Five Better Ways to Spend Your Halloween Dollars

Americans love Halloween. We’re probably going to spend about $7 billion on candy, costumes, and parties this year. That breaks down to the average American spending $75 dollars on Halloween.

I will be bucking that trend by spending exactly zero dollars. I’m ready to accept the flack by admitting something I’ve kept secret for a long time: I’m not a fan of Halloween.

If you’re ready to call me the Grinch of fall, just hear me out. I’m not very crafty, so my costumes have always ended up being expensive and store bought (Don’t let it happen to you!). Then, once I got too old to actually collect candy, being in a costume at all started to feel lame. There was one year in college when half the people I knew dressed up as Borat. That’s when I knew I was done.

For people in their twenties, Halloween has devolved into nothing but drunken debauchery and an excuse to wear skimpy costumes. I hate to sound like Andy Rooney, but there are “Sexy Pizza Rat” and “Sexy Donald Trump” costumes for crying out loud. There is absolutely no family element to it for people my age. It’s simply an excuse to party. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for a good party, but I don’t want to be forced into a night out because of a made up holiday.

I’m standing up for everyone who is afraid to admit they don’t like Halloween. It’s okay! It doesn’t make you anti-social. You don’t have to drink $11 “Morgue-a-Ritas” at the bar and then deal with trying to catch an Uber during surge-pricing hours, all while wearing a Tinkerbell outfit, just to fit in. There are amazing, family-centric, worthwhile holidays that are much more deserving of your dollars, and they are right around the corner!

I like to take the money I would have spent on Halloween, about $75, and save it for Christmas gifts. In the Simple Dollar spirit of recognizing that experiences are more rewarding than things, here are some experiences you can give for $75 this holiday season.

Give the Experience of a Nice Restaurant

I am as cheap as they come when it comes to dining out. I constantly bug my girlfriend because at the rare times we’re out at a restaurant,  I have a habit of saying, “We could make this ourselves and it would taste just as good.” I just have a hard time spending on dinners that I think I could cook for a third of the cost.

But every now and then (usually over sushi and while dining in an elegant atmosphere at a well-regarded restaurant) I’ll have to reluctantly admit, “That was awesome and I couldn’t even come close to matching it.” And of course, there’s nothing better than being treated to your meal in those situations. (Hey, Mom and Dad, come visit more often!)

So, gifting someone a nice evening out can be a great way to allow your friends or family an opportunity to unwind, enjoy each other’s company, and experience a meal they might not have been able to make themselves.

Give the Experience of a National Park

Okay, an annual pass to America’s national parks is technically $80, but it would be worth kicking in that extra five bucks for such a spectacular gift. National parks are the treasures of our nation, and there’s never a bad time to go check one out. Some people balk at the entrance fees charged by certain parks, but they’ll have no excuse once you present them with an annual pass.

In a world in which we’re increasingly tied to our technology and the term “Nature Deficiency Disorder” is becoming more commonplace, it’s important that we start getting some more outdoor time. Being in a national park is refreshing, it’s often good exercise, and, if a loved one gave you a pass, it’s free. I used to live right next to a national park that I never checked out because I didn’t want to fork over the admission fee. Give a friend the freedom to explore their own back yard.

Give the Experience of Live College or Professional Sports

To me, the fact that the first Olympics took place in 776 BC demonstrates that there’s something primal about watching high-level athletes compete against each other. And while certain sports can seem boring on TV, watching them live can give you a new appreciation for how graceful, powerful, and downright acrobatic our best athletes are.

This was never more apparent to me than when I went to my first professional hockey game. I’m not a fan of watching hockey on TV, but watching it live was amazing. Imagine seeing something on a grainy, black-and-white portable television and then switching to an 60-inch HD screen. That’s the difference between televised and live sports.

Also, I’ve sat in great seats and had an okay time and I’ve sat in the nosebleeds and had the time of my life. It’s all about the company you’re with. Since I’m living in Madison, Wis., I’ll highlight the university’s incredibly affordable hockey tickets as well as these cheap Milwaukee Bucks tickets you can snatch up if you want to gift someone the experience of watching the best basketball player of all time.

Give the Experience of Shopping at a Warehouse Store

Step foot in a Sam’s Club or Costco for the first time and tell me that it’s not an experience. Upon entering the warehouse, you’re greeted by TV’s so big they’d have to be sawed in half to fit through most doors. Further in, you have everything from tubs of butter that could double as swimming pools to packages of hot dogs you need three people to lift.

You have to shop in a certain way to make these stores worth it. For instance, eating before you shop is a good rule of thumb before any grocery shopping, but it is especially important when a hungry impulse buy could leave you with an entire freezer full of hamburger meat.

But if you do it right, these kinds of stores can save you big bucks, even over websites like Amazon. Gifting someone a year-long membership to either Costco ($55) or Sam’s Club ($45) will help them discover the wonder of buying in bulk. Plus, every time the recipient of your gift walks by a 12-gallon tub of massage oil and chuckles, they’ll think of you.

Give the Experience of Unexpected Generosity

Giving money to a stranger can be a profoundly positive experience for all involved.

You can’t be sure what that person will do with the money, but you can bet it will make their day. It’s possible they’re less fortunate than you and you’ve provided them with groceries for a month. Or maybe they’re an average Joe who was dreading filling up their gas tank, and you’re cash influx was just what they needed to brighten their day.

No matter the status of the person you give you money to, you’ll be a legend in that person’s family. Their grandkids’ grandkids will hear about the time that great grandma was walking down the street one brisk October day when someone came by with a smile and handed her $75 cash. Politicians and businessman talk about wanting to “leave a legacy” by growing ever more powerful. You can leave your legacy by carrying out one simple act of kindness.

I know this seems like something that would only happen in a Disney movie, but that doesn’t make it a less viable option. Sure, giving to charity is great as well, but you never know how much of that money is actually getting to the people you want to help. The simple beauty of giving some money away to a person on your next walk around town would be in seeing the joy on the other person’s face in that very moment. In fact, I am going to try this one and I will report back on what happens.

Final Thoughts

There are much more rewarding ways to spend $75 than dressing up your dog to look like a “Star Wars” character. We all have limited time and resources, so if you want to sit out Halloween, you should do it with a proud smile on your face.

Unlike with your kids, it’s okay to pick a favorite when it comes to holidays. If you’re more of a Christmas person, hopefully these gift ideas can help you think outside the box.

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