Truly Last-Minute Halloween Hacks

Did Halloween sneak up on you? Fear not: Here are a handful of hacks to create costumes, decorations and treats.

Halloween has a way of sneaking up on the best of us, leaving us without costumes, decorations and holiday-friendly treats. But fear not! Consider some savvy Halloween hacks for procrastinators.

Last-minute jack-o’-lanterns

One of the best ways to make a stylish pumpkin in a hurry is to use your drill and several different sized drill bits.

First cut a hole in the top of the pumpkin and scrape out the contents. From there, you can make random polka dots by drilling through the pumpkin, or lines of holes, or holes in a zig-zag pattern. Whatever you like. Add a candle or battery-operated votive and — voila!

You could get fancier about it by following directions from HGTV. They recommend using strips of tape to guide you as you drill and switching out drill bits of different sizes to create patterns.

Alternatively, if you don’t even have time to hollow out a pumpkin, you can always paint them — or draw on them with markers.

Preserve it

Did you carve the pumpkins a bit early and are worried they will fade? Or maybe you nabbed the slightly elderly jack-o’-lanterns from the school’s fall festival? (Score!) Just use a dab of petroleum jelly or hairspray to make that Halloween decoration last.

“That will help keep the cut edges of your pumpkin from softening too quickly and keep the rest of it plump, too,” said Shelley Carella of “Hairspray also works to seal in the moisture of your pumpkin. A light coating of hairspray around all the cut, exposed parts of your pumpkin can go a long way in keeping it looking good.” Hairspray isn’t flammable, when dry she says, but it’s always a good idea to use battery-operated candles instead of the real ones.

Create speedy spiders

Kids want decorations? Great, conscript them to help you make spiders. Have them help you rake leaves into heavy black trash bags, which they can then turn into giant outdoor spider decorations. No leaves to rake? Grab some old newspapers. Drape the giant arachnids over a wall, from a tree or on your porch. Get the directions here.

Bring in the blooms

“A great centerpiece for Halloween that is fun and easy to make is to save a few empty beer and wine bottles in advance and spray paint them black,” says Janet Lawatsch, florist on the delivery site BloomNation. “Pick up a dozen or so fresh colorful blooms and arrange in bottles creating varying heights. Be sure to get some curly willow or birch sticks, as well, and stretch some spider web netting (purchased at a local grocery/craft store) across the branches. Arrange your bottles in a cluster and add some candles for a more dramatic effect.”

If you want to use fresh flowers to decorate, be sure to buy from a reputable vendor so they don’t die before the big day, says Lawatsch, who also owns Studio One Twenty Three West, Braintree, Mass.

Costume dilemma? Bust out the face paint

Maybe you don’t have the time, cash or energy to dive into costume shopping madness, but that doesn’t mean you and your fave trick-or-treaters have to do without. Face paints can turn you or the kids into Minion, Winter Princess, Sugar Skull or other characters. “The special connection that happens during the process of face painting adds magic to a child’s experience,” said Adriana Saurini, creative director at, adding that a recent client was especially enthused. “She said ‘My little princess was so excited, and the fact that mom did it made it all the more special for both of us!”‘

There are lots of remarkable examples of face paint on Pinterest. If you’re an artist, by all means, try them out. But for something last-minute, take a look at these simple ones on Parenting.

Important: Use face paints or makeup specifically designed for this purpose. Do not apply household paint or craft paint to the skin.

Handing out candy? Raid your closet

Dress in white or black clothing. Then grab eyeliner or an eyebrow pencil, draw on whiskers and you’re a cat or bunny. For the complete look, pick up a long kitty tail or a puffy cottontail at a costume shop.

Not into the animal look? Recycle a formal gown, add a costume tiara and fake chains and you become the rock band Alice in Chains. Or skip the chains and you’re a prom queen.

Still not sure? Just because you want to create a DIY costume doesn’t mean you should not turn to the experts at costume shops, said Cathy Bunger, manager of Fantasy Costumes in Chicago. “They will walk you through any ideas you may have and find you great deals on easy DIY costumes that won’t hurt your wallet,” she said. “We know exactly what it takes to come up with some fantastic last-minute DIY costumes.

Need to provide a treat? Just add spider webs

Put a topping like frosting or cream cheese (for dessert) or sour cream (for dip) in a plastic storage bag and cut the end to help with the decorating. You can buy orange frosting, too, to keep with the holiday colors. Whichever hue you choose, draw a few straight lines and then connect the lines in between to create a simple spider web design. You should have a spooky meal in minutes, said Carella.

For more ideas, go to the Peeps website, too. Turns out, they are not just for Easter anymore.

Fast festive cookies

Libby’s has a 100 percent pure pumpkin cookie dough you slice and bake that’s ideal because it has the taste of fall. Don’t want to deal with the mess of even refrigerated cookies? “Time is always short around Halloween festivity time and cleanup need not take too long,” says Jenny Harper, senior baking specialist with Nestle. “One cleaning time saver I use all the time is to line my countertop with wax or parchment paper when I measure ingredients, mix or decorate. Also, I use parchment paper to line my baking sheets for less cleanup and for an easier transfer of cookies to the cooling rack.”

What do you recommend for last-minute Halloween tricks? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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