5 Halloween shopping tips

By Paul EngLifestyle and BudgetConsumer Reports

According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, the average American consumer plans to spend about $75.03, on Halloween décor, costumes, candy and fun this year, about $5 less than in 2012. Total spending for the holiday is expected to be $6.9 billion, nearly a 54.7 percent since 2005.

Halloween pop-up stores, retail outlets that spring up at this time of year shut down once the fright festival is over, can offer tempting deals on costumes, decorations and candies. Here are five things to keep in mind when trying to score Halloween bargains:

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1. Don't go batty. The temporary nature of pop-ups can create a sense of excitement and urgency, notes Christina Norsig, CEO of PopUpInsider and author of "Pop-Up Retail." But while pop-ups usually carry a wider selection of Halloween merchandise than less specialized outlets, you may save by comparison shopping online or at the discount store down the block.

2. Ask about returns. If you need to return something, where do you take it or mail it after the pop-up has closed for the season? What kinds of items are returnable? (Costumes and inflatables, for example, sometimes aren't.) Also ask if you'll have to pay a restocking fee to return something. You may need to search online for the answers. Pop-up store workers and even their managers are often temporary hires who may not know the company's policies.

3. Inspect the merchandise. That might not matter much with a $5 pair of Spock ears, but if you're spending $300 on a life-size animatronic werewolf, better take a close look before you buy.

4. Pay by credit card. If you didn't get what you paid for, you may be able to dispute the charge through your card company. Debit cards and cash give you less leverage.

5. Haunt the clearance sales. Once Halloween is over, pop-ups have to pack up all their unsold merchandise and store it until next year. Not surprisingly, you can scare up some serious markdowns come November 1.

Stores are bursting with pumpkin-y products. Read "Pumpkin-Mania Returns to Store Shelves" for more details.

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