October 18, 2021 | By: Anna Guglielmi

Spooky Spending Season: How to Do Halloween on a Budget

Budgeting | Holidays and Money

When you think “expensive holiday,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? A lot of people might say Christmas since it’s such a big gift-giving holiday in the Great White North. However, there’s another holiday that can prove surprisingly expensive when you look at everything that goes into it: Halloween.

The famous candy-crunching holiday is a favorite for many families (and especially their kids) where they get to dress up in fun and creative outfits, gorge on candy, and decorate their homes with spooky scary skeletons to send shivers down your spine.

People celebrating the holiday often forget to track their Halloween costume, decoration, and candy costs. If they did, they might be surprised at just how much they were spending on their Halloween budget. However, 54% of Canadian adults reported that they planned to spend money on their spooky holiday celebrations in some way.

Do you have a big plan for your favorite spooky October Holiday? Let’s walk through how to celebrate Halloween on a budget so you don’t break the bank before Christmas rolls around.

Budget Halloween Decoration Ideas

A lot of people really love decorating their homes for Halloween. However, setting up elaborate decorations can quickly get really expensive—especially if you go for big set pieces that you really can’t store for the rest of the year!

So, it’s important to find some good, low-budget Halloween decoration ideas that you can either store easily so you can re-use them perennially or use outside of the holiday.

Here are a few cheap and simple decoration ideas you can use both inside and outside of your home:

  • Using Wooden Boards. Simple wooden boards can make a great budget Halloween decoration. Not only does a piece of wood with a spray-painted “GET OUT!” look like a classic creepy haunted house bit, wooden boards can also be handy for emergency prep to protect your home from winter hail storms! Alternatively, you can cut up some cardboard boxes and use them in place of wooden boards to avoid damaging the door or window frames you’re covering.
  • Straw Filled Clothes. Scarecrows are a traditional harvest fixture, and can make for a great Halloween decoration that’s cheap to make. Whether you just hang up a set of old clothes you’re getting rid of on a pole, or set up an elaborate fake body filled with straw (or other stuffing materials you have handy), these impromptu scarecrows can be a fun decoration.
  • Fake Specimen Jars. Want to creep out your guests? Consider making some fake “specimen” jars filled with creepy treats or decorations. Peel a few grapes and drop them in a jar of gelatin to create a fake eyeball jar. Or, take some cauliflower and put it in a pink-dyed jar of water to make a brain jar.

These are just a few of our personal favorite affordable decoration ideas that you could probably make with items you have lying around the house! Working with items you already have makes Halloween budgeting easier.

Finding Low-Budget Halloween Costumes

Halloween costumes can range from the extremely expensive to the relatively cheap. Finding a good budget Halloween costume can be difficult—but here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Consider Costumes That Use Everyday Clothes. Not every costume needs to be some elaborate movie monster. In fact, some of the most famous horror movie characters wear ordinary clothes with minimal fantastic elements. For example, Michael Myers, the killer from the Halloween franchise, basically just wears coveralls with the iconic white mask. If you (or a family member) has coveralls, there’s 90% of your costume right there! You could also dress up as a construction worker—just wear jeans, a comfy shirt, reflective vest and a hard hat.
  • If You Buy a Pricey Mask, Reuse It! Instead of buying cheap masks (or other costume parts) a lot of people splurge on getting a good, durable, high-quality mask for the holiday. If you have a pricey mask that’s made well already, reuse it! This can help you save a few bucks every year—and some high-quality masks become more malleable and comfortable with repeated use.
  • Use Homemade Costumes. A lot of the best and most creative costumes you’ll ever see are ones that were made by the costume wearers themselves. Taking some time to paint some cardboard and taping a solid-color sheet to it could easily make a decent knight costume with a little time and effort. Some cardboard, silver paint, and black paint could be used to make a safe and disposable prop knife.
  • Look for Affordable Costume Stores. Big box stores and local shops might have a variety of inexpensive costumes and costume pieces for those who want a decent pre-made costume that doesn’t cost too much. Looking for affordable costume stores (or even specialty stores with affordable items) can be a great way to save money without having to completely DIY your costume.

Other Budgeting Tips for Halloween

Looking for more budgeting tips for Halloween? Here are a few more quick tips for saving money during this holiday:

1. Try Teaching Budgeting to Your Kids with Halloween Candy

Halloween candy is a favorite part of the holiday for many kids, but too much of a tasty thing can be bad for their health! So, why not kill two birds with one stone by rationing the kids’ candy while you teach financial planning through Halloween activities?

Basically, you can help your kids budget their candy reserves so they last for weeks beyond the end of the holiday instead of letting them gorge to the point of sickness. Consider setting up a competition to see who can make more of their candy last for longer, let the kids trade chores and favors for candy payments, and similar activities.

This can do a lot to help your kids learn the basics of economics and impulse control (which can be useful for avoiding wasteful spending later in life).

2. Don’t Feel Stressed to Keep up with the Neighbours

If your neighbours are Halloween ultra-fans and set up elaborate decorations complete with fog machines and pricey prop bodies, don’t try to match them step-for-step. While some competitiveness is great for motivating you to put on a good display, keeping up with the Joneses can end up costing you way more than the temporary satisfaction is worth.

Take pride in your budget decorations and the effort you put into them. Besides, when the time comes to take your decorations down, having a few well-loved pieces to put up will be a lot easier than unplugging a ton of fog machines and other delicate, expensive, and complex toys.

3. Create a Budget Plan for Your Halloween Celebration

Before setting up a ton of decorations, buying that sweet Halloween candy, or planning your big spooky party, consider drafting a budget for your holiday hijinks. Take a look at your income and expenses, then examine your free money to see how much you can afford to spend without having to dip into your savings or your credit cards. This should be the absolute ceiling for your holiday spending.

Then, take some time to consider all of the things you’ll need to buy for your end-of-October plans and divvy up that money appropriately. For example, if you have a total of $100 of free money for the month of October, you might spread that out as $35 for costume pieces and $65 for home decoration/party prep, depending on how elaborate you want your costume to be.

It’s important to set your budget early so you know what you can afford and avoid over-spending.

If you need more budgeting advice to use throughout the rest of the year, Credit Canada has a lot of information you might find useful. Be sure to subscribe to our blog or check out some of our other resources to find out more about building a budget, learning how to get out of debt, and more money management topics!

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