How to Celebrate Halloween on a Budget and Still Have a Scary Good Time

Two children hold hands while dressed as ghosts for Halloween.
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Halloween is back, baby.


You see, the pandemic made lots of us too scared to celebrate the Spooky Season. The past couple of years, participation in Halloween plummeted as COVID roamed the land. Fewer adults got decked out for costume parties, while fewer children went door-to-door shouting, “Trick or treat!”

But this year, participation in Halloween-ish activities is expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. Not only that, but Halloween-related spending is expected to reach a record $12.2 billion.

That’s a lot of pumpkins.

Consumers are planning to spend an average of $100 — or more — on Halloween candy, decorations and costumes. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a bundle.

It’s easy to get swept up in overspending on Halloween. With some creative thinking, you can avoid the festive money traps.

5 Ways to Celebrate Halloween on a Budget

Keep spending under control this year with these money-saving suggestions.

1. Skip the Store-Bought Costume

Save a trip to the store and search the corners of your closet for something you can turn into a last-minute Halloween costume.

Throw on a brightly colored shirt and add shorts, sandals, shades and a sunscreened nose for a tourist look. Or go as a new-age witch with some drapey, black layers along with dark jewelry and goth makeup.

Speaking of makeup, check beauty stores and drug stores instead of party stores for better quality, selection and prices.

2. Shop at Dollar Stores for Decor

Sure, those motion-sensored decorations that make all the kids jump are neat. But we’ll pass on those prices.

Discount stores like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Five Below sell seasonal decor for just a few bucks. And don’t forget the ones you can make yourself.

Here’s a huge list of cheap Halloween decorations to get you inspired.

3. Bring the Kids to a Free Event

Haunted hayrides, ghost tours and trips to amusement parks can cost you some inflated admission fees. Entertain the kids with free Halloween events instead.

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.

Amazon is giving away a free kids ebook, Gnome More Pumpkins: A Halloween Story for Kids. Target is giving away a free Halloween activity booklet you can print out.

Or let the kids invite their friends over for pumpkin carving, a Halloween-themed arts-and-crafts session or a spooky movie marathon at home.

4. Nix the Candy

You don’t have to be a Scrooge (wrong holiday, we know) and ignore the knocks from trick-or-treaters come Oct. 31. But you don’t have to waste money buying what you hope is enough bags of fun-sized chocolate either.

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.

We’re not doubting you couldn’t eat your way through half a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups, but who wants all those extra calories — or the guilt trip from the dentist.

5. Make the Most Out of Your Pumpkin

There’s so much more you can do with that orange gourd than propping it in a window for decor.

You can add pumpkin puree to a pasta dish, roast pumpkin seeds, make a planter or whip up a pumpkin face mask.

Check out this story for more ideas on what to do with pumpkins after Halloween.

Sidenote: If you can’t get enough of pumpkin spice lattes, here’s how you can get them for less.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s taking his kids trick-or-treating this year.

Nicole Dow, a former senior writer, contributed to this post.