Looking for Halloween bargains that won’t put a scare in your budget? You’re not alone.

Halloween is one of America’s most popular holidays, but it can be expensive. In 2019, the National Retail Foundation estimated the average shopper spent $86.27 each on spooky accessories like costumes, decorations, trick-or-treat candy and Halloween parties.  That's almost 9 billion dollars!

While Halloween is going to look a little different this year as we all adjust to new social distancing guidelines, there are still plenty of ways you can celebrate (for kids and adults) that won’t break the bank. Here are our top 13 ways to celebrate Halloween on a budget.

Creating Halloween on a Budget Starts With (DIY) Costumes

To dress up or not to dress up? Halloween wouldn’t be the same without costumes. But during COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend doing things a bit differently. Try getting the whole family in on a virtual costume contest. Or create a socially-distant scavenger hunt for your kids (costumes included). Whatever you plan, save some cash in an unusual year and DIY your costumes.

Here’s our best tips for creating costumes at any skill level:

Sew your own

If you’re handy with a needle, you can save a bundle making your own costumes. Craft and fabric stores sell a wide array of patterns for capes and wizard robes, animal suits, and princess dresses. Most come in multiple sizes so you can use them again and again as family members grow.

Want to save even more? Check out the free patterns at FleeceFun.com and AllFreeSewing.com.

Create with cardboard

Rather skip an afternoon with the sewing machine? Think low-tech DIY. Robots, trucks, train cars—with the right sized box, a sharp pair of scissors, and some colored paints, you can make almost anything square with cardboard. Or think outside the box. How about a unicorn?

Raid the toy box

Branded costumes are the priciest. You’ll pay up for the latest trade-marked Storm Trooper or Harry Potter gear. But if you have kids, you may already have lightsabers and wizard wands languishing in the toy box. Look for silly hats, too!

Check out thrift stores

From antique gowns to top-hats, your local used clothing store can be a gold mine of costume materials. Some of them even stock pre-used Halloween costumes for kids and adults.

Out of inspiration? Goodwill has a costume generator app, to help you design your Halloween look out of existing inventory.

Hand it down

Halloween costumes are worn once a year, so they don’t wear out like regular clothes. Dress up your little ones in the same outfits your older kids sported last year. Don’t have older kids? Little ones refuse to reuse? Try interchanging pieces to create a new costume.

Swap your costumes

Lots of communities organize costume swaps so that families can trade baby costumes for toddler outfits, or just get rid of monster masks and witch robes they’re no longer using. If your town doesn’t have one, think about organizing a swap at your school or church or community center. Or check out the gently used costumes at commercial aggregators like Swap.com.

Clean out your closet — and everyone else's

The perfect costume may be lurking in your closet. The clothes you wore to paint your house can kickstart an artist's costume. Your dad's old fedora paired with a suit and a drink in your hand turns you into Frank Sinatra. Find a long skirt, pop a flower in a hat, grab an umbrella, and you're on your way to a Mary Poppins costume. Expand the search to friends and family member's closets, and you may find inspiration for hundreds of outfits.

 

Halloween Decorations that Won’t Spook Your Wallet

No matter your age, Halloween decorations have a way of jumping out to say “Boo,” (or at least “Buy me”), but all those haunted house figurines and faux spider webs get pricey.

This year, let’s scare up some serious discounts:

Haunt your dollar store

Take a stroll down your dollar store’s seasonal aisle for low-cost decorations including skulls, bats, spiders, and witches’ hats and orange and black candles.

The dollar store is also the stuff of DIY halloween decor dreams. Think mason jar mummies (a simple piece of white cloth, a packet of googly eyes, and a jar is all you need). Or, get your kids in the spirit and use white yarn and craft sticks to create spider webs. With most supplies cost a dollar, you can go all out without busting your budget.

Learn to love reusable decorations

Hand-carved Jack O’Lanterns are wonderful, but they only last a week or two. You can stock up on foam, reusable Halloween decorations for less than the cost of real pumpkins and use them year after year. Most can even be carved like a real pumpkin.

Skip the faux spider webs and get creative with white yarn, popcorn string, or even black and orange felt garlands. You’ll get years of use and cut down on waste.

 

Trick ‘or treat, celebrate, and have a ghoulishly affordable time

Buy candy in bulk—unless you’re off the beaten track

You can save money on trick-or-treat supplies by buying in bulk at retail outlets like Costco. Though, if you live in a place with few kids or lots of space between houses, you’ll save more by buying smaller bags on sale. And don’t forget to look for sales in unlikely places: Drug stores, gas stations, and grocery stores all sell Halloween candy, often with great sales.

This year, the CDC is recommending skipping the usual door-to-door trick or treating and setting up a socially-distant treat station at the end of your driveway (or any safe distance from your home). Be sure to use individually wrapped treats or gift bags so families can grab and go!

Go Outdoors

It can be tempting to turn your house into the spookiest haunt on the block, but you can save a ton by turning off your porch light and planning a trip for the family instead. Mask up and head to a pumpkin patch, walk a haunted trail, or just take a trip to see the decorations in your neighborhood.

 

Potluck at Home

While the CDC doesn’t recommend indoor gatherings during the holidays this year, that doesn’t mean you have to give up the sugar high. Plan a potluck at home. Let your kids create their most ghoulish creations and pop on a family-friendly scary movie. Want to invite your social circle? Make it a virtual potluck.

Looking for inspiration? Grab your favorite sugar cookie recipes and create ghost cookies. Or, try decorating avocado toast with raw vegetables like seaweed wraps, cocktail pickles, and radishes to create edible monster faces

Think ahead for next year

The best time to create Halloween on a budget is November 1st, when racks of costumes and piles of unsold decorations go on sale. Why not stock up for next year now, when prices are low? The next Halloween is already sneaking up on you.

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