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Five tips for hosting a budget-friendly Halloween party

Whether it’s a party for kids or adults only, planning a Halloween party can be stressful, not to mention costly.

Here are a few things to keep in mind that will do the trick (not the treat!) and help you stay on track:

1. Plan in advance

Solidify your guest list well in advance so you can plan how much food to buy and what kind of decorations to get. Almost every time, the longer you wait to do your planning or shopping, the more it costs. Oftentimes we make impulse buys or end up buying very expensive items because we didn’t look in advance for cheaper ones. The exception: If your party is the weekend after Halloween, you’ll save even more by shopping on or right after the actual date, as stores give steep discounts to get rid of their stock!

2. Food and desserts can be cheap

I mean price-wise, not quality-wise. Say you want to make a pumpkin pie. A 9-inch pie can cost as much as $10 at a store or restaurant. But if you make it in advance, you can make for a third of that price. It’s about knowing what ingredients you’ll need and monitoring the sales at different stores to get the ingredients when they’re cheap. For candy, bulk hard candy costs less than chocolate. Putting little bowls of candy around the house can be a great idea and can be done at a fraction of the cost of individual packaged treats. As for the main course and beverages, home cooking will mostly always be cheaper than to buy take-out or cater. The downside: It takes more time. But if you plan ahead, the cooking might be the last thing you’ll have to do. You can also scratch all of the above and make it a potluck!

3. Get artistic with decor.

One option to decorate your house is to turn everyday home items into spooky decorations. For example, empty gallons of milk can become ghost jack-o-lanterns. Draw a spooky face on one side and drop in a battery-operated tea light. Hanging spiders around the house can also be a nice touch. As for the outside, painted-over cereal boxes can become gravestones. White sheets on a hanger coming down from a tree make fantastic ghosts. You can also go simple and buy a few things you can re-use every year, like a string of orange lights. If you want to collect an arsenal of cool Halloween decorations but don’t want to spend a lot of money, go shopping the day after Halloween. Enjoy more than half-off prices to get you all set for next year.

4. Costumes required.

What would a Halloween party be without costumes? Ask friends and family to dress up, but challenge them to be creative and create a costume for less than $10. This will get their creative sides rolling, rummaging through their closets, looking out for deals, etc. Kids can have fun creating costumes out of plastic, cardboard, paper and some paint or markers. The point is to have fun together, without the added pressure of spending more than $50 to wear a spooky costume.

5. Ambiance.

Unless you’re having a horror movie marathon during your party (which can also be an inexpensive idea), you’ll need music. It can be spooky tunes or fun and upbeat music. Pandora has a free Halloween station, just bring it up on a phone, iPod or if you can, your TV! The goal is to have a blast, make it memorable and enjoy the after-party feeling of knowing you didn’t dent your wallet.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!