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18 Free and Cheap April Fools' Day Pranks

You have one day to frighten and surprise your friends and family, without repercussions. Why not also save money doing it?
Updated

April Fools' Day is tomorrow, and you've totally forgotten to set up any long-game pranks (like the one where you slowly shave down your wife's high heels, so she thinks she's shrinking). So what are you going to do now?

Worry no more, thrifty, last-minute pranksters! Here's a list of gags that use regular household items, so there's no investment capital needed! However, one disclaimer: DealNews does not claim responsibility if any of these "fun" pranks result in the loss of friends, status, job, freedom, teeth (when your victim punches you), etc.

  1. upside-down cup prank
    fangpants.com
  2. Write a message on an upside-down paper cup that alludes to something horrible being trapped under it. Leave it on a coworker's desk or in a conference room.

  3. Replace the sugar in a sugar bowl with salt. The vice-versa also works, and conveniently gives you somewhere to put the displaced sugar for the duration of the prank. Now that's practical pranking!

  4. Cover an open toilet bowl with clear plastic wrap. This one is best done in someone else's house — unless you want to consider the clean-up your penance for playing such an old gag.

  5. Find a sleeping person (if you live in a city, you can usually find one on the subway), fill their hand with shaving cream and then tickle their nose. You can, of course, replace the shaving cream with whipped cream for a more delicious prank.

  6. Grab a plant mister (or a chemical-free spray bottle) and casually stroll behind your mark. Make a sneezing noise and spray the back of their neck at the same time. Classic! Cut out the "middle man" and just sneeze on your friend for an even grosser prank!

  7. Here's one submitted by commenter offdwall: Take all of the dots out of your office hole puncher and pour them into the defroster of a friend's car. Then, turn their heater controls to defrost and the fan to high. When your buddy starts their car: Snowstorm! The best part? Over the next six months, every once in a while, a stray dot will pop out and fly through the air without warning. It's the prank that keeps on pranking!

    sink sprayer prank
    PopularMechanics
  8. If your kitchen sink has one of those sprinkler hoses, wrap tape or a rubber band around the trigger, so it's held down. When someone goes to get a glass of water, they'll ... open the fridge and grab the Brita pitcher. But, when they go to wash that dirty glass: POW!

  9. For a more direct approach, just fill a glass of water up to the brim, then throw it in someone's face. It's totally a prank if you also scream "APRIL FOOLS'!"

  10. This joke is best executed in a restaurant, as the necessary items will be on hand. Set it up by asking the sucker if they know that ketchup and salt, when combined, give off heat. If they say they never heard of such a thing, pour a healthy amount of ketchup onto a plate, then sprinkle some salt on it. Stir it with a spoon and then wave your hand over it as if you're sensing the temperature. Nod and say, "Yeah, feel the heat coming off that!" When your "friend" puts their hand over the pile, quickly slam their hand down into the mess. Then run away, before your friend punches you. (Bonus "prank": If you do this in a restaurant, you're also stiffing them with the bill!)

  11. Another ketchup prank: Grab your biggest knife, then cover it and your hand in ketchup. Run into any occupied room while screaming. If you're lucky, you'll get to hear your mom curse for the first time ever! (True story.)

  12. Stretch some more plastic wrap across a doorway at shoulder height. You'll be amazed by how many people will simply walk right into it.

  13. Use a pin (like from the back of a button or brooch) to poke holes around the rim of a plastic disposable cup so that it will leak when used. Increase the excitement by then shuffling the stack of cups, so you'll never know who is going to pull the gaffed glass. It could even be you! Now that's an April Fools' trick: Fooling yourself.

  14. Here's one submitted by commenter Kyser_Soze: A fun work-place computer prank to perpetrate on a coworker is to press ctrl+print screen on their workstation, then paste it into Paint, save the pic, and set it as the computer's background. Move all of their icons to the trash. When they get back to their desk, your "friend" will look like they are there, but clicking won't do anything!

    Upside-Down Monitor
    Reddit
  15. Here's another one that's great for a work environment: When your cubicle-neighbor gets up to grab some coffee, scamper over to their computer and press ctrl+alt+down arrow. When the chump comes back and realizes his monitor's display is upside down, he'll be so mad! Then, when he demands you change it back, you'll realize that you have no idea how to restore it and you'll have to call IT. (And we all know those guys are a bunch of laughs, especially when they have to come fix some jerk's stupid prank.)

  16. Call a random stranger and tell them you're from the electric company and ask them if their refrigerator is running. When they say yes, tell them that they better go catch it. This one will work because no one is expecting the classics anymore. ("Those who forget prank history are condemned to repeat it" — George Prankayana)

  17. Ask to see your friend's new phone because you're thinking of getting that exact model. Then, quickly do several things: 1) Set an alarm to go off at 3 am and 2) change the language to Estonian. Hand the phone back, while grinning wickedly. They'll see that you changed the language setting and get mad about it, but they'll never suspect the follow-up prank — until it's too late (or too early, as it's 3 am).

  18. Phone a friend and tell them that you're a doctor, and that you're very, very sorry, but you did everything you could to save their ... then pretend that the connection dropped out. Wait a couple beats, then give your deepest condolences. Then hang up. (Call from a number they don't recognize, of course.)

  19. Fake your own death and frame a friend for your murder!

Gosh, some of these pranks are just cruel, right? Do you guys have any good / awful gags that you can pull for no money? Tell us about them in the comments below; maybe we'll add them to the list next year! (Also: Stay the heck away from us on April 1, you monsters!)


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Jeff Somogyi is the DealNews Media Editor. Since working here he's written deals, features, promotional and newsletter copy, blog posts, as well as scripts for our videos. Follow him on Google+, Twitter at @sommerjam or his blog.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Unless marked as a "Sponsored Deal," the opinions expressed here are those of the author and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the companies mentioned. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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15 comments
jcauthorn
Great stuff.
wlau89
I decided not to bring the cockroaches to the office. I didn't want anyone to have a heart attack.

BUT I did bring A cockroach....
nematoda
First rule of an April Fool's prank: do no harm. Many of these are just mean.
ellicul
I have a fun idea for an April Fools prank! Take an empty milk container and fill it with some soapy water(so it looks like milk). leave it in the fridge over night, So when your friend goes to make their cereal in the morning, they will get an unpleasent surprise! oh and hi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
LonnieMcClure
A plastic cup would be better for #1, as a thoughtful person would likely just smash the cup (perhaps after putting a book on top, taking into account the possibility of something inside with a stinger).
mikiem
Just remembered another one, thanks to @Califas reminding that sometimes the threat is better than the actual deed.

This requires getting your hands on something that looks nasty -- I've used just a small dab of brownish grease. Then apply just a dab on the lip of a drawer, so it *looks* like you missed cleaning some up when you were done filling up the drawer.

Had one coworker put off opening it for 3 days rather than face the big cleanup job.
dealnews-Lindsay
@Scroogus Maximus Stop giving him ideas! :)
dealnews-Lindsay
@mikiem I like that one because it's an extremely tidy prank. No cleanup required!
mikiem
Another variation of your plastic wrap pranks...

Works if someone leaves their take-out coffee, or water bottle or whatever unattended. Take the lid or cap off, apply plastic wrap, replace lid.
mikiem
Depending on your personal acceptable level of cruelty, this might be best reserved for those having an air compressor handy...

1st cut off the metal blade part of a cheap [e.g. Dollar Store] screwdriver, so you're left with just the handle. Let the air out of one of the victim's tires. Super glue the handle on the tire, so it looks like somebody jabbed their tire.
Califas
Maybe putting the staff on high alert is his prank. Well played sir.
Scroogus Maximus
$50 says Will uses a couple of refrigerated (or even frozen) cockroaches instead. They look just like the fakes...until they warm up.

As an extra sneak, use ONE fake and three frozen- put the fake on your own desk with an "April Fool's!" label under it....then deliver the other three to Lindsay's area. You can even tag the little guys with "Microsoft Tech Support" stickers while they're still cold, just like MS' "ship it with the bugs intact" program series.
dealnews-Lindsay
@wlau89 Will, you forget that we monitor the comments... I'm now anticipating your prank, and I will put the staff on high alert.
wlau89
I have some fake cockaroaches I bought a last year from a deal. I'm going to bring some in for April Fools.
jbtaurus98
Thanks, Buzzfe...Reddi...Dealnews.