The Scariest Part About Halloween Shouldn’t Be How Much You Spend

little boy dressed up as a vampire
Imgorthand/Getty Images Portrait of a little boy on halloween dressed up as a vampire. The boy is aged 6 and is practicing scary faces in the car mirror.
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Ah, Halloween. The one day a year it’s socially acceptable to panhandle for free candy while dressed up as a Disney princess.

But even though it’s a holiday whose main event is begging for free stuff, it turns out you can spend a good chunk of change (try $7.4 billion!) on Halloween festivities, from high-end costumes to pricy decorations.

But have no fear this Halloween — at least not for your wallet. Here are 13 great ways to save money this Halloween.

1. Make Your Own Costume

Some of these DIY costumes require more crafts skills than others, but if you’re proficient at DIY, you stand a chance to make money on Halloween by selling your wares, let alone saving the cost of your family’s costumes.

2. If You Hate DIY, Get a Cheap Costume

Not crafty? No worries!

Raid your closet and your local Goodwill for items you can finagle into costume status — and wear later.

3. Make Your Own Decorations

Crafting Halloween decorations instead of buying them can save major bucks — and look how cute some of these ideas are! But, if you aren’t crafty or just don’t have the time, then check out these cheap halloween decorations.

And, of course, the jack-o’-lanterns you’re carving anyway are a great decoration in their own right. But before you go out and grab that book of stencils…

4. Use Free Stencils for Halloween Pumpkin Carving

No need to spending money every year on a bunch of knives that will fall apart as soon as they’re used and on one-use-only stencils! Use these free stencils and your regular knives.

Or let your creativity run wild and free-hand it. If you think outside the box, who knows what you’ll come up with?

5. Buy Your Pumpkins at the Last Minute

Whether from pumpkin patches or the grocery store, the gourds are likely to be cheaper closer to the holiday. Your selection will be a little narrower, but that just makes it easier to decide!

Plus, if you pick and carve your pumpkin too early, it might rot before Halloween even arrives. So if you’re reading this and haven’t bought your pumpkin yet, you’re on the right track.

6. Actually Eat Your Pumpkins

Did you know that pumpkin pie filling doesn’t just come from a can? In fact, there are plenty of edible (and inedible) things you can do with pumpkins after Halloween.

7. And Your Indian Corn

Growing up in Florida, I didn’t see too many autumn-related weather changes. All the trees stayed green.

But one thing always meant fall was in full swing for sure: My mother would hang ears of beautiful Indian corn on our front door.

Turns out you can actually eat that Indian corn — Pam at Gingerbread Snowflakes made her own cornmeal, grits and popcorn!

8. Buy Candy in Bulk

You can save a few cents per bag by buying the economy-sized Halloween assortments of candy versus the family-sized or smaller bags. In general, fruity or hard candies are cheaper than chocolate.

And don’t just pick the biggest bag of sugary sweets willy nilly — shop around. Slight differences in what candies are included in your bulk bag can mean the difference between paying $25 or $15 for a similar number of giveaways.

But if you really want to save, stay up to date on local deals and check your local membership warehouse club (like Costco or Sam’s Club) — you might be talking about the difference between 11 cents per ounce and 26 cents per ounce.

9. Return Unopened Bags

If you open bags of candy one at a time as needed, you can return the unopened ones to the vendor and get your money back — and have less candy sitting in your cabinets.

10. Consider Candy Alternatives

Popcorn balls are cheap and easy to make, or you could pass out non-edibles like these Halloween-themed erasers (I might be a nerdy exception, but these treats would not have left me feeling tricked! So cute). At 720 pieces for $20, they’re a steal.

Consider this: Even some bulk candies end up costing 15 cents per piece, and most kids want to grab a handful. You could give away a quarter to each visitor and perhaps still be saving cash!

11. Go to a Halloween Party Instead of Heading to a Big Event

Lots of Halloween fanatics are willing to shell out big bucks on events like Halloween Horror Nights — tickets start at $59.99 a piece.

Even smaller haunted house events or ghost tours can have big price tags.

Instead, have a few friends over or head to the office Halloween party. Plus, keep your eyes on your local newspaper for low- or no-cost Halloween events near you.

12. Make Your Own Adorable Favors

Not just decorations, but tasty treats too — look how easy some of these recipes are! You can stay on theme without paying for bakery-decorated goods.

13. Screen Your Own Scary Movies

Heading to the theater for a scary flick on or around Halloween is a tradition in my family. But what did you spend last time you went to the cinema? The answer may be scarier than Paranormal Activity could ever hope to be.

According to this list of AMC’s ticket prices, an outing for two adults would run you almost $30 — before the popcorn (100% necessary).

Stay home, pop your own and enjoy one of the creepy offerings on Netflix. Plus, if you get too freaked out, you can always turn on the lights.

Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) has written for VinePair, SELF, Ms. Magazine, Roads & Kingdoms, The Write Life, Barclaycard’s Travel Blog, Santander Bank’s Prosper and Thrive and other outlets. Her writing focuses on food, wine, travel and frugality.

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