The price people pay to celebrate Halloween is getting scary — the National Retail Federation reported an average of $82.93 per person was spent on Halloween-related purchases in 2016 — a record amount in the 11 years it has tracked consumer spending. But not everyone wants to spend that much on Halloween decorations, costumes and party food.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to avoid scary bills this season — but you’ll need a game plan before you head out to the Halloween store. When you’re putting together Halloween party ideas on a budget, don’t overlook ways to snag cheap Halloween costumes, pare down Halloween food costs, and pick up other Halloween stuff that’s already on sale. Here are 10 Halloween ideas for throwing a killer party for under $50.
1. Shop Online for Halloween Decorations
- Cost: $20 or less
Although big-box stores like Target and Walmart offer a large selection of Halloween costumes, decorations and party supplies, it can be tricky to stick to a budget of $50 when shopping the aisles at these stores. Shop online instead to pick up Halloween party supplies on the cheap from sites like Oriental Trading Company or even Amazon to stretch your dollars.
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2. Head to the Dollar Store
- Cost: $10 or less
When your Halloween party supply list includes things like tablecloths, plasticware, streamers, and other basic supplies, make your way to a dollar store. You can take advantage of savings on Halloween candy, find cheap Halloween decorations, or pick up paper plates for as little as $2 at Dollar General, for example.
3. Borrow a Halloween Costume
- Cost: $0
Although you can find cheap Halloween costumes at stores like Party City and Target, your budget might be too tight to pay $20 or more for a Halloween ensemble this year. Consider borrowing a costume from a friend or family member to save money. You can customize the costume with some accessories to create your Halloween look for cheap or give an old idea a fresh new twist.
For example, you could borrow a friend’s “Godfather” costume — which retails for around $50 in some stores — and give it a new life. With some pale foundation, black lipstick and a black rose — all available for $1 a piece at local dollar stores — you’ve got yourself “The Goth-Father.”
4. Save Money With In-Store Grocery Deals
- Cost: $10 or less
When you start putting together a Halloween food menu, make sure to shop smart at grocery stores — check in-store sales and specials before you shop. Grocery stores like Publix, Wegmans and Vons put a wide range of items on sale with their “buy one, get one free” specials every week. Plan ahead to stock up on items like bottled water, baked goods and snacks.
5. Find a DJ or Musicians Who Perform for Free
- Cost: $0
If you want to go beyond just streaming music through your speakers, you might want to turn the party up a notch with some live music. Hiring a DJ or local musician to perform at your event is probably out of the question when you only have $50 to spend, but you can save money on the cost of entertainment by reaching out to friends or family with musical talents to join the revelries. Alternatively, you could post on Facebook or Craigslist to find local talent that might be interested in playing just for some exposure and experience.
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6. Host a Potluck
- Cost: $5 or less
The cost of food and drinks for a larger group can be the hardest expense to control when planning a party. Consider turning your event into a potluck so that everyone is responsible for bringing at least one dish to the party. You can create a suggested menu beforehand and assign attendees a dish to make sure you have a variety of foods available for guests. This way, you’ll only be responsible for buying ingredients for a single dish or treat for the event.
An example of a fun treat that your guests — and wallet — will love are candy corn pudding pops. With the help of some vanilla and white chocolate pudding mix, yellow and orange food coloring and Popsicle sticks — all of which many people have laying around in their cupboard — you have yourself a chilly treat your guests will remember.
7. Send Online Invitations
- Cost: $0
Rather than dropping your hard-earned dough on paper invitations — many of which live on refrigerator doors or get tossed into the trash — invite your guests digitally. Whether you take advantage of the Facebook Events feature or use sites like Punchbowl and Evite, you can get instant notifications about your guest list without paying a premium.
8. Charge Fees Without Charging a Cover
- Cost: $0
If you’re afraid people won’t show up to your party if you charge a cover to get in the door, consider charging a fee for a contest instead. “You could charge a costume entry fee to pool money for the best costume,” said Brent Shelton, online shopping and consumer expert at FatWallet.
Charging a $5 fee to enter a costume contest, for example, means you could make $50 when just 20 people enter and split the entry fee 50-50 for the grand prize and to cover party costs. Many people will be happy to pay a fee to enter a competition because there’s an incentive to win — and cash doesn’t have to be the only prize, either.
9. Change All the Lightbulbs
- Cost: Less than $1 per bulb
You don’t have to spend a small fortune at a Halloween store just to create the right ambiance for your Halloween party. Trade all the lightbulbs in lamps and ceiling light fixtures for red, orange, or purple lightbulbs to create a creepy effect in every area of the home. You can buy a set of colored light bulbs on the cheap at stores like Walmart.
10. Postpone Your Halloween Celebration
- Cost: $0
Halloween falls on Tuesday, Oct. 31, in 2017, so any weekend revelries would most likely take place on Saturday, Oct. 28, or the following weekend. If you postpone the celebration until Saturday, Nov. 4 — which falls just two or three days after the Day of the Dead depending on the calendar year — you could pick up Halloween items at up to 90 percent off the price they were a week prior when stores put virtually everything Halloween-related on the clearance racks.
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