Halloween is probably the most fun holiday of the year, isn’t it? Sure, you can stuff yourself with Christmas dinner and revel in all the socks and underwear that your relatives have given you, but on what other occasion can you dress up in a costume, run around in the dark pretending to be something you’re not, gorge on sweets, and howl at the moon? This is a perfect opportunity to delight in all things dark and spooky-like, and you don’t have to break the bank in order to celebrate in style.

Costumes

Naturally, one of the most important aspects of Halloween is a good costume. Some people go all-out and spend an entire year creating an outfit that will blow all their friends away, but that takes a lot of time, energy, and money. You can put together some really great costumes for a fraction of the cost with a few of these simple suggestions:

Pool Resources

Get together with a bunch of friends, and bring everything in your closet that could possibly be used as part of someone’s costume. Do you have a feather boa left over from a friend’s stagette? Bring that. An old frilly blouse that you’ll never wear again? Bring that too. Your friends might have some pieces that can inspire your own costume idea, and an item that you bring might be the key element in another’s ensemble.

Go Thrift Shopping

Used clothing stores like Goodwill, Value Village, or a myriad other secondhand shops are absolute treasure-troves when it comes to putting together outfits, but the key is to hit them up early: there’s usually a mad rush at the end of October when people search for last-minute costume ideas, and you want to get in ahead of the crowd. These shops sometimes carry wedding gowns, evening dresses, and suits for $5-$10 apiece, and accessories can be as cheap as a quarter. If you already have an idea in mind for what you’d like to dress up as, definitely shop around the thrift stores to see what you can find. If you’re stumped, a visit might inspire you.

Decorations

Hit the Thrift Store Again

Another great thing about thrift shops is that they tend to carry decorations as well. Some of the trendier places may have Halloween decorations like spider webbing, window decals, etc. for a third of what regular stores will charge, but you might also find some unique treasures that can be tweaked slightly to interesting effect.

Are you familiar with those porcelain angels and cherubs that some people decorate their homes with? Those can very easily be painted black, and then decorated with white accent paint to create flying skeletons. If you find old dolls, they can be aged with paint effects to look downright terrifying. Imagine a display of creepy dolls set around white-painted pumpkins? *shudder*

Dollar Stores

It’s nearly guaranteed that there will be a dollar store somewhere in your area, and you will undoubtedly find some interesting stuff in there to decorate your place with. Go to the craft section and pick up some packages of construction paper for $1 each: you can cut out shapes like bats or skulls and make garlands of them. In the party section, you’re sure to find orange and black streamers that you can intertwine, and depending on the size of the shop, there might even be a dedicated Halloween section.

Print Your Own

For invitations, spooky bottle labels, gift tags, and headstones, you can just print your own and stick them onto the surface of choice with a bit of glue or mod podge. Do a quick google search for free Halloween printables, and when you print them out, you can augment them with some extra calligraphy or drawings of spooky things.

Candy

Whether you’ll be throwing sugary treats at neighbourhood kids or collecting candy for a party, you’ll need a wide variety to keep everyone happy. If you pick up those pre-packaged packs at the supermarket or pharmacy, you’ll spend an insane amount of money for very little.

Go to a Bulk Food Store

These places are absolutely incredible, seriously. It’s best to give yourself a strict budget when going, otherwise you might end up in a feeding frenzy and spend far more than you’d intended: I’d recommend taking some cash out and leaving your debit and credit cards at home, lest you be tempted.

If you’re handing out candy, fill your bags with items that are packaged individually so you don’t run the risk of scaring anyone with the possibility of tainted food. Wrapped toffee bites, gum, rockets, lollopops, miniature candy bars—these are all perfect for giving out to the wee trick-or-treaters, and are far cheaper in bulk than pre-packaged.

If you’re amassing candy for parties, you can go for the bulk goods that aren’t wrapped, as it’ll just be friends, family, etc. who are eating it. You can go nuts with everything from candy corn and eyeball gobstoppers to liquorice spiders.

Speaking of parties…

BYOC (Bring Your Own Candy)

If you’re throwing a party, feel free to ask guests to contribute to the buffet! You can even word things in your invitations to imply that every visiting ghost, goblin, witch, sorcerer, and zombie must bring an offering for the altar (or somesuch). This keeps your cost down, and you might be pleasantly surprised to discover new snacks and sweets that others may bring.

Meals and Snacks

BYOF

As with the “Bring Your Own Candy” idea mentioned above, make your Halloween party event a potluck one: the more that others contribute, the less you have to make.

3:1 Ratio of Inexpensive:Costly

Remember that some of the best foods out there aren’t necessarily the priciest ones. Snacks like “spiderweb eggs” are super-easy to make for the simple cost of a dozen eggs (hard-boiled) and a bit of black food colouring. You can make a spicy snack mix with a combination of salted nuts and assorted dry cereals, and hit up Chinatown for some inexpensive raw produce like baby carrots, celery, cauliflower etc. as crudites. For every 3 items you have that are low-cost, you can splurge a little bit and spend a little more on 1 luxury item. Maybe you’d like an avocado to add some green goo (not to mention deliciousness) to your table, or some bocconcini balls to stuff with olives as eyeball canapes; either way, if you stick to this ratio, you’ll keep your costs down gorgeously.

Drinks

It really goes without saying that no celebration is complete without lovely libations to toast at the witching hour, but I’ll mention it here all the same.

Non-alcoholic drinks are far cheaper to create than the boozy versions (obviously), but you can follow the 3:1 ratio you used for your food when dealing with drinks as well, to great effect. Non-alcoholic drinks like the cream soda based Harry Potter-themed Butterbeer (which calls for both butter and cream) can also be made with margarine and milk. Mulled apple cider or juice is easy to make, and merely requires some cinnamon sticks and cloves to be simmered in the liquid for about 30 minutes.

If you make a couple of these inexpensive drinks, you can splurge a little bit and pick up a small bottle of black vodka to make drinks like a Screwed Up Screwdriver (with orange juice) or a Berry Scary Martini (with cherry or cranberry juice).

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Featured photo credit: Happy Halloween party with children trick or treating via Shutterstock

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