There is something more terrifying about Halloween than all the ghosts, ghouls, and goblins of the world running amuck for one frightful night – the price tag of doing so. Every year, Americans spend an average of $4.75 billion on Halloween costumes and decorations, with each participating person spending around $56.31. Also, costume manufacturers rely on huge profit margins during the holiday season. So, the costumes you buy probably won’t survive the holiday, and they will probably be over-priced.
While parents might feel just fine “throwing something together” for their office party, children can be very sensitive about homemade costumes. They want to be their favorite movie character and impress, or at least blend in, with their friends.
So, we’re not suggesting gluing a cotton ball to your child’s rear end, calling her a bunny and sending her on her merry way. But there are many ways that you can add a little green to your holidays this year.
Compromise With Your Children or Yourself
There’s something about the psychology of wearing a store bought costume and, as much as your frugally focused mind might not want to admit it, you have to compromise with your children to get them on board. But this doesn’t mean that you have to go out and buy an expensive full costume. Especially with movie Halloween costumes, there’s usually one defining piece of the costume that makes the whole thing come together. So, you might consider buying the one defining piece at the store and frugally handling the rest. For example:
- Leonidas from 300 – The Spartan Helmet
- Jason from Friday the 13th – The Hockey Mask
- Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean – The Pirate Hat
Always think of ways to cover both ends of the problem with Halloween costumes. While you might want to save money on your Halloween costumes, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing a single item for your child to help preserve their self esteem.
Holiday Costumes Entirely From Scratch
There are also movie costumes that can be made entirely from scratch with a bit of ingenuity, like:
- Indiana Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Harry Potter from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz
- Woody from Toy Story 2
For portions of a costume (or entire costumes) that you would like to treat frugally, use the following techniques to put together costumes that look good, without requiring you to shell out that $56.31.
Make a list of what you need: Ask your child (or yourself, of course) what he or she would like to be for the upcoming holiday. Ask him or her to make a list of the possibilities. Then, use these to start on your own list. Find a picture of the character and start making a list of all the items that make the costume come together. For example, if you want to be Jack Sparrow, you might make the following list:
- Pirate Hat
- Red Bandana
- Long Black Wig (with multicolored beads)
- Black Makeup
- White Shirt
- Blue Vest
- Belt with Large Buckle
- White and Brown Sash
- Brown Pants
- Black Boots (or spats)
- Sword and Sheath
You now have a shopping list (or scavenger list) for all of the costume items. If you have multiple people to dress up, consider convincing them to wear complimentary costumes (like a vampire and his victim) to cut down on both costs and shopping time. Take this list and a picture of the character with you as you hunt for the necessary items.
Check your own closet first: You’d be surprised what you can find in the forgotten depths of your own closet. A loose white shirt can easily become part of Jack Sparrow’s ensemble. That old berry picking basket would be perfect for Dorothy or Little Red Riding Hood.
Visit the local thrift shops: Thrift shops are obviously a gold mine for Halloween costumes. While you would never wear or own a frilly white shirt, for example, you might be able to find one at the thrift store. Keep an eye out for extra items that you didn’t think of in the first place too. For example, you might find some garish rings that look like the ones Jack Sparrow wears in the movies. But be careful – it can be easy to accidentally spend much more money than you anticipated at the thrift store. Sometimes you can even end up going over the original store-bought budget.
Alter existing items: If you have a hard time finding one item, consider using a bit of creativity to make another one work. You might not find boots that fit you for your costume. But, by cutting out the bottoms, you can make some spats to wear over normal black shoes. This works best with boots that don’t have laces. Along the same lines, if you can’t find a cheap whip for your Indiana Jones costume, consider simply wrapping a piece of rope in a loop on your belt. It doesn’t have to be a fully functioning whip to be an effective accessory. If all else fails, try just going without. Can you look like Captain Sparrow without donning a black wig?
Take advantage of seasonal sales: If you just can’t get creative, ask around to see if anyone has old Halloween costumes in their attics. Or, buy your costumes right after the holiday, when they are priced up to 80% off. This tactic is best for costume accessories rather than whole costumes (children grow out of clothes quickly). Also, you very well might find yourself wearing that Indiana Jones hat to keep the sun out of your eyes while you work in the garden during the year – giving you an extra bonus.