Do you feel like Halloween simply snuck up on you this year? I’m all for celebrating the event with gusto, but going overboard financially at this time of year can be inconvenient for families. With the back-to-school rush barely over and the winter holidays right around the corner, it can feel difficult to take a breath without going off budget. That’s where getting creative with your party planning can really help your penny-pinching efforts. Here are my top frugal ways to celebrate Halloween.

Combine bobbing for apples with a candy apple topping buffet.

Who doesn’t love a twofer? Purchasing one batch of apples and letting each child bob for theirs before bringing it to a candy apple topping station lets you include two activities for the price of one. Popsicle-sized craft sticks can be purchased in bulk and used for other post-Halloween activities. Choose affordable toppings to stick to the chocolate or caramel coating such as coconut, chopped nuts (if none of your young visitors have nut allergies), miniature chocolate chips, crushed Oreos or sundae sprinkles. These are perfect for enjoying outside, particularly if you are planning on squeezing in one last family camping trip before winter.

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 classics like spaghetti brains, peeled grapes for eyeballs and other ghoulish experiences visitors have while being led blindfolded through your spooky walkway. If you don’t want to handle the mess inside your home, set one up outside visitors can enter through an archway. Let the kiddos snag their treat after experiencing the hallway. You can easily include this in a full-blown Halloween party if you like, but it’s also something you can do as an add-on for trick-or-treaters that makes your place the fun house on the block.

Purchase your Halloween decorations with precision.

Sure, it’s 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. Two cheapies that store well are the stretchable “cobwebs” from the dollar store and themed, reusable window clings featuring black cats, skeletons, pumpkins and more. I’m also a fan of one or two small items that can stake into your lawn but still pack easily. For homemade decorations, a stuffed scarecrow using old gardening clothing stuffed with newspaper and hand-carved Jack-o-lanterns add to the fun without breaking the bank.

Pair a pumpkin-carving contest with a scary movie sleepover.

This is perfect if you live remotely and have space to accommodate friends with teens for an overnight gathering in the country. Save the seeds for toasting, roast some hot dogs and enjoy a backyard barbecue prior to handing out pumpkin-carving prizes. Then everyone can get in their pajamas for a family-friendly Halloween flick before getting the kids to bed at a decent hour. Serve pumpkin oatmeal with a toppings bar and fruit for breakfast the next morning. If school interferes with this plan, try hosting your event on an adjacent weekend.

Throw a dinner and dancing bash for the grownups.

This idea can easily be flexed to accommodate any budget. Put on some fun tunes to rock out to like Superstition, Black Magic Woman, Werewolves of London, Bad Moon Rising or Sympathy for the Devil and serve whatever menu suits you. Keep it elegant with a black and blue dinner salad (green salad topped with blue cheese crumbles and sliced, rare peppercorn-crusted steak) and Vampire merlot followed by a red velvet or devil’s food cake for dessert, or stay with snacks and serve a smoky black bean hummus with crudités and White Spider cocktails.

Discount treats don’t have to mean stale candy.

We purchase Halloween-themed pencils and hand-held erasers at a discount just prior to, and just after, the holiday. Tots to teens love receiving these, and teachers love that the kids come in to school psyched to use their new learning supplies. They also store well year to year and don’t hang around on the counter waiting for you to consume extra calories you’d rather not.

Costume control can result in huge cost savings.

It’s totally possible to have fun with your Halloween costume and not break the bank. My husband and I have packed bandanas and eye patches to wear with black tee shirts during a Halloween we spent on the road. It was the perfect backpacking solution since we always carry black tee shirts and bandanas for travel anyway. The only extra cost was a space-saving eye patch for each of us. We penciled on face scars with my eyeliner pencil. Another fun no-sew costume idea for small children is to pair yellow tights with an over-sized orange sweatshirt and a white hat and mittens. Voila! Your little boo is a piece of candy corn. Bonus? They have a few fun cool-weather items they can wear for the rest of the fall.

Clearly, Halloween celebrations can be both frugal and fun. Try these ideas on for your family celebration this year.

What are your favorite family traditions for fall?

Myscha Theriault

Myscha Theriault

A lifelong money cruncher who can squeeze a nickel ‘til it cries, Myscha is a syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and founder of Trek Hound and We Be Sharin’.