MONEY halloween

Here’s How to Turn Trick-or-Treat Candy Into Cold Hard Cash

dentures on top of candy
Aleksandar Mijatovic—Alamy

Hey kids, you know your parents aren't going to let you eat all of the candy hauled in on Halloween trick-or-treating rounds. So why not swap some of it for cash money?

The cash payoff isn’t the only reason kids might want to trade in candy soon after Halloween is over. Doing so also supports the troops overseas.

To participate in the annual program, called the Halloween Candy Buy Back, families should start by finding a participating nearby dentist’s office, via a search tool at the link or at the program’s Facebook page. There are thousands of participants around the country–in New Jersey, Ohio, California, and beyond. Chances are, there’s a poster up at your dentist’s office asking locals to join in its Candy Buy Back campaign.

While the particulars of each participating office may differ slightly, they generally all welcome unopened candy donations in the days right after Halloween, and they pay $1 per pound of candy dropped off, with a $5 maximum payout. Some also give treats or goodie bags for kids—toys, stickers, toothbrushes, sometimes pizza or local baked goods—as well as the chance to win iPods, gift cards, and other prizes. It softens the blow inherent in handing over the sweet and chocolatey fruits of one’s labor spent trick-or-treating.

The program was originally envisioned as a means to get massive quantities of Halloween candy “off the streets” and out of the bellies of America’s children, and the campaign truly caught fire when it partnered with Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends care packages to military veterans, new recruits, and most especially troops who are deployed overseas. Some 130+ million tons of candy has been collected over the years, and with the help of Halloween Candy Buy Back participants, Operation Gratitude was able to ship its one millionth care package last December.

As for the more mercenary kids out there—those who are trading candy in for cash at least as much as they are motivated to support the troops—they’re probably trying to figure out what candies weigh the most to maximize their payout.

TIME Pop Culture

The Definitive History of Sexy Halloween Costumes

Steven Barston Photography / Yandy

Plus, the deep cultural meaning of that sexy George Washington get-up

In the year 2014, it’s entirely unsurprising to see a human female dress up as a sexy 101 Dalmatians dog for Halloween and only mildly surprising to see an actual dalmatian dress up as a sexy human female, complete with fake cleavage.

When did Halloween become, as Lindsay Lohan so eloquently stated in 2004’s Mean Girls, “The one night of the year when you can dress like a slut and no other girls can say anything about it”? What is the history of the historically-themed sexy wooly mammoth or sexy George Washington costume?

As it turns out, the story goes all the way back to the very origins of Halloween.

Before you understand the sexy costume, you have to understand the non-sexy version. “There is a long tradition of costuming of sorts that goes back to Hallow Mass when people prayed for the dead,” explains Nicholas Rogers, a history professor at York University who has written about Halloween. “But they also prayed for fertile marriages, and the boy choristers in the churches dressed up as virgins. So there was a certain degree of cross dressing in the actual ceremony of All Hallow’s Eve.”

The precursors of today’s typical, non-religious Halloween costumes didn’t really emerge until Victorians in 19th-century America embraced the holiday, says author and Halloween expert Lesley Bannatyne, (“[People at the time] dressed in costumes at the drop of a hat!” she adds.) Many Victorians became familiar with the holiday after reading a popular Robert Burns poem called Halloween. “It included footnotes that basically told you how to throw a Halloween party in rural Scotland, and the Victorians just loved it,” Bannatyne says. “They were obsessed with ghosts at this time, and it was about rural Scotland which was just as exotic to them as Fiji or Borneo.”

Still, Victorian Americans tended to opt for costumes that were creepy — like bats and ghosts — rather than come-hither. “A gypsy or an Egyptian princess — again the exotic,” Bannatyne explains. “It wouldn’t have shown much skin, but it would have had the aura of being outside the box. It was seen as glamorous and kind of in the same vein as you see kids shopping for sexy costumes today — in some part of their minds they think it’s glamorous. ‘A night to do something that I wouldn’t ordinarily do and have people look at me.'”

The Halloween costume continued to gain popularity in the early 20th century, but the get-ups were still tame. The 20’s had paper costumes, which involved wearing crepe-paper hats or aprons over clothing to turn into a cauldron or cat. (Note: not a sexy cat.) After World War II, Halloween became a holiday that revolved around children and trick or treating. “Women would dress up as Minnie Mouse, but there wasn’t a sexy Minnie Mouse,” Bannatyne says — which Paris Hilton proved earlier this month is no longer the case:

It wasn’t until the 1970’s, when adults began celebrating Halloween again, this time after the sexual revolution, that the truly sexy costumes emerged.

“There started to be these outrageous gay Halloween parades in the Castro District, Greenwich Village and Key West,” Bannatyne says. “Combine second-wave feminism with outrageousness and a general atmosphere of freedom, and you have this perfect storm of more outrageous costumes.”

So there’s the deeper meaning of the sexy costume: Halloween is a reflection of what is happening in culture — what people are thinking and seeing, and which boundaries are most obviously begging to be pushed.

“There was a general attempt to capitalize on what seemed transgressive,” says Rogers, the historian. “And because it’s a night of transgression you can get away with it without it being seen as particularly offensive in any way.” (“Except for the Christian right,” he adds, “but they think everything is transgressive anyway.”)

In other words, when dressing as an Egyptian princess à la the late 1800’s was no longer daring, celebrants had to look elsewhere for a way to make Halloween special. And it’s not just a matter of sexiness. Bannatyne recalls that after a slew of incredibly violent horror movies came out in the 1980’s, people complained that Halloween revelers were wearing overly gory costumes. As movies and television shows began showing more nudity and higher hemlines, Halloween fashion began emulating that level of sexiness as well. Today, we live in an era of both irony and overexposure. Anything, ranging from a marshmallow peep to a Sesame Street character, can qualify as a sexy costume. Yandy co-founder Chad Horstman, whose company sells counterintuitive sexy costumes — for example, the sexy lobster — traces the emergence of unexpected risqué costumes to almost a decade ago.

“We started selling selling an image called Tina the Taxi Driver,” he says. “There is a market for these unusual and zany Halloween costumes.”

Especially if they show a lot of leg.

Adults will spend $1.4 billion on their own Halloween costumes this year, according to the National Retail Federation. The NRF doesn’t isolate for the sexy sector, but the fact that the sexy lobster even exists in the first place is evidence of how far we’ve come since the days of crepe-paper aprons. “It’s important to remember,” says Kathy Grannis, the organization’s senior director, “that retailers wouldn’t offer those options if they didn’t think there would be that kind of demand.”

Read TIME’s 1983 look at Halloween’s growing popularity among grown-ups, here in the archives: Halloween as an Adult Treat

TIME Holidays

These Are the Best and Worst Cities for Celebrating Halloween

160596497
Getty Images

Based on a very scientific analysis of crimes rates, candy stores, walkability and more

If you’re one of those people who gets super into Halloween, then you might want to consider moving to the Twin Cities, because according to a new study, St. Paul and Minneapolis are the best places to celebrate the spooky holiday.

The personal finance social network WalletHub determined the best (and worst) cities for Halloween based on 15 key metrics, including crime rates, weather, walkability, number of costume stores per capita and number of amusement parks. (All the criteria fit into three categories: “Entertainment Environment & Safety,” “Parties & Activities” and Weather Forecast for Halloween.”)

WalletHub crunched numbers for 100 of the country’s most populated cities, ultimately giving each one an overall rank of Halloween-friendliness. Here are the 10 best cities:

  1. St. Paul, MN
  2. Minneapolis, MN
  3. Dallas, TX
  4. Santa Ana, CA
  5. Irving, TX
  6. Garland, TX
  7. Chandler, AZ
  8. Denver, CO
  9. Arlington, TX
  10. Las Vegas, NV

And the 10 worst:

  1. Winston-Salem, NC
  2. Jacksonville, FL
  3. Nashville, TN
  4. Anchorage, AK
  5. Detroit, MI
  6. Durham, NC
  7. Stockton, CA
  8. Toledo, OH
  9. Charlotte, NC
  10. Kansas City, MO

See the rest of the rankings — along with some other key findings — here.

TIME Holidays

See the Creepy Traditions That Spawned Halloween

Here's how Halloween happened.

All Hallow’s Eve. The Holy Evening. All Saint’s Eve. No matter what you call it, the holiday’s true origin is still shrouded in mystery. But before you don your velvet wizard’s cap and giant cat paws this Oct. 31, here’s a look at how the Celtic festival Samhain transformed into what we know today as Halloween.

Read next: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Is Halloween’s True Queen

TIME Saving & Spending

The Secret to Getting a Ridiculously Cheap Thanksgiving Flight

Aerial view of airplane
Stephan Zirwes—Brand X/Getty Images

Every travel agency is saying something different, but there are some tips that aren't up for debate

For years, travel search engines have scoured through their dense databases to determine the best day to book your Thanksgiving flights. This year, like every year, there’s a lot of mixed messages on what to do if you’ve procrastinated on booking tickets. Here’s what the big players are advising for cheap domestic U.S. air tickets:

  • Kayak: Book in early November, about two to four weeks before Thanksgiving.
  • Skyscanner: Two weeks prior to Thanksgiving.
  • Orbitz: This Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday. If not then, then before Nov. 18.
  • Cheapair: It depends on way too many things.

So what’s the takeaway? It’s better to be safe and book flights now, but you if you’re a risk taker, you can wait until the beginning of November to book your flights. But try not to wait until the week of Thanksgiving. It’s also important to weigh the risks of an unexpected fare hike in light of what your benefits of waiting actually are. These hyped “savings” are usually only about 5 to 10% less than the average fare, which amounts to $15 to $30 if your ticket costs $300.

In fact, since airline fares are notoriously difficult to understand, often the better question to ask is what not to do when you’re booking Thanksgiving flights.

Here are a few tips that travel search engines all agree on:

Don’t book a departure flight on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (Nov. 26), or a return flight on the Sunday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 30).

Airfares increase as flights get fuller, and the Wednesday and Sunday flanking the Thanksgiving holiday are when the most people are traveling. A simple airfare search shows just how much more expensive it is to book travel on one of these days. In some cases, fares are up to twice as high.

If you have to book for Wednesday or Sunday, then book your tickets as early as possible.

If you’re locked into a Wednesday departure flight, aim for a Friday or Tuesday return flight, which is around 25% cheaper than returning on Saturday, Sunday or Monday, according to an analysis by Cheapair.

Booking a return flight on Sunday results in the most dramatic airfare spike, and there’s not really much you can do to save money other than to book your departure flight on Thanksgiving Day. But the tradeoff of sacrificing a chunk of your holiday is a discount of only about 10%, so it may make more sense to pick a different day—even if it’s Wednesday. In general, having a Sunday return flight means you’re stuck with a sky-high ticket price.

Consider booking a departure flight or return flight on Thanksgiving Day—or both.

If you depart and return on Thanksgiving Day, your fare may be up to 30% cheaper than the average price, according to Kayak. And even if you only depart (and not return) on Thanksgiving, those savings are particularly meaningful when applied to longer, more expensive flights. For example, flying the JFK-LAX route departing on Thanksgiving instead of the day before can save you nearly $100.

Don’t book flights in groups.

If you’re booking as a family and there are only a few flights left in the lowest fare category, it’s possible the airline will bump the entire party up to the next fare category, according to Cheapair. That doesn’t mean you can’t travel as a family, though: you just might have to book each person’s ticket individually.

Check other smaller airports nearby.

There’s often regional and even international airports near the ORDs, JFKs and LAXs of major U.S. cities. If you’re in Chicago, for example, consider Chicago Midway Airport instead of O’Hare; if you’re in Los Angeles, consider Long Beach Airport instead of LAX. Both are cheaper airports than their neighboring giants, according to Cheapflights.com, which ranked the nation’s 101 most affordable airports.

Check smaller airlines.

The five biggest U.S. airlines—American, United, Delta, Southwest and JetBlue—all increased their base fares slightly despite lower fuel prices and a worldwide fear of Ebola. While the effect on consumers is not yet clear, it’s also worth checking out smaller airlines like Spirit, Frontier and Virgin.

Read next: The Old Advice on When to Buy Flights Is Wrong (And So Is the New Advice)

MONEY Shopping

How Opening on Thanksgiving Day Can Actually Hurt Store Sales

Eager shoppers crowd the entrance as they pour into the Macy's Herald Square flagship store, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, in New York
Eager shoppers crowd the entrance as they pour into the Macy's Herald Square flagship store, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, in New York. John Minchillo—AP

The decision announced this week by Macy's and some malls to open doors to shoppers during the dinner hours on Thanksgiving seemed inevitable. But it doesn't necessarily make sense.

Macy’s was blamed for the death of Thanksgiving when the retailer announced last year that it was opening up for shopping on the holiday—at 8 p.m. If Thanksgiving’s obituary was written in 2013 because Macy’s opened at 8 p.m., what does the retailer’s decision to open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving 2014 mean about how we as a culture value the holiday? Perhaps it’s the equivalent of spitting on Thanksgiving’s gravestone.

Of course, it’s not just Macy’s that’s opening on Thanksgiving, and doing so earlier and earlier each year. Entire malls in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere have announced 6 p.m. Thanksgiving openings, and it seems like the majority of stores that aren’t opening at 6 p.m. plan on opening a mere two hours later. Surely more retailers will match Macy’s 6 p.m. start; last year Toys R Us and Walmart launched “Black Friday” sales in stores at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively. (Best Buy went with 6 p.m. too.)

Macy’s confirmed its 6 p.m. opening begrudgingly, almost apologetically, this week after a letter from company executives to employees was leaked to the media. A Macy’s spokesperson explained via statement to the (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune that the move was based on “significant, sustained customer interest,” and that last year’s Thanksgiving hours were supposedly a big hit with Macy’s workers. “We also heard last year from many associates who appreciated the opportunity to work on Thanksgiving so they could have time off on Black Friday.”

Retailers essentially gave the same explanation last year for why they were opening on Thanksgiving Day. Macy’s 2013 press release stated that its 8 p.m. Thanksgiving opening came as a “response to interest from customers who prefer to start their shopping early.” It also noted that stores would only open “after families across the country have finished their holiday meals and celebrations.” Presumably, those meals and celebrations will have to end earlier this Thanksgiving for anyone wanting to start their shopping when the doors open. Likewise, a J.C. Penney spokesperson told the Dallas Morning News last year that it was only opening on Thanksgiving (at 8 p.m.) because “our stores saw a lot of frustrated customers tap our doors wanting to shop,” the year before, when locations opened a few hours after many competitors.

Everyone Else Is Doing It

The overall message retailers are trying to send is: We’re not opening on Thanksgiving to be greedy or anything. We’re doing it simply to make our customers happy. Another way to translate the message: Don’t blame the stores for ruining Thanksgiving, blame the shoppers who want to go to the stores on a national holiday.

The reality is that these retailers are opening on Thanksgiving mainly for the same reason that kids often cite as the excuse for why they did something stupid: Everyone else is doing it. Macy’s and the rest of the mall stalwarts feel forced to open earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving because that’s what the competition is doing—and by not opening on Thanksgiving, a store is essentially conceding some chunk of sales to the competition. The battle for holiday sales and when stores should open is even more muddled by the fact that consumers can shop to their heart’s content no matter what the day, 24/7/365, because e-retail never closes.

What’s interesting is that there’s a good argument to be made that Thanksgiving store hours don’t actually boost a retailer’s overall holiday sales. Rather, sales on the holiday simply displace sales that would otherwise have been rung up on Black Friday or later in the season. After an underwhelming back-to-school period for retailers, Craig Johnson, president of the retail consulting firm Custom Growth Partners, predicted to the Wall Street Journal in late September, “With the soft sales outlook, we do anticipate a few earlier openings” on Thanksgiving. “However, there is a law of diminishing returns,” he warned, and stores that open on Thanksgiving “risk cannibalizing” sales that they would have made at another time.

The End of Black Friday?

In light of that, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Black Friday sales flopped last year when more stores expanded or introduced Thanksgiving hours, and that some say the Black Friday phenomenon is facing extinction. After all, when stores are open at 6 p.m. or even earlier on Thanksgiving Day, the idea of getting excited by the prospect of shopping at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. on Friday seems more absurd than ever.

Let’s also not forget that Thanksgiving store hours turn off many would-be customers. Last year, countless petitions were launched pleading with retailers to pull back on Thanksgiving hours, which critics say ruin the holiday for more than just the retail employees being forced to work.

For what’s is worth, Lehigh Valley Live recently asked readers to vote on how early stores should open on Thanksgiving. At last check, around 4% responded “as early as they can.” On the other hand, 82% voted “They shouldn’t. It’s a holiday.”

TIME Gadgets

Buying Guide: Apple’s Holiday Gadgets Lineup

For a company that’s made a lot of money by selling the concept of simplicity, Apple’s holiday lineup features an almost overwhelming number of gadgets. Here’s a look at the main product lines, along with some buying advice for each category.

Computers

MacBook Air Laptops ($899+)

MacBook Air
Apple

When it comes to Apple’s portable computer lineup, you’ve got the less expensive, more portable MacBook Air line or the more expensive, more powerful MacBook Pro line.

There are two base models to choose from in the MacBook Air line: an 11-incher starting at $899 and a 13-incher starting at $999. They were last updated in April of 2014.

The 11-inch model is — surprise — the more portable of the two, weighing in around 2.4 pounds. However, for $100 extra, the 13-inch model gives you a higher-resolution screen, three additional hours of battery life (9 for the 11-inch, 12 for the 13-inch), and an SD memory card slot.

Product Page [Apple.com]

MacBook Pro Laptops ($1299+)

MacBook Pro
Apple

The more potent of Apple’s portables, the MacBook Pro line consists of 13- and 15-inch models with super high-resolution “Retina” screens and a top-of-the-line model with a starting price (before custom configuration) of $2499. The line was last updated in late July of 2014.

They’re still plenty portable: Each model measures less than three quarters of an inch thick, with the 13-incher weighing just shy of 3.5 pounds and the 15-incher weighing just shy of 4.5 pounds.

Making the leap from the base 13-inch model to the base 15-inch model commands a $700 price premium, but nets you a better processor, double the RAM, double the storage, and higher-resolution screen with a better graphics chip. You lose an hour of battery life with the 15-inch model (eight hours versus nine hours for the 13-incher), and there are a couple upgraded 13-inch models to choose from ($1499 and $1799) before you get to the first 15-inch model.

Note that there’s also an aging non-Retina 13-inch MacBook Pro that’s still for sale with a $1099 starting price. It’s not touted on Apple’s main MacBook Pro page, however, and hasn’t been updated for quite a while. It’s been rumored that it’s being killed off entirely. You can do better with $1099.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iMac All-in-Ones ($1099+)

iMac
Apple

Apple’s all-in-one desktop line comes in 21.5-inch models starting at $1099 and 27-inch models starting at $1799. They were last updated in late September of 2013, with the entry-level model added in mid-June of 2014. The Retina 5K model was added in mid-October 2014 with a $2499 starting price.

The entry-level $1099 jobber tends to steer you into taking a good, hard look at the next step up; a $1299 21.5-inch model which, for $200, gets you a much better processor (2.7GHz quad-core versus a 1.4GHz dual-core), double the storage space, higher-end RAM, and a better graphics chip.

Stepping up to the baseline 27-inch model (starts at $1799), gets you a super high-resolution screen (2560 x 1440), a better processor and a better graphics chip. You’re paying mostly for the enormous 27-inch screen. It’s a really nice screen — I use one for work on occasion — but the rest of the system’s innards aren’t mind-blowing by any means. You can do some custom upgrades to increase the mind-blowingness, of course.

Find another $700 in your couch cushions, and you can step up to the all-new Retina iMac, which starts at $2499 and sports an insanely high-resolution screen (5120 x 2880). Apple blew right past “4K” and is calling this “5K” instead. Aside from the screen technology, this model starts out with a quad-core Intel processor, a faster graphics chip and a faster one-terabyte hybrid (solid-state + standard storage) hard drive.

Product Page (iMac) | Product Page (Retina 5K iMac) [Apple.com]

Mac Mini ($499+)

Mac Mini
Apple

The diminutive Mac Mini desktop is still kicking, with a $499 starting price (d0wn from $599) and the continued understanding that you’ll need to bring your own monitor, keyboard and mouse. There’s a $699 model that gets you almost double the processing speed, double the storage, double the RAM and a better graphics chip. Tough choice, to be honest.

Product Page [Apple.com]

Mac Pro ($2,999+)

Mac Pro
Apple

The Mac Pro comes in quad- and six-core configurations, starting at more than many people’s monthly mortgage payments. If you’re buying this as a gift for someone, you are incredibly generous, well-off or both. Either way: congratulations on all your success!

You should check with this person to see what he or she actually wants out of a Mac Pro. This isn’t a great “surprise” gift, in other words. At the most basic, however, an extra $1000 jumps you from four to six processing cores, and gets you more RAM and a better graphics chip.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iPhones

You have four iPhone models to choose from, running the price gamut from free with a two-year contract to $499 with a two-year contract.

iPhones
From left to right: iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C Apple

iPhone 6 Plus ($299+)

Starting on the left-hand side of the above image, the iPhone 6 Plus is Apple’s biggest phone to date. With a 5.5-inch screen, it straddles the tablet-phone chasm with a starting price of $299 with a two-year contract. Going this big (and expensive) gets you a higher-resolution screen than the iPhone 6, optical image stabilization, and longer battery life.

iPhone 6 ($199+)

Apple’s flagship phone until (probably) late 2015, the iPhone 6 attempts to summon Goldilocks with a not-too-big, not-too-small 4.7-inch screen. Apple promises up to 14 hours of 3G talk time or up to 10 hours of web surfing. Like all iPhones, an extra $100 for each trim level gets you more storage, though where previous lines doubled the storage for every $100 you spent, the 6 and 6 Plus jump you from 16 gigabytes to 64 gigabytes this time around. Another $100 pops things up to 128 gigabytes.

iPhone 5S ($99+)

Last year’s flagship model, the iPhone 5S sports a four-inch screen, fingerprint sensor, decent processor and 8-10 hours of continuous-use battery life. It’s still a fine phone, with a good camera and a 32-gigabyte storage option that costs an extra $50.

iPhone 5C (Free)

On the low end, the iPhone 5C is free with a two-year contract, comes in five colors and is available with eight gigabytes of storage. For all intents and purposes, this is a late-2012 iPhone 5 gussied up and re-released in late 2013. An extra $100 gets you more processing power and double the storage in an iPhone 5S, but if you don’t care about that and you don’t care about the fingerprint reader, this one’s a solid choice as a free phone.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iPads

You have five iPad models to choose from. Starting prices range from $249 to $499.

iPads
From left to right: iPad Air 2, iPad Air, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini Apple

iPad Air 2 ($499+)

The first version of the iPad Air was thinner than a pencil at 0.29 inches. Thanks to a new anti-reflective screen, the iPad Air 2 is thinner than that at 0.24 inches — an 18% reduction — and slightly lighter (like, 0.04 pounds lighter). There’s a souped-up iPhone 6/6 Plus processor onboard, too (the A8X), which Apple says is 40% faster than previous efforts.

Battery life remains 10 hours, as before, and the rear camera has been bumped from five to eight megapixels and can capture time-lapse and slow-motion videos. The front camera has been improved, as well, and wireless connections have been bolstered to provide faster data access.

The newest iPad Air rounds things out by adding the TouchID fingerprint sensor that debuted with the iPhone 5S, so you can unlock the tablet and log into apps and sites without typing passcodes. It’ll be available in gold, silver and gray, and there’s a new 128-gigabyte storage option available starting at $699.

iPad Air

Late November 2013’s iPad Air is sticking around, though this time with a $399 starting price (down from $499). This is still a more-than-fine full-size iPad. Spending the extra $100 on the iPad Air 2 gets you something marginally thinner and marginally lighter, with a better rear-facing camera, the fingerprint sensor and a beefed up processor. If none of these are super important to you, the iPad Air is now a comparatively good deal.

iPad Mini 3

The iPad Mini 3 is almost pound-for-pound a shrunken-down iPad Air, all the way down to the $399 starting price. You do get the fingerprint sensor, so there’s that. There’s also a 128-gigabyte option (the iPad Air tops out at 32 gigabytes). It’s smaller and lighter, too, of course (although not thinner) with a starting weight of 0.73 pounds.

iPad Mini 2

If you’re interested in a small iPad, the iPad Mini 2 looks like a really good bet, actually. It’s very similar to the iPad Mini 3, but doesn’t feature the gold color option, the 128-gigabyte storage option or the fingerprint reader. Just about everything else is there, minus $100 off the starting price.

iPad Mini

The iPad Mini is sticking around, with a starting price of $249. If ever you were to try to scrounge up an extra $50, this is the time to do it. Stepping up to the iPad Mini 2 gets you a much better screen and a much better processor. If the price was $199, it’d be a much harder decision. This thing’s already two years old, though.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iPods and Apple TV ($49+)

iPod Shuffle ($49)

iPod Shuffle
Apple

This is one of the cheapest Apple gadgets to own. A handful of sawbucks will get you a wearable music player good for 15 hours of playback that can hold hundreds of songs (up to around 500 if you really compress them, but bank on a couple hundred at least). Keep in mind that you’ll need a computer to transfer songs: This little guy has no wireless connection.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iPod Nano ($149)

iPod Nano
Apple

The iPod Nano is a good option if you’re looking for a pocketable gadget that can be used for working out, watching video, looking at photos and listening to music. Like the iPod Shuffle, you’ll need to use a computer to load stuff onto it, but it does feature a Bluetooth connection you can use to sync it to your car’s audio system or wireless headphones. And there’s Nike+ integration if you want to track your workouts.

Product Page [Apple.com]

iPod Touch ($199+)

iPod Touch
Apple

Buying an iPod Touch is basically like buying a phone-less iPhone 4S, specs-wise. It’s a great option for kids who aren’t ready for a full-fledged cell phone (and the monthly bill it entails), but who want access to apps and a decent camera and fun stuff like that. Best of all, you don’t need a computer to load content onto it; just a Wi-Fi network.

Product Page [Apple.com]

Apple TV ($99)

 TV
Apple

Hooking an Apple TV box up to your TV serves two main purposes. One: You can use it to stream music and video from popular services like Netflix and other providers. Second: You can use its AirPlay feature to sling content from your iPhone, iPad, MacBook and other Apple gadgets, expanding it for viewing on the biggest screen in your house. Your TV is the biggest screen in your house, right? Right?!

Product Page [Apple.com]

TIME Companies

Amazon to Add 80,000 Seasonal Jobs During the Holidays

That's a 14% increase over last year

Amazon has announced plans to add 80,000 seasonal jobs across the U.S. to help meet the growing customer demand for orders during the holidays.

That’s a 14% increase over the 70,000 seasonal jobs the company created last year, CNET reports, which was already a 40% increase over the previous year. The e-commerce giant currently has 50 fulfillment centers and plans to have more than 15 sortation centers by the end of the year.

Mike Roth, vice president of Amazon’s North America operations, said the company expects many of the new hires to transition into full-time regular employees, as has been the case this year with 10,000 seasonal jobs.

TIME halloween

A Halloween Miracle

In which I am tricked into enjoying a holiday that has never felt like a treat

This feels weirdly unpatriotic and definitely fun-killing, but I’m just going to admit it: I hate Halloween.

Why hate Halloween?

Four reasons:

1. I’m pretty sure it’s a fake holiday.

2. My children’s candy consumption, questionable during the rest of the year, becomes impossible to monitor and possibly life-threatening for 48 hours.

3. Random people wearing masks ring my doorbell in the dark when no one is home but me and our big dopey dogs, who may as well be wearing signs that say (with apologies to W.B. Yeats), “There are no strangers only friends I haven’t met and I know I love you already so please scratch my belly.”

4. The decorations. Oh, the decorations! For years I’ve wanted to opt out of Halloween, the way you can opt out of the vision-care plan at work, because the sight of all those decorations hurts me, both aesthetically and psychically. And every year it gets more out of hand. All I can say is, it’s a good thing Edward Gorey died before he had to see fake orange spider webbing coating every privet hedge in suburban America.

Did you know that, according to the National Retail Federation, Americans are projected to spend $7.4 billion on Halloween this year? Including $350 million on costumes for pets? I’m just guessing, but I suspect my dogs would rather I donate their costume money to a pet-rescue organization. Oh, never mind. What the dogs and I definitely agree on is that the decoration situation is a problem, particularly when measured by my patented decoration-to-holiday-significance ratio.

Let me explain. Every holiday has a unique decoration-to-significance ratio. Take Christmas, for example. Very significant to many people, and lots and lots of decorations. So basically a ratio of 1:1. Thanksgiving: very significant to lots of people, not many decorations. So 1:20, give or take. Fourth of July: significant, not a lot of decorations. Ratio: 3:50.

Halloween? What are we celebrating on Halloween? Can anybody tell me? Type “What does Halloween celebrate?” into Google and you’re confronted with “the triduum of Allhallowtide,” “the devil” and “the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain.” So basically nobody knows, not even the Internet. Hence my fake-holiday suspicion, and calculation that Halloween’s decoration-to-significance ratio is 37,000:1. Which means that when my neighbor with the generator-powered blow-up jack-o’-lantern thingy with black cats rotating inside fires up his yearly tribute to the holiday he can’t explain, I just want to close my eyes and get on the next flight to Aruba.

But this year I was given a Halloween miracle. Our oldest son’s university scheduled Family Weekend to begin on–wait for it–Oct. 31. Perfect! For a moment, I was elated that I didn’t need to go all the way to Aruba to skip Halloween. But … but … but: we also have a child who is 7, i.e., in his prime trick-or-treating years. And although there was a time, back in the pre-helicopter-parenting age, when Family Weekend was merely Parents’ Weekend, now that it’s been rebranded, the entire nuclear unit must attend or risk getting reported to the family-values police. But what sort of institute of higher learning schedules Family Weekend on Halloween? Maybe it’s an ivory-tower machination so multilayered and clever that people of average intelligence like me can’t possibly understand it. Regardless, I just can’t picture our little guy attending the Friday-night dinner and lecture in his Tron costume.

Am I exaggerating to say that this felt just like Sophie’s Choice? Maybe a bit. But making the right decision, pitting Tron against his older brother, with sentiments of I-now-hate-Halloween-even-more clouding my brain, seemed impossible.

And then I remembered when our college sophomore, our oldest, was 7. That Halloween I rushed home from the office to help him change into his costume, then watched him proudly march in the elementary-school parade. It was one of the highlights of the school year. I made vegetarian chili for my friend Sharene’s annual post-trick-or-treating party, which featured a giant backyard maze made from tall wooden stakes and endless rolls of thick black plastic that took weeks to assemble. When it got dark, the kids would lose themselves in the maze, whooping with delight. It was magic.

The maze is now just a memory, and most of the kids who raced through it are in college. Including my oldest, suddenly so grown up and full of wisdom that he advised us to skip Family Weekend for the sake of his 7-year-old brother. He knows that our trick-or-treating days are numbered. And as much as I truly, truly hate Halloween–the fake orange spider webbing and generator-powered decorations and strangers who ring the doorbell even after I’ve turned off the front porch light–I suppose I know it too.

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