Halloween is actually the best time to buy candy—and here's the best kind to buy

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If you haven't yet stocked up on your Halloween candy, you're in luck. Turns out waiting until the last minute is the best strategy, according to experts.

Retailers tend to put candy and Halloween decor on sale closer to Oct. 31, so last-minute shoppers actually score good deals, Sara Skirboll,'s shopping and trends expert, tells CNBC Make It. "Stores are in such a hurry to put up holiday merchandise after Halloween, so they will have steep discounts to make sure all of the spooky decor and candy is off the shelves," she says.

Americans love their Halloween candy so much, sales this year are expected to top $2.6 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

CNBC Make It crunched the numbers to get specific about what to buy and where to buy it, in order to get the best deals on Halloween candy. We reviewed the price per piece of over 40 types of the most popular snack-size and fun-size candy at three major retailers, Amazon, Target and Walmart.

Here's what we found:

  • Try Target. Of the three retailers we surveyed, Target had competitive prices on the widest selection of treats.
  • Buy mixes. If you're looking for bargains, definitely take Skirboll's advice and reach for the assorted mixes, rather than trying to create a custom candy mix. We found that the assorted bags offering between 50 and 150 candies averaged $0.10 per piece, slightly less per piece than if you bought multiple types of candy separately.
  • Chocolate is more expensive. [Editor's note: Worth it.] Not all candy is created equal: Generally, chocolates cost a bit more than sugar-based treats like candy corn. "As for bang for your buck, candy corn is the obvious winner, but it's a risk because it's so controversial," says Clair Robins, spokeswoman for The Halloween treat ranked #6 on CandyStore's list of most popular candy, but it was the #2 most hated Halloween candy in in a recent survey as well.
  • Buy in bulk. "When tackling the Halloween candy shopping list, remember to buy in bulk," Skirboll says, because buying a 100-piece bag is usually better than a deal on buying several smaller bags.

If you're looking to play it safe, stick with crowd-pleasers. Using CandyStore's sales data on the most popular candy, here are the most popular brands in the U.S. that will cost you the least.

1. M&M's

  • Average cost: $0.12 per fun size packet

These chocolate candies are the second-most popular candy in the U.S., according to the CandyStore. Mars, the company behind M&Ms, produces about 400 million M&Ms candies each day. Original M&Ms were one of the cheapest candies we reviewed, making them the best candy you can stock up on this Halloween.

2. Hershey's Snack Size Milk Chocolate Bar

  • Average cost: $0.14 per snack size bar

First introduced in 1900, Hershey's chocolate bars still rank in CandyStore's ranking of the top 10 most-popular candies. According to Hershey store sales, the original milk chocolate bar is the company's most popular candy brand in 27 states.

3. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

  • Average cost: $0.19 per snack size candy

While there are fierce debates over which holiday Reese's edition of the classic peanut-butter-and-milk-chocolate treat is best (the consensus seems to lean toward the eggs — sorry, pumpkin fans), the originals took fourth place on the list of most popular candy. The good news is they're also reasonably priced, falling in the cheaper half of our cost calculations.

4. Snickers

  • Average cost: $0.20 per fun size bar

Snickers' combination of roasted peanuts, caramel and nougat covered in milk chocolate earns the candy third place overall in CandyStore's ranking. The candy was the most popular in Florida and Arizona, CandyStore found.

5. Starbursts

  • Average cost: $0.21 per fun sized pack

The Wrigley Company, which is owned by Mars, produces the popular fruit-flavored taffy that comes in four traditional flavors: cherry, lemon, orange and strawberry. The treat ranked #5 on the list of most popular candies and was the top seller in New Hampshire and South Dakota.

This is an update of a story was originally published on Oct. 27, 2018.

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