COLUMN: More holiday fun can be found for less

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By Theresa Howard

 Have you started the holiday shopping countdown yet? To avoid the end-of-the-year holiday crunch on your wallet, it is important to plan for holiday expenses through the year. Also, it is important to realize that Christmas is not the only expensive holiday within the next three months.

Halloween ranks as the third most expensive holiday, following Christmas and Valentine's Day. This might surprise some people, since typically the holiday does not involve large gift-giving or family events. Nonetheless, the price of costumes, candy and decorations can add up.

Preparing early for holiday expenses can reduce your holiday stress and your after-holiday bills, regardless of the holiday you are celebrating.

Taking the scare out of Halloween

• Shop local consignment or thrift stores for costumes. You may also consider selling some of your children's costumes from previous years.

• Be creative, search your closets, as well as Grandma's, for items you can turn into a costume.

• Do an Internet search for easy do-it-yourself Halloween costumes.

• Search your local ads for Halloween candy specials. If you can, buy a little candy at a time to spread the expense over several weeks.

However, you may want to hide the candy once you get it home to make certain that it lasts until trick-or-treat.

Thrifty Thanksgiving

• If finances are tight, reduce your travel expenses by visiting family on one holiday, either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Spend the other holiday enjoying the down time with your immediate family.

• Plan your meal ahead of time, shop grocery deals and look for coupons. Look for in-season produce, such as sweet potatoes and fall squash.

Beat the holiday blues

• Talk to your family and friends about setting new holiday traditions. Instead of traditional gift giving, consider a "Santa Swap" where you buy a gift for one person in the group instead of everyone.

• In many families, people enjoy spending time together more than they do the actual gift received. You may consider a nice dinner out where each person pays for their own meal.

• Before heading out to the store, set a dollar amount that you will spend on each person.