If you're like me you probably feel like Halloween snuck up on you this year. With the back-to-school rush barely settled and the excitement — and financial burden — of the winter holidays right around the corner, it can feel difficult to do anything this time of year without blowing the budget. This is where a little creativity and ingenuity can really help your penny-pinching efforts. Want to celebrate Halloween without breaking the bank? Check out my list of festive yet frugal ways to celebrate.
• Host a haunted hallway for local trick-or-treaters. If you don't want the pressure or expense of throwing a full bash for the entire neighborhood, prepare a haunted hallway with inexpensive classics like spaghetti brains, peeled grapes for eyeballs and other ghoulish experiences visitors may have. Have your family dress as their favorite scary characters and put on a "show." If you don't want to handle the mess inside your home, set one up outside in the back yard. Let the kiddos snag their treat after experiencing the hallway. Just remember to keep the fun age appropriate.
• Decorate your home. It's definitely fun to decorate, but by purchasing a ton of large decorations that are difficult to store throughout the year, you risk damaging the items you spent money on and over dipping into funds you could otherwise use for costumes, treats and other fun activities that will make the holiday more memorable. Items such as stretchable "cobwebs" from the dollar store and themed, reusable window clings featuring black cats, skeletons and pumpkins are inexpensive and are easy to store season to season. For homemade decorations, stuff a scarecrow using old gardening clothing stuffed with newspaper or carve Jack-o'-lanterns. These items all add to the fun without breaking the bank.
• Hold a pumpkin carving or painting contest. Invite friends, family and neighbors. Have everyone bring their own pumpkin — you can call it B.Y.O.P — and you can provide the tools such as carving knives, spoons, paintbrushes, etc. and watch as the masterpieces are created. Have the judges award prizes for things like most creative pumpkin, best carved pumpkin and best painted pumpkin. Be sure to save the seeds for roasting. This works well if you live remotely or have older children who no longer trick or treat.
• Host a family scary movie night. Looking for a low key option? Simple. Have everyone get in their pajamas for a family movie night. Pop the popcorn and press play for a relaxing Halloween-themed night at home. Remember to choose age appropriate movies; this will definitely make a difference in your choice between "Casper the Friendly Ghost" and "Paranormal Activity 3."
• Create a fun playlist. This idea can easily accommodate any budget. Download fun tunes like "Superstition," "Black Magic Woman," "Disturbia" and "Monster Mash." Don't want to spend any cash? Listen to a Halloween themed station on iHeartRadio or tune in to a local station as several of them play songs themed to that particular holiday.
• Create goody bags. Purchase inexpensive candy — non-perishable — and items such as Halloween-themed pencils, erasers, stickers and other small trinkets at a discount just prior to and just after the holiday when they are the least expensive. Have the kids help you create goody bags to give out to trick or treaters, classmates, friends and/or family.
• Make or thrift a costume. It's absolutely possible to have fun with your Halloween costume and not break the bank. All you need is creativity. For example, for children, pair yellow tights with an oversized orange sweatshirt and a white hat and mittens. You now have a piece of candy corn. Bonus? They have a few fun cool-weather items they can wear for the rest of the fall. Visiting a resale or consignment shop is also a great way to save on costumes. Want costumes for free? Organize a costume swap with other moms. Last year's costume from your neighbor can be your kid's costume for this year, all for free.
• Look for freebies. I. Love. Free. Things. But I think most of us do. There are a ton of ways to enjoy freebies on Halloween as well. Some restaurants give away free meals to kids who come in costume. Additionally, check out local events calendars. Many shopping malls, local farms and other businesses hold free Halloween events which include trick or treating, hay rides, haunted houses, face painting and other fun activities for the family.
Danielle Moser is a Reisterstown resident and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.