Need Some Last-Minute Halloween Party Ideas? We’ve Got You Covered

Arranged decoration on Halloween party
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Every year, beginning on July 5 when all of the Halloween stuff hits store shelves, I imagine the epic Halloween costume party I’m going to throw.

And every year, on Oct. 29, I realize that I have, yet again, done an embarrassingly bad job of following through on that dream.

But I think that’s my problem — in the past, I’ve dreamt too big. Way too big. Like, a hundred man-hours and a few thousand dollars too big.

In my head I imagine a spread of food that spans eight tables, hundreds of party guests all decked out in Comic-Con level costumes and decorations that rival those of a grade-A haunted house — the unrealistic stuff of Halloween party legends.

But that’s where my plan falls apart. As the 31st creeps closer, I realize I’ll never pull off — or be able to afford — the over-the-top, all-out, throw-down Halloween bash I’m imagining in my head and I just sort of… give up.

I mean, if it can’t be perfect, why even do it?

Because parties are fun and awesome and a great way to get your friends together and nobody actually cares if there’s a pumpkin-themed bouncy castle as long as there’s boos booze, right?!


So this year, I’m abandoning the dream. (And I promise, that’s not as sad as it sounds.)

This year, instead of aiming high and expensive and then giving up completely, I’m going to aim realistically and affordably and enjoy the low-key fruits of my last-minute labors.

Throw a Spooktacular Halloween Party on a Budget

Here’s how I plan to pull off this year’s laid-back version of my dream Halloween bash on a budget — and with as little party-planning stress as possible.

The Decorations

First things first, you have to decorate your party space.

Kristy Gaunt, an illustrative designer here at The Penny Hoarder, managed to decorate her entire house for Halloween — inside and out — for less than $50. And the best part? She did most of it with supplies she found at Dollar Tree.

She also shopped at Michaels and scored some deeply discounted supplies because (Penny Hoarder hack!) most craft stores will put their holiday merchandise on sale long before the holiday is even over.

If you need a few finishing touches to round out your decor, you can make these 13 creepy decorations with things most people already have lying around the house — and all for under $5.

The Treats and Sweets

Since I’m aiming for low-key with this party, I put a rule in place that nothing I make food-wise is allowed to cost me more than $5 or take more than 20 minutes to prep.

I came up with five different creepy-crawly treat options (well, four treats and a drink), and I’ll encourage my friends to bring along any extra candy, snacks or drinks they want to share at the party — potluck style!

Also, if you’ve been scooping, chiseling and slicing pumpkins to create a terrifying line-up of jack-o’-lanterns, don’t forget that the guts and seeds are edible (and delicious)! Check out these 21 ways to enjoy those pumpkin leftovers after a good carving sesh.

The Haunts and Spooks

OK, so what I really mean here is activities.

If you’re going for a truly low-key night, you can’t go wrong with a scary movie or three. And no need to go out of your way (or budget) to rent a good horror film. Instead, pull up your favorite streaming service — they all feature a few awesomely creepy picks this time of year!

If your party crowd isn’t into scary movies, a board game night might be the way to go. Set up a few different game stations around the house and let your guests choose between some themed options like Operation or Clue. A little gruesome, mostly fun.

Looking for a more adventurous option? Get the gang together and find a haunted house. You should have no trouble finding one in your city — or even in your neighborhood — and local haunted houses usually don’t charge more than a few dollars per person.

If you think your friends are up for something truly terrifying, though, check out these seven spooky destinations where you can get scared out of your wits for free.

Don’t Forget Your Costume!

If you, like me, are not much of a planner, you’re probably scrambling for a last-minute Halloween costume to wear to your last-minute Halloween party. (Feeling a little called out right now? Me too, don’t worry.)

Skip the last minute run to the overpriced costume store in favor of a little shopping trip through your closet. No really — I’m serious! Check out these ideas for a little last-minute costume inspiration for outfits you can throw together using things you probably already own.

If the costume you’re concocting in your head requires makeup, don’t even bother with a trip to the nearest party store for that sticky grease paint; use what you have laying around in your (or your teen’s or your partner’s) makeup drawer.

And if you’re going to go splurge on some extras because you don’t quite have what you need to complete your look, at least buy items that you’ll use more than once a year!

If your kids will be in attendance, here are six super simple options for all ages that will barely cost you a dime — and that your tiny ghouls and goblins will actually enjoy wearing (think: Doc McStuffins).

And finally, if your guest of honor will be less human and more of, well, a cat or dog, we’ve got last-minute costume ideas for your favorite furry friend as well.

I’ve been trying to talk my cat into wearing the lion costume for weeks, but I’m just not sure if he’ll cooperate when the big night finally rolls around. All the more reason to find him an inexpensive costume, because if he’s just not feeling it come party time, I’ll be glad I didn’t spend big bucks on it!

Just Here for the Boos

And just like that — with a few haunting decorations, a creepy-crawly menu, activities that will scare the pants off your friends and a costume to die for — you’re ready to host your Halloween party.

It may not be the epically spooky bash of your long-held Halloween dreams, but it’s a chance to get your friends together to hang out, eat food and avoid the awkward “are we too old to trick or treat?” debate.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Oliver, if you’re reading this, I’ll ask you one more time: please, PLEASE wear the little lion costume.

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