Halloween is great fun! I can honestly say it’s one of my favorite holidays.
Here’s the one holiday where you are allowed to dress up and go around asking people for candy. And they give it to you!
I remember how exciting it was going around town in my Halloween costume, getting candy from all of the neighbors.
Some years I would really score.
We’d go visit my grandparents in the Bronx (Co-Op City) and go up and down their apartment building visiting as many doors as I could (don’t worry, the grand’rents and the ‘rents made sure all the candy was good to eat).
And do you remember those old Halloween costumes?
You know the ones that came in a box and it was made up of a thin plastic mask with eye holes that hurt and the mask would be full of sweat before long (because it was a big piece of plastic covering your face) and it was held onto your head with an elastic string with a couple of staples that usually didn’t last the night and the body of the costume was a plastic sack-like piece you climbed into which also didn’t make it through the night?
Those were AWESOME!
I remember one year I was Chewbacca and another I was Yoda (I remember terrorizing my younger sister with those masks too. I was such a stinker!). I’m sure I was Superman and Batman as well.
I love being able to go through all that now through the eyes of my kids.
But have you seen the price of Halloween costumes these days?!?
Those cheap box costumes don’t exist anymore (sigh).
You can easily spend $25 and up on a kids’ costume (hell, it’s probably closer to $50 and up)! That’s a lot for a couple hours walking through the neighborhood trick or treating! And that’s if you can even make a couple of hours (the younger trick or treaters tend to not last as long).
I just did some research. In 2012 the average spending for costumes was expected to be $28.65 (Source: The National Retail Federation).
We have four kids so I’ll let you do that math (it’s too much for me). And regardless of their ages once one kid gets something the others want to have just as much (“how come she gets all the accessories and I don’t!”).
What do you do?
You want your kids to have fun on Halloween and get to run around pretending. But it does get expensive fast.
These Cheap, Inexpensive, and Frugal Ideas Make Halloween Costumes Easier on the Wallet…
1. Set Boundaries With Your Kids Early On
I know, this isn’t technically a costume idea. But it could be the one thing that will help save you a lot of money.
If you are heading out with the kids to get them costumes give them a talk on what the spending boundaries will be. If they are old enough to understand tell them what you plan on budgeting for their costume. For the younger kids you can let them know how intricate you’ll let their costume be. Sometimes it’s the accessories that are the real price killer!
I’ve noticed there are different levels of costumes out there. For one character you might find a number of variations on the costumes from very simple to intricate. Guess which your kid will gravitate to?
Set your boundaries early so they know where you stand and there are no disappointments (and hopefully no temper tantrums either).
2. Channel Your Inner Hollywood Costume Designer
I know one year I was a hobo made up of old clothes around the house. What did it take? Maybe an old jacket and button down shirt made to look all beat up?
Look around and see what you can come up with. You may be surprised what you find in the back of your closet or in the garage.
If the kids were part of any teams or performance groups (dance, acting) then you have materials already. It’s amazing what a little face paint can do to make a costume happen (you can make any costume a zombie character).
3. Head to the Salvation Army, Thrift Stores, or Consignment Shops
Sure you might be able to find a Halloween costume at the Salvation Army or a thrift store, but what you really have is endless imagination at your hands. You can usually find clothes from different eras that could be put to use on Halloween. These places are full of accessories you could use. And it’s all at a fraction of the cost of new costumes.
Garage sales are another possibility.
4. Re-Use and Re-Imagine Costumes You Already Have
If the kids are young it can be easy to do this. Heck, if they are young enough you put them in the same costume and they don’t even flinch. If they are older then maybe you can revise the Halloween costume in some way to make it new?
Our daughter was the Corpse Bride one year (yes we bought the costume). The next year she was a zombie. Not a big difference but with a little makeup change we were able to re-use the costume! We’re trying to convince our son to be a zombie ninja this year (last year’s costume with a little make-up).
You might also get lucky with a timeless character that your little tyke will be more than happy to re-visit.
5. Re-Use and Re-Imagine Other People’s Costumes
Most times these costumes are worn one night and that’s it. Then the kids grow out of them. If you have friends or family with kids they may have something you can use. Remember the previous two suggestions: be creative and find a way to use that old costume in a new way!
And costumes these days are better quality than those old plastic sack ones I had as a kid. Some have weak stitches (you can fix that) but others will take a beating.
6. Head to Pinterest
This kind of goes with the previous ideas but Pinterest is chuck full of DIY goodness. Head over there if you are looking for inspiration or want to see what other people have put together.
7. Hit the Craft Store
If you’re going to make a costume then MAKE a costume. Head on over to a craft store and see what you can put together.
8. If You Have to Buy a New Costume Don’t Get the Latest Fad
One sure way to make sure your costume won’t be used again is if it’s this year’s fad (yeah, I know we violated this with our Corpse Bride above but we did manage to re-purpose). Whereas, a costume like a vampire, princess, or a pirate can be worn any year!
In fact, when we bought a pirate costume for our son, he loved playing pirate so much he wore it whenever he wanted to. Now his younger sister plays in it too. We definitely got our money’s worth on that one!
Try to think long-term when costume shopping. You might even consider going a size bigger to get use out of the costume next year.
9. Shop Wholesale Stores, Like Costco and BJ’s…Early
Wholesale stores tend to get seasonal items the season before everyone else does. You have have to act fast. By the time the season comes these places have usually sold out.
Well this holds true for Halloween costumes as well.
Costco and BJ’s tend to have some nice branded and non-branded costumes available for the kids. These tend to be decent quality costumes at a good discount. But from what I’ve found is they go quickly. That or they get so beat up from customers going through them that they end up missing pieces or you just don’t want your kid wearing it.
How early do these places start putting out the Halloween stuff? Try August.
10. Wait Until the Last Minute to Buy the Halloween Costume
This can be tough, but if you are willing to compromise on the costumes that are still available at the last minute then you can find some super deals. (And you are willing to have your child possibly disappointed by not getting exactly what they want, just sayin’.)
See, Halloween costumes are seasonal and stores don’t want to be stuck with them in inventory. As a result, they tend to offer better discounts the closer you get to October 31st. They want to get rid of the costumes. In fact you could…
11. Buy Next Year’s Costumes This Year
Know when costumes are the cheapest? The day after Halloween!
Remember stores don’t want to hold onto that inventory. Don’t believe me? Head to Target on Nov. 1st and check out their Halloween deals. If you can, buy next year’s costume this year to save. (Candy is a good deal too if you didn’t already get enough from Trick or Treating. Decorations too.)
12. Head to eBay
Seems you can find pretty much anything on eBay, doesn’t it? Halloween costumes are no exception. You can find whole costumes or just the accessories you need to make one happen. Remember, you might not need a “costume” rather just the materials to make one of your own.
Final Word on Cheap, Inexpensive, and Frugal Halloween Costume ideas
We’ve done it all. We’ve bought new. We’ve re-used costumes. We’ve re-imagined costumes… With four kids I’m willing to try just about any idea that will still let us save for their college education!
Seriously though, Halloween is supposed to be fun (at least I think so). Have fun. Get involved with your kids and make their costume something they will enjoy and have fun with.
Halloween doesn’t have to break your bank.
What Inexpensive Halloween Costumes Have You Put Together?
Bonus: Check out some Adam Sandler cheap, last-minute costume ideas if you’re still stuck for an idea.