Liberty Vittert: A statistician's guide to life -- THIS is how much money you waste on Halloween

The ancient pagan festival of Samhain is on Thursday, (better known as Halloween).

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While the Celts believed it was a night the dead could walk among the living, Americans now celebrate it as the cheapest major holiday (even though the spend last year was $9 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.).

More than half of the country is expected to celebrate Halloween this year, and while it isn’t marked as an "official" public holiday -- it is a critical ingredient for the financial health of the United States.

More than 30 percent of annual retail sales typically take place between Black Friday and Christmas, but Halloween shouldn't be ignored: it is basically a test run to see how confident consumers are feeling.

For example, in 2007, the average American spent $65 on Halloween, but post-recession, spending fell to a low of $56. Last year, it hit a high of $87, showing a consumer confidence unlike even before the Great Recession.

I think it is safe to say that this is also the time of year when we waste a lot of money on candy.

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The National Retail Federation predicts we will spend nearly $2.6 billion on candy this Halloween (the most candy intensive holiday we have), which equates to 600 million pounds -- i.e. 3.5 lbs of candy per trick-or-treater, or the equivalent of 355 Hershey kisses. Now, Hershey’s is one of America’s oldest and most respected brands, but even for the biggest chocolate kiss lover that is a lot of chocolate.

Some back of the envelope calculations show we waste about $400 million on Halloween candy each year. While that may sound like a lot, it equates to about $5 per person who participates in the holiday. 

Some back of the envelope calculations show we waste about $400 million on Halloween candy each year. While that may sound like a lot, it equates to about $5 per person who participates in the holiday.

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While I was researching these numbers, I did read about what others called a bigger waste of money – pet costumes, which bring in $460 million during the season. Now, I don’t know about you, but there isn’t anything cuter to me than a dog running around in a ghost costume. I would say that’s money well spent.

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So enjoy this Halloween and celebrate our cheapest holiday with aplomb. (But maybe just buy one less bag of candy and save that $5 for a few Hershey bars on a rainy day.)

Professor Liberty Vittert is a professor of the practice of Data Science and an ambassador for the Royal Statistical Society.