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Not-so-scary party tips on a budget

Goblins, ghosts, pumpkins and witches will soon be upon us. The time of year has once again come to start planning the perfect Halloween party, with only one obstacle standing in the way: a college budget.

Fear not. There is no excuse not to have a great time spending a small amount of money. Creativity is the key to success.

First things first: plan ahead. Nothing is worse than going through picked-over junk along with tons of other people getting the last minute essentials right before the party. Plus, there may be bargains on decorations since Halloween is three weeks away.

Next, decide if it will be a costume party. The National Retail Federation states that 54.7 percent of those between the ages of 18-24 will dress up this year. The top five costumes for the age group, according to the NRF, will be witches, vampires, actors/famous people, monsters and pirates. Thrift stores have tons of neat items that make costumes unique and are great if the party is themed.

Every party needs music. The Internet has a wealth of cheap options available to download (legally, of course). Ask friends to make and bring along CDs if they have them. Party stores do have Halloween mixes, but they are usually overpriced.

Food is also essential. Chips and dips are good staples, but the food for a Halloween party should be different. To make eyeballs, use deviled eggs with olives or peeled grapes in the middle. Candy corn and other bite-sized candies are good options as well. For a sweet dessert, crush up some generic chocolate cookies, mix them in with chocolate pudding to create a dirt-and-mud consistency and scoop it into bowls. The finishing touch would be some gummy worms hanging out over the side to make dirt pudding.

To drink, suggests a cheap concoction of equal parts blue Kool Aid and Mountain Dew. Food coloring can also be put into lighter colored drinks, such as lemonade, for a spooky touch.

Let’s face it: Most college students’ cleaning skills may not be up to par. But if more cobwebs are needed than are already in the place, go to the local craft store and pick up fiber stuffing. It can be stretched and taped to corners, furniture and doorways. Reasonably priced colored or white holiday lights can be strung behind them. Another cheap option is to get a few candles to add a scary touch. Just be sure to place them where they will not be knocked over or left unattended.

There are also fun party games that will make for a good time. To put a new spin on a childhood game, before the guests arrive, print out various names of scary movie characters on strips of paper. When each person comes in, tape the name of the character to the guest’s back. It is their job to figure out who they “are” by guessing based on hints other guests give them about their character. Also, be sure to have a camera on hand to capture the good times.

Halloween is a great holiday to act like a kid again. Only now, in college, there is a freedom to get a little crazier than you could at home. So go out, have fun and remember: It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to throw a party.