Does anyone you know get into Halloween? Overseas as a kid, my family kept things simple for occasions like this one. Perhaps it was out of necessity, but honestly, all I can remember is the fun of it all.

You grabbed whatever plaid shirt and hat you could find, added a weapon or two, and you were a cowboy. Or a bandana around the head, yet another weapon (or four), and you were a pirate. My father would take a cork from a wine bottle, char it on the kitchen hob, and deftly draw all manner of moustaches, goatees or beards on our faces. I can still vividly recall his light sketches of some swirly moustache and marvelling in the mirror.

At this point you might mistake this for a frugality column, with the idea to reduce spending at all costs. Let me assure you it’s not. The goal is to have goals – to have a plan in place that celebrations fit into. That way we don’t shelve our aspirations for the future, like overseas holidays or a better car someday.

Years later I lived in Los Angeles, and perhaps because of Hollywood and the film industry there, Halloween was a much more elaborate event. It was not unusual in the weeks leading up for people to queue outside the costume shops in preparation.

Answering the door when the kids knocked and yelled “trick or treat!” might be a mum dressed in a full Marie Antoinette 18th-century frock. The front lawn might look more like a movie set, complete with a skeleton driving a classic convertible.

One of my favourite memories of a Halloween evening was seeing a classic 1940s horror movie being projected above us, right on the entire house! It was brilliant.

Whichever way we celebrate – somewhat pared back, or going all out – the trick to keeping it a treat is to have it all tracking to plan. There’s no point spending more than what works for us. And if your plan still needs shaping, an easy way to start is by mapping it out.

Back here at home these days, we tend not to do much for Halloween, putting much more into other celebrations like Christmas instead. It would not surprise me in the least, though, if trick-or-treating becomes all the rage for my kids and their circle of friends sometime.

I don’t have the stats, but there seems to be as much Halloween-related fare in the stores as ever. There will always be a commercial side to this, especially since receiving unwrapped home-baked goods after saying “trick or treat” doesn’t work, really. And trick-or-treating at a mall to hit up the stores there can sure be lucrative in terms of lollies!

Any of our holidays can get commercialised: Halloween, Christmas or even Easter of all things. But only as much as we let it.

The cure for consumerism and over-commercialising? Creativity.

Perhaps one of the best lessons I learned as a kid was that store-bought stuff was not always best. It could be cool, but the truly creative costumes were always the most amazing.

Halloween may seem like some North American import (although the Celts of Ireland brought it there, actually). But whether you are into it or not this year, may everything still go according to plan. Your plan for your money, that is – and not someone else’s plan for it.


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