The weather is getting cooler. Leaves are beginning to fall. The smell of pumpkin spice is in the air. All signs point to one thing: Halloweekend is coming.

Costumes, candy, and mischief are just some of the things everyone has known and loved about Halloween since childhood, but the fun doesn’t end just because we all have to grow up. Halloween parties are the natural progression of holiday festivities in college, and you should be hosting one. 

Although it might seem like a big financial commitment to host a Halloween party, it certainly doesn’t have to be. With a few tricks up your sleeve (or your costume), you can throw a killer event without breaking the bank. Read on for the best ways to host the Halloween party of your dreams (nightmares?), all for under $20. 

1. Halloween Candy Bark: $4.56

cake, chocolate
Olivia Chadwick

It’s customizable. It’s cheap as hell. It’s Halloween candy bark, and it’s here to save your life. By melting a 12 oz bag of white chocolate chips ($3.56 at Walmart) and adding the crumbled up candy of your choice (I suggest dollar store candy), you end up with a dessert everyone can get behind, all under $5. 

2. Festive Ice Cubes: $1

No matter what the drink of the night is, themed ice cubes will make it even better. Buy a bag of fake bugs or spiders from the dollar store, and consider going for ones that are clearly fake if you don’t want to give your friends an actual heart attack. Place them in an ice tray, fill with water, and freeze. Then, watch as your guests freak out when they notice your creative touch to their drink. Hopefully in a good way. No guarantees. 

3. Paint Chip Garland: $0

Craft paper is hella expensive, but paint chips in the hardware store? Fair game, baby. Take a few samples in fall colors and cut to your desired shape. Pumpkins, candy corn, bats… the choice is yours. String ‘em up and you literally just made a free garland

4. Frozen Banana Ghosts: $5.56

cream cheese, cheese, cake
Alison Weissbrot

Nutrition is key, so you should probably serve something a bit healthy to counteract all the Halloween Candy. Frozen banana ghosts are technically fruit, but there’s plenty of white chocolate to keep things interesting. Use little pieces of the chocolate you bought for the bark to make eyes and a mouth.

Another bag of white chocolate chips will set you back around $3.56, four bananas are typically around $1, and you can get popsicle sticks from — you guessed it — the dollar store. 

5. Jello Shots with Worms: $4

tea, sweet
Margaret Weinberg

Jello shots are a true classic, but if you throw a little gummy worm on top they'll be all ready for Halloween. A 3 oz packet of J-Ello will cost you a dollar, along with the gummy worms, and the small plastic cups are around $2. Note that I’m not budgeting for alcohol here since everyone’s preference will be different and that sh*t is not so cheap anyway. You do you. 

6. Glow in the Dark Silly String: $1

Do I even have to explain why this would be a fun idea? I’m not gonna say it won’t ruin your furniture (be smart about where you use it), but silly string is always a good time. Buying the glow in the dark version makes it appropriately ~spooky~. Find it at the dollar store.

7. Food-Inspired Dog Costume: Free

For many, the best part about a party is sitting in the corner to play with the dog. If you have a beloved pet, make sure they get a costume, too. If you don’t, make sure your friend brings their own dog. If you get creative and use parts of a Starbucks or Chipotle bag, it won’t cost you a thing. 

If you haven't been doing the math in your head, these seven tips and tricks add up to only $16.12. That's under $20 for plenty of snacks, drinks, and decor (as long as your guests are into BYOB. This is to show that throwing any type of party, Halloween included, doesn't have to break your budget. Being a college student means working with what ya got, so party on.