Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Lean, Green Halloween

Right about now, you might be thinking about how you can have some spooky fun this Halloween with empty pockets. A terroriffic Halloween can still be had with a minimum outlay of cash.

The first thing you need is a costume. Growing up, we never splurged on store-bought costumes. You'd be surprised how many costumes we came up with using some basic sweats or a big cardboard box as a base. Add yellow crepe-paper stripes and some antennas to sweats, and you're a bee. Add a red sweatshirt with some construction paper black spots taped on, and you're a ladybug. Pin some odd socks and underwear to yourself, and you're a load of laundry. Boxes can be painted to make a great robot, or washing machine, or television. You see where I'm going with this. All it takes is some creativity. For those of you who are not feeling creative, you can find lots of ideas on the internet or in this month's women's magazines available at your local library. You can also exchange costumes with friends. Your friend was a witch last year and you were a devil? Going to different parties? Trade costumes this year and no one will be the wiser. This works great with kids, who never want to be the same thing year after year. You'll save a lot of money (costumes can run $20-$60 or more) and save old costumes from the landfill. No friends to trade with? Look at your local thrift store. They have lots of discarded All Hallow's garb, and your purchase will support a good cause. Use discarded makeup (maybe the colors were too bright for everyday wear) or make your own (google "make your own halloween makeup") to complete your disguise. The bonus with the homemade makeup is that it is made from nontoxic ingredients such as cornstarch, gelatin and food coloring. The store-bought alternatives are full of lead and toxic chemicals. A pillowcase makes a good bag for trick-or-treating.

If you are planning a party, you can find lots of dishes and decorations at dollar stores and thrift stores. You may have some basic black or orange dishes or tablecloths at home that may work. Do you grow your own vegetables or fruits? Apples, beets, turnips and squash can all make great jack 'o lanterns if you don't grow pumpkins. Bobbing for apples also makes a good old-fashioned party game in a big tub or pan. You can make a neat spider-web decoration by winding string around some strategically placed thumbtacks or nails. Light some candles or nightlights for atmosphere. You can make luminaries by cutting ghost shapes or jack 'o lantern faces out of paper bags, and placing some sand or beans inside to weight them down. I prefer the battery-operated candles for safety. If you use real candles, be careful! A bowl of red colored punch (Hawaiian punch or fruit juice with or without rum or vodka) with a few plastic floating eyeballs thrown in looks great and is inexpensive. You can find free scary music and sounds on the internet, which you can leave running on your computer during the party. Google "homemade halloween treats" and you will find all sorts of cool recipes. No need to buy the expensive storebought stuff. You won't have a lot of excess packaging to recycle, either. You may have to break down and buy storebought candy if you will be visited by trick-or-treaters you don't know. Everyone has so many safety concerns these days, they may only accept pre-packaged treats from strangers. But naturally, you will buy it on sale, and look for a coupon! Check the dollar stores too.

Happy half-priced haunting!