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You’re probably using coupons to get Halloween candy for all the neighbors’ kids. So why not use the candy that your neighbors hand out, to earn more coupons? That’s the idea behind a program that’s finally giving dentists a good way to mark the tooth-decaying holiday.

Yes, dentists. Long seen as the spoilsports who would give out unwelcomed apples and toothbrushes to sugar-crazed trick-or-treaters, they’re now softening their stance on the holiday. Go ahead and have your fun, kids, and collect all the candy you can carry. Then the day after Halloween, your friendly neighborhood dentist will confiscate all your candy, stuff it into a box and send it far, far away – to people who have guns. In exchange, your dentist might give you some coupons that will make Mom happy.

Well, that doesn’t sound like much fun. But many who have participated in the annual “Halloween Candy Buyback” say that it actually is. Started a few years ago by a Wisconsin dentist, the program has grown increasingly popular, with hundreds of dentists across the country now taking part.

The way it works is, you visit the Halloween Candy Buyback website, enter your zip code to locate a participating dentist, then find out when they’d like your kids to drop by after Halloween. When you show up, your kids can exchange their sugary stash for items like kid-friendly coupons for neighborhood stores and restaurants, or maybe even cold, hard cash. The going rate is about a dollar per pound of candy, but it’s up to the individual dentists to decide exactly what to give out. So you might want to shop around, if you’d rather have the coupons than have a dentist hand junior a fistful of dollars.

The candy is then collected and shipped overseas with help from Operation Gratitude, a group that sends care packages to U.S. troops. Last year, they were able to ship out hundreds of thousands of pounds of candy.

The organizers know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t Halloween candy as bad for troops as it is for kids?” Their answers: Halloween candy can provide troops with a moment of happiness, a warm memory of life “back home”, and besides, (most) adults know how to eat sweets in moderation and take care of their teeth. So, better to send it to them, and send the kids home with coupons for something like free fries or ice cream, or a free kid’s meal at a local restaurant (though arguably that’s not much healthier than a treat bag full of candy).

If you can convince your kids that it’s a good idea, it could represent a good return on your investment – if you use coupons to buy the candy that you give out, you could then exchange your kids’ candy for coupons that are worth more than what you spent.

Nothing like making a profit off Halloween!

That at least fits in with most Americans’ frugal plans for the holiday. This year’s annual Halloween Spending Survey conducted by the National Retail Federation found that 86% of us said we planned to spend less on the holiday this year than we did last year. Overall, they predict Halloween spending will decline 6% from 2012, with the average person spending $75.03.

75 bucks? Apparently the “average person” is not using coupons and looking for sales on candy. If you haven’t gotten your candy yet, there’s still time to get some, and save. Your dentist, your kids’ teeth – and the troops – will thank you.

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