Be the best trick-or-treat house on the block without breaking the bank
Halloween is the scariest time of the year, but that isn't always due to the ghosts trick-or-treating you, or the creepy clown sightings on the news. The price of Halloween candy, not to mention the cost of costumes and home decorations, can give anyone the heebie-jeebies.
According to the National Retail Federation, which surveyed 6,791 consumers from Sept. 6 to 13 about their Halloween shopping plans, the average American will spend $82.93 on Halloween, up from $74.34 last year. All in all, Halloween spending is expected to reach $8.4 billion in 2016.
Fortunately, if you are worried about going overboard this year, many decorating experts maintain that it's possible to have the best trick-or-treat house in the neighborhood without breaking the bank. It simply requires a little imagination and preparation on the front end.
Candy. We'll start here first, since it's the easiest thing to find cheaply. Buy your candy several days or weeks in advance, so you can be on the lookout for discounts.
If you belong to a warehouse club, buying in bulk might save you money. Digital coupon websites like Coupons.com and RetailMeNot.com have coupons for candy and Halloween costumes that you may want to utilize. Just make sure that if you do buy Halloween candy weeks in advance that you hide it, so your family doesn't eat it and gobble all of your savings.
Halloween decorations. Check out the dollar stores first. Sure, that may sound obvious, but if you're something of a dollar-store snob, it also may be the last place you would consider.
"You would be surprised [at] the fantastic finds that can really add value to your Halloween display. There are plastic skulls, dismembered body parts, creepy spiders and so much more," says Felicia Ramos-Peters, who lives in Hurleyville, New York, and is the founder of GetHolidayHappy.com, a website aimed at helping people celebrate holidays with ideas for recipes, decorations and gifts.
Jeanine Boiko seconds the dollar store. Boiko is a New York City publicist who also blogs about home decor and owns an Etsy.com shop called Okio B Designs.
"Stock up on fake skulls, rats and crows, and jars, window decals," she suggests, adding that, "a can of orange or black spray paint can work wonders on sprucing up dollar store finds and creating the 'eek' factor."
And if you see nothing you like at the dollar stores, leave. All you have wasted is some time.
Lights. But one thing to think about while you're at the dollar stores? Lighting.
"Lighting is everything," says Jamie O'Donnell, an Orlando, Florida resident who has been an event planner for more than 15 years. "Replace the bulbs of your outdoor light with LED lights in orange or purple to cast your house in a spooky glow. It's fairly inexpensive and only takes a few minutes to do but creates a dramatic look."
Judging from what you can find online, festive LED lights may run you around $20 to $30 for a string of, say, 40 to 100 lights (which could cost a small fortune if you intend to light up your entire home). The conventional holiday strings of orange or purple lights are generally cheaper, and will likely run you more along the lines of $5 to $15. Of course, you can always buy your lights after the holidays, when they're on sale, to prepare for next Halloween.
Sounds and music. Ramos-Peters suggests using sound as part of your Halloween atmospherics.
"I think music is an underestimated element for outdoor Halloween displays. It is really easy to download or purchase some scary music and sound effects," Ramos-Peters says. "You can turn heads with a display that has some spooky sounds like a chainsaw or evil witch laughing."
[See: 11 Ways to Save Time and Money.]
Pro Tip: Use What You Have in Your Home
Pamela Layton McMurtry, an artist and designer in Kaysville, Utah, and author of the e-book "A Harvest and Halloween Handbook," feels it's always effective when homeowners create a spooky scene on their lawn.
"I love creative, alternative decor for Halloween and go wild for themes taken from literature," she says (think "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz").
Now, that might sound like a surefire way to destroy your future retirement funds. You want to entertain your neighbors, not create a multi-million dollar Hollywood movie. But McMurtry says you may be able to find props in your home or at thrift stores. If you really want cheap and effective, McMurtry paints this picture: "Set up a fake campfire with cricket sounds and sad harmonica music. Mound dirt for a grave and put a pair of cowboy boots nearby with a clue about [what happened to] the demised, like a rubber snake."
Something else to look for in your basement, attic or thrift store, Boiko suggests, is a long-forgotten Scrabble game.
"You can use the tiles for easy Halloween decor by spelling out spooky words. I painted the tile holders black and spelled out creepy words on mine," Boiko says.
And if you can keep your Halloween costs low, you won't be tempted to spell out Scrabble letters to make phrases like "holiday debt" and "I'm broke." On the other hand, that may be a creative idea. The children on your block may not get creeped out by those words, but you'll send a chill up the spines of their parents.
Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report