A Highly Scientific Formula for How Much Halloween Candy to Buy This Year

published Oct 11, 2016
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(Image credit: Sean Locke)

Halloween-related household spending is expected to hit a record high this year, according to the National Retail Federation: $8.4 billion dollars overall in the U.S., with $2.5 billion of that spent just on candy. That’s a whole lot of Snickers bars, y’all.

No doubt, with stats like those looming on the horizon, you want to do your homework and avoid over-spending on Halloween candy this year. (Unless, of course, you use trick-or-treaters as an excuse to be surrounded for weeks by piles of leftover fun-size chocolate bars, in which case, carry on!) Because we’re here to help you maximize your candy spend this year by buying just the right amount, we’ve put together a highly scientific (not really) formula:

(Image credit: Taryn Williford)

I can’t guarantee this will give you the perfect answer, although it might get close if you’re able to fill in all the blanks. The main thing to take away here is that when you’re figuring out how much candy to stock this year, you should consider all the variables.

How many trick-or-treaters are in your area?

This is the crux of the whole problem isn’t it? There’s no easy answer to this question, but there are people you can ask and things you can consider. First of all, if you’ve done this before, think back to last year. Were kids ringing the bell every 3 minutes? Were they in big groups? Small groups? Or do the kids in your neighborhood tend to participate in community trick-or-treating—like mall walks or a school-sponsored trunk-or-treat—instead of going door to door?

If you’re brand new to the neighborhood, your best bet is to ask your closest neighbors if (a) you guys ever get trick-or-treaters and (b) how many usually come by. You can even get some intel from them on other things like…

Is your neighborhood a destination neighborhood?

Some neighborhoods provide such stimulation (and likely, some bomb candy) that they actually attract kids from adjacent areas. They’re shuttled over in mini vans to check out your neighbors’ over-the-top decorations and score some full-sized candy bars. If your ‘hood is one of these block-sized Halloween wonderlands, you can expect to multiply the amount of candy you’ll need year-over-year as word catches on.

What kind of candy do you want to give out, and how much of it?

In order to know how much candy to buy, you’ll need to determine your idea of a serving size. Consider both your budget and how well-liked you desire to be with the kids of the neighborhood: Are you a stickler who insists on one Tootsie Roll per costumed kid under 12 years old? (Don’t be that person.) Or are you a kid at heart who has always wanted to be the house with the king-sized bags of M&Ms? If you don’t know the right answer in your soul, just plan on this standard: 2 to 3 fun-sized candies per kid.

What’s the weather like?

Nothing will crush your numbers like bad weather. Check the forecast and adjust your candy stash accordingly: If it’s expected to be very cold or very rainy, you can assume most trick-or-treaters won’t walk too far from home, limiting the amount of kids that make it to your door.

Are you going to be home to hand out the candy?

If you’re heading to a party and leaving a bowl outside hoping your neighborhood’s ghouls and goblins will adhere to the honor system, just know you’ll go through a lot more candy than the folks who answer the door with handfuls from a grab bag. Multiply by at least a factor of 3 if it’s important that you don’t run out.

How to Be More Prepared for Next Year

The very best way to know how much candy to buy is to become a sort of casual candy historian. So this year, make a note of how much candy you go through, as well as the particular conditions on Halloween 2016.

As you dump candy into your bowl on Halloween night, keep a tally of how many bags you’re going through by saving the empty bags. When the night is over, write an email to yourself or put a note in the Notes app on your phone with the following info:

  • The year and what day of the week Halloween fell on
  • How many bags of candy you went through (and maybe the type/weight of the bags, too)
  • Your best guess of how many trick-or-treaters you had
  • The weather conditions that night (“52° and rainy,” or “70° and dark early”)

Next year, you can pull up that info and take a peek to make a better guess of how much candy you’ll need next October.