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I’ve loved Halloween ever since I was a little kid. It was the opportunity to dress up as something we were not, run around begging for candy, and then feast on the sugary hoard of sweets we brought home. Most years, we cobbled together homemade costumes. I vividly remember a makeshift mummy costume crafted with toilet paper and gauze, and a werewolf suit that was made from worn out clothes and fake fur. These were some of my all-time favorites. And now that I have kids of my own, I get to enjoy it all over again in a new way—a very new way.

Today, Halloween is a commercial cash cow and it’s not so “cool” anymore to give out home baked cookies or wear DIY costumes. Americans spend about $330 million on Halloween costumes for their pets each year (and far more for children’s and adult’s costumes). We also spend a staggering $2 billion a year on Halloween candy, according to Bloomburg. So how do you keep from dumping “Christmas” levels of cash, or running yourself ragged on this heathen holiday? Read on and see.

1. Budget Your Dollars
As we’ve seen, Halloween has become a multi-billion dollar industry, but it doesn’t have to drain your family’s savings. Plan an amount that you are willing to spend on Halloween – and stick to it! Set those dollars aside and use all of your willpower to avoid going over that limit. Use cash if possible, as it can help you to limit yourself. Be detailed about your plan too. Allocate dollars for costumes, décor and candy. Then, when you inevitably run out of cash, try to make or find the final things you need so they’re free!

2. Budget Your Time
For many years, we tried to cram too much stuff into one evening. It’s a common problem. There’s so much to do and Halloween only happens once a year. But overloading the evening just left everyone tired and grouchy, and sucked the fun out of the holiday—for the parents and the kids. By trial and error, we found the right amount of activity for our kids. We trick-or-treat, dash through a drive-thru for french fries on the way home to curb the amount of candy they can shovel down, and head home to watch a spooky movie. We plan an evening before Halloween to carve our pumpkins, hit a haunted house, or throw a party. This frees up our Halloween evening quite a bit and spreads out the parental work load too.

3. Better Safe Than Sorry
As a parent, it’s your most important job to keep your kids safe. Make sure you reiterate “stranger danger” to your kids before Halloween, regardless of their age or whether you accompany them or not. It’s also a great practice to only get candy from houses you know, and if not, inspect the candy before letting your kids indulge. Finally, make sure their costumes are safe. Masks should allow good visibility, clothing should be flame retardant and nothing should present a trip hazard. Kids should also have a light with them, for a variety of reasons. Taking some precautions is far better than taking a trip to the ER, I assure you.

How do you keep Halloween running smoothly? Tell us your tricks and treats by leaving a comment.