rapunzel wig (a floor length yellow braid) out of yellow yarn and a dress from an old consume of hers from when she was younger. Almost free and the best costume ever. My sisters were little black bats so the pictures from that night a re a little confusing....

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  11. Am I the only one that feels like Halloween has lost it's charm? And hooray for decorating but can't I take my toddler for a walk without having to try and explain vampires and red eyed skeletons and things crawling out of the ground? Telling him they are decorations is not flying. So far I have told him the vampires are Big Teeth Guys and the skeletons are what we look like on the inside. it's not my ideal solution. I remember last year this poor little girl plaintively asked her Daddy where all the "nice" houses were. Which is why I keep our home friendly with no creepy decorations.

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    Replies
    1. I agree. It's less cutesy and fun and more ghoulish and scary. Judging by the personalities of my kiddos at this point, we'll only be hitting up the church Trunk or Treat instead of neighborhood trick or treating. It's just too scary for little ones!

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  12. Ahhhhh! Thanks for the baby carrot idea! The teachers scheduled me for snack duty on 10/31 because they knew I wouldn't go all sugary with the treats. I found some bat and pumpkin shaped preztels. But the individual packages are little. Was trying to think of something else somewhat healthy to go with it. Baby carrots are perfect! As for costumes, I always try to use clothes they would wear everyday to make them up. Last year my girls were Barbie Musketeers. I got it all from target except for cheapie hats with big plumes. The clothes were worn all year long. This year they are going to be pirates and will do the same thing again.

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    Replies
    1. You could also draw jack o lantern faces on the top of mandarin orange cups!

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  13. My mom was always a HUGE fan of Halloween while we were growing up, but it was the FREE stuff that I remember most - like the year she dressed as a scarecrow and scared the beejesus out of all the kids as they came up the steps!

    In the past we've taken the candy that was collected, and re-handed it out to the older kids showing up at 8 or 9:00 at night. My kids (now 5 and 3) didn't know the difference.

    This year I'll bring it to work and donate to the Snack Shack, all the money raised goes to charity at the end of the year.

    Good reminder not to go overboard though - we get about 6 kids now and I spent at least a week decorating last year, and then UN-decorating. Over it!

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  14. I love this post! My kids seem to love Halloween more than birthdays, but I cannot afford the big event they have planned in their heads. I LOVE the idea of just being honest with them! It never occurred to me to tell them straight up what we are doing/spending, and that everything else is a no. What is wrong with me that I don't think about actually talking to my kids! Sigh.
    Also, our local dentists pay cash for candy. And, churches accept candy donations for their youth programs.

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  15. I am going to buy the $30 costume even though I always avoid them. But DD is on a huge dress up as a princess kick and the costumes are way cheaper than the dress up outfits during the rest of the year. I am ok buying a fancy costume if she is going to wear it till it falls to pieces.

    Also, they go on sale right after halloween so I am going to stock up for next year, christmas, birthdays etc.

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  16. Since DH is a (former) firefighter, that's been a recurring costume theme. I remember when #1 was 3, that's what he wanted to be, but not in drops & sweats, so we picked up a pair of navy blue uniform pants at Wally-World for $5, splurged a bit on a real Cal-Fire uniform shirt (complete with embroidered badge & shoulder patches) for $30. He carried daddys real badge, I used duct tape on a pillowcase to make it look like a firehose, and we called it good. All 3 boys have worn that costume. Twice. More than paid for the $35 bucks it cost me 4 years ago! And the pants also work for school or a police costume as well.

    We also hit up the Dollar Tree for glow sticks. DH had the bright idea one year to break them open and sprinkle the crap all over the front walk - it was a HUGE hit with our boys and the neighborhood kids.

    And we always give the "nasty" candy to the FFs at daddys old stations. If we aren't gonna eat it, I'm not gonna waste somebody elses hard-earned cash by tossing it! Give it to someone who will appreciate and enjoy it!

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  17. last year at parent council we had a debate about whether or not to regulate costumes the kids could wear to school. We have preschool to grade five in our school and a few of the older kids wore costumes that terrified the 3-year olds. We settled on a letter home asking parents to use good judgement. Just something to be aware of- you and your children might not mind the gory masks and things, but other kids at school might find them truly frightening.

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  18. Another place you can donate costumes to is a pediatric hospital - the University Hospital here dresses the kids up and it's adorable. =)
    Our fire department (volunteer) has cider and donuts for the community during trick or treating, it's fantastic!

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  19. I love the donation idea.

    I have an 18 month old and a 3 week old, we will probably do some trick or treating, but they will not eat all the candy they will get (we have an embarrassingly large stash of lollipops from doctors, banks, and other errands).

    My 18 month old's costume from last year will not fit her sister, and I don't have enough room to start hoarding costumes.

    And I am glad I am not the only one not into Halloween decorating - we do a jack o lantern and 1 string of 'eye lights' in the bush by the front door. I feel like a failure when I look at my neighbors who all seem to have a frightening amount of ghosts, cobwebs, etc out on Oct. 1.

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  20. The link you included was a little outdated, as far as Operation Gratitude. As the spouse of an active duty military officer, Operation Gratitude is quite close to my heart. They send care packages to soldiers who are deployed overseas, and who are away from their families. There is a program attached to it, called the Halloween Candy Buy Back program. Participating local dentists buy back candy (ours gives $1 per pound and a dentist "goodie bag" in exchange for the candy and a handwritten letter to the troops), and then sends everything off to Operation Gratitude in California. Operation Gratitude had 60,000 care packages going to the troops last year, and needs tons of candy -- literally. More info can be found on their website -- www.halloweencandybuyback.com

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  21. I live in a city, in an apartment building. So Halloween is a bit different here. The only way you can really have your kid be "seen" in their costume is to have a party to go to or some kind of event. There is trick or treating in the suburbs and some of the more residential neighborhoods, but it always seems a bit weird to me to take my kid to some other part of town to go door-to-door. I might do it this year, just so she isn't lonely. Our apartment is too small for a party, our area of town is too adult for kids' events.
    We dominate summer festivals though, so there's a tradeoff. :)

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  22. In our town the nursing homes invite trick or treaters in. The residents love to see them, and they hand out candy too. I've learned to like halloween because it is the chance to go make friendly visits to older people. We don't always make a lot of stops, but its fun for the kids to have someone ooo and ahh over them, and the little candy we get is plenty.

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  23. ugh. i always agree with your posts 100% (well, almost always), but halloween is my thing. christmas has too much potential to never meet my expectations. whereas halloween usually always exceeds my expectations. i love it. we go ALL OUT. we are the creepy house with all the sound effects. we do have a party and invite friends and go a teensy batshit crazy. but, i love it. it's not stressful for me because it's not as traditional as christmas with all the messages and gifts and stuff that can get screwed up. it's just HALLOWEEN. y'know? we have tons of traditions for halloween and we keep making them. and i LOVE your - no judging. amen! that's why i get so stressed out about chrismtas. too many people judging how others are handing it!

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  24. My favorite costume to date was being a S'more. Mom put a white pillow case on me, head and arm holes cut out. She wrapped pizza boxes in brown paper, and then put flat boxes on front and back. I had *no* idea we didn't have money that year. I thought I was just as cool as the 9 pink power rangers and 11 red power rangers that made up the rest of my class.

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  25. Check out $2 dollar stores first! They have cheap candy and I have been done so many times going to a costume store, only to see the exact outfit for half the price at el cheapo stores. Because I am evil, i buy cheap music toys to give out as well. There is no feeling better than knowing that parents are going to be stuck with a sugar-hyped kid with a harmonica. :-)

    Hey, I'm just trying to prevent rotten teeth/childhood obesity...really, I am!

    www.lulu.com/spotlight/Scratched

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  26. My mom made me a Jem costume one year and yes it was truly outrageous.... I hope I make those kinds of memories for my LTS, we also carve pumpkins and I decorate like crazy, I do limit myself to one new item a year. It works out pretty well and most of the kids love it. (My Chuckie doll does have some kids cross the street walking home from school though...)

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  27. I go to the stores just after halloween when the costumes are 50-75% off. Buy a few, and let them play dress-up all year long with them. Then when Halloween comes around the next year, I tell them they should choose from all the awesome costumes they already have, and I will buy one cool accessory to go with it.

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  28. I make mummy hotdogs every year for dinner, we do a quick trip around to about 15-20 houses, then play Halloween music in the front yard while the kids give out candy and dance. Last year they chased kids down to give them candy and made sure they had stuff they liked, it was so cute!

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  29. To make costumes more affordable, I have made my kids costumes, made them reuse costumes, and forced them to come up with their own costume using stuff we already have (they are older and this works for jr high/high school kids). But for little kids who really want the official "costumes" consider hosting a costume swap. I did this once when my kids were little. Call friends and neighbors, put the word out on facebook, we even announced it at our church. Hold it in a church or school gym, a local rec center, or an individual's home. Everyone brought old, too small costumes and offered them to others. We had two sections: Costumes to give away, and Costumes to loan (each on different sides of the room.) If you wanted a costume returned, we put our name and number on it, and after Halloween, the person borrowing it was asked to wash it and return it within a week. But for a lot of us, we had so many costumes our kids had grown out of that we knew we would never need again, so we just gave them away. We all brought our kids and let them shop. If they found a costume they wanted, that was one less we had to buy or make. We moved shortly after that, but I've heard they still do this each year at the end of September.

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  30. When my kids were trick-or-treating age, I discovered the idea of having them sort through their candy and pull out all the gross or generally uninspiring dollar-store generic candy that they aren't going to eat anyway, and then passing it out to the ridiculously overgrown and costumeless herds of teenagers later that night. I bought good candy for the little ones early in the evening, and then we'd put that away when the grabby older kids hit the streets.

    Also a big YES to making costumes. I did a Princess Leia for one of my girls one year because there was a costume party we'd forgotten -- it involved draping white cotton curtains artfully over her clothes, cinching the waist with a brown leather belt, and sticking a toy space blaster in her belt. And of course putting her hair up. Cost? $0.

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