All the world's a stage on Halloween. A peek into the night reveals all manner of costumed characters in a fantasy world filled with candy, whimsical decorations and lights; a child's dream. So how do you outfit your family, decorate your castle and participate in the goings-on while keeping your budget based firmly in reality?

Here are a few ideas.

1. Keep the traditions simple

You probably have traditions that are fun and meaningful to your family. Growing pumpkins or visiting a pumpkin patch to pick that special one, watching a favorite movie or reading stories and sharing caramel apples. One tradition that most children agree on is a special Halloween dinner. Now of course you are probably busy dressing children in costumes (and maybe finishing creating that great last-minute idea) and they're excited and not too interested in eating. It needs to be tasty and simple. Our family makes a treat we call "Pizza Petes." They are easy to make with French bread dough, marinara sauce, cheese and everyone's favorite toppings. Or "Stacks," which is taco filling on a bed of tortilla chips or lettuce. Serve vegetables with dip. And, root beer. Perhaps a pumpkin pie cake with whipped cream for dessert. If you like to cook you may save a lot of money by doing-it-yourself. Yummy popcorn balls, cookies, pies and candies like toffee and fudge can be made for about one third the cost of the quality commercially prepared variety. Here are some recipe ideas.

2. Create a scene

I mean, decorate something. Nature is at its finest in the fall. Try incorporating beautiful branches, pumpkins, apples and other colorful items in your decorating. Tie colorful ribbons or fabric scraps to items you already own. Make scrap or leaf garlands to display. Orange lights add warmth and a festive glow to your Halloween decor. Plan ahead by picking up new Halloween items off-season to save money. I once bought $200 worth of Halloween decor and games for the carnival I'd be hosting the next year for $20 on Christmas Eve. Pick up Halloween fabrics for $1 a yard off-season. Or haunt your favorite thrift stores to find unwanted treasures that meet or exceed your aesthetic sensibilities. Sew an autumn quilt. Many families inherit wonderful art made by their schoolchildren during the fall. Why not create a gallery displaying their buddiBuy candles in large quantities from thrift stores.

3. Enjoy an autumn picnic before winter arrives

Head up to the hills or out to the desert or beach and share an afternoon of relaxation, good food, music, games or hiking and exploring. A lot of small towns have festivals, Oktoberfest or other tourist attractions to enjoy. Take your camera and record the beauty of nature while picking up a few leaves and branches to decorate your home for fall.

4. Homemade costumes

Expressive and creative costumes can be made for a fraction of the price that commercial ones command. Fabric stores have sales on patterns and fabrics around the holidays. You can layer tights and long-sleeved tee shirts that can be used later for school or play clothes. Use boots, jewelry and other accessories. Swap with family and friends and check out thrift stores. Online pinning boards offer all kinds of ideas and photos so you can easily find great ideas. Some groups enjoy creating theme costumes such as superheroes, characters from a favorite movie or book. If your family has an interesting heritage, you might want to highlight native or national costumes. You can use sports or a favorite hobby as a theme. Dig through the attic to find a cool old bomber jacket or a uniform worn by a family hero. Old formals make gowns for little princesses. Just make sure your child is visible at night and comfortable.

5. Do something nice

Halloween traditions typically revolve around pranking people. Why not create a new tradition by making and taking treats to shut-ins, your child's teacher, a friend who can use a little cheering up, grandparents, firemen or policemen? Leave your mail carrier a note and a treat. Send goodies to a soldier or someone who is far from home for the holidays. Look around, and you may know someone who is going through a tough time financially. You may want to offer Halloween costumes, treats, decorating items, whatever you can share. Commit a random act of kindness. It may be easier now than it will be during the busy winter holidays.

6. Games and activities

Hosting a party and offering hospitality is a charitable act as one provides diversions that are entertaining and a distraction from the cares of the world. If you are feeling generous, consider organizing a harvest or Halloween carnival for all the children in your church or school. Enlist the help of friends, have lots of games and activities; perhaps a bounce house if the budget allows. Families can donate small toys or bags of candy for prizes. Favorite carnival games include a cake or treat walk, face painting, beanbag toss, mini basketball hoop shoot, cupcake or cookie decorating, candy jar guessing or a fishing booth.

7. Trick-or-treat alternatives

for folks who would prefer to stay close to home. One favorite is a progressive dinner where several homes host a multi-course dinner. At one, appetizers are served. The next home offers a salad. Another home provides an entree and the last home hosts dessert. You can add games, jokes and stories for entertainment.

8. Fall Fireside

Invite family and friends to share their favorite Halloween and fall stories around a campfire or blazing fireplace. Serve simple refreshments.

The longer nights, brilliant colors and the cooler weather of fall invite you to gather your loved ones to enjoy the blessings of the harvest. Have fun, be safe and create happy memories as you celebrate a very happy Halloween

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