Learn how paying for pumpkin spice gets you less for your money.
An FKD Feature exclusive

Every fall, pumpkin spice frenzy returns. The popular seasonal flavor is fun, festive and delicious — though that last bit depends on who you ask. However, one thing that you may not have considered is exactly what you get for your money when you pay the surcharge on pumpkin-flavored products. Let’s take a closer look.

The pumpkin spice tax

Recently, MagnifyMoney launched an investigation into the prices of pumpkin spice products at major retailers that revealed that there’s essentially a tax on these foods — on average, this amount works out to 7.98% over the non-pumpkin variety of the same product.

What’s worse is that in a few instances, the more expensive pumpkin spice version of a product typically contains less of the product. Take, for example, a tub of Land O’Lakes butter, which would normally yield 8 ounces for $2.89. The pumpkin spice version of the same product goes for $2.99 for 5.5 ounces, which initially doesn’t appear like a bad deal … until you do the math. The original product is 36 cents per ounce, while the pumpkin spice is 55 cents per ounce, for 2.5 ounces less product.

It isn’t just butter. Trader Joe’s pancake and waffle mix also comes in a pumpkin spice variety that costs a dollar more than the original variety for a bag containing 10 fewer ounces than normal. Not quite a steal. In fact, Trader Joe’s happens to be the company with the highest markup for pumpkin spice, coming in at 62%. It’s a tall number when you consider the aforementioned average of 7.98%. Interestingly, the only companies that were found to not charge more for autumnal flavors were McDonald’s, Whole Foods and Dunkin’ Donuts.

What should you do?

This extra money may not seem like much, and you may even be able to justify spending it initially. Over time, though, your wallet may begin to dread the return of fall. One way to offset some of this cost is to wait until the season ends to get your pumpkin spice fix. That’s when discounts go around as stores try their best to offload seasonal inventory and make room for winter items.

Experts have been giving the same advice about sale-priced Christmas items for years; the spread to other seasonal items such as pumpkin spice treats is a reasonable extension. This is especially true for items found in a supermarket; unfortunately, your Starbucks pumpkin spice latte won’t likely see a price drop anytime soon. Another option is to ignore the hype or harness the power of homemade pumpkin spice for your own purposes, bypassing the obscene markup.

Takeaway

Buying seasonal goods is fun. That’s undeniable. There’s a sense of shared excitement as social media starts buzzing about season-exclusive items. Pumpkin spice hype is a powerful thing, and products with the flavor have been rolled out earlier than ever this year. Could this extension hurt pumpkin spice’s longevity? Growth has already slowed a bit, and the future might be dim for fall’s star product. It’s possible that in the future there may not be as much of a markup on pumpkin spice goods as the trend becomes less novel.

For now, though, the flavor is here to stay, and you’re free to partake as you see fit. It’s important to make conscious and well-informed choices about your sending. Just don’t waste your money on a few added spices and a lot of hot air.

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Header image: Adobe Stock

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Posted 11.09.2017 - 11:00 am EST