Autumn can be a spendy time of year: Halloween, Oktoberfest, apple-picking and pumpkin patches, haunted houses, football and the MLB playoffs — not to mention additional books or supplies you may need for classes. It adds up fast. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities for students to save money and spend intelligently this spooky season.

Sneaky savings reminders

For savings on food, the Red Card offers daily and weekly deals at favorite student eateries all over Madison. The pre-loadable account also awards you coupons for deposits and usage.

For textbooks, when you can’t find used options at the University Bookstore, check out the UW–Madison Student Book Exchange on Facebook.

And as the weather cools and you’re wanting to avoid a shivery walk or bike ride around campus, take the bus. Your student fees help fund an unlimited-rides bus pass on Madison’s Metro Transit system, so don’t pass up this option — you already paid for it! For trips further afield, Van Galder has student discounts, so be sure to buy your ticket at Memorial Union before catching a ride.


Creepy costumes don’t have to break the bank, even if you’re wanting a few different options for different days of celebrating.

  1. Coordinate with friends to share costumes and split the expense.
  2. Get creative and make your own costume! You could even have a costume-making party with friends, pooling your crafting supplies or purchasing some together (pro tip: cardboard boxes and plastic bottles make great costume materials).
  3. Check out your local thrift store for inspiration and gems. Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul are both nonprofits that support the community, so you can get ghoulish and generous in one shop!
  4. For the eerily early among us, try shopping around for next year’s costume on November 1st. Just like other holiday decorations, Halloween costume prices balloon in the lead-up to festivities, then sharply decline afterwards.

Trick or treat: Spook the scammers

About this time last year, my friend got a mysterious email asking for his bank information and claiming the sender had a large inheritance to transfer to him. It was obviously a scam, but some scams are less clear.

Keep in mind: the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration will never call or email you and ask for personal identifiable information. Don’t let anyone scare you into giving up confidential information on the phone, over email or by text. To reduce calls, you can register with the government’s national “do not call” registry.

With that said, you should also check your credit card and bank statements for any suspicious transactions. Scammers can buy credit card numbers cheaply, not only on the darknet, but on everyday websites as well. Use credit locks and freezes if you become suspicious of malicious activity.

Don’t “leaf” the FAFSA for later

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid for the 2020-2021 academic year opened October 1. The application is not due until June 30, 2020, but funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so fill it out as soon as possible. That way, next fall’s budget will have more room for candy corn and caramel apples!

Happy Halloween, and On, Wisconsin!

Zack Godfrey is a senior majoring in personal finance and social welfare, with certificates in business and entrepreneurship. He is a lead peer educator with the Badger$ense Financial Life Skills program in the School of Human Ecology. Learn about Badger$ense courses, workshops and other opportunities at