Halloween might just be the best holiday ever. Think about it. You don’t have to travel. You don’t have to host a big family dinner. You don’t have to come up with the perfect gift for everybody you’ve ever met. It’s all about the costumes, the candy, and the spookiness.
If you’re a kid, it really doesn’t get much better than that.
If you’re an adult…well, if you’re an adult, you have to pay for the costumes and candy…and the decorations, the plastic pumpkins, the actual pumpkins, and all the other creepy crawlies gracing your front porch, lawn or rooftop. If you have a bunch of kids in school, and your school has a Halloween parade that is on a different day than actual Halloween (which is what happens most of the time), and your kids do their trick or treating in the same neighborhood as most of their school friends, then they will almost certainly demand a minimum of two different costumes.
So add that into your Halloween budget as well.
The point is, Halloween is still super awesome when you’re an adult. But it can also be super expensive. From the increasingly elaborate Halloween decor, to the requisite annual Halloween Party, from pounds and pounds of Halloween candy for the neighborhood kids to the costumes for you and your family, the spooky season costs a whole lot more these days than it used to.
Of course, we’re not trying to puncture your Halloween spirit. Quite to the contrary, we’re all about the Halloween season. We don’t care how revolting candy corn is. This is an awesome time of year. But it would be more awesome if we didn’t have to break the bank just for a little freaky fun.
After all, the winter holiday shopping season lurks just around the corner. It would be silly to blow all of that money on our Halloween decorations. So where is the balance? How can we make sure we all have the usual Halloween fun while still finding creative ways to save money?
Before you dig into our tips for having a killer Halloween on a budget, you may want to check out our general advice on how to build a budget fun into your life. Otherwise, read on and get tips on how to create a budget friendly Halloween.
How Much Does Halloween Really Cost?
How expensive is Halloween really? Well, the answer might surprise you. Statista says that, on average, in 2022, Americans spent nearly $10 billion on costumes, candy, decorations, and greeting cards combined. That doesn’t include what we spent to throw parties, or the baked goods and bottles of wine we purchased to avoid attending parties empty-handed.
Statista notes that this represented a massive jump in spending from the prior two years, owing entirely to the impact of the pandemic. According to Statista, “In 2022, more than two-thirds of individuals surveyed in the United States said they planned to celebrate Halloween and/or participate in Halloween activities. This is a noteworthy increase in participation compared to Halloween 2020, a period that was severely affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 2022’s participation figures were once again comparable to pre-COVID-19 figures.”
Our renewed enthusiasm for Halloween in 2022 was met with rising costs. This year, consumers can once again expect rising engagement and rising costs.
10 Ways to Have an Awesome Halloween On a Budget
It’s true that prices have grown ghoulishly high for Halloween decorations, costumes, candy, and everything else that comes with the season. But before you give in to the high prices at the big box and Halloween-themed stores, think about ways you can cut costs without sacrificing the fright factor. Here are 10 ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
1. DIY Halloween Decorations
If you scare easily, we wouldn’t recommend perusing the seasonal decor shelves at your nearest retail outlet. Like everything else, the cost of celebrating Halloween is higher this year. Is there anything more frightening than consumer inflation?
Yes. Zombies, tornadoes, and murder hornets are all more frightening. But after those things, it’s definitely inflation. Last year, Americans spent $3.4 billion on Halloween decorations alone. That is absolutely nightmare fuel if you ask us.
So if you’d rather get your scares from a few classic horror flicks this year, consider designing your own Halloween decorations with household items. Find a few free printables online, get a bunch of battery-operated tea lights and mason jars, and look for a few step-by-step Halloween decorating ideas online.
A banking group called 3 Rivers advises that “You’d be surprised at just how many Halloween decorations you can make, quickly and cheaply, with items that are already lying around your home. Make a giant yard spider out of black garbage bags, cobwebs from cotton balls, and tombstones from cardboard. Simply lighting a candle can add a perfect eerie glow and pouring your seasonal orange and yellow packaged candies (or M&Ms, candy corn, or jelly beans) into glass containers will add a pop of Halloween color to your home.”
You can literally save hundreds on outdoor decorations by doing it yourself.
2. Dig at the Dollar Store
You can also compliment all those DIY Halloween decorations with a bounty of extremely affordable touches. As it happens, discount stores are quite underrated when it comes to semi-disposable Halloween decorations. But if you’re looking to celebrate Halloween on a budget, these discount stores can be your best friend.
According to the article from Advisors Management Group, “Stores that carry overstock, surplus and slightly damaged or irregular merchandise can be a treasure trove for bargain hunters and typically carry a large selection of holiday-themed merchandise. Whether you’re in the market for a Halloween-print tablecloth, candelabras or a festive door hanging, surplus stores may have just what you need to create a spooky space at home or in the office.”
The Dollar Store is a particularly great place to hunt for bargain basement items like plastic spiders, pumpkin carving tools, goofy Halloween signs, and all kinds of exceedingly cheap Halloween decorations. It’s true that a lot of this stuff will be pretty junky and cheaply made, but it will definitely help set the right holiday spirit on Halloween night.
3. Buy Candy in Bulk
Quickly revisiting our stats on annual Halloween spending, candy comes in third place at about $3.1 billion. And that doesn’t include the dental bills that come after. Buying a few bags of assorted fun size candy bars (and then buying a few bags more because you have no self-control and you broke into and subsequently obliterated your own stash well before Halloween night) may not seem like a lot of money.
But at the end of a long October filled with Halloween parties, candy drives, and school parades, all those bags of candy add up to a lot of money (and probably a few extra pounds). And that’s all before you even get to all those adorable little trick or treaters.
Find ways to cut your candy costs before your sugar budget grows out of control. Now, nobody’s suggesting that you buy off brand candy. Literally nobody likes that stuff. You might as well leave your porch light off and go to bed early.
Alternatively, we suggest getting the good stuff, but getting it in bulk. An article from Advisors Management Group suggests that “Buying your Halloween candy in bulk from a warehouse club can help you save money and avoid the hassle of making multiple trips to the grocery store to stock up on popular types of candy during the weeks leading up to Halloween. Pick up a few mixed bag varieties to give your trick-or-treaters plenty of options.”
And get your supplies in early September, before the real seasonal shopping rush is on. Fill up your candy coffers for all the events leading up to and including Halloween night. Speaking of Halloween night, you can probably get the very best prices if you wait until the day of to get your candy. Stores will surely be working to unload their surplus before it’s time to get all that Christmas candy on the shelves.
But the pickings are usually pretty slim at this point. If you have preferences (I’m a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup guy myself), you’ll want to get economy sized bags of the top-shelf fun-sized candy bars well ahead of your Halloween celebration.
4. Try Fun Alternatives to Candy
Naturally, there is a pretty huge risk of buying so much candy in advance. Depending on your level of discipline when surrounded by a massive amount of chocolate (mine is low), you may not want to put yourself in that position.
You might, therefore, consider stocking up on a nice alternative to candy.
No. We’re not talking about raisins. Everybody hates that house. And we’re not talking about apples. That’s just creepy and unsanitary.
We’re talking about all that other fun stuff that kids love. According to the article in Penny Hoarder, you might want to “Swap the sweets out for Halloween candy alternatives like stickers, spider rings or glow-in-the-dark bracelets. The cost of those trinkets may be comparable to candy, but the advantage is you can save leftovers for next year.”
Once again, this could be a great job for the Dollar Store, Dollar Tree, or Dollar General…really any store with the word “dollar” in its name. You can fill your cart with bags of fake eyeballs, plastic creepy crawlies, and those rubber monster finger puppets. Honestly, by the time those trick or treaters get to your house, they’ll already have all the chocolate, gummy bears, and carnauba wax one human being can handle. You’re fun candy alternatives may be a welcome change of pace.
5. Go Vintage On Your Costumes
Returning to our breakdown of Halloween expenses one more time, Americans spend a staggering $3.6 billion on costumes every single year. This is by far our biggest shared expense each Halloween season. And we totally respect your enthusiasm.
Never be the person who shows up at a Halloween party without a costume. It’s just rude.
But that doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy latex prosthetics from a Hollywood effects studio to get your point across. Find ways to dress up your whole family without racking up a blockbuster bill. Of course, it goes without saying that designing your own costume is the most budget friendly way to don a disguise worthy of Halloween.
On the other hand, you sort of have to be crafty to do this well. I, personally, am not very crafty. If it takes more than black construction paper and masking tape, I’m out of my depth. Fortunately, there is another budget friendly costuming option. Go vintage.
An article from Ramsey Solutions explains, “Here’s how it works: Head to the consignment shop or thrift store with your family and give each of your kids an envelope with $5 or $10 inside. Split up into teams to pick out a costume or find materials to make a custom creation. When time’s up and purchases are made, head home and have the kids dig into their closets for the rest of their costumes. There’s nothing like a happy homemade Halloween!”
You’re sure to find some oversized formal wear, deeply outdated exercise attire, outlandish footwear, and more. And more than likely, you’ll be able to costume the entire family without even breaking triple digits in dollars.
6. Find Free Halloween Events
Halloween season is kind of the beginning of a social gauntlet that runs right through New Year’s Eve. This stretch of holidays may be fun and festive. But it can also come with a ton of costly social obligations. One night it’s dinner and drinks with a big group of friends (plus the cost of a babysitter, of course). The next day, the kids want to go to the theme park with its annual spooktacular event, where tickets go for $80 a pop. The next thing you know, you’ve spent your full monthly fun budget weeks before Halloween.
Naturally, all that gathering and going out is part of what makes the holiday season so much fun. But it’s also another feature that makes it so expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. This time of year, more than any other, cities, towns, neighborhoods, community centers, places of worship and local businesses are putting on all kinds of amazing events that are completely free of charge.
An article from Penny Hoarder notes, “Local fall festivals, costume parades, trunk-or-treat events and outdoor movie screenings are great options to get in the Halloween spirit without spending a dime. Check your city’s events calendar or your local newspaper for free Halloween events.”
And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even plan a few day trips. Look for charming towns hosting their own local free festivals, performances and events within an hour or two of home. Hop in the car and visit somewhere relatively close by but entirely new.
7. Host Your Own Haunted House
If you’d rather stay close to home for the holidays, you can skip the costly attractions and turn your own home into a celebration of the season. In a previous section, we discussed finding cheap, quick and easy craft projects instead of paying top dollar for outdoor decor.
Those decorations are great for telling neighbors and friends that your home is open for trick or treating on Halloween night. But what about the interior? Try dressing up your home in some spooky attire. Plug in some plastic jack o lanterns, get some battery operated candles, and purchase a length of black lace from your local fabric story for a creepy garland to hang over your mantle.
Instead of spending money to go out every night this Halloween season, stay in and enjoy the seasonal spirit right there in your home. And of course, make sure to share that spirit with your nearest and dearest. 3 Rivers advises that there are a few cheap and easy ways to share the celebration. For instance, you can “host a scary night at home. Make it fun! Set the mood by keeping the lights off all night, using only flashlights to move about. Create a playlist of spooky tunes, rent or stream a scary movie or two, whip up some Halloween-inspired recipes, and read a couple of ghost stories aloud.”
This year, skip the costly event attendance and bring the Halloween horror home.
8. Procrastinate on Pumpkins
You know what’s a huge bummer? Buying your pumpkins at the beginning of October, only to find them in moldy puddles of goop by Halloween night. They may be scary that way, but not the good kind of scary. If you’re planning on doing a jack o lantern carving with your family, we would strongly suggest waiting until just a night or two before Halloween.
In fact, your best bet is to wait until the exact last minute to get your pumpkins. An article from Advisors Management Group suggests, “Waiting until Oct. 30 or a few days before Halloween to buy pumpkins could save you some money. Plan on carving the pumpkins on Halloween instead of earlier in the season when the pumpkins are prone to rot. Many stores sell pumpkins at deep discounts right around Halloween to clear out some of the inventory before the big post-Halloween price drop. Keep in mind, you could still use uncarved pumpkins as decorations for Thanksgiving.”
In fact, as the temperature dips in the early part of November, your pumpkin may just last a bit longer outside. Throw a few bales of hay and some dried corn out there, and your front porch is ready for Turkey Day!
9. Play the Waiting Game
Pumpkins aren’t the only thing you’ll find at a steep discount if you wait until the last minute. There are great deals to be had if you have the emotional fortitude to hold out. Why?
Well, you know that panicky feeling you get at the beginning of October because you have no idea what you’re going to be for Halloween?
That’s nothing compared to the panic Halloween stores feel over unsold Halloween inventory. Some of it will go back to the warehouse to await another season. But let’s be honest. Those Barbie costumes will never be as popular again as they are right now. Halloween stores and big box stores want to move as much inventory as possible before the calendar page flips. That’s why they usually hand out the very best deals as we inch closer to the end of the month. This is when you pounce.
As consumer blog True Trae notes, “The closer we get to Halloween, the more you’ll save on costumes, decor, and candy. The selection will be thinner, but the prices will be significantly lower. And if you wait until after Halloween (if your Reese’s chocolate peanut butter pumpkin craving is not yet satisfied, for example), everything Halloween-themed will be discounted to Clearance levels.”
That’s a good point to consider as this year’s celebration winds down. November 1st is an amazing day to start shopping for next year’s Halloween stuff. Stores will basically be giving away the stuff people were paying top dollar for just a month ago. Take advantage by stocking up for next October.
10. Recycle Your Ghosts and Ghouls
In addition to stocking up, make sure you do a good job of preserving and recycling stuff from previous years. As the holiday winds down, clean off your outdoor decorations, remove any batters as these may corrode in the off-season, and store everything safely for next fall.
That doesn’t mean you can’t go out and buy some cool new stuff every year. But consider it a growing collection. Build yourself a good base of key pieces, then add a few new items each year. An article from Ramsey Solutions suggests, “if you love going all out for Halloween, start saving and reusing your decorations. Since Halloween is almost as big of a deal as Christmas at your house, prep for it the same way. Instead of throwing away decorations at the end of the season, save some to reuse each year. Store your ghouls and goblins in a reusable tub once the season is over, and pull them out next year.”
After a few years, you should have more than enough decor in your collection to make for a fun, affordable, and easy Halloween.
If all of this sounds like a whole lot of work, there is another option. You can just choose to get out of town and avoid Halloween altogether. Late October is an amazing time for a road trip. This is an off-peak season for many destinations, which means you can get great rates on hotels, attractions, and more.
Find out where to go with a look at our list of 15 Affordable Fall Vacations.