As many of you may have noticed, the ghouls are out of the pumpkin patch, the specters tiptoed out from under the stairs, the witches dusted off their pointy hats. What I’m trying to say is that it’s spooky season—October has begun.

For many people, this means more hot weather with an orange and black aesthetic, but for me, it’s the beginning of the greatest time of the year —Halloween season.  It’s time to hang out in graveyards, carve pumpkins, pick out costumes and plan out prime trick-or-treating pathways.

Obviously, weeks of planning and preparation need to go into making the perfect Halloween for yourself, so here are some tips for getting ahead:

Sweaters

I know that it’s still really hot out — too hot for jeans or close-toed shoes honestly — but you’re going to need to suck it up and put on a nice woolly sweater in the spirit of the Halloween season. My personal favorite is the classic jack-o-lantern sweater (orange with a black face on it), but any Halloween symbol like the black cat, the witch hat and the spiked candy bar will do nicely.  What’s also great is that, if you keep the sweater on while walking around outside, you’ll start sweating out your candy weight before you touch your first Milk Dud.

Find a costume group

Nobody wants to be Nancy-No-Group when the 31st rolls around and suddenly everyone is a part of a perfectly planned “Breakfast Club” ensemble. It’s time to start claiming your victims —I mean — costume pals — now.  

One great way to gather your people is to start taking random costume pieces and physically assigning them to your friends.  Let’s say you want a guy to be Fred in your Scooby Doo group. Instead of immediately approaching him to play the part, bring an ascot to classes and tie it around his neck. Then, say something like “Oh my gosh so you!” and walk away. You’ve planted the idea inside his subconscious without ever explicitly talking about a costume group. Suddenly, he’s going to be dreaming of Fred Jones, he’ll see the corn-colored hair in random groups of people, he’ll become obsessed and eventually be consumed with the desire to be a part of your costume group. It’ll be just like “Inception,” but instead of all the fancy dream technology, all you’ll need is 1970s men’s fashion wear.

Pumpkin everything

How many recipes do you know that involve pumpkin? If the answer is anything less than 100, you need to start evaluating your place in this universe.

It’s time to eat, breathe, feel and become a pumpkin. Every morning, I wake up and rub pumpkin seeds all over my skin. It’s both exfoliating and spirited. Then, I put orange-tinted contacts in my eyes so everything I see automatically becomes Halloween themed. Suddenly, a normal bag of chips becomes a spooooooky bag of chips, a picture of your grandma becomes a spoooooooky picture of your grandma and a failing midterm grade becomes a spooooooky midterm grade. Fortunately, your reflection will most likely stay the same. Before I leave the house, I light my pumpkin candles and thank the Halloween gods for everything they have done for me and my Halloween career.

get to know the neighbors

Obviously, we’re all going to be spending our Halloweens doing one thing: collecting bag after bag of sweet, sweet candy. However, we are all at a disadvantage when it comes to competition because we are no longer cute youngsters. We are ugly adults who will look stupid begging to reclaim a part of our childhoods that has passed its expiration date.  Therefore, it is very important to start getting to know the homeowners of the neighborhoods we’ll be hitting up for candy.

Obviously, by “get to know,” I mean “fabricate a series of stories that will make it seem all right to participate in an activity typically reserved for eleven-year-olds.”  

I enjoy telling the well-meaning families things like “I have a shy younger sibling” or “I’m collecting this candy for charity” or “I have a weird condition where I look and act like I’m 21 years-old, but really I’m a child at heart.” Not only will you not be turned away from candy, but you’ll probably get a little extra. Bullseye.

Take to the woods

Every Halloween, I wait for my time to come: for my transformation from woman to monster to be complete. It’s difficult deciding what I want to be — maybe a witch because they can fly or a vampire because they are respected in the monster community.

I honestly don’t mind which legion of the undead I join, as long as I obtain superhuman powers and finally become a driving force behind the Halloween spirit. Obviously, I am not a monster yet, and I don’t know how to be recruited, so I’ve been wandering around Brackenridge Park alone most nights. I figure if anywhere is going to be infested with monsters, it will be Brackenridge Park past 10 p.m.

Be yourself

Everyone knows that the most important part of Halloween is having a winning attitude and the ability to embrace the goblins and ghouls inside yourself. So sharpen those vampire fangs and charge up the bolts on the side of your neck for the best Halloween ever.