The Monroe on a Budget column runs Mondays in The Monroe Evening News. Here is this week’s installment:

Have you heard of the lipstick economic index?

The theory, although it has not held up, was that women would direct limited funds to the the relatively minor splurge of a new tube of  lipstick during times when money was too tight for more expensive luxuries.

Other statistics also have been discussed or proposed as a “just for fun” or unique look at the economy.

I propose a trick-or-treat economic index, and here’s why: in fall 2007, I cut back from giving two funsize candy bars per visitor to one candy bar per visitor. While I wanted to continue giving out candy, I couldn’t afford to give out as much as usual.

It seemed to me, as I saw the contents in the bags and totes children were carrying that night, that other Monroe residents also had cut back that year. Some candy hosts turned off their porch lights 30 minutes early as they had run out.

But a more scientific template for a trick-or-treat economic index can be found in the archives of the National Retail Federation’s Halloween consumer survey. One of the questions is this:

“Will the state of the U.S. economy impact your Halloween plans?”

This question isn’t showing up in 2008 or earlier data, but it has been asked every year since. And the percentage shows a marked improvement for 2012 as compared to previous years. The numbers:

  • 2009. 29.6 percent answered yes.
  • 2010: 30.1 percent answered yes.
  • 2011: 32.1 percent answered yes.
  • 2012: 25.9 percent answered yes.

How will the economic concerns affect spending decisions this year? The NRF lists this data:

  • Spending less overall: 83.5 percent.
  • Making a costume instead of purchasing: 18 percent.
  • Using last year’s costumes: 16.2 percent.
  • Not handing out candy this year: 5.6 percent.
  • Buying less candy this year: 36.1 percent.
  • Putting up last year’s decorations with no plans to buy more: 22.2 percent.
  • Not participating in as many activities such as haunted house: 15.9 percent.
  • Other: 1.8 percent.

I hope those who are planning to buy less candy this year are prepared to either run out of treats or will hand out fewer pieces than usual. The cost is noticeably up on some items this year, particularly with the funsize candy bars.

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