How This Woman Decorated Her Whole House for Halloween for Less Than $50

Kristy Gaunt holding her cat, Lynx, outside of her home in St. Petersburg, Fla., which has been freshly decorated for Halloween. Michael House/The Penny Hoarder

Kristy Gaunt has always loved Halloween.

When she was growing up, her incredibly crafty mom, Yvonne, decorated the family home for every holiday — and Halloween was one of the big ones.

Gaunt, an illustrative designer at The Penny Hoarder, knew she wanted to continue that tradition when she moved out on her own but said her college roommates were never into putting up Halloween decorations.

Then she graduated from Florida State University in May and moved into a rental home with her boyfriend, Penny Hoarder video manager Michael House.

This year was her year.

Still, she doubted whether she’d be able to pull things off… because of the cost.

“It was kind of a scary, daunting thought, thinking ‘Oh, it’s time to decorate,’” Gaunt said. “Honestly, I just saw dollar signs.”

She thought she wouldn’t be able to afford to do much, but a friend tipped her off to great dollar store finds, which was the perfect solution to ease Gaunt’s concerns.

When Gaunt and House made a random trip to their local Dollar Tree in mid-September, Gaunt was pleasantly surprised.

“Suddenly we were in the dollar store and I [said to myself], “No, wait, I can actually do this! I can actually decorate my entire house super cheap,’” she recalled.

Thrifty Finds Create a Spooky Setup

a DIY skeleton halloween wreath hanging on a red door
Gaunt created this custom skeleton wreath using materials from Dollar Tree. Michael House/The Penny Hoarder

Spending less than $30, Gaunt and House were able to deck out the outside of their home to entice all the trick-or-treaters in the neighborhood to stop on by.

Here’s the cost breakdown:

  • Black mesh from Dollar Tree (six packs at $1 each): $6
  • White webbing with spiders from Dollar Tree (two packs at $1 each): $2
  • “Zombie Crossing” tape from Dollar Tree: $1
  • Halloween doormat from Five Below: $4
  • Cemetery scene from Dollar Tree (six pieces separately priced at $1 each): $6
  • Plain wreath from Michaels: $5
  • Skeleton skull and two hands from Dollar Tree (priced at $1 each): $3
  • Package of four bats from Dollar Tree: $1

Total: $28

Using the wreath (which Gaunt painted black), the skeleton skull and hands, the package of bats and some of the webbing material, Gaunt and her mom created a custom skeleton wreath to go on the front door. They also used a bow and some faux black roses and leaves that Gaunt’s mom already had.

Gaunt draped the black mesh and white webbing across her front windows and porch. She wrapped her fence with the “Zombie Crossing” tape and arranged the cemetery setup right in front of the walkway leading up to her door.

Gaunt customized the doormat with red paint to add a splatter of blood and to change the wording from “Come In We’re Dead” to “Come In You’re Dead.”

More Than Just the Outside

Gaunt and House didn’t spare the inside of their home from the Halloween spirit either. They used a mix of new items plus gifted and borrowed items.

They purchased a set of bloody footprint decals from Dollar Tree for $1 for the front entryway floor. Gaunt said she splurged on a $10 spiderweb tablecloth from Target — a last-minute find she couldn’t resist.

Gaunt borrowed four Halloween signs to hang on doors throughout her home and two votive candle holders for the living room and the dining room. A creepy cat lady candle holder, which Gaunt received as a birthday gift, and some small pumpkins from the grocery store rounded out the indoor decor.

Gaunt also purchased a $5 fake bloody arm from Michaels to stick out of the trunk of her car, bringing the total expense to $44.

She shares three pieces of solid advice for others looking to add some spook factor to their homes this Halloween:

  • Shop at discount or dollar stores first.
  • Take advantage of sales and coupons at other retailers.
  • Evaluate what you truly want to have and what is just extra.

“Really think about the decorations that you’re buying and if you can get it somewhere else cheaper,” Gaunt advises.

An Original Touch

With just three weeks before Halloween, Gaunt admitted she wasn’t quite done decorating — but what she has in mind isn’t something that can be bought.

During the month of October, Gaunt and House have challenged themselves to produce an original creation once a day — for her, a hand-drawn illustration, and for him, a photograph — that follows a specific Halloween theme.

Gaunt said she has a bunch of extra frames and plans to hang up some of the artwork on a rotating basis. Decorations don’t have to be purchased from a store, she said.

Not everyone may be as artistically inclined to create their own Halloween decorations, but as Gaunt learned, you don’t have to spend a fortune making your home festive for the holiday.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.