Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Decorations On the Cheap

I consider myself to be, without a doubt, a horrible holiday decorator.


I have an aversion to chachkis, knick-knacks, and the kind of miniature curiosities that always made a holiday at Grandma's house so much fun.

I am not Grandma. So, I need a little push now and then.

My problem is that I love having holiday parties, especially at Halloween. And when you have a party, you simply must decorate for it. Having a fun-looking house makes it feel like a party, even when it's just cousins in costumes having pizza before we go trick-or-treating.

I have a few cheapie tricks up my sleeve that I use every year.

1. Decorate with things you plan to use on Halloween Night. Every year, I decorate my dining room with useful things like the jack-o-lantern shaped candy buckets my children will hold their candy in on Halloween night or the witch's hat I wear at the front door as I hand out treats. Such things are always bright and make a big statement when our guests walk into the room.

2. Use disposable items when you can. I make a bright display with our Halloween dinnerware to make our party room look more festive. Sure, the plates and napkins will be used and thrown away by the end of the night... but then you won't have to spend time cleaning them up, dusting them or storing them, will you? I also have several rolls of plastic table-cloth in various colors. For Halloween, I cover my everyday table cloth with my roll of black. There is no need to worry about mess, and it still helps the table look nice and spooky.

3. Balloons and streamers are always a hit. I am always amazed at my children's reaction to crepe paper decorations. They ooh and ahh over $1.99 worth of paper and 20 minutes of my time. It cracks me up, but they love it. And we always keep balloons in our party supplies. If you choose the right colors, they are a fun addition to the crepe paper. (Here's a hint: save your breath and blow them up with a bike pump. Even the kids can help with that job!)

4. Never be afraid of homemade. For the last three years, my children have made the decorations for the large picture windows on the front of our house. The first year, we made shadow-shapes that would show black when the interior lights were on. Last year, my children wanted to make scary masks, so they drew them with white chalk on dark paper and we lit the porch with a black light so the scary faces would glow. This year, we grew tiny pumpkins in our backyard garden, so the kids have been drawing pumpkins for a week now. We'll cut them out and tape them up on the windows to go with our many jack-o-lanterns. It is so fun to see the ideas my children come up with; homemade decorations really help to spark their creativity.

5. Cheap and cheesy can equal spooky if done right. Remember the $1.99 crepe paper? Well, it's pricey in comparison to a bag of spider rings or a couple of packages of flossy cobwebs. Dimly lit areas get a little extra spook factor when you scatter them with creepy crawlies or drape them very thinly with cobweb -- just enough to brush a person's face as they walk past. I have seen more adult heeby-jeebies than I can count as a result of the cobweb trick. And when kids come to our doorstep, it is fun to tell them they can venture into the darkness to get a spider ring, if they dare. Some of them really have to muster their bravery to get their prize!

6. Try Luminaries. A great way to make your home more visible is to line your walkway with luminaries. We do it every Halloween, and it really brings the kids to our door. All that's required is some paper lunch bags, each with a shovelful of sand and a small tea light. The total cost for a real wonder of a decoration is about $6. I cuff the top of the lunch bags to keep them open (and to keep the paper away from the flame) and light the tea lights with a butane stick lighter (to keep my fingers away from the flame!) I light the lights at dusk, and by the time trick-or-treating is finished, most of my tea lights are going out. I bring in the bags and turn off the porch light when we're in for the night.

So, if you're like me and consider yourself decorationally challenged, remember: Halloween doesn't have to be gory or disgusting or super-expensive to be fun. I hope you enjoy these ideas, and more importantly, I hope you enjoy yourself!

Have a happy and safe Halloween!

-Midwest Mom


  1. These are great tips. I, too, consider myself "decorating challenged." I've started letting my 6 and 9 year old girls take over most of that task. I've been pleasantly surprised at how good it all looks when they've finished! I also like the idea on using cheap and "cheesy" things well, like spider rings, crepe paper, etc.


  2. Karen,

    Thanks for visiting! I wholeheartedly agree with letting the kids help out. Sometimes, they have fantastic ideas! (Martha Stewart, eat your heart out!) ;) -MM

  3. You always have such good tips, but since I don't have little ones at home any longer--I pass your tips on to my daughter who does have little ones. Thanks

  4. Julia, I have an award for your blog at my place. You may pick it up whenever you wish. Congratulations. ~ tricia

  5. Great tips...I will have to remember them for next year... :)

  6. Papercages -- Thanks! I'm glad you can pass them on to your daughter. This time of year is so fun for us. My boys just had the idea of making balloon ghosts and hanging them from the plant hooks on our porch with fishing line... I'd better get to work! ;)

    Tiffiney -- Thanks for coming by (I looked at your blog and I see you are from VA... I was born there!) I'd love to know how your fall is looking. Ours has been COLD! But, surprise surprise, tomorrow night is supposed to be about 65! Thank goodness! I was worried I'd have to put snowsuits on my kids under their costumes and have them practice saying "trick or treat" through chattering teeth! ;)


  7. Whats everyone doing for safety precautions for Halloween? My husband came across an article (http://i-newswire.com/pr220892.html) with some info about background checking neighbors. I thought that may be a little overboard, but it had some other good suggestions for some precautions I haven't thought about. Last year my youngest son came down with a massive fever after Halloween. I almost thought about just taking the kids to our church's fall festival this year instead of door-to-door to prevent that from happening again. I don't know yet. What's your advice? Am I over-reacting or just being a concerned mom?

  8. Laura -- Thanks for your comment.
    We follow a few safety rules at our place.

    1. Make sure the kids have some kind of light on them. For us, it's often a glow stick or pumpkin flashlight -- something to make them visible.

    2. Make sure kids are with an adult *at all times*. My husband is the one who takes them trick or treating, but we make sure that, when there's a group, the child to adult ratio is no more than 2:1.

    3. Make sure the adults approach the house with the children. I don't believe in sending the kids up the walk alone. I feel much better if my husband is right there. Then, he can make conversation with the adult at the door, rather than the children going it alone.

    4. Absolutely NO treats are eaten until the kids come home and Mom checks them over. Anything loosely wrapped or with a torn wrapper -- basically, anything I don't trust -- goes in the garbage.

    In terms of your own concerns, I would say that a fever after Halloween probably has more to do with whether your child came into contact with other kids who were sick and how warmly they were dressed. (Germs will be at a church party, too.) :)

    We check the sex offender registry a few times a year, just to be sure we know whether there are any living close. We avoid those areas on nights like Halloween, but also on family bike rides. We share the information we find with our children, so that they are sure to know about the danger. (We live between two schools, so it is illegal for sex offenders to live in our immediate neighborhood. We check the registry nonetheless.)

    I say, trust your instincts on Halloween. But remember, the more people who take the fun to church or the mall, the fewer lights are on in your own neighborhood. Events like this can be a great way to meet your neighbors and their children and share some great times. So, don't be afraid to have fun with it.

    Have a Happy and Safe Halloween!

  9. These are great tips and your comment tips for safety are fantastic too. We just attended a toddler's Halloween party and you are right about crepe paper and balloons. My son was enthralled with them. Another idea for decorating with what you've got: I love to fill jars and containers with the candy I'm going to hand out. Jars of candy really say Happy Halloween to me.

  10. I have the same phobia of chachkis. So much so that I usually don't decorate for Halloween because it seems to come and go so quickly. Instead I decorate for fall which is not so hard. Then the day after Thanksgiving I get out the motherload of Christmas decorations. I DO love decorating for Christmas and honestly wish I could leave it up all year.
    Great tips!


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