Works For Me: Cheap Halloween Costumes

With budgets all over the place tightening down, I think most of us are not rushing out to buy $30 Halloween costumes.  And while I really, really love the idea of slaving away at my sewing machine over something spectacularly creative and frugal, I simply don’t have time for it this year.

In an effort to encourage both creativity and frugality, I’ve given my three older kids a three dollar–yes, THREE DOLLAR–limit for Halloween costumes this year.  They have full reign to use anything we already have in our house, but they can only spend $3 on new items.  And–here’s the kicker–whatever they don’t spend, they get to keep.  This is music to the ears of my little seven-year-old capitalist, who has wisely chosen to wear a costume from previous years, and he’s pocketing the cash.

They’re learning creativity and frugality and (shhh, don’t tell) they’re saving me time and money.  Works for me!

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Wfmwbanner2I’m giving you plenty of notice for November’s themed edition of WFMW, because it’s going to be a good one!  It’s not next Wednesday, but the one after that, November 5th.  It’s the Toys Worth Buying Edition, in which we’ll all share favorite and tested toys that you’d recommend to your friends.  Please share your favorite toy suggestions, and save us all from buying gifts that are going to be relegated to the garage or attic after two weeks!

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73 thoughts on “Works For Me: Cheap Halloween Costumes

  1. Blue Castle says:

    That’s a really great idea. If I did that, my kids would be so motivated to come up with a home-made costume and pocket the entire $3. 🙂
    Money and candy. Can’t get much better than that.

  2. Rebecca (Green Baby Guide) says:

    I love the idea of giving kids the option of spending their $3 on costumes or keeping it for something else. We wrote about creating Halloween costumes out of household items just a couple WFMWs ago on the Green Baby Guide. I wouldn’t want it any other way!

  3. $5 Dinner Mom says:

    What a fantastic way to teach a little about finances and the concept of saving! Love it! I’ll be anxious to hear about what they come up with for their costumes. Way to promote creativity and ingenuinity!
    Erin

  4. Rebeckah says:

    When I linked the first time I linked the wrong thing. I am really sorry and hope you won’t be angry!
    So funny about your little capitalist saving his $3. Can’t wait to see how cute they are : ).

  5. Rena Gunther says:

    That totally rocks, Rocks! 😉
    Beats the price of the costume I ordered online (plus inflated shipping, of course) for my 2 year old. She will be a bee.
    This does serve a dual purpose. She will wear it to our church festival as well as the last games and the tournament for my 15 year old who plays volleyball. Their mascot (and mine some, okay many, years ago) is the Yellow Jacket. She’ll be buzzing around the gym.
    Maybe the 15 year old will take the $3 offer. I’m not hopeful, though. 😉
    Rena

  6. Kris @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers says:

    I had to laugh at your “little capitalist” remark since I have one of those, as well. The grandparents have begun encouraging ordering water at restaurants because drinks are so expensive. The deal is, if the kids order water, after the meal the grandparents will give them a canned drink out of the cooler they carry around in their trunk, plus give them a dollar or two to spend elsewhere.
    We went out to eat the other day and both girls ordered Coke. The boy gave me a sly look as he, without being prompted, ordered water. When the drinks arrived, the girls asked their brother why he ordered water.
    With a big smile, he replied, “Because I want the $2.”
    I couldn’t help but laugh.

  7. Raise Them Up says:

    Great Idea! I think I’ll do something similar for my boys. They keep begging for the cheap plastic stuff in the Halloween isles and I cringe and paying money for the stuff. Maybe if it were their money to keep, they’d be more motivated to make something better!! Thanks!

  8. Reading Rosie says:

    My 12 year old son will be dressing as Indiana Jones from clothes found around the house. We never put a lot of expense into costumes. With a little imagination, great costumes can be thrown together with no expense necessary.

  9. Kim says:

    Shannon, first of all I apologize for initially plugging in the wrong link and could you take #96 off – it links to a recipe rather than my WFMW tip. I don’t want folks wasting their time jumping over to my Puff Apple Pancake recipe when they could really be checking out my laundry line drying shortcuts at #99. Thanks!
    And I think the budget idea is Brilliant! Especially since you’re allowing them to gather items from around the house. A great tool for teaching frugality, creativity, and ingenuity. 🙂

  10. Katy says:

    We are getting creative this year, as well, thanks to Dave Ramsey. We have NO budget for costumes, so they’re coming up with their own. Should be interesting…

  11. alli says:

    That’s awesome. When I was growing up the rule in our house was we had to make our costumes from stuff we could find. AND we got free reign of my mom’s makeup.

  12. jodi @ bpr says:

    love it! I was thrilled to find my little fella’s giraffe costume for this year at a consignment sale for $4 – especially since he’s into giraffes right now and immediately fell in love with it when I brought it home. A definite winner!

  13. Tara says:

    I can top yours! 😉 I tell my kids around the first week of October that they can dress up for Halloween and we can do the church party thing, but I’m not spending a dime. Not only do I save money, but I get TONS of free time as they spend HOURS with our well-stocked-from-garage-sale-free-boxes costume box all month long! My five year old wants to wrap in a torn up pale green sheet and be a bouncy ball!

  14. Photoqueen says:

    What a great idea! And wow, what a tough challenge – $3! I have to admit, I spent significantly more than that on Photobaby’s first Halloween costume for this year. But the bulk of the cost is for a shirt and pants that she’ll be able to wear again. Right. Yes, that’s how I can sleep at night…and convince my husband it wasn’t a foolish spend in these tight times! 🙂

  15. mom_of2boys says:

    Fantastic idea! We’ve been recycling costumes around here for the past 4 years. We take pieces of the ones we have and make a “new” costume out of it. A couple years ago my youngin’ wanted to be Bob the Builder…no money out of pocket. I like when they want to be something that can come right from their clothes and toys.
    Love the new look too – very fall like!

  16. jessica @pianomomsicle says:

    i bought my son’s Halloween costume last year a couple of days after Halloween at Target: He’s Batman and it only cost $4! The same costume is still there this year and is $16. i spent quite a bit more on my new little daughter’s Halloween costume, i’m ashamed to say!

  17. Merrie. says:

    That’s a cool idea to get the kids involved with saving money and being wise… Thankfully all my kids are grown and I don’t have to do costumes anymore. Wish I had known this back then!

  18. Adventures In Babywearing says:

    I can’t wait to show off my CHEAP Halloween costume (yes, I am dressing up as I am taking the kids to two parties next week.) Ivy and I will be all in black, I’ll be wearing her in a black sling, and I’ll have on butterfly wings. We’re a butterfly! : )
    Steph

  19. Audra says:

    Do you think maybe with the Toys Worth Buying edition a child age could be included in the title that way those of us looking for toys for a certain age range don’t have to click every link? It would save time!

  20. T with Honey says:

    To think that I was patting myself on the back for keeping Princess’s costume cost down this year. I convinced her that $40 was just too much to dress up like Belle for a night, especially since she would have to cover it up with a coat to go Trick-or-Treating anyway. So she decided to be Patch from 101 Dalmations. One white sweatsuit, less than $1 in felt and some stitching and we have a dalmation costume. When the holiday is over I can rip off the black felt dots and she can wear the sweatsuit.
    But you’re costume plan beats that. You are the Queen of Halloween Frugal!

  21. Dawn says:

    We don’t do costumes for Oct 31st but the kids love to play dress up …so afterwards we pick up quite a few next to nothing customs for Christmas presents!

  22. Alana @ Gray Matters says:

    What a wonderful idea – I’ll have to tuck it away for when my kids get a little older. As for this year, my husband got suckered into buying our little boy a $50 Jedi costume . . . .don’t even get me started!

  23. Kat says:

    I love the $3 idea…too bad I already blew that this year…..but I purchased a black sweat shirt & sweat pants that will be wearable all winter long!!! ($10) and a piece of fabric ($1.50)…..so If we count just the fabric I guess I did well for little man!!!!

  24. Michelle says:

    That’s a great idea! We were clothes shopping for my kids at Target the other day and my 12 yr old really wanted a tuxedo t-shirt that looked like a skeleton underneath. Not for Halloween, just to wear. I bought it for him, and he decided that he is going to wear it just as a regular t-shirt, but he is also going to pain his face like a skeleton and wear the shirt. So, for $6.99 he got a shirt and costume!

  25. Whitney @ Baby Tunnel Exodus says:

    Great tip! Next year I’ll get my kiddies involved in their (frugal) costumes. I’d love to see a picture of your children’s ingenuity!
    For now, I’m just having too much fun. This year I’ve got a Captain Hook, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. :o)
    Blessings, Whitney

  26. angela =^) says:

    Good way to have the kids take responsibility, both in their costume AND in the family finances. I’m all about cheap and easy… when it comes to Halloween costumes, that is.

  27. april says:

    i love cheap costumes…my girl’s (ages 11 and 21 months) are halloween fairies. The only thing I had to buy, wings. I found them at Big Lots for $2.50 each and I spray painted them black. We have enough leotards, tights and tutus to make up the rest of the costume.
    My son hasn’t decided yet…I’m trying to stear him towards a soldier since he has camo clothes

  28. Janelle says:

    My kids costumes this year fall into this system, too. My oldest is going to be some sort of alien creature. His outfit came from a yard sale for $1. My daughters are going to be a Pegasus – she got a very nice warm and furry costume from a thrift store for $2 – and a cat. For the cat, we found a Libby Lu black fuzzy bodysuit at a thrift store for $2, then found a headband with cat ears and a lonnnnnng tail (we’re cutting it and making it a tail as well as furry cuffs around her ankles and wrists) for .25 at another thrift store. My mom gave her a cat nose for free. They all LOVE their costumes, and I spent a minimal amount! Oh yeah, and I have to dress up for the fall parties, too. I am going to be a judge – got the gown at a thrift store for a buck! 🙂

  29. Robin says:

    My 7 yo is using a Family Fun idea. We are taping or hot gluing packages of Smarties all over her jeans and she is going as a Smarty Pants. Which is, of course, some days reality. =)

  30. Jen says:

    I love the idea for Nov. 5. One suggestion: could you ask that everyone suggest what age the toy is appropriate for?
    Thanks for the great blog. I enjoy it daily, and I love your new look!

  31. Jane says:

    Shannon,
    As a teacher I am *thrilled* with this idea! For the past several years I have lamented that Halloween has been taken away from kids by adults and consumerism. Back in the days when most costumes were made or thrown together kids were in on the creativity. Three cheers for this idea!

  32. Kara says:

    My daughter, bless her heart, chose to be a soccer player this year. The cost: $0.00. She just wants to wear her team uniform. Not a very creative idea, but it’s what she wants and it’s free!
    My husband and I always attend an adult Halloween costume party. I hate spending money on costumes for us, so I try to use what we have at home. This year I am wearing all pink- pink shoes, pink socks, pink pants, pink hoodie sweatshirt. Then I am attaching a dollhouse table to the top of my hoodie. What am I? A huge wad of gum stuck under a table. Hardy har har- my husband found that idea and thinks it’s hilarious. I just like it because it’s free.

  33. Pam says:

    My favoite costume when I was around 10
    to 12 was to buy a large pumpkin, hollow
    it out from the bottom….cut a large enough hole for my head to fit in (after putting on a shower cap)….I wore an oversized orange sweatshirt and black tights! No ONE could ever guess who I was
    and I loved it!! Pam, South Bend

  34. Susan says:

    My rule is pretty much that ALL Halloween costumes start with a warmup. Ninja Turtles when the boys were little (but we didn’t do much in the way of Halloween). I would pick up princess dresses at garage sales, etc during the year for dressup.
    Last year, black warm up, black glove on one hand, white glove on the other hand and white sneakers. Kitten ears and eye pencil on nose and whiskers.
    I think this year she will be a gray or black kitten again…it’s really easy and something to sleep in during the winter.

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