Halloween spending is out of control.
Americans are expected to spend US$8.8 billion on candy, costumes and decorations this year — or $86 for every person who plans to celebrate. That includes a half a billion dollars on costumes that Americans are buying for their pets, which is double the amount they spent a decade ago. Pumpkins and hot dogs are the favorites.
How did a holiday that began as a way to honor the dead morph into just another ritual of over-the-top American consumption? As a relatively frugal person who has reused the same Halloween costumes for years, I found the $86 figure shocking. But I’m hardly the first economist to moan about out-of-control consumerism.
Day of the decadent
Halloween started as a Celtic holiday honoring the dead.
It was then adopted by the Catholic Church as a time to remember saints. One research paper described Halloween as an “ evolving American consumption ritual,” but a better description might be an over-the-top spending ritual.
The $86 average may not give us an accurate look at per-person spending. Only about two-thirds of respondents to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey of Halloween spending said they were celebrating the holiday. And while some spend nothing, others go overboard.
As just one example, the Palo Alto neighborhood where Silicon Valley’s tech stars live is a sight to behold as local moguls try to outdo each other on Halloween decorations, candy and bands.