Halloween is a fun time of the year for kids and adults alike. With all the costumes, candy and festive decorations, it's easy to get swept up into the spirit of Halloween. Before you make some impulse buys on all the Halloween decorations sprouting up at local department stores or markets, consider these suggestions for affordable alternatives to decorate your home. With a few dollars and a little creativity, you can create a fun and spooky Halloween home that trick-or-treaters will love.

TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

Cheap Halloween Décor
You can decorate the interior and exterior of your home with less than $10 and a good printer. Start by looking online for stencil cut-outs. Images like skulls, bats, spiders and jack-o'-lanterns can be easily downloaded and are available in stencil form for print. Head to your local crafts store and purchase orange and black construction paper. Using the stencils for an outline, cut multiple Halloween cut-outs and hang them around your home using tape, a hole-puncher and some string. You can even make your own Halloween garland by taping or tying the Halloween cutouts together.

For larger Halloween cutouts, try taping them to your windows, garage door or front door. You can also use the Halloween stencils to help you create your own Halloween window art with acrylic or tempera paint that can also be purchased at your local crafts store.

Tips for Affordable Jack-o'-lanterns
The jack-o'-lantern is an iconic piece of décor signifying the start of the Halloween season. From late September to October, families flock to nearby pumpkin patches in search for the perfect pumpkin to adorn their front steps. Pumpkins can cost anywhere from $3 to $10 per pumpkin, which is a fairly affordable price range. The only problem is the added expenses of a pumpkin carving kit, jack-o'-lantern stencils for the artistically-challenged, pumpkin lighting and a few extra pumpkins, since one jack-o'-lantern is never enough. If you're on a tight budget, here are some tips you can try to save yourself a few bucks on your Halloween jack-o'-lanterns:

  • Skip the carving kit and use the carving knives and tools you already own.
  • A spoon or an ice cream scoop works just as well as any store-bought pumpkin scooper.
  • Save money by printing your own jack-o'-lantern stencils. You can find dozens of them online, for free.
  • Tea-light candles are the cheapest way to light your jack-o'-lanterns. You'll need some of these to make other, affordable Halloween decorations, so buy a pack in bulk.
  • Flameless tea-light candles can be purchased for $10 to $12 for a pack of 12 (batteries included) to prevent fire hazards and protect small children from getting burned.
  • Dunk your jack-o'-lantern into a mixture of water and bleach to preserve it instead of buying a pumpkin preserve spray.

Creating a Haunted House on a Budget
Turn your home into a haunted house on a limited budget with a bit of creativity. Start by replacing the light bulbs of your main lighting fixtures with colored bulbs, which can be purchased for as low as $1 per bulb. Dim the rest of your lighting, or use candles as your main source of lighting for the rest of your home. Take all of the small, family portraits in your home and scan them to your computer. Print the scanned photos in black-and-white and use them to replace the originals in the frame. Color in the eyes with red marker for an added, creepy effect. Cover your furniture with old bed sheets to make your home feel like it has been abandoned. Complete the haunted house effect by purchasing stretchable spider webs, which are relatively cheap, and spread it around doorways, fixtures and banisters throughout your home.

DIY Halloween Props
Why spend money on costly, store-bought props and decorations when you can make your own with the things you already own? Try these simple suggestions for DIY Halloween props you can use in your home, on your front lawn or near your doorway:

Bubbling Cauldron
Search your home for a large pot or bucket. Then head to the grocery and pick up a block of dry ice, which is fairly cheap. Drop the dry ice into the pot or bucket and add water for an instant, bubbling effect. Wrap the bucket or pot with old, dark-colored linens for added effect. Also, make sure you handle the dry ice with gloves (it's really cold).

Floating Ghosts
Head to the store and buy a cheap pack of balloons. Use string, twine or wrapping ribbon and tie it to the ends of the balloons after you've inflated them. Take some old, white bed sheets or cloth material around your home and cut a small hole through the center. Cover the balloon with the white cloth, then feed the string that is tied around the balloon through the hole you cut in the cloth. Tie the string to a tree branch or light fixture, which should leave you with a floating ghost. Use a permanent marker to draw in eyes or a face on the white cloth to complete the ghost prop.

The Bottom Line
It's easy to get carried away with your Halloween décor, but don't spend a dime until you've carefully searched your home for items you can use for Halloween props. Dead plants or flowers that would easily make the compost pile can be left in pots and vases to give your home a haunted feel. Even something as simple as tilting all your picture frames crooked can give the appearance that an apparition is nearby. Whatever you decide to do to make your home more festive for Halloween, consider types of décor that don't require you to spend money before you head out to the store to buy festive decorations.