Have a Happy Halloween on a Budget

Follow these tips to save money on candy, costumes, parties and more.

Just call me the "Queen of Halloween." I love the spooky holiday so much that I decorate my house with pumpkins, bats and all things orange and black and host an annual Halloween party for my friends and their kids. I don't spend a fortune doing it, though.

Over the years, I've found several ways to keep the costs of candy, costumes, décor and festivities low. Here's how:


Try something different. My mother saved money by handing out freezer pops, such as Fla-Vor-Ice, that kids could take home and, well, freeze. And trick-or-treaters always thought it was cool to get a popsicle. You can buy a box of 100 for $8 or less -- at least half the price of a bag of 100 to 125 Hershey's fun-size candy bars.

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Buy in bulk. If you want to stick with candy, you'll get a better deal if you buy in bulk. Check out the sale at Oriental Trading, where you can get a 5-pound bag of mixed candy for $12.99.


Do it yourself. You don't have to sew to make a costume (and save money). However, you might need to hone your marketing skills so you can sell your kid on the idea that a homemade costume is much cooler than a store-bought one. I created a tornado costume for my oldest daughter a couple of years ago (she actually wanted to be a tornado) using poster board. I cut it in half, painted a tornado on each piece, glued some toy cows and cars onto the tornadoes, poked holes in the tops of the posters and used ribbon to drape the two images over my daughters' shoulders (see the picture to the left). The costume was a huge hit. Search the Web for "no-sew costumes" for ideas.

Hit the thrift stores. You probably did this in college when you needed a costume because you couldn't afford a store-bought one. So what's stopping you now? Old bridesmaid dresses can be used for princess gowns. Some clothing from the '70s (and the right hair-do) can turn a group of three women into Charlie's Angels. You might even find used costumes at thrift stores.


Get in touch with your crafty side. Why pay big bucks for a large inflatable (tacky) pumpkin or ghost for your yard when you can create a festive or eerie scene for a few dollars? I bought black and orange tulle fabric for 99 cents a yard and draped it around my front door. You can spray-paint fallen branches and sticks black and put them in a planter outside or a vase inside. Hang a few homemade ghosts on the branches to add to the effect. Poke holes in tin cans to create luminaries. Cut several bats out of black construction paper and tape them to a wall. Stuff an old shirt and pants to create a "body" you can hang over a balcony or set on a bench outside.

Check out dollar stores. I found paper lanterns with a variety of Halloween designs (pumpkins, skeletons, bats) on them for $1 each at a dollar store. The lanterns have battery-operated lights, so they can be hung anywhere. T.J. Maxx also is a good place to find unique Halloween decorations at discounted prices.


Ask others to chip in. The cost of providing food and drinks at a party can quickly add up. So ask guests to bring a spooky appetizer, treat or beverage so you don't have to foot the entire bill for feeding everyone. Make it fun by offering a prize for the most creative dish. If you host a pumpkin-carving party, ask guests to B.Y.O.P. If kids are invited to your party, ask an artistic friend to paint faces or borrow an inflatable bounce house to keep the little ones entertained. (Just don't try the wrap-a-mummy-with-toilet-paper game, unless you want your yard TP'd.)

Skip the pricey invitations. You can go the free route by using Evite.com. Or you could spend just a few bucks to create your own invitation using clip art or asking the kids to draw a spooky picture that you could add text to, photocopy and mail.

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Cameron Huddleston
Former Online Editor, Kiplinger.com

Award-winning journalist, speaker, family finance expert, and author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk.

Cameron Huddleston wrote the daily "Kip Tips" column for Kiplinger.com. She joined Kiplinger in 2001 after graduating from American University with an MA in economic journalism.