I’ve made no secret that earlier this year I left Deep Ellum for a Dallas suburb and the chance to live in an actual house instead of an apartment. There were a lot of reasons for doing so: cost, time, convenience, space, and many more. But of course the real reason is quite simple: Halloween. Apartments are bullshit for Halloween. The most you can do is hang some spider webs on your balcony, carve a pumpkin that will get stolen, and hang a spooky wreath on your door. No trick or treaters, no grand decorations, fucking forget even the idea of a haunted house, can’t very well pull that off without one of the two words in the name, can you?
This year is my first time doing a real Halloween in a house, and I have loved it. That said, there were some parts I wasn’t quite prepared for. I’m guessing many of you, like me, are either new to having a house or still working toward it, so it seemed like a good time to pass along a bit of the education I’ve gotten this year.
Your Decoration Budget is Wrong
Whatever you’re thinking you’ll spend to get the Halloween you want, think again. Then again. Probably a few more times, unless you’re an investment banker or living on a yacht made of cocaine. Halloween is way more expensive than it looks from the outside. When the seasonal stuff finally started coming out, I was on that shit. I went to every store even remotely near me, taking pictures, comparing prices, getting a general sense for what I wanted to do and how much it would cost. By the end, I had reached the sobering conclusion that doing something awesome would cost, and this is not an exaggeration, thousands of dollars. Seriously. A big display element, like a huge inflatable or the dinosaur skeleton I know we all drooled over at Home Depot, is several hundred bucks on its own, and one element does not a haunted house make.
Even the smaller shit adds up. I wanted to put lights on my walkway and saw some for only $10. Ah, but they are quite short, so doing both sides all the way down would take six sets, jumping the cost for a small display accent to $60. In the end I spent $40 and did the lighting only to the second step, deciding I’d buy more next year. There’s going to be a lot of that, when you launch your first display operation. I assume even if you have thousands to spend on once-a-year decorations, it might be hard to actually fork over the cash.
The advice here is to scale back your plans, think hard about what elements will do the most for your display at the lowest expense, and remember above all that you don’t have to come out of the gate with the best house on the block. It’s a long game; you can build up your spooky arsenal over time.
Research Your Candy Needs
Once before, I had a rent house in a small neighborhood. Now this was a temporary thing so I couldn’t really decorate, but I was there during Halloween. As an enthusiast of the season, I put a few meager decorations out, then bought a shitload of candy and braced for the onslaught. I promise, I am not using hyperbole when I say the doorbell rang maybe 3 times, tops. I honestly think it was 2. Apparently, the neighborhood wasn’t exactly a local hot spot for trick or treaters, and while I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly heart-broken about having pounds of leftover candy, it did make sticking to a sensible diet hard for a while.
Not all areas are created equal in terms of trick or treating appeal, and that was a weird concept for me. When I think back to childhood, I remember every street being crammed full of other kids knocking on doors. But yeah, of course that’s how I remember it, I was a kid in a neighborhood my parents took me to for the purposes of trick or treating. It never dawned on me to think about the areas where I wasn’t.
The point here is to be aware of what your needs will be. Overbuying is bad, of course, but coming up short would be even worse. Nobody wants to wash egg off their windows. In my case, I’ve talked to my neighbors and checked to see what the usual turnout for trick or treaters is to make sure I’ve got an appropriate amount of candy on hand. How accurate that information is remains to be seen, but at least I feel prepared. And hey, if I overbought again, at least I made sure to pick up a bunch of shit I like. May as well enjoy my slide into decadence.
Your Halloween Plans Have to Change
Now obviously on the weekend before Halloween, you’ll be doing things much the same. Going to parties dressed in ridiculous costumes and infuriating Lyft drivers when you try to fit your outfit into the car while drunk. On the actual night, however, your options are going to be different. For the past few years, my main move on Halloween has been to throw on a costume, walk to a bar, and have fun. This year, things will be different. Obviously I’m not going to be able to start partying mid-way through the day, nobody needs a drunk version of me hurling candy at children, my aim is bad enough sober. Beyond that, living out in the suburbs means getting to an actual bar district is a taller order. By the time the kids clear out, it probably won’t be worth the cost of getting to a bar on a week night.
It’s a strange feeling, breaking tradition, but I’m resolving it by starting some new ones. Halloween is going to be a movie marathon day for me this year, a running reel of my favorite classics. When friends get off work, they’ll be able to come join; I’ll probably make some sort of festive beverage for the occasion. Simple, low-key, and easy for people to walk in and out of as their schedule allows. And that’s just the idea I wanted to do the most, feel free to find a celebration that works for you.
As expensive, mysterious, and occasionally inconvenient as it is to be in a house for Halloween, I am so freaking excited about it. My yard has pumpkins, there’s a trough’s worth of candy in my kitchen, and I’m making a playlist of some great (and great to drink to) scary movies for the day itself. Also, let me know what Halloween traditions you’ve all put together in the comments. I may steal some for next year!