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RISMEDIA, October 16, 2010—(MCT)—Every year, consumers spend billions of dollars on Halloween merchandise. The National Retail Federation, an industry association, forecasts that U.S. shoppers will spend $5.8 billion this year on Halloween gear, with the average shopper spending $66 on costumes, candy and decorations, according to NRF’s 2010 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey. That’s up from $56.31 in 2009.

An eco-friendly shopping strategy can save time, energy and money. Fill your cart with these Halloween treats:

-Homemade costumes: Princesses, vampires and other popular costumes can be pulled together from items in thrift stores, online auctions, consignment stores and even your own closet. If you favor boxed costumes, then shop in November for next year. After October 31, merchants offer big markdowns on Halloween merchandise, including costumes, candy and decoration, with discounts ranging from 50-90% percent off full prices.

-Go unleaded: Seasonal face paints may contain toxic chemicals, including lead and potentially harmful chemicals and fragrances, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit public safety group. “Face paints can contain lead, which can impair brain development at extremely low doses, as well as nickel, cobalt and chromium, which can cause skin sensitization and contact dermatitis,” according to the EWG. Likewise, avoid spray-on-hair dyes, which often contain toxic chemicals that your kids can breathe in. Check out the safety of cosmetics and personal-care products before you hit the checkout line.

-Natural decor: “Pick up pumpkins, gourds and hay bales from a local farm to create a haunting scene,” EWG recommends. Supermarkets, community groups and farmers’ markets sell pumpkins in a variety of sizes. Carving kits, including tools and pumpkin-design patterns, are sold at many chain and specialty stores. The insides of the pumpkin can be used to create edible treats, ranging from toasted pumpkin seeds to soup. Younger children will need assistance with the designs and cutting tools, but the process can create hours of frugal fun, edible snacks and seasonal decorations. If you do buy packaged decorations, shop after Halloween, and stock up on items that can be stored and re-used.

(c) 2010, The Miami Herald.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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