Halloween tops the list as far as good occasions go for having parties, and when a party involves wearing costumes you almost assuredly have a good time in the making. But parties can be expensive and if you have to have themed decorations, it can really break the bank…Unless. We’ve throw dozens of parties over the years and experience has been a heck of a teacher. We’re going to share with you what we’ve learned on how transform an ordinary backyard into an Outdoor Halloween Extravaganza for less than $200 bucks!
Lighting– Atmosphere is the #1 most important aspect of any party, and lighting is the #1 most important aspect of creating the right atmosphere. Lighting is particularly important if you’re creating a spooky yet comfortable feeling for your guests.
Here’s what we suggest:
- Halloween Luminaries – use battery operated tea light inside these bags to cast a glow on your walkway.
● Tiki torches – Natural light gives a soft glow and they are relatively inexpensive. Be careful not to overdo it however. Too many torches is not a good thing. A good rule of thumb is one every ten feet or so.
● Colored flood light – The last thing you want to do is blind people with white light, but you’ll need some more light than the tiki torches will provide. Get a color that dampens the brightness a little and also adds mood to the area. We like red, green, or a reduced wattage white bulb. The takeaway here is that while you don’t want to blind people with a bright white light, you’ll still want people to feel safe walking around.
● Portable outdoor fireplace – Most hardware stores carry these for a reasonable price, but we’re not recommending that you go buy one for the purpose of the party. Chances are that if you don’t have one already, one of your friends will so just ask if you can borrow it for the evening. (Don’t forget to invite them of course, or you will be buying one.) This fire serves two purposes. Lighting and warmth. If it’s cold out the night of your party then it will be a popular hangout. Typical fire safety practices need be applied of course.
Props – Here’s where the majority of the creativeness comes in. Party decorations are wicked expensive(pun intended) and you can really go overboard if you’re not careful. If you don’t plan to or don’t know if you’ll have a party year after year then consider using the following tactics to dress up your space.
Here’s what we suggest:
● Pumpkins – Get a few pumpkins and gourds at your local farm stand. Carve a pumpkin or two if you like, but left plain they look great too.
● Hay – Hay is to Halloween parties what butter is to popcorn. Do you need it? Of course not, but it totally makes the finished product work. Our first year we paid way too much at one of the big box home improvement stores. Now we buy it from a local farm and return it the next day and he buys any of the bales we didn’t break apart back from us. Not only are the bales cheaper and bigger from the farm, but we get a refund for what we don’t use. What a Win! We do usually break a few of the bales apart and spread it around. The rest we stack here and there which adds ambiance and gives people a place to sit. (If you have kids use this opportunity to snap some photos with them sitting on the hay holding little pumpkins. Very cute.)
● Music – A small cd or mp3 player spinning Halloween themed music at mid volume it is all that is needed here. We’d recommend having 3-4 hours worth of songs so guests don’t have to hear the same ones over and over. Tell guests they can bring their Halloween cd collections as well.
● Strobe light – many flash lights and headlamps have strobe features included in their settings and can make for great side props flashing on skulls or other Halloween decorations you may already own or have borrowed.
● Fog Machine or Dry Ice – Both of these items are expensive and can be left off the list if you’ve already reached your budget. We bought a fog machine($60 plus fog liquid $10) because we knew we’d use it for parties in subsequent years. If you’re going to be just a one timer and want fog at your party opt for dry ice. Make sure to plan your purchase with the distributor in advance but wait until the last minute to pick the ice up as it goes rather quickly. You’ll want to bring an air tight cooler to the pickup. Also, read up on how long dry ice lasts on the internet. Many factors will play a role and you’ll want to get enough to last.
● Party streamers – We run fishing line attached to poles inserted into the ground or fastened to deck railings around the outdoor space. Then we tape black streamers to the fishing line every couple of inches or so. It gives the feeling that there is some type of barrier to the outdoor space and they blow in the breeze which adds some creepiness. Don’t make them too that they touch the floor, a few inches above that seems to work best.
Food & Drink – This is also an area where you can go nuts and blow your budget. Our recommendation is that your find a medium ground on what you provide guests. Most people will expect that there is some food and drink available(unless you tell them otherwise) but keep in mind some people will bring their own even if you tell them you are providing refreshments, so have a cooler or two available with ice in them.
Here’s what we suggest:
● Make a punch – get container of dry fruit punch mix , add water, your choice of liquor, and ice. It’s always a good idea to make a non-alcoholic batch as well and clearly label both.
● Offer a limited range of other beverages, meaning don’t buy 6 packs of a lot of different beers or wine. Buy in bulk and keep it simple. Again, if you are making alcoholic beverages available, be sure to have non alcoholic offerings as well, including bottled water.
● Popcorn – pop a bunch of popcorn before the party and keep it in an air tight container. Popcorn is a great salty snack that pleases everyone.
● Get a few large bags of candy and put in bowls.
● Apples – Bobbed or not, you’ll be surprised how many people will reach for these.
Party Price List
Luminaries: $6 per dozen
Tiki Torches: $20.00 ([email protected] $4.00 per)
Colored flood light: $3.00
Pumpkins: $30.00 (sold by the pound usually get you 4-5 sm-med)
Hay: $10.00 (2 unreturned @$5 each)
Fog mach/Dry Ice: $50.00-$70.00 figure fifty dollars for dry ice or seventy for the machine.
Party streamers: $5-10 depending on whether or not you have fishing line already.
Food & Drink: $50-65 Depending upon how well you did buying this items above you
should have plenty of money left in your budget to get a good amount of
food and drink to serve 15-20 people.
List of borrowed or “in stock” items: portable fire place, music, strobe light(flashlight/headlamp).
Also, feel free to use any or all of your existing Halloween decorations as you see fit. There are a lot of great resources available online that show you how to make your own decorations inexpensively.
We hope you enjoyed this how to article and have a happy and safe Halloween party. People will be complimenting you weeks after the party for your creativeness and thanking you for inviting them. But beware, if you don’t have another party the following year you’ll be fielding phone calls from everyone mad at you because they think you didn’t invite them!
written by: Neil DuPaul
In full disclosure, this post contains affiliate links to help support The Budget Diet girl! My advice will always be unbiased and free, but free won’t pay the bills! Thanks!