How to Throw an Awesome Halloween Party on a College Budget

College students don't need to spend a ton of money to throw a spooktacular Halloween party, and these budget-friendly ideas are proof!

Midterms are over and finals are a speck on the horizon (for now at least). You just want to kick back with your friends and r-e-l-a-x for once this semester. The good news: Halloween is just around the corner. That means it’s pumpkin season, apple season, and definitely party season. If you want to get in the Halloween spirit with a party but cash is tight, or you’d just rather not spend too much for one night, here are some budget-savvy tips to throw the ultimate scream-worthy Halloween party your friends will talk about for decades—or at least until the end of the semester.


You’ve scrubbed down your apartment so the scariest thing isn’t what might be growing on those dishes in the sink. Something still isn’t right though: where are all the spooky skeletons and creepy Jack-O-Lanterns? Those don’t magically appear?! Time to get creative!

Creepy cobwebs

Get a big bag of cotton balls and start pulling them apart—not so much that they fall apart, but enough that they look thin and wispy. Stick them in high-up places, like on a lighting fixture (safety tip: not over the light), a doorway, or a windowpane. Buy a bag of fake spiders from your nearest dollar store and stick them on top of the webs to give them an extra boost.

 Cobwebs More cobwebs!

Vampire bats

Get some black construction paper and cut out different-sized bats to stick on the wall. Use a white crayon or white paint (whichever is more readily available) and draw on fangs. Level up: Get red Christmas lights and string them along your wall. Cut out eyeholes on the bats and poke the lights through them.

Spooky lighting

Head to your nearest hardware store or Amazon and find some spooky-colored light bulbs. Swap them out for your regular light bulbs and…that’s it! Nothing says Halloween like bad lighting.

Related: How to Have the Best Halloween as a College Student


Yeah, everyone’s going to be chatting and dancing and whatever else they normally do at parties, but you can make your party stand out with a few Halloween-themed games.

Bobbing for apples

A classic. Watch your friends get frustrated as they try to complete a seemingly simple task and continuously fail. Put green food coloring in the water to make it eerie. Make it more original by having a mix of different colored apples, with one color “poisoned” and the other “magic.” Blindfold the bobbers and make it a contest to see who can pick up a “magic” apple first. 

Costume contest

If your friends like to go all out for Halloween, have a costume contest. You don’t even need prizes; sometimes just being appreciated for all the effort you put into your costume is enough. If you do want to have prizes, you still don’t have to spend any money. Just print out prize “ribbons” or make the prizes things you’ve been trying to get rid of, like that candle you don’t like the smell of or the scarf you bought but never wore. 

Murder mystery

This usually requires some extra preparation, like sending out character profiles beforehand, which calls for a bit more forward thinking. If you don’t want to deal with that, you could make it like the board game Clue: guests have to figure out which room, which of you and your roommates is the killer, and what random object in your apartment was the weapon.

Related: Creative and Cheap Halloween Costume Ideas You Can Pull Off Last Minute


Nothing can make or break a party like what food you serve. You could stick to huge bowls of candy and a bag of chips, but where’s the fun in that? Pinterest has a plethora of ideas from skeleton cupcake cakes to ghost cookies, but those can be a bit elaborate. Here’s a few easier suggestions:

Chips & guacamol-eye

You can’t beat a classic, but you can make it crafty. Put some guacamole in a bowl and spread sour cream on top of it in a circle, but leave some guac exposed in the center for the iris. Put a couple of black olives or black beans in the dead center so they look like the pupil in an eye. Then take some hot sauce and drizzle it so it looks (somewhat) like bloodshot veins. And viola! You have a delicious, creepy-looking dip that will be destroyed two seconds after the party starts! 

Themed “cupcakes”

Go to the dollar store and find some Halloween cookie cutters. Make a sheet cake and use the cookie cutters to make themed “cupcakes.” Save on frosting by dividing one can of vanilla into several bowls and adding food coloring. (DYK you could bake cupcakes in the microwave?!)


Take a load off and make your friends bring the food! This way you also don’t need to worry about whether you have enough food to make it through the night. If everyone’s bringing something, there’s bound to be more than enough. This is especially good if you have friends who like to stress bake and need something to do instead of writing an essay.

Related: 10 Fun Scholarships to Apply to for Halloween Vibes All Year Round

Any combination of these tips should make your Halloween party truly spooktacular! Shout out to the RAs: These activities make for great hall events and pair well with pizza or Halloween candy.

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About Kara E. Joyce

Kara E. Joyce is an editor and writer who frequently contributes to CollegeXpress. When she isn’t hunched over editing material, you can find her powerlifting in the gym, pirouetting in a dance studio, or planning her next adventure.


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