Annette Brown of Gilbert is making do with last year's Halloween decor. Brown bought candy to hand out to the neighborhood kids and new costumes for her own kids, but there will be no new ghouls or goblins for her front lawn.
"Halloween is my favorite holiday. I usually go all out on decorations," she said. "But this year I'm prioritizing my spending."
Brown may be bucking a trend.
The National Retail Federation estimates U.S. consumers will scare up nearly $5.8 billion to celebrate the ghostly holiday. That's a per-person average spending of $66.54, nearly 3 percent more than last year's average.
The survey that queried consumers on their Halloween spending plans was conducted in early September, before the already staggering economy's further trouble.
But while the economic news has progressed from bad to awful in recent weeks, it shouldn't change many Halloween budgets, said Ellen Davis, National Retail Federation spokeswoman.
"The worse the economy is, the more people want to celebrate Halloween," Davis said. "Consumers need a break. They want to put aside concerns about the economy and the election."
They can do that without going into debt, because Halloween is a relatively cheap holiday, Davis said. The $60 average tab is just a tiny fraction of the $840 per-person purchases typical of the upcoming winter holidays, she said.
"We're pretty sure Halloween spending will be up a little this year," Davis said. "But the increase will not translate to the holiday season."
Retailer Spirit Halloween found plenty of empty East Valley store spaces to set up shop this year, said Vivian Rabun, district sales manager for the seasonal chain. The company opened 17 locations around the metro area, most of them in the East Valley.
The stores are doing well, Rabun said, and she echoed Davis' take on why that is so.
"People are using Halloween as their 'Let's get away from it all - at least for a night,'" Rabun said.
Kids' superhero and High School Musical costumes are big sellers, she said. So are the usual favorites - fog machines and tombstones - she said. And a new Hannibal Lecter animated prop that sold for more than $200 flew from store shelves, she said.
Hana Mo, who picked up the final accessories for her Dorothy - as in The Wizard of Oz - costume at the Spirit store at Scottsdale Pavilions, may be typical of the Halloween revelers. Mo said she was spending about the same as she spent last year.
"I buy a new costume every year, and I will buy candy for work," Mo said. "I know I am not at risk with my mortgage or my job. And I try not to look at my 401(k)."
But co-workers Nicole Watson of Chandler and Michael Weida of Phoenix are trying to be more creative by assembling costumes rather than shelling out big bucks for the necessary garb to transform themselves into heavy metal rockers Ozzy Osbourne and Zakk Wylde. "I have a box of theatrical stuff I've collected from year to year," Weida said. "You never know when you'll need a wig."