Easy, Affordable DIY Halloween Decorations

Growing up, my mom always made things look and feel magical around the holidays. I grew up in a family of six kids, and my parents were always struggling financially. With six kids, time and money were never in surplus, but Mom still managed to make holidays special for us. I didn’t realize what a true sacrifice of love that was, though, until I had kids of my own.

Today I’m a mom of three active little boys, including a set of twins. Though I love delighting my kids with holiday décor and surprises, it takes a lot of time, forethought, planning and money to deck my house out like that pie-in-the-sky Pottery Barn catalog. I’m a busy stay-at-home mom in a single income family, so I just do the best I can with my limited, budgeted Martha Stewart skills. I’m more like Martha Stewart’s poorer, frazzled cousin, but hey, we’re still in the same family!

At Halloween, there’s slightly less pressure than at Christmas (okay, A LOT LESS PRESSURE), so I can dream up scary, silly décor using things that are already lying around my own house. If I can’t scrounge up what I’m looking for, a quick trip to a discount or dollar store will do the trick. The following 10 ideas are things I’ve pulled off with no fuss, no muss for the last two years!

Bat Attack

Bats always seem to be hiding, which is half their scare factor. So hide some of your own in lampshades! First, make some simple black bat cut-outs. Either print out online and trace the shape onto black construction paper, or wing it and draw something by hand. Then use a small amount of gentle tape to adhere the bats to the insides of your lampshades. At night, when you switch on the lamps, your kids will go batty over the surprise!

Witchy Willows

I’ve had a simple willow arrangement that I’ve used for years as a centerpiece. One fall, my kids brought home a bunch of rubbery witch fingers, vampire fangs, spider rings and other favors from a Halloween party they went to, and I thought it would be funny to decorate the willow branches. What started as a spoof on my kids has turned into a holiday tradition. The favors can be found at any dollar or party store, and you can perch them on any artificial tree, plant or flower arrangement in your home. The only real rule is that the branches have to be thick enough to support their weight.

Creepy Candelabra

A lot of people have candelabras lying around their homes. Maybe it’s been gathering dust ever since you inherited it from Great-Aunt Erma, and that’s okay! Dust will make it look even creepier. I personally don’t have one of my own, but I do have lots of candlestick holders that were gifted to me at my wedding. Line your candelabra or candlesticks with black taper candles, and you’ve created a dining scene straight out of The Munsters for next to nothing!

Mason Jar Madness

My husband and I have a bit of a mason jar addiction, but even if you’re not quite as crazy about them as we are, I bet you have a few lying around your house. If you don’t, you can buy a pack of 12 for under $8 at most stores. After that, the sky’s the limit! There are hundreds of things you can do with your new mason jars for Halloween. They’re the perfect decoration for your mantle, sideboard or bar! Here are just a few examples:

  • Paint the outsides of the jars in different colors like orange, purple, black and green. Print out some stencils, trace onto black construction paper and cut out. Then glue or tape them on your jars, put a battery tea light in each one, and you’ve got a set of spooky Halloween lanterns.
  • Find a roll of gauze bandages in your first aid kit or at the drug store. Wrap the jars in gauze, using two-sided tape, and pop two googly-eye stickers on each jar for mummified mason jars! You can even add a battery-operated tea light inside the jar for flickering fun.
  • Go around and find throwaway objects in your house. You know, like the toys that accumulate at the bottom of the toy bin and never get played with. Things like plastic insects and spiders (we’ve collected a ton of these over the years), rubber snakes, plastic doll parts (yikes!), extra witch fingers from your bewitched table centerpiece or any other creepy object that might fit into a mason jar. (If you don’t have many of these, you can buy all of that and more at any dollar or party store). Fill the jars with water, drop a dab or two of food coloring in each one, and toss in your toys for a mad scientist effect!

Soapy Surprise

Lots of people have clear bathroom soap pumps, but if you don’t, you can easily find clear plastic ones at the grocery or dollar store. Most of them will have a logo of some sort, but it will rub off easily with acetone nail polish remover. Open up the full soap pump and toss in some plastic spider rings – the kind your kids are always bringing home from Halloween parties (I always save them to use again next year). Now your kids can wash their hands with spider suds. Who knows, maybe it’ll help them actually REMEMBER to wash!

Paranormal Picassos

My kids are still at the age where they want to get into the “spirit” of Halloween by producing scary artwork. It’s not fancy; it’s just their imaginations running wild on all things spooky. Every year, they sit down with construction paper to color haunted houses, black cats, coffins, ghosts, witches and mummies, and when they’re finished, I take simple clothespins and hang their handiwork on our kitchen and dining room chandeliers. They love showing off their creations, and this tradition gives meaning to the holiday in a way store-bought decorations never could.

Night Light

Let’s move on to some spooky outdoor décor. Simply change the bulb on your front porch light! Most home supply stores or hardware stores have colored light bulbs including black, orange and purple. For just a few bucks and less than five minutes, you’ve gone from porch to party!

Threshold of Terror

If you have old door wreaths that you haven’t used for years (like I do), take a can of black spray paint and spray it with a shroud of darkness. If you don’t have anything like that, there are cheap straw wreath forms for under $5 at your local craft store that will work perfectly. While you’re there, get a cute Halloween-themed ribbon or even a plain burlap one. Also attach some cheap plastic skeletons, or a raven or two. Next, if you have an old straw broom, spray it with the black spray paint too, then prop it up against your door. Suddenly, you’ve got the entrance to a haunted house. Mwa-ha-ha!

Ghost Milk

If your family goes through what feels like a billion jugs of milk per week, this decoration is perfect for you to do right this minute! If you don’t go through quite that much milk, you can actually start saving up the jugs now, and by Halloween time, you should have collected plenty. All you need to do is take a utility knife and carefully cut out the bottoms of the milk jugs, then draw ghoulish eyes onto every jug. Line up some battery operated tea lights on either side of your front walkway, cover them with the milk jugs and voila! You have ghost luminaries!

Getting Webby with It

Fake spider webs are highly underrated in my opinion! I buy them in bulk every year from the dollar store, and I not only deck out my bushes, but also put some on my railings and my lamppost, and hang some from the trees. I even take some out to the kids’ play set and turn that into a spider den!

There are hundreds of more inexpensive, easy ways to add a Halloween surprise to almost every room in your home. Try different ones every year or stick to the tried-and-true traditions. Either way, your kids will grow up one day and say you made their holidays so “magical.”

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