Here’s Something Scary: Only 17 Shopping Days Until Halloween

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If Mitt Romney or Barak Obama show up at your door at the end of the month, they’ll likely be looking for candy, not votes. In the third annual Halloween Shopping Survey released by thrift retailer Savers Inc., close to 40 percent of respondents said they’d consider dressing as a political figure this year.

But figuring out what to wear on Oct. 31 goes beyond red or blue. Close to 60 percent of those polled said that picking out a Halloween costume is more stressful than deciding who to vote for in the upcoming presidential election.

It can be a pricy decision.

National Retail Federation research shows that Americans will spend $8 billion on Halloween this year, carving cash out of tight budgets to outfit themselves, their kids, their pets and their homes. (An average of $330 for a family of four.)

Even though that’s a 10 percent increase from last year’s Halloween spending, close to 40 percent of people say they will be heading to thrift stores for wallet-friendly spookwear.

“Consumers today are looking for quality products at an extreme value, and shopping for a Halloween costume is no different,” says Mary Ginnaty, senior buyer of Savers Inc., an international chain of thrift stores.

The fall holiday has sparked a 38 percent increase in the chain’s sales over the last five years. In response to the consumer demand, Savers’ stores now stock new and used costumes, seasonal accessories and makeup starting at $1.99 and host free “Halloween Costume Catwalk” fashion shows showcasing popular costume looks at 3 p.m. every Thursday in October.

And each store features a costume consultant to help shoppers find their inner ghoul.

“Women want to look pretty, men go for superheroes, and kids want scary,” says Melissa Gwynn, costume consultant for the Savers store in Manchester. “We help them zero in on something they’ll have fun with.”

Gwynn says trick-or-treaters of all ages draw inspiration from recent movies, current television shows and entertainment personalities, so staff has to be up to date on popular culture.

This year, Snooky, Harry Potter and Lady Gaga are out.

“Snow White and the Huntsman,” “Mirror, Mirror,” “The Hunger Games,” “Monster High,” “Twilight” and “The Walking Dead” are key inspirations.

“We do our own research, so we can advise customers on how to get the look they want without spending too much,” says Gwynn.

Eighties prom dresses paired with candy-colored wigs, for example, make perfect Capitol People (Hunger Games) costumes. Splash fake blood on a ripped white shirt or T-shirt, mix green and white face paint to give your skin an undead pallor, adapt a stiff gait and you’re ready for the zombie apocalypse. Pair fangs, a tutu and lacey tights for a Monster High look.

Halloween isn’t just for people. One-third of pet owners outfit their furry friends for Halloween and on average, will spend $27 on their pet’s costume. About 60 percent of shoppers will spend as much as $110 to decorate their home for Halloween.

If you love Halloween, but your budget doesn’t, try these tips to save.

Check out Target for a selection of inexpensive pet costumes.

Create your costumes from stuff around the house. offers homemade costume how-to’s. At, you’ll find easy and inexpensive costumes to make at home. Children’s consignment stores feature racks of worn-once-and-outgrown costumes at bargain prices.

Little monsters won’t wear last year’s costumes? Organize a swap with other parents.

Off-price chains — Ocean State Job Lot, Big Lots, Five Below and dollar stores — stock inexpensive seasonal items, including costumes, masks, makeup, decorations and candy.