From filling the lawn with creepy tombstones to piling pumpkins on the front porch, decorating for Halloween is tons of fun. But even the cost of a few decorations can get scary fast. You can easily drop hundreds of dollars on inflatables, motion-activated talking skeletons, and flying ghosts.
Fortunately, whether you plan to throw a Halloween party or just want to impress the neighborhood trick-or-treaters, it’s possible to trick out your home, even on a tight budget. After all, what’s Halloween without a haunted house?
Tips to Decorate for Halloween on a Budget
Whether you’re a seasoned do-it-yourselfer, want to try your hand at some simple projects, or prefer to buy all your decorations, a few money-saving tricks let you have the most impressive house on the block with plenty of money left over to spend on treats or costumes for every family member.
If saving money is your goal, there are several things you should do before setting foot in a store.
1. Decide on a Theme
It’s easy to throw everything you see into your cart when it comes to Halloween. All the decor looks tempting.
To cut down on impulse buys, stick to a theme. Themes give your home a more cohesive look and help you avoid wasting money overbuying ornamentation that doesn’t contribute to your design plans.
Halloween isn’t a theme in itself. Try to narrow it down. For example, will you do a zombie theme? Ghosts in the graveyard? A witch’s gathering?
If you have a preferred design aesthetic, you can narrow it down even further. For example, as much as I love Halloween, I’m not into blood and gore. I prefer vintage styles and whimsy. So I pass up all the bloody zombie arms and go straight for retro or Victorian wall plaques.
2. Shop Your Home First
I keep big plastic storage totes filled with decorations for all the holidays. So before I head to the store, I always stop there first to rummage through our stuff from past years and find things to reuse.
Having a reliable system for seasonal decor is just one of the many money-saving benefits of organizing your home. It lets you easily access and see what you have so you can stick to your budget and not overbuy.
But don’t stop with the things you’ve specifically designated as seasonal decor. Instead, keep an open mind as you search through every room in your house to find things that fit your Halloween theme.
For example, use a stuffed black cat from your kid’s toy chest for your witch display. Or you can use an everyday black-and-white buffalo check-pattern tablecloth and rattan placemats from your summer picnic stash as a perfect pairing for your Halloween table.
3. Set a Budget
Only after you’ve decided on a theme and shopped your home should you opt for spending money on Halloween decorations, including craft supplies for DIY projects. That’s where making a budget comes in.
Aside from shopping sales and using coupons, saving money is all about careful planning. Plus, it helps keep your spending in line with your resources, which you can only know once you take stock of your ability to spend on Halloween decorating.
So after accounting for all your fixed expenses (bills) and necessary discretionary spending like groceries and gas, take stock of what’s left. What portion of your leftover funds are you willing to dedicate to Halloween decorations?
If you spend your whole stash on decorations, you won’t have anything left for the other things you enjoy. So account for anything else you routinely spend fun money on, like entertainment, eating out, and recreational shopping. Also consider things like Halloween candy and costumes.
Once you have that number, stick to it. You don’t want to use credit cards, especially when Halloween is only the first in the fall and winter holiday lineup.
After that, you do what you’d do for any other holiday budget. For example, if you spot a giant lawn inflatable that costs $200, and you only budgeted $100 for your Halloween decorations, you know you have to pass it up to avoid exceeding your resources.
If you’re planning to scout stores for all your Halloween decorations, arm yourself with coupons and rebate apps to help you double your savings. But even with coupons and rebates, it still pays to choose where you shop wisely.
4. Avoid the Specialty Stores
This time of year, Halloween stores like Spirit Halloween start popping up everywhere in temporary storefronts. And while it’s tempting to think a Halloween specialty store is the perfect place to shop for Halloween decorations, the prices can be steep, even if you manage to score some coupons.
But other stores that specialize in decorations, like Party City, are equally problematic. And while you can find plenty of Halloween decor at so-called discount stores that specialize in things for the home, like T.J.Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods, their stocks of holiday decorations aren’t all that budget-friendly.
5. Shop the Thrift Store
Thrift stores are the place to find vintage goods if you’re into that look. They can also be a good place to come across modern decorations people donated.
And if you’re opting for a frightening Halloween display full of blood, gore, and dead bodies, a thrift store is the perfect place to find objects with a timeworn patina that makes them look scary and sinister, such as rusty knives and garden tools.
6. Shop the Dollar Store
You don’t have to spend much at all loading up on decorations when you shop at the dollar store. And while many people think they carry nothing but cheap plastic and gaudy tinsel, dollar stores have a surprising number of spooky elements.
Some decorations even rival what you can find for significantly more at Halloween specialty stores. That’s why seasonal decor is one of the top things to buy at the dollar store.
The dollar store also helps you decorate your yard inexpensively. While some outdoor decorations need to be higher-quality to survive the weather, much of the plastic stuff you find at dollar stores can survive just fine.
I have some dollar store glow-in-dark skeleton hand garden stakes that have survived torrential thunderstorms. And I’ve been able to reuse them over multiple years.
And when it comes to indoor decorations, quality matters less since people rarely touch them, meaning even $1 decorations can potentially last several years. Most of my indoor Halloween decorations are from the dollar store, and I reuse them yearly.
Dollar Tree is one inexpensive place to load up on Halloween decor. For example, their Halloween stock often includes decorations like hanging ghosts, mini faux pumpkins, foam tombstones, plastic skeletons, and plastic bones and skulls.
And depending on your region, there are other dollar stores to check out, like 99 Cents Only. And while “dollar” stores like Family Dollar and Dollar General sell decorations for more than $1, most of them are under $10.
Note that when you shop online dollar stores, you often have to buy multiple items. For the best deals on singles, shop in-store.
7. Buy Pumpkins at the Grocery Store
We have an annual apple-picking tradition in our family. And the same orchard that sells our U-pick apples has a U-pick pumpkin patch. And every year, I’m tempted to make a fall tradition of joint apple and pumpkin picking.
But I also see the same big, round, beautiful pumpkins selling for half or less than the orchard price at Walmart every year. Even our local grocery puts out bins of pumpkins for considerably less than the apple orchard.
Supporting local growers is important, but to save money, buy your pumpkins at a big-box or grocery store. Local pumpkin farms also frequently charge admission. And attractions like hayrides and corn mazes often require additional tickets kids are bound to beg for.
8. Use Coupons
Shopping sales and using coupons can really maximize your budget. And while coupons are most people’s first go-to when trying to save money on groceries, many stores that sell Halloween decorating and craft supplies also have coupons.
For example, stock up on fabric and craft supplies for making DIY decorations at Michaels and Joann using coupons they regularly send through the mail. Plus, you can typically find those same coupons in their in-store circulars or directly on their websites.
And Bed Bath and Beyond routinely carries novelties for holiday decorating. So always keep its regularly mailed 20%-off deals because the store honors expired coupons. Further, you can use multiple coupons (one per item) in a single transaction.
And don’t forget to check coupon apps. For example, a smartphone shopping app like RetailMeNot can find you any available coupons for area stores. It can even use your phone’s GPS to find coupons for the store you’re in.
And check apps for specific stores. You can find store coupons for both Michaels and Joann on their smartphone apps. Additionally, you can do a general online search to find any coupons for the stores you plan to visit.
But remember: Even with a coupon, decorations at higher-end and specialty stores could still cost more than a similar product from a discount store. So it pays to comparison-shop.
9. Use Store Loyalty Rewards
Store loyalty accounts, like Michaels Rewards or Target Circle, allow you to earn points on your purchases to build store credit. You can then use your credit toward your decorating purchases. And both these stores offer tons of craft supplies and premade Halloween decorations.
If you have another store where you’d like to stock up, check into any loyalty programs there. But beware: Many stores only offer rewards if you sign up for a credit card. Skip that trap.
Unless you know you’re the kind of person who always pays off their balance in full, any discounts that come with using a credit card can’t outpace the interest on your purchases. That’s especially true of retail store cards, which notoriously have the highest interest rates.
10. Stock Up During Post-Holiday Clearance Sales
If you’re stuck on something that’s over your budget, wait until the after-Halloween clearance sales to stock up for next year. That’s my annual go-to tactic to save a considerable amount of money on Halloween decorations.
The selection won’t be as great, but the deals are unbeatable. For example, one year, knowing I wanted a “Harry Potter” theme next Halloween, I scored some plastic cauldrons at 75% off. If I’d bought them before the sale, they would have been too expensive.
Even if you don’t yet know your plans for next Halloween, stores often carry generic Halloween decorations you can adapt to many themes or styles. And scoring 50% to 90% off during after-Halloween clearance sales can help you save significantly for the future.
But don’t wait too long. Scout clearance sales the day after Halloween. Stores switch to Christmas stock the minute Halloween is over, and if you wait too long, there may be nothing left. I’ve made this mistake and lost out on hot deals trying to wait out price drops.
Shopping online helps you save money in various ways. You can easily comparison-shop and use tools to buy used decorations for a fraction of the original price.
11. Comparison-Shop Online
Online shopping can be tricky. Occasionally, what you buy doesn’t match your expectations. But in-store shopping means you can directly see and even touch goods.
But getting the best deal means scouting prices at multiple stores, and it’s exhausting to visit every store that carries the decorations you want in person.
The answer is a simple Google or Bing search. First, search for decorations using product keywords like “plastic human skeleton.” Then select the Shopping tab from the menu on top of the results page.
It serves up a convenient list of online retailers selling what you’re looking for. Even better, the results give you the prices from all the retailers that carry the merchandise so you can easily compare the best prices.
And if you still want to see the goods in-store, Google shopping searches return physical retailer results as well as online ones. So you can scout out the best price and then go to the physical store of your choice.
12. Use Rebate Apps
Rebates are like coupons in reverse. Even though they don’t help you save money upfront, they return money to you after your purchase.
So check smartphone rebate apps like Rakuten and Ibotta for any cash-back offers wherever you plan to shop. If you find an offer, you typically need to shop through the app to get credit for your purchase. Check the specific procedure with the app you’re using.
13. Use Browser Extensions
Like smartphone apps, these give you rebates on all your online computer purchases. Additionally, many browser extensions help you find the best deals and automatically test coupon codes at checkout.
Browser extensions don’t typically stack, so you can’t use multiple savings opportunities on the same purchase. But you can install several and see which offers the best rebate. For example, I use Rakuten, Honey, and Capital One Shopping, depending on which has the better deal.
Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the browser extension using the links provided.
14. Check Discount Sites
As with physical stores, online shopping also features discount retailers.
One place to check for budget Halloween decorations is Amazon’s Halloween store. There are higher-end decorations, but there are also plenty of budget ones. In fact, if you use Honey in conjunction with your Amazon shopping, it helps you find the best deal on the site.
You can also try online dollar stores like the websites for Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Five Below. And check out Oriental Trading. They sell decorations at lower costs than other retailers, including various animatronics and large-scale lawn decorations for under $50.
15. Avoid Online Specialty Stores
If your resources are tight, avoid online Halloween specialty stores like Halloween Express. They carry some genuinely amazing life-size animatronics, but not for less than $100. And many are several hundred.
Other stores to avoid are high-end home stores like Pottery Barn and Grandin Road. As much as I love perusing Pottery Barn’s catalog for sheer eye candy or drooling over Grandin Road’s animatronic witches and motion-activated dragons, neither of these stores carries budget decor.
16. Check Out Online Resale Outlets
If you’re willing to buy used, you can find almost anything you’re looking for on a resale site like eBay.
Also, check to see if you can join any local resale groups on Facebook. Although you’re limited in selection to whatever others post for sale, you never know what someone might list, including exactly the thing you’re looking for.
If you buy from someone on Facebook, always have the decor in hand before exchanging money. Taking money upfront and failing to deliver the item is a common Facebook resale scam.
Also, any time you meet a stranger, always meet in a safe location, like the parking lot of a large and very public retailer. Never meet someone at either of your homes.
Rethink Your Purchases
Being strategic about your purchases can help you save money, whether you’re shopping in-store or online.
17. Opt for Double-Duty Decor
If you typically decorate your home for other fall holidays, like Thanksgiving, opt for double-duty decor. You can save considerable cash if you decorate for one holiday instead of two, and many fall-themed decorations work equally well for either holiday.
For example, harvest colors, pumpkins, potted mums, autumn leaves, dried cornstalks, burlap, and pumpkin-spice scented candles will take you throughout autumn.
18. Choose Reusable Decor
Give your Halloween budget far-reaching longevity by buying decorations you can reuse yearly.
For example, forgo carving up the annual jack-o’-lantern and instead opt for a fake one. Even an inexpensive light-up one will keep for years. Compare that to the average price of buying a fresh pumpkin each year. They typically cost $10 to $20 each, depending on the size.
Additionally, go for generic decor you can reuse no matter your annual theme, like candleholders and reusable battery-powered candles or Halloween staples like cauldrons, skulls, and autumn leaf garlands.
And you can even get extra mileage out of some of these decorations by reusing them for other holidays. For example, you can reuse leaf garlands for Thanksgiving and battery-operated candles for Christmas.
19. Invest in Quality
While it’s true some dollar store decorations will last you through many Halloweens, other decorations — typically those you use outside, like inflatables, lawn statues, and animatronics — need to be of higher quality to last.
You pay more upfront if you go this route, but when you invest more in high-quality goods that last years, it saves you more in the long run. That’s because you develop a stock of supplies you can pull from yearly without having to rebuy.
If you’re on a tight budget, make it easier to stock up on quality decorations by investing in only one or two high-end pieces per year. That way, you build a stash over time without having to shell out a lot all at once.
And note that you don’t need to spend a lot on decorations that aren’t reusable. For example, it’s tough to reclaim fake spider webs for reuse, so buy those at the dollar store.
20. Rely on Spooky Lighting
If your budget only has room for minimal decorating, skip the various decorations and use lighting. A little mood lighting can instantly give any room a warm, autumnal glow or ramp up the scary vibe without breaking the bank.
For a fall harvest feel, use candlelight. Real candles flicker cozily and can add a seasonal scent. But for safety and reusability, invest in faux candles. As a budget bonus, you can put them on a timer to save battery life.
If you’re going for more fright factor, replace the lights in your haunted areas with red bulbs. They make any room seem instantly terrifying. And if you opt for LEDs, you can use them for years.
Another fun way to add special lighting is with fairy lights. Wind battery-powered lights around witch’s cauldrons, pumpkin topiaries, and haunted tree branches.
And light up your jack-o’-lanterns with LED tea lights instead of candles for safety. Or opt for glow sticks, which you can get in different colors. You can purchase both LED tea lights and glow sticks at the dollar store.
Make Your Own
As long as you have a few basic tools and supplies at home — like a glue gun, scissors, paper, and duct tape — you can inexpensively DIY some decorations guaranteed to scare the pants off neighborhood trick-or-treaters and Halloween party guests.
21. Repurpose Household Products
One of the best ways to save money on Halloween decorations is to make them yourself. But if you’re not careful, DIY projects can end up costing as much as (or more) than buying the decorations.
To trim costs, look for remnants to use as craft materials, like milk jugs and cardboard boxes. With a little glue, markers, or paint, you can transform them into Halloween classics like scarecrows, tombstones, and zombies. Best of all, repurposing trash keeps it out of a landfill.
22. Hack the Dollar Store
In addition to buying decorations at the dollar store, they’re also ideal places to find inexpensive craft supplies and other materials for DIY Halloween decorations.
Starting with a few cheap dollar store products like plastic laundry baskets, candles, or witch hats, you can make a creepy hanging cage Halloween lawn prop, dripping bloody candles for your indoor mantle, or witch’s hat luminaries to light up your porch for trick-or-treating.
23. Stock Up at the Craft Store
If you can’t find all the supplies you need at the dollar store, getting inexpensive materials at the craft store can still save you money over buying premade decorations. And you may only need to buy one or two supplements to add to your dollar store or repurposed supplies.
For example, turn a Styrofoam ball, tomato cage, sheet, and string lights into a light-up front porch ghost. Self-adhesive magnetic strips and a bag of creepy crawlies transform into magnetic spiders. Or use craft foam and a free template to make your own bat colony.
24. Drape Cheesecloth Everywhere
Cheesecloth is a crucial material for any DIY Halloween toolkit. Its loose, gauzy weave is reminiscent of cobwebs and ancient, forgotten places. You can drape it anywhere to give your home an instant haunted house feel. It’s also the ideal material for making ghost decorations.
For example, soak cheesecloth in liquid fabric starch to make freestanding cheesecloth spirits. Build a life-size ghost by draping cheesecloth over a DIY frame. Or hang it from your front porch to look like ghostly haunted draperies.
25. Use Trash Bags
Buying them in bulk at a big-box store or warehouse club saves a ton of money per bag. Plus, you never have to worry about having too many trash bags. You can always use them in your home or car.
Halloween is fun because it brings out the kid in 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.
It’s easy to overdo it. But not to worry. No matter how much you enjoy going all-out, you don’t have to break the bank. A few simple tricks can help you save money this Halloween.
And if you enjoy doing crafts and DIY projects, saving money on Halloween becomes a creative challenge that can bring even more fun to the holiday.