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10 Cheap DIY Halloween Decorating Ideas (Indoor & Outdoor)

By Angela Colley

halloween decorationsHalloween brings out the kid in most of us. The air starts to cool, pumpkins appear on grocery store shelves, and before you know it, you’ve turned your front porch into a mad scientist’s lab.

Every retailer from Macy’s to Target offers Halloween costumes, decor, and party supplies. But while you might love those animated, life-sized Frankenstein inflatable decorations, you don’t need to drop hundreds of dollars to decorate for Halloween.

Whether you throw a Halloween bash, or just want to impress the neighborhood trick-or-treaters with your haunted mansion, you can decorate on a budget for Halloween, and still have the most impressive house on the block. Most of these craft projects use reclaimed materials or items you already have in your home. You just need a few tools, some supplies, and your imagination to have a spook-tacular Halloween this year.

Outdoor Halloween Decorations

Whether you go trick-or-treating, tell campfire ghost stories, or have backyard parties, Halloween offers fun fall events for everyone. With these inexpensive Halloween decorations, you can add some simple touches to your front porch for the kids, or turn your entire yard into a spooky display.

1. Backyard Cemetery

halloween rip cemeteryThis classic Halloween decoration idea turns your yard into a creepy cemetery. Use reclaimed materials to create a free graveyard. To create your haunted cemetery, cut different shapes out of cardboard and paint them to look like aging tombstones. Once they dry, you can arrange them on the lawn to look like a miniature graveyard.

You can also use the tombstones to denote a haunted pathway for trick-or-treaters. As they approach your front door, they have to pass by the tombstones, making for a thrilling Halloween nighttime walk.

Directions

  1. Flatten several shipping boxes.
  2. Use a Sharpie to draw tombstone shapes. I made a few rectangular, cross, and oval tombstones to give my graveyard some variety.
  3. Cut the shapes out of with a pair of scissors.
  4. Paint the shapes a dark grey and allow the paint to dry.
  5. Once dry, add on sayings like “R.I.P” to the front of each tombstone. Glue a wood or plastic yard stake to the back of the tombstone and plant it into the ground.

By using real wood, you can partially waterproof the tombstones, so they last for more than one Halloween season. The project works best if you use thin pieces of composite wood, which you can buy at any home improvement store. The thin pieces are easier to cut and stand up better in the grass.

Pro Tip: You can blend white paint onto the edges of the tombstone, or glue on some artificial moss, found at craft stores, to make them look more aged and authentic.

2. Haunted Trees

Make your yard come alive with this spooky craft. If you have trees in your yard, you can use oven-baked clay to give the trees spooky faces. Simply create a pair of eyes, a nose, and a mouth for each tree, and attach them to the trunks.

Place a portable radio or speakers near the tree and play your favorite eerie soundtrack to draw even more attention to your haunted trees.

Directions

  1. Purchase oven-baked modeling clay, like Fimo or a similar brand. You can buy modeling clay for about $12 a pound online. Buy colored clay, such as green, brown, or black, to give the face more character and to make each face more noticeable.
  2. Create basic shapes for the eyes, nose, and mouth. Use a butter knife to carve out more details like eyelids or teeth, and bake them in the oven.
  3. Use removable putty or double-sided hanging tape to arrange the face on the tree.

Pro Tip: You can purchase a clay glaze at most craft stores that prolongs the life of thes faces. The glaze adds a protective coating, which keeps them safer in the rain.

halloween trees

3. Reusable Jack o’ Lanterns

Jack o’ lanterns are staple Halloween decorations, but some of us would rather not deal with cutting and carving pumpkins every year. Hobby and craft stores sell artificial pumpkins you can carve and light. Best of all, you can store them for next season.

Directions

  1. Purchase an artificial pumpkin from a hobby store. They come in several different shapes, colors, and styles, so pick one you think will look best at your front door.
  2. Use an Exacto knife to carve a small hole in the bottom of the pumpkin, and to create a design on the front.
  3. After you finish the design, use a small piece of sandpaper to gently sand down any rough edges.
  4. Place a small flashlight or electric candle in the bottom to make your design glow, and pop your Jack o’ Lantern on the front porch.
  5. If you use small reusable jack o’ lanterns, you can place them in the windows of your home, to cast an eerie light on your front yard.

Pro Tip: If you’re not artistically inclined, you can use a stencil to create a Jack o’ Lantern design. A few websites offer free stencils you can print.

Places to get free Jack o’ Lantern Stencils:

  • Celebrating Halloween has a selection of traditional Halloween designs you can print.
  • Stoney Kins has an eclectic mixture of stencils, offering everything from Cookie Monster to Humphrey Bogart, and they’re free to print and use.
  • Pumpkin Glow has a large selection of “un-Halloween” stencils, which includes everything from commercial icons to famous people.
  • Better Homes and Gardens has a large selection of free stencils, ranging from the classics to different breeds of dogs.

jack o lanterns

4. Coffin Cooler

With a little imagination, and some wood and nails, you can create your own life-sized coffin, which you can use in a dozen different ways. I turned mine into a cooler to hold drinks for an outdoor party. My neighbor used his to create a gravedigger scene in his front yard on Halloween. You can also use your coffin for a spooky planter or as a table during a party.

For Halloween, use the coffin to strike fear into the hearts of your neighbors, by hiding someone inside, who pops out from time to time to spook the older trick-or-treaters. Talk to friends and family members to find free 4×4 boards for this project; someone you know likely has a stack of these boards collecting dust in the garage.

Directions

  1. You need seven 4×4 boards, varying in length depending on the size of coffin you want. Two boards make up the sides, one board makes the bottom, and you’ll cut the other four to fit the shape of the coffin.
  2. Cut the bottom board into a coffin shape. You can use Google images to get an idea for the design.
  3. Cut two boards to fit the length of the coffin. The boards should extend from the first angle on the top to the bottom.
  4. Cut two smaller boards so they fit at an angle on each side of the top.
  5. Cut the last two boards to fit the top and the bottom.
  6. Nail each piece to the bottom board, starting with the sides.
  7. Paint the finished product black, brown, or grey to make it look more authentic.

Pro Tip: If you plan to use the coffin as a drink cooler, line the inside with black trash bags. The trash bags help make the coffin more waterproof when the ice starts to melt.

halloween coffin doll

5. Giant Spiders

Spiders fit right into a spooky Halloween theme. You can transform a few black trash bags into a giant spider that fits on your front porch, or up in a tree. You can also make multiple giant spiders and cluster them across the front and sides of your home.

Directions

  1. You need nine black trash bags and stuffing such as newspaper, left over packing materials, or even leaves.
  2. Fill one trash bag with stuffing and tie it closed to create the spider’s body.
  3. Hold the second trash bag on its side and fill the length with stuffing.
  4. Wrap the empty bag around the stuffing several times, so that it looks like a spider’s arm, and secure it with a tie. Repeat this for the other seven legs.
  5. Use a glue gun to secure the legs to the body.

Pro Tip: You can cut off the bottom of Styrofoam cups and glue them onto the body to make eyes.

plastic bag spider halloween
Giant Spider – WatsCraft

6. Ghost-Lit Walkway

If you have a collection of milk jugs in your recycling bin, you can create a ghost-lit walkway that your trick-or-treaters will love. Look online to get inspirations for designing your ghosts’ faces. The Scream mask makes an instantly recognizable, scary ghost face that you can easily replicate on your milk jugs.

Directions

  1. For this project, you need several milk jugs, some black construction paper, and enough artificial candles to fill the jugs.
  2. Wash and dry each milk jug.
  3. Once dry, use a knife to cut a small hole in the bottom of each jug.
  4. Make ghost faces for each jug by cutting out a pair of eyes, a nose, and a mouth from the black construction paper.
  5. Turn the jug so that the handle faces the back. Glue the faces onto the front of the jug and place an artificial candle inside.
  6. Line the jugs along your walkway and turn the candles on. The jugs light up, illuminating the faces.

Pro Tip: You can also use white Christmas lights to light up the ghosts. Line the ghosts along the pathway, and insert a handful of the string lights inside each jug.

milk jug ghost walkway halloween
Spirit Jugs – eighteen25

Indoor Halloween Decorations

Indoor decorations are great way to make a Halloween party feel more authentic. In one afternoon, you can turn the inside of your house into an eerie mansion.

7. Floating Hands

You can turn clear plastic gloves into severed hands, and then place them around your house, sneak them into a chip bowl, or even make a garland out of hands. Whenever possible, use a fake hand to shake hands with arriving guests, and then release the hand and feign dismay.

Directions

  1. Fill a plastic glove with tissue paper, popcorn, or small shredded paper waste. You can also open up the gloves and fill them with freshly mixed JELL-O, for jiggly, realistic-feeling hand.
  2. Tie the open end of the glove with a clear elastic band to secure its contents.
  3. If you want to hang your hands, slide a paperclip through one loop of the elastic band.

Pro Tip: You can fill the plastic glove with shredded red scrapbook paper to create a “bloody hand,” or tan or brown scrapbook paper to create a more realistic-looking hand. You can also fill these hands with candy corn to create Halloween-themed treat bags.

candy corn popcorn gloves
Candy Corn Popcorn Hands – Kimbo’s Crafts

8. Halloween Garland

A simple Halloween banner is an artsy and cheap way to add some festive decorations to the inside of your house. Depending on the look you’re going for, you can make your garland eerie or more fall-oriented and cheery.

These instructions focus on making a garland with a message, but you have unlimited options when creating your Halloween garland. String paper pumpkins, ghosts, and vampires to make an eerie garland for your party. Use oversized paper cutouts of candy corn, candies, and popcorn for a garland over the snack table.

Directions

  1. Decide on a saying for your garland. For example, you can do a simple “Happy Halloween” or “Trick or Treat.”
  2. Select a color palette for the paper. If you want an eerie look, black, red, and green work well. If you want a festive look, brown, orange, red, and purple work nicely.
  3. Cut the paper into small squares or triangles, until you have one piece for each letter of your saying.
  4. Use paint markers or a sharpie to draw each letter on to the paper.
  5. Punch a small hole in the top with a hole punch. Slide a paper clip through each hole.
  6. Attach the letters to a long piece of twine.
  7. Hang your garland over a doorway or a mantle.

Pro Tip: You can add decorations between each letter block to give the garland more detail. For example, I wrapped artificial spider webs between the letter blocks on my garland.

happy halloween candy

9. Specimen Jars

With a few leftover glass jars, you can convert a table into a scientist’s lab. By tossing just about anything you can imagine into a glass jar with some food coloring, you can quickly create a cheap Halloween decor piece. Look online for craft ideas for fingers, eyeballs, and other body parts to fill your specimen jars. Make the jars and the rest of your decor seem even creepier by using mood lighting. Turn off overhead lights or switch them out with colored light bulbs, to increase the creepiness factor in your home.

Directions

  1. Collect a few glass jars in different sizes, such as mason jars, spaghetti jars, or old baby food containers.
  2. Find an object to place in each jar. For example, I popped the head off an old doll and stuck it inside a mason jar.
  3. Wash and dry the jar. Place the object inside.
  4. Fill the jar with water and drop in two drops of food coloring. The food coloring will make the object look like a specimen at a lab.

Pro Tip: Around the Halloween season, hobby stores sell small, plastic party favors. These party favors, including miniature skeletons, eyeballs, and severed limbs, all work well in specimen jars.

halloween specimen jars
Specimen Jars – Paper Dolls for Boys

10. Flying Bats

With a few pieces of felt and some tape, you can have a gang of bats flying around your living room in no time. You can easily make bats and put them up just about anywhere.

Directions

  1. Gather several pieces of black felt or black construction paper.
  2. Use a white marker or chalk to draw a bat outline on one side of each felt piece and cut the bats out with household scissors.
  3. Add a piece of double-sided tape to one side. Stick the bats along your walls, ceiling, or kitchen cabinets.

Pro Tip: You can use these bats to create a quick Halloween chandelier. Punch a small hole on the top of several bats. Tie different lengths of black ribbon or twine to each bat. Hang the bats from your light fixture or ceiling fan.

halloween bats decorations

Final Word

If you have the Halloween spirit, but you also have a budget, you can decorate your house from top to bottom without spending a lot of money. If you enjoy doing crafts, you probably have most of these supplies already lying around the house. But even if you don’t, you can buy everything you need for less than a hundred dollars. In addition, you can store many of these decorations, and continue to use them to scare and delight your friends and family every year.

Do you make your own Halloween decorations? What do you plan on using this year?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Angela Colley
Angela Colley is a freelance writer living in New Orleans, Louisiana with a background in mortgage and real estate. Her interests include animal rights advocacy, green living, mob movies and finding the best deal on everything. She blames her extreme passion for never paying full price on two parents that taught her that a penny saved is two pennies if invested wisely.

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  • http://www.squarepennies.blogspot.com Maggie@SquarePennies

    All great ideas! Thanks!
    Love the tip for carving jack-o-lanterns from fake pumpkins=reusable decor! You can make a great Halloween wreath with a black trash bag cut into strips & threaded onto a wire coat hanger bent into a circle. We’ve made a dangling skeleton from white milk jugs–link on my blog for that. For treats you can make a venomous looking spider with a Tootsie Pop and pipe cleaners. The wrapped pop is the abdomen and you add black pipe cleaners for the legs and head, leaving a bit of the wrapper sticking out for the tongue. Very creepy looking!

    • Angela Colley

      Thanks Maggie!
      Love the idea about the Tootsie Pop spiders. I’ll have to try that this year!

      • lizzie

        love everything they are miracle workers

  • http://www.worldoffinance.biz World of Finance

    Great article! Full of creative, budget friendly ideas. I look at the prices of halloween costumes and I just cringe…. it can take the fun out of the event.

  • http://kylieofiu.com Kylie Ofiu

    I love these ideas. I want to have a Halloween party this year. It’s not really done in Australia, but I am a youth group leader and I know they would love it.

    So many things I can do! :)

    • Angela Colley

      Thanks Kylie!
      Even though Halloween isn’t that common, I agree – the kids would love it. After all, what’s not to love about costumes, candy and crazy decorations?

      • lizzie

        the kids like anything with candy

  • http://www.hirepoint.com Jericho from TeleTech

    Thanks for this! Our TeleTech employees working at home will find this very convenient. Experiencing Halloween at home and work at the same time is pretty awesome.

  • butterfly64

    thanks i will so use these ideas at Halloween. thanks again

  • Daniel

    For the Tombstones… I used corrugated plastic left over from political signs. very Durable and A little silver & Black spray paint.

  • Alycea

    Thanks for these great idea i am planning a Halloween party this year and a lot of these ides will be great!

  • izzybean

    thank you for these, I will use some of your ideas for sure, It is my turn this year to host our halloween party, and i am on a beyond tight budget, but I love halloween! (my birthday day :) I also seen at Target these really cool halloween trees, they were bare branches in pots painted black with sparkly glitter, they only went for $45.00 a piece.. did I say ONLY? yea, I figure, I can buy 6 pots at the .99cent store, go to the park get some branches for free, and go to my Homedepot and buy some spray paint for $6.00 glitter, already have some… maybe have to spend on the flower foam to stick the branches in, but still, I will have 6 creepy walk way liners for under the price of one Ornament.. :)

  • izzybean

    thank you for these, I will use some of your ideas for sure, It is my turn this year to host our halloween party, and i am on a beyond tight budget, but I love halloween! (my birthday day :) I also seen at Target these really cool halloween trees, they were bare branches in pots painted black with sparkly glitter, they only went for $45.00 a piece.. did I say ONLY? yea, I figure, I can buy 6 pots at the .99cent store, go to the park get some branches for free, and go to my Homedepot and buy some spray paint for $6.00 glitter, already have some… maybe have to spend on the flower foam to stick the branches in, but still, I will have 6 creepy walk way liners for under the price of one Ornament.. :)

  • amanda

    oh thank u sooo much, i am having my 1st halloween party this year.ur a life saver.thnk u

  • eilval

    Like the Candy Corn Popcorn Hands – awesome and creative ideas

  • GiftHelp

    These are very creative ideas! Thank you for sharing. Here at GiftHelp, we love new ideas and love spreading smiles :) http://www.facebook.com/giftshelp?ref=hl

  • helsakarls

    nice post

  • Avril

    U ROCK AT HALLOWEEN DECORATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LUV U!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Doggirl

    Wonderful ideas!
    I cant wait to try them! :)

  • http://www.arabian-affiliate.com/ HomeBusinessGuide

    very creative :) thanks for sharing

  • Breanne

    Where’s the in door decoration ideas?

    • Breanne

      indoor**

  • curlygirl

    i liked the specimen jars the most :) really easy

  • bedhead***

    really cool with the milk gallons super cheap super cool

  • debtfreeoneday

    Love the ghostlit walkway! I’m not sure I could cope with that giant spider though. Wow but freaky!

  • Guri

    I love these ideas especially the ghost-lit walkway I have decided to use that idea to put outside my house

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