Although Christmas will always hold a unique place in kids’ hearts, Halloween isn’t far behind in popularity (and, of course, spending!) If you want to have some money left over after the holiday season to put in the kids’ college funds, and if you want to make it through to Thanksgiving with your sanity intact, follow these tips for keeping this spookiest of days in perspective.
Teach your kids three simple letters: D.I.Y. Now is the perfect time for getting your kids involved with doing things for themselves, and along the way, showing them that Mom isn’t always going to be there to wipe their…noses. Even a very young child can help with picking out items for a homemade costume, cutting simple shapes and gluing. Older kids can sew and even use hot glue guns (under adult supervision, of course). Children take pride in their own creations, even if one sleeve ends up shorter than the other, or if their idea of “ghost” looks more like “marshmallow” to you.
Keep moderation in mind when keeping up with the Joneses. Okay, so your kids aren’t into crafts and they won’t stop whining about the name-brand Hannah Montana or Spiderman costumes they see everywhere from the local grocery store to the home improvement center (seriously, can’t a woman get a break?) They also want the plastic pumpkin buckets, the light-up laser swords, the oversized spiders with eyes that glow in the dark and everything else they lay their eyes on.
Because of course, “Emily’s parents bought her one!” You don’t necessarily have to subject your kids to a lecture about saving for that good ol’ college fund, but it is a good idea to start some gentle discussions about budgeting, if you haven’t already. Explain how the amount of money you have to spend on “holiday” things is finite. Spending more on Halloween now will mean spending less on Christmas. Metaphors with candy work really well here.
Look to tradition. Another way to help kids enjoy the holiday without breaking the bank is by looking back to older, more wallet-friendly times. I love watching movies such as The Worst Witch (can you believe this is considered old now?!) They’re full of spooky goodness without all of the expensive, glitzy slickness of modern productions.
My twins love it, too; so much so that they want to dress up like Flora and Fauna Amor (the Siamese twins from The Addams Family) this year. If you haven’t already established inexpensive, simple traditions, such as picking and carving your own pumpkins or serving a special, homemade Halloween meal complete with pumpkin muffins, pumpkin stew, and “worms in mud” for dessert, do so ASAP.
Choose your commitments wisely. Choosing to commit to a holiday project is very much like choosing to commit to a husband: you’re taking on responsibility for a relationship with a living someone/something that will grow and change in ways you could never imagine over time. Now, I love my husband dearly, but I am very glad that I only have to deal with one.
Halloween has become such a big deal (you know because Martha Stewart has gotten herself involved) that people can’t help but get perfectionist about it. That’s fine if you truly love whatever projects you get yourself into, but if you’re just doing them to be “the perfect mom” and it’s stressing you out, you need to let something go. Your kids won’t remember with misery the fact that you didn’t finish stitching the cape onto your dog’s Superman costume, or that you didn’t hand-carve individual pumpkins for every step of your outside staircase. Trust me.
The terrors of rationing candy. Many of my friends look with fear on this holiday, not because of the goblins and ghouls, but because of the thought of having to wrest the hard-earned, sugary bounty out of their children’s chocolaty paws. Some parents prevent the problem altogether by not allowing trick-or-treating; others try and use the trick of “eat all you can tonight, then it goes away” to teach their kids about candy making you sick.
I’ll admit I’m really not a big fan of giving my kids straight sugar and I try to limit their intake of candy bars to once a week. But I still remember my own trick-or-treating with fondness, so for this one time a year, I let them make their own sugar-intake decisions. One last thing to mention: if you have pets, be very careful about letting kids store candy in their rooms. Ending the Halloween season with a dog in the emergency room is not at all fun.Have your own tips for keeping Halloween in perspective? Share them with us in the comments below!