Halloween is a holiday loved by children and adults alike. This spooky time of year seems to begin as soon as summer ends when retail stores start hawking Halloween costumes, decorations, and boxes and bags of bite-sized candy.

Trick-or-treating may occur on the last day of October, but many Americans spend weeks leading up to it with costume parties, parades, jack-o'-lantern carving contests, haunted houses, and loads of sweet treats.

In the U.S., according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Halloween is the second-largest commercial holiday, just behind Christmas. In 2019, as per the NRF, adults will spend an estimated $8.8 billion on costumes, candy, decorations, and plenty of other things about Halloween. Halloween isn't just a holiday. It is a booming industry that earns billions each year.

Key Takeaways

  • Candy, costumes, and decorations are the top spending categories during Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation.
  • Adults and young adults (18–24 years) spend the most on Halloween costumes.
  • Americans spend, on average, $86 per person for Halloween.
  • Consumers spend over $2 billion on Halloween candy. 

(Info above is courtesy of the National Retail Federation, 2019 figures.)

Costumes: Characters Cost More

Costumes make up a top portion of Halloween spending. The NRF estimates that consumers spend over $3 billion on costumes for kids, teens, adults, and even pets. Retail pop-up costume stores, like Spirit Halloween, set up for a couple of months before Halloween, sell a ton of costumes, make a lot of profit, and get out. Since these companies generally rent out warehouses to sell their wares, the rent they pay is often significantly reduced, which once again saves them a ton of money.

Costume costs are not cheap—anywhere from $20 to $100 or more, depending on the size (child vs. adult) and the character. Licensed cosplay costumes will cost more than generic ones. For example, on one popular online retail site, a toddler's Spider-Man costume cost $25, and the same outfit for an adult was $50. Homemade costumes can be cheaper—for example, for $10, you can buy a white, flat sheet and turn it into a ghost costume.

And don't forget Fido on Halloween. Twenty-nine percent of pet owners plan on dressing up their furry family members, too. In 2018, pet owners spent nearly half a billion dollars on animal costumes, and the NRF predicts that figure will rise in the coming years.

Trick-or-Treats Are Not Cheap

Ninety-five percent of consumers will spend roughly $2.6 billion on the delicious treats that kids go running door-to-door to collect on Halloween night. Purchasing candy in bulk may help keep costs down but not by much.

A family of four may spend approximately $334 to celebrate Halloween this year, according to the NSF.

A bag of 20 mini Hershey bars with glow-in-the-dark wrappers will cost you an average of $6 a bag. Not too bad, right? But if you have 100 trick-or-treaters, you just spent $30 on candy. Double that amount of pint-sized monsters at your door—and it will run you $60. Fun fact: Hershey bars consistently rank as a favorite Halloween treat, according to research by CandyStore.com.

Haunted Houses and Other Decorations

Starting with a simple jack-o'-lantern and ranging all the way to smoke machines and strobe lights, the Halloween industry has it all—for a price. No longer will a single jack-o'-lantern suffice, and the NRF estimates that in 2019, Americans will spend $2.7 billion on decorations like plastic skeletons, fake black bats, and animatronic ghouls, witches, and aliens.

The Bottom Line

The Halloween retail industry is raking in billions, but there are ways to keep the high cost of costumes and candy under control. Buying in bulk, making costumes by hand, and decorating pumpkins rather than purchasing plastic or ceramic ones may help Halloween from haunting your bank account.