Summit Saver Blog

How to Have a Ghoulish Halloween for Less

'Tis the season to be haunting! But have you looked at the price of costumes and candy lately? This modern medieval throw-back to All Soul's Day can really put a crimp in the holiday spending. Coupon Sherpa always says: Thou shalt not buy seasonal junketh until after the season. But I know some of us weren't on top of things last year when the Halloween stuff went on a 90% "take me" spree. If you're just now stocking up for October 31st, don't get crazy--a good time may be had by all for a reasonable budget.

1. DIY Costumes
I'll admit I'm impressed with the improving quality of mass-produced costumes. They are becoming more detailed and plush, especially for the kids. But growing up, I snubbed my nose at the fire-retardant ONFA gowns with cheesy masks. My mom, albeit a gifted seamstress, always made my costumes. From Dorothy to Renaissance princess I always had a unique, authentic get-up that made the other kids drool. Even if you're not gifted with a sewing machine you can still put together a respectable costume for far less than a rental or store-bought outfit. Buy a white sweat suit, black felt, and make yourself into a snow man, cat, or even a cow (and reuse the cow costume at Chick-fil-A in July for Cow Appreciation Day to get a free meal).

2. Seek out alternatives to candy.
No, you don't want to be that house. The one the kids know to avoid every year because they give out raisons and toothbrushes. But fun stickers and bulk plastic toys from Oriental Trading make for a fun yet non-sugary option. Don't buy the Halloween assortments until early November--but instead, select finger puppets, jumping frogs, and other toy varieties. Before you choke on the price, consider that you won't only give one fun-sized candy to the trick 'o treaters. At 3-4 pieces a pop, the non-consumables will save you money. If you can't resist the ginormous bag 'o dental appointments at least buy from Sam's or Costco, keeping in mind that most kids will eat the Sweet Tart and Smarties mix just as much as the Hershey's medley.

3. Use household items to decorate.
Those blinky-light, fog producing, moaning gadgets in the store front window sure do put on a good show, but it's easy to decorate without a blow-up pumpkin or flying skeleton.

  • Put two or three cotton balls in the middle of a tissue and tie a white string around them to make miniature ghosts. Punch out two holes ofblack construction paper and glue on the "head" to make eyes.
  • Blow up several white, latex gloves to make creepy hands. Put acrylic nails on the ends and paint some blood using red fingernail polish. Position in the middle of the candy bowl for maximum creepiness.
  • Using four black pipe cleaners and a black craft ball to make spiders. Dangle them from a door frame with fishing wire.
  • For an easy table decoration, break apart white craft stuffing (the kind used for stuffing a pillow) on top of a white sheet and add plastic spiders.
  • Follow some simple instructions to make a cute scarecrow from some empty spools of thread and jute cording.


4. Combine several family efforts for a progressively spooky party.
If you want a party but aren't crazy about footing the entire bill, get together with two other families to plan a progressive potluck party. Each host house should have a small amount of themed food and one or two activities. Three houses are plenty and the last stop can include scary ghost stories and smore making. Some ideas for cheap food you can make yourself:

From Bat Chip and Brain Dip to smoking Cauldron Stew and Cheese Eyeballs, these appetizer recipes are hard to beat.

Main Courses
For the ambitious hostess, check out this 8-course Halloween meal.


  • Broomstick Cookies: Roll a small ball of sugar cookie dough and press it flat with a fork. Stick a thick pretzel into the end to make the stick. Bake, let cool, then pipe chocolate icing lines to make it look like a broom.
  • Kitty Litter Cake: Some basic cake goods, pudding, and melted Tootsie Rolls make this cake a hit for all ages!
  • Witch Hat Cookies: Buy any cookie with a chocolate coated bottom. Place chocolate side up and "glue" on a Hershey's Kiss with orange frosting. Pipe a small orange bow to complete.
  • True Pumpkin Pie: Pipe black or brown frosting on top of a store-bought or homemade pumpkin pie to transform it into a jack 'o lantern.
  • Meriengue Ghosts: Kids will love these airy, ghoulish treats made from traditional mereingue.


5. Don't forget the drug and grocery stores.
Sometimes the best discounts are at the local corner store and grocery center. If you can stand to wait, Halloween sales start a couple days before October 31st since store managers want to sell as much as possible. In the last couple years Walmart has scaled back on over-ordering seasonal products, so you probably won't be able to find much a couple days before. But grocery stores and pharmacy stores usually have a decent selection left before the holiday.

6. Buy for next year on November 1st.
Aside from candy (which probably won't be edible 365 days from now) stock up on discounted Halloween goods now to avoid the pickle you're in this year. The best times to buy are in September or immediately after Halloween, so if you missed the boat in 2009, gear up for next year.

Related: Costume Coupons

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