Monroe on a Budget readers have been pretty interested in my Easter on a budget tips, especially the candy price roundup that I have been updating with actual prices I see in the stores and in the sales fliers.

The audience at WMIM My 98.3 likes to talk about candy too! During a Halloween video that The Monroe Evening News and the radio station co-produced last fall, radio station DJ Mark Benson and I did a spoof on a studio interview about trick-or-treat. But while Mark and I were talking on camera, his co-worker Ryan Nutter started eating the candy that was meant as my show-and-tell.

That video got buzz around for Monroe for two reasons: our local audiences learned what time was trick or treat, and people laughed at “the guy who kept eating the candy!”

Given that background, I’m spinning the Easter candy discussions into a radio spot for My 98.3. This will be pretty fun, because our candy-eating friend Ryan is hosting the morning show! Tune in about 7:40 a.m. today at 98.3 FM or listen online at my983.com.

Now, here is some of what I’ve learned while on the Easter candy beat this spring.

The National Retail Federation reports that consumer spending on Easter holiday expenses is jumping 11 percent this year as compared to 2011. The total spending expectation of $145.28, which includes new clothing, flowers, greeting cards, food, candy and decorations, is more than even in 2007 or 2008, before the recession hit.

Specifically, 89 percent of the NRF survey respondents saying candy would be part of their Easter purchases. The average amount that consumers expected to spend this year on candy alone is $22.77, compared to $20.64 in 2011.

If you haven’t been shopping for candy yet, you might say about the NRF survey, “No way I’ll spend that much.”

But based on what I’ve seen in the stores, and what one of The Monroe Evening News readers posted on our Facebook wall when we mentioned the NRF survey, you could easily spend that — or more! That estimated 10 percent increase in candy spending is way low. Many of the actual prices I’ve seen this year are 20 to 25 percent higher as compared to 2011.

It’s even possible in Monroe to spend $14.99 on just ONE chocolate rabbit this year! Oh, yes, I saw that listing in the Kmart sales flier this week and stopped by the store to see whether it really exists. It does. It’s for a 2-pound bunny called Big Binks.

To be fair, I could see such a purchase made as a door prize at a church or neighborhood egg hunt. But I wouldn’t spend that much money on a family Easter basket. I did not even buy the $7.99 Palmer bunny I saw a couple of weeks ago at Meijer. I bought the $1.99 Russell Stover bunnies.

Take a look at the candy price roundup I’ve been working on this season, and let’s discuss some scenarios so you can see how this all adds up:

“Grandma wants convenience” scenario: She doesn’t want a lot of hassle, but she wants to treat three grandsons. She thought one nice-sized chocolate bunny for each boy, and a collection of pre-filled candy eggs to hide around her house would work well. Here’s how the cost for that shopping list breaks down with this week’s prices.

  • Target: three Hershey 4-ounce bunnies at $3.50 each.
  • CVS: 12-count Rain Forest candy filled eggs that cost $4.99 and 16-count Marvel superhero candy filled eggs that cost $5.99.
  • Total candy cost: $21.48.

The “little gifts for lots of people” scenario: This list is based on what my grandma would have done when she assembled small individual Easter candy gifts for 10 grandchildren during the 1970s and 1980s. I talked about this in a recent newspaper column.

Let’s assume there are 12 friends or family members you want to share small gift bag-style treats with. The cost for those people, based on what my grandma did and this week’s candy prices would be:

  • CVS: One 12-pack bunny Peeps for $1.50, each person gets one Peep.
  • Walgreens: One Cadbury creme per person, cost 39 cents each. You’ll need to break this up over two shopping trips, given the limit of 10 per transaction. Total cost $3.90 for the first visit, .78 cents for the second visit. (My grandma actually put one colored hardboiled egg in each of her gift bowls, but I substituted candy eggs when I replicated this gift a few years ago for my siblings.)
  • Walgreens: Russell Stover jelly beans, $3.59 a bag. This works out to a handful of beans per person.
  • Kmart: One bag funsize chocolates at $2.50. This works out to a couple of pieces per person.
  • Total candy cost: $12.27.

The “Mom, get our favorites” scenario: What can you do when everyone in the family has different favorites, but you don’t want to play favorites on the distribution? Assuming you have two grade-school children, along with Mom and Dad, to keep happy, here’s how a candy assortment might work out with this week’s prices:

  • CVS: Two 12-pack bunny Peeps cost total $3, which allows for 6 peeps for each person.
  • Walgreens: Four Cadbury creme eggs and four Reese single eggs, 39 cents each, $3.12 total.
  • Wal-Mart: Starburst jelly beans, one bag at $1.88.
  • Rite Aid: Russell Stover flatback rabbit, 12 ounce, $4.99, four each, for a total $19.96.
  • Rite Aid: Two bags of popular funsize chocolates to split among the four, $5.
  • Kmart: Bag of Whoppers, 10 ounce, $1.50.
  • Total candy cost: $35.43.

Keep in mind these shopping list examples are just for the candy! What if you also want to buy new baskets, plastic eggs, bubbles, Hot Wheels, Barbie dolls, jump ropes, Easter grass, crayons, coloring books, or stuffed Peep toys?

Hmm. You might want to add some aspirin to that shopping list.

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