Who doesn’t love Halloween? It’s the one day a year when it’s totally OK to binge on candy, watch horror movies and dress up as your favorite fictional character or sexy whatever.
Kids have it the best with their costume contests, classroom parties and trick-or-treating -- but there’s plenty of entertainment for adults, too.
The traditions are a ton of fun, but paying for all the merriment can really start to add up. From costume hacks to candy buying and decorating tips, here are 15 smart ways cut costs and make the most of this Halloween.
1. DIY decorations
Instead of buying decorations, why not make them yourself? Pinterest is filled with cute and cheap ideas for reusing items you probably already have around your house.
In some cases, you can skip going to the store altogether and make creative and unique decorations.
If you have kids, they will love doing these crafts with you, and they will feel far prouder of their unique homemade decorations than anything you can buy at a store.
2. Candy coupons
If you live in a neighborhood that gets a lot of trick-or-treaters, the cost of candy can seriously add up. In September and October, candy coupons are easy to find.
Every year, I manage to get free Halloween candy when I combine sales, coupons and store reward points at Rite Aid and CVS.
Even if you’re not a couponing master, getting in the habit of checking for discounts will help save you loads of money.
3. Alternative treats
Instead of giving your trick-or-treaters a handful of bite-size chocolates, consider offering them something other than candy.
Online retailers like Oriental Trading and Alibaba offer Halloween toys in bulk. You can get away with paying a mere 10 cents per toy. The only catch is that you must buy a large amount.
This strategy has worked out very well for my mother, who bought sheets of Halloween stickers and spider rings from Oriental Trading over five years ago, and she still has enough to keep giving them out every year.
Just be forewarned: Alibaba’s warehouses are located in China, so it will take a while for the toys to arrive. If you live in the U.S. and need these toys ASAP, go with Oriental Trading instead.
4. Season passes to 'Fright Night'
Six Flags amusement parks are famous for their Halloween Fright Nights. Kids and adults can enjoy riding the roller coasters while the weather is still mild, and getting scared silly by park employees dressed up like zombies.
The only downside is that these events can be expensive for an entire family.
One money hack few people know about is that fall is the best time of year to buy season passes to Six Flags. With the summer over and everyone back in school, Six Flags offers 70% off the regular price of season passes in September to encourage people to come to the park while it’s still open.
Buying a season pass now gives you free passes to your October Fright Fest experience, plus the pass can be used until next summer. If you don’t have a Six Flags in your area, check for similar events at your local amusement park.
5. Dollar store deals
Dollar-store chains such as Dollar Tree offer everything for just $1, and you might be shocked to see how adorable their holiday decorations can be.
Not only that, but they also offer name-brand candy for $1 per bag, which gives you big savings compared to buying candy from the grocery store.
And when the sweets go on clearance the very day after Halloween, they’ll be discounted even further!
6. Create a costume chest
Growing up, my mom kept all of our Halloween costumes in an antique trunk. This was great whenever we wanted to play dress-up, and it also served as our costume shop whenever any of us needed an outfit for a party.
My brothers and I wore the costumes many times over the years.
You can set up a costume chest for your family, and encourage your kids to get creative and create strange but hilarious hybrid characters — like a bearded hobo clown with a hook for a hand.
7. Free local events
Nearly every community center or church will organize a free, family-friendly event during Halloween.
If you’re not sure what events are going on in your area, check your local library or community center. Your city or county’s website will usually have information about free seasonal events as well.
Even if your kids aren’t homeschooled, consider visiting local homeschool groups on Facebook, because moms are always trying to get their kids out of the house for free local events where they can socialize with others their age.
8. Thrift-store costumes
Every year, thrift stores like Goodwill receive leftover Halloween costumes from retailers. If you visit your local Goodwill, you’re very likely to find brand-new costumes and masks left over from last year.
Aside from full costumes, thrift stores also can be a great place to find vintage clothing pieces that are ideal for dressing up as characters from movies and TV shows.
For example, for only $5 I found a gorgeous vintage blue coat that’s perfect for my younger brother to dress as Newt Scamander from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It’ll be easy to keep an eye out for more vintage menswear pieces to complete the costume.
Costumes made of real vintage clothes look far better than cheaply made replicas.
9. The envelope trick
Financial expert Dave Ramsey suggests giving each of your kids an envelope with $5 to $10 and the freedom to pick whatever they want from the thrift store to create their own Halloween costumes.
This gives your kids the freedom to choose they want rather than being disappointed by the choices you make for them.
The same concept can be used in the costume shop. Giving your kids a price limit will not only help you stick to your budget, but it also will be an exercise in teaching your kids about money.
10. Create a new family tradition
There are lots of ways you can celebrate the Halloween season without spending money on going to a haunted house or other expensive attraction.
Consider staying home to carve pumpkins, and then bake the seeds afterwards. Cook a Halloween-inspired dish with the food you already have around the house.
If you don’t have money for craft supplies, go outside to gather nature’s bounty and create some beautiful leaf art.
End the night with hot cocoa and a family-friendly Halloween movie on Netflix to create a brand new family tradition and priceless memories that will last a lifetime.
12. Invest in quality
If you’re going to buy Halloween decorations, be sure to only buy ones you know will be usable year after year.
Skip bags of fake spider webs that will need to be thrown away and consider purchasing a web-shaped string of lights instead.
You also can go with a classic harvest theme and display a beautiful ceramic pumpkin dish that will double for both Halloween and Thanksgiving.
10. DIY costumes
Pinterest has hundreds of amazing DIY cardboard box costume ideas that you probably never thought of before. They’re free to make — as long as you have an old box lying around.
There are plenty of other ways to make your own costumes, even if you’re not great at sewing. Felt and fabric glue can go a long way, and Pinterest is filled with sew-free DIY costume ideas, too.
If you want to sew your own Halloween costumes but aren’t sure where to start, go to your local JoAnn Fabrics the week after Halloween. Every year, Simplicity Patterns has a $1 sale. You can pick up costume patterns that usually sell for $15 to $20 each and save them for next year.
This will give you plenty of time to watch YouTube tutorials and gather the materials you’ll need.
13. Stock up on clearance
When Halloween is over (or any holiday, for that matter), you should seriously consider stocking up on clearance items for next year.
Target and other chains sell their holiday merchandise from 50% off all the way up to 90% off.
It's a perfect opportunity to buy costumes, decorations and nonperishable trick-or-treat items for next year.
14. Leave your neighborhood
If you are truly on a tight budget and you have kids, you might want to consider locking up the house for a night and heading over to your local mall.
There are usually indoor trick-or-treat events that are both fun and safe for the kids. And you won't have to buy any candy.
You might also consider visiting your parents or in-laws, who would probably be thrilled to host the family for Halloween and spend time with their grandkids.
15. Skip the Halloween hype
While this suggestion might seem a little out there, it really is OK not to participate in this wacky holiday. You don’t have to buy into the buckets of candy or decorating if you don’t want to.
Halloween holiday traditions can get a bit out of hand. When I was growing up in the 1990s, a block near my house developed a wild, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses Halloween decorating competition.
The neighborhood quickly became a trick-or-treating hot spot, drawing families from miles around, and pretty soon the residents had to give away candy to literally hundreds of children.
Yet every year, one particular house had a sign on the door that said, “Sorry, we’re out of candy.” This family never decorated their house for Halloween, either. They probably saved hundreds of dollars and many hours of work over the years!