Halloween is one of the biggest holidays of the year — and it's also one of the most expensive.
According to the Halloween Industry Association, the scariest holiday of the year is a $7 billion industry. Moreover, the National Retail Federation reports that a whopping 93 percent of Americans will shell out for Halloween candy. Fortunately, you don't have to spend a frightening amount of cash to celebrate the spookiest night of the year in style. Instead, use these 31 Halloween ideas to celebrate with loved ones for less.
1. Shop at the Last Minute
Shopping early for decor and Halloween costumes for kids ensures the best selection, but waiting until closer to the holiday brings the best discounts.
"If you haven't bought your costume yet, you can save some money by waiting until the week before Halloween, when stores will start discounting these highly seasonal items," said Benjamin Glaser, features editor at DealNews. He added that Amazon often offers one-day shipping deals for costumes.
2. Watch Scary Movies at Home
"Streaming scary movies is a great and affordable way to celebrate Halloween — assuming you already have a service like Netflix or Amazon Instant," Glaser said.
As of August 2017, some of the horror titles currently available on Netflix include "Sleepy Hollow," "A Nightmare on Elm Street," and "The Babadook." Amazon Prime also has a slew of horror films available, such as "Saw," "The Witch," and "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre."
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3. Use Printables for Halloween Decorations
A printer is all you need to make your home seriously creepy.
"Many home decor shops sell chic Halloween banners, bottles, books and cut-outs for $10 to $35, yet these items can easily be recreated for free when you print templates," said Kendal Perez, a savings expert at Coupon Sherpa. "A banner is simply paper flags connected with string or ribbon, so find your favorite phrase — Boo! Happy Halloween! Beware! — and print the template for a fun banner to add to your entrance or mantle. You can also find free printables to transform old bottles into jars of poison and books into spells and enchantments."
4. Focus on Face Paint
Cheap Halloween costumes don't have to look corny.
"While I love Halloween, I don't typically buy full-fledged costumes — instead, I focus on my face, hair and a few accessories, and then pull items from my own closet," Perez said. "This is pretty easy to do, especially if you narrow your costume search to those where the face is really the focal point. One year, I came to the office as Clark Kent, and the costume cost me all of $8. I purchased a Superman muscle tee I found on clearance at Walmart in the little boys' department, along with some black suspenders. I already owned black pants, a white button-up and black-rimmed glasses, so the costume came together easily and cheaply!"
5. Buy Secondhand Halloween Costumes
There's no need to buy a brand-new kids' Halloween costume when you can get a gently used one for a fraction of the price.
"Whether it's your local consignment store or an online consignment shop like thredUP, these outlets are great resources for inexpensive costumes, especially for kids," Perez said.
6. Focus on Festive Accessories
Accessories like wigs and masks go a long way toward creating stellar adult Halloween costumes.
"I'm a big fan of wigs since they also help transform your look into something that pops," Perez said. "They can be expensive, however, so it's important to shop around. I purchased a long red wig from Amazon a couple years ago and paid about $12, compared to $25 for a comparable wig from Target or Party City."
7. Have a Halloween Pet Parade
If you're an animal lover, you'll agree there are few things cuter than pets dressed up in costumes. Gather all your pet-obsessed friends and neighbors for a fun pet Halloween costume parade around your neighborhood. Require everyone to get creative and make the pet's outfit, instead of buying one from the store.
8. Buy Halloween Candy in Bulk
Halloween isn't complete without candy, but heading to the store and stocking up on bags of treats can become costly very quickly.
"One of the easiest ways to save money and time when planning for trick-or-treaters or a themed Halloween Party is to buy candy in bulk online instead of going to the store," said Clair Jones, head of community outreach at CandyStore.com. "Not only is there a better selection of brand-name and bulk candy, but you can also have it delivered to your door for a fraction of the cost. You could spend $15 and have enough candy for trick-or-treaters this Hallows' Eve."
9. Host a Halloween Slumber Party
Throwing an elaborate Halloween party can be extraordinarily expensive, so gather a few budget-minded friends for a low-key sleepover.
"This year, my friends and I are throwing a Halloween Slumber Party that won't break the bank," said Emily Mort, a graphic designer and student. "Instead of going out and buying expensive costumes we are only going to wear once, we are going to each bring a Halloween-inspired food that we find on Pinterest and binge-watch horror movies on Netflix."
10. Create a Halloween Playlist
Whether you're throwing a party or greeting trick-or-treaters, having the right background music always makes the mood more festive. Create a Halloween playlist with songs like "Monster Mash" and "Ghostbusters." Both can be downloaded for less than $1.30 on iTunes.
11. Carve a Pumpkin
According to Consumerist, the average price of a pumpkin was $4.35 as of Sept. 2016. If you're naturally artistic, you have your design covered. But if not, download a free stencil online for decorating this Halloween staple. Not only is this a fun activity, but the finished product also doubles as festive decor.
12. Dress in Black
Extravagant costumes are nice, but you can save a lot of time and money by simply dressing all in black. Raid your own closet for a head-to-toe ensemble that's appropriate for the holiday of darkness. In the two minutes it takes to choose your clothes, you can perfectly blend in with everyone else without spending a cent.
13. Give Yourself a Halloween Mani/Pedi
Sometimes it's the little details that add the most value, so create a fun Halloween look by giving yourself a special manicure and pedicure. A bottle of Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color in Orange Zests costs just $5.34 at Walmart. Pair this with an affordable costume or rock it alone to show your Halloween spirit.
14. Read Halloween Books to Your Kids
Make bedtime extra fun for your little ones during Halloween season by swapping standard night time stories with a seasonal treat. You can choose from an endless supply of fantastic options, including "The Spooky Wheels on the Bus," "One, Two…Boo!," and "The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin." Even better — each of these books costs less than $5 on Amazon, making this a seriously cheap Halloween idea.
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15. Toilet Paper Your Yard
Beat the neighborhood teens to the punch by toilet papering your own house prior to Halloween. Not only is it much less annoying when you do it yourself, but it's also fun and makes for fantastically cheap Halloween fun. You can buy 12 double rolls of Up & Up Bathroom Tissue at Target for $4.99.
16. Concoct Witch’s Brew
The unofficial drink of Halloween actually only requires a few inexpensive ingredients to make. Sandra Lee's witch's brew recipe calls for:
- (1) 6-ounce package of lime gelatin
- 2 cups boiling water
- 3 cups chilled pineapple juice
- (1) 2-liter bottle of ginger ale or a lemon-lime soft drink
- 2 cups chilled vodka (optional)
Serving soda is fine, but if you want to impress your guests, this Halloween treat is the clear winner.
17. Make Your Own Halloween Costume
"DIY is one of the best ways to not only save money but create a unique costume," said Stefan Sharpe, founder of The Millennial Budget. "Utilizing skills such as sewing allows you to create the costume you desire and makes for a memorable Halloween."
If you're not sure where to start, he suggests consulting Pinterest, as the site is filled with countless ideas and easy-to-follow DIY guides.
18. Do a Halloween Costume Swap
If making Halloween costumes isn't your thing, join forces with a friend and institute a swap.
"Consider any costume your friends have used in the past that you liked and see if they still have it," Sharpe said. "I remember one time in college two of my friends went as each other, and it was a very memorable night. This idea can be a simple everyday outfit swap or a past costume either of you may have purchased."
19. Get a Ouija Board
Host a spooky séance at your home with the help of a Ouija board. Whether you believe in the ability to communicate with spirits or not, you're bound to have a fun evening with this classic spirit board. If you don't still have one around from childhood, you can buy a Ouija board on Amazon for about $22.
20. Host a Ghostly Bonfire
Start a bonfire in your backyard and invite your friends over to roast marshmallows. Keep the night interesting by conducting research prior to the evening to find some seriously bone-chilling ghost stories to tell. Make sure to have a flashlight on hand for added impact.
21. Visit a Creepy Local Haunt
Embark on a seriously creepy adventure to a rumored haunted site in your local area. Of course, it's ideal to go at night, but use your best judgment and don't do anything that could get you or anyone in your group hurt. If you don't already have a spot in mind, use the site Haunted Places to find a ghostly locale in your neck of the woods. These destinations are also ideal for scoping out cool Halloween costume ideas.
22. Check Out Nearby Halloween Decorations
Some people fully deck out their homes for Halloween, which can cost a fortune. Instead of going this route, admire the handiwork of the super-festive people in your community by taking a drive around town to see all the amazing decorations. They'll be excited to have revelers, and you'll get to enjoy first-rate Halloween houses without spending a dime.
23. Take Your Friends’ Kids Trick-or-Treating
Many parents like to go all out and attend adults-only Halloween parties, but are unable to do so because they have young kids at home. If you don't have children of your own, be the best friend ever — while enjoying Halloween like a kid — by volunteering to take on trick-or-treating duties. Dress up if you have a costume at home, but if not, it's likely you'll still get tons of free candy.
24. Throw a Halloween Potluck
Just because you've decided not to partake in traditional Halloween festivities doesn't mean you have to spend the night home alone. Invite a few friends over for a Halloween potluck, which doesn't have to involve any type of seasonal fare. Simply getting together with your crew is enough to make the holiday a success.
25. Take Advantage of Halloween Discounts
Restaurants and bars often have specials on food and drinks for Halloween, so head out for the night. Check in with your local favorites a few days prior to the holiday to find out what they have to offer. This is a great way for businesses to secure customers on traditionally slow nights, when many people are out at Halloween parties or at home greeting trick-or-treaters.
26. Go Pumpkin Bowling
Create a pumpkin bowling alley, a festive and affordable game your guests will be raving about all year. HGTV suggests using a pumpkin as a bowling ball and painting 10 gourds to look like bowling pins. If you have kids, this is a great project to complete as a family.
27. Make Your Own Halloween Decorations
Spookifying your home with store-bought decorations is convenient, but not the cheapest route.
"Making your own decorations has never been easier," said Ashley Bleckner, MA, CFP, a financial advisor at RS Crum, Inc. "Resources like Pinterest have great ideas and step-by-step directions. Frequently, I'll browse to get inspired and am usually able to put my own spin on the decorations. For example, you could trace your child's outline on paper, cut it out and let them create their own Spooktober creature."
28. Spookify Your Meals
Transform ordinary meals into Halloween delights with a little creative thinking.
"Food coloring has been a huge help, but even beyond that — how you put the food on the plate, how you cut the cheese for a sandwich," Bleckner said. "The smallest thing can add a little Halloween fun to your meals in October."
29. Throw an Old-Fashioned Halloween Party
Wholesome Halloween fun doesn't have to come with a hefty price tag. You can entertain the whole neighborhood without breaking your budget.
"Set up stations for the neighborhood kids to come over and bob for apples," said family travel and activities expert Grainne Kelly, founder of BubbleBum car travel innovations. "Also, make a large batch of popcorn, dye the marshmallow mixture orange and black and make homemade popcorn balls. Bring in some bales of hay and place them around a fire pit for making s'mores. You can also have a blast telling scary stories by moonlight."
30. Check Your Community Calendar for Free Halloween Events
Take advantage of any free Halloween activities offered in your local area, and enjoy getting to know your neighbors.
"Many communities will offer free admission to the pumpkin patch, a haunted house or a corn maze," Kelly said. "Gather all of your friends and celebrate Halloween early."
31. Host a DIY Costume Contest
Invite your friends over for a fun, cheap Halloween that puts everyone's creativity to the test.
"Create rules that limit the amount of money you can spend on supplies for your costume," Kelly said. "Drink hot spiced cider and answer the door for trick-or-treaters."
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