At the beginning of October each year, my neighbors at the end of my street start getting really excited. As their favorite holiday approaches, decorations start to multiply in their yard almost daily. Spiders, gravestones, skeletons, bats, and ghosts overtake the end of my street until Halloween night finally arrives. That’s when the real show begins as my neighbors come out in elaborate, and horrific, costumes to scare the trick-or-treaters away for some Halloween fun.
My neighbors have a great time, and I always enjoy Halloween on my street, but their costumes look like they cost a small fortune. I was really surprised when I talked to one of my neighbors, and she told me she only spent $10 on her entire costume. She let me in on a couple of her secrets, including using flexibility when choosing a costume.
Below are some tips to help you save money this year on Halloween costumes for both adults and kids.
How to Save Money on Halloween Costumes for Kids & Adults
1. Be Flexible
The more flexibility you have with the Halloween costume you wear, the easier it will be to find one that fits your budget.
For example, if you have your heart set on being a gorilla, you may have to pay quite a bit to get a suit full of fur. If you are open to dressing up like any zoo animal, on the other hand, you can purchase the inexpensive lion costume that only consists of a mane, tail, and paint-on whiskers.
In fact, if you don’t care what costume you wear, then you can go to any costume store and pick out the least expensive costume.
2. Go to a Consignment Shop
You can find some awesome deals at consignment shops on costumes that probably were only used once, or may have never been worn at all.
Last year, I took my son to a consignment shop to pick out his costume. I went to a consignment shop that specializes in children’s clothing, and they had a whole rack dedicated to Halloween costumes. While they had many costumes available, they did not have a lot of variety. For example, in my son’s size, they had four tiger costumes, three pig costumes, three cow costumes, and a turtle. We chose one of the tiger costumes, and it only cost us $7, or one-third of the original price.
Finding a used Halloween costume for an adult can also be challenging. Many consignment stores and thrift stores have an array of Halloween costumes available, but you may only find one of two outfits in your size.
3. Use Online Classifieds and Auctions
If you like the idea of buying a used costume at a fraction of the original cost but want more of a variety than consignment shops provide, check out Craigslist, eBay, the classified ads for your local newspaper, and PennySaverUSA.com.
I have a friend whose daughter really wanted to be a gorilla for Halloween. Knowing that she couldn’t afford a new gorilla costume, and knowing that she wouldn’t find one at a consignment shop, she ran a quick search on eBay. Within minutes, she was able to find the perfect little gorilla costume for a reasonable price.
Craigslist, classified ads, and PennySaverUSA also offer used costumes for sale, and information about Halloween costume sales and swaps.
4. Trade with a Friend
Ask around to see if any of your friends would like to do a costume swap for Halloween. This can work for adult costumes, but it works especially well for kids’ costumes since kids constantly grow and move into bigger sizes. Again, flexibility helps because you have a limited number of costume choices if you trade with friends.
5. DIY (Do It Yourself)
Having DIY life skills, such as sewing, can be beneficial when you want to live a frugal lifestyle. This is especially true when Halloween rolls around each year. You have endless opportunities when you decide to sew your own costumes. You can save money, and DIY costumes tend to be the most memorable.
My mom made me and my sister beautiful matching ballerina costumes that I still remember today. To carry on with my mom’s tradition of making Halloween costumes, I am going to make my son a football player costume this year. This money-saving effort will also allow my family to save some money to go to some football games this season!
6. Use Household Items
If you don’t possess frugal DIY life skills, you can still have a homemade costume. Just look through your home, and see if you can find some unique items.
In high school one year, I took advantage of the fact that my mom was a nurse, and I used one of her white medical coats along with some crazy, googly-eyed glasses my dad had, to become a mad scientist. My friends and neighbors loved my costume, and it had cost me a whopping $0! Ask your friends for suggestions and look online for even more ideas for DIY Halloween costumes.
7. Be Creative
If you don’t have anything that goes together to dress up as something specific, grab the craziest thing you can find and make a garment out of the item.
I have a friend who found a really funky-looking tablecloth, and he just wrapped it around himself like a toga, although he definitely did not look Greek. He got plenty of looks and questions about his costume, yet he really wasn’t dressed up like anything at all. Although he got a lot of attention, he didn’t spend a dime on his costume.
8. Shop Late
If you want to buy a costume from a store, sometimes you can get the best deals when you wait until the last minute to purchase your costume. Buying your costume the day before Halloween or the day of Halloween can save you up to 75% off of the original price. By the end of the month, most people have bought their costumes, and stores just try to get rid of their remaining stock.
9. Shop Early
On the other hand, you can also save money when you shop early, and by early, I mean a year early. If you already know what costume you want for the following year, buy it on Halloween, or the day after Halloween, when all costumes are deeply discounted. Just make sure you fully commit to the costume and that you can pick out the correct size for any growing girls or boys.
10. Have a Costume Buying Competition
Most people have heard of a costume competition where the person with the best or scariest costume wins the contest. Instead, consider holding a costume buying competition where each person has a set amount of cash to make the best costume. You may want to give each of your kids $10 and let them pick out whatever they want to make a costume with items from a thrift store.
The contest makes shopping for costumes fun for them and cheap for you. You can also do this game with your friends, and it’s especially fun for high school and college students. I should know; I did this when I was in college.
11. Sell Last Year’s Costume
Just as you can buy a costume on eBay or Craigslist, you can also sell your old costumes on eBay or Craigslist. Use the money you make to buy yourself a new costume. You may also want to sell your old costumes by having a garage sale, especially if you have old costumes.
12. Utilize Hand-Me-Downs
If you have older kids or older cousins who can pass on their old costumes to your little ones, use those costumes, especially when your little ones don’t really understand Halloween. Not only will you get a second use out of the costume you paid for, you also won’t have to buy another one. Also, if you think a costume can be worn again, save it for next year.
13. Wear a Costume You Already Own
If you have active kids, you may already own several costumes sitting in your closets right now. For example, if you have a son or daughter who takes dance lessons, perhaps they have recital costumes that can double as Halloween costumes. If your kids play sports, they can use their uniforms to pretend to be pros for Halloween.
14. Limit Options
Limit your kids’ options to keep costs down at Halloween. If your child has a specific costume in mind that costs more, suggest that he or she can be a pirate or a ghost instead. If you limit their options, you can reign in their spending and help keep Halloween costs under control.
15. Ask for a Gift
Kids’ Halloween costumes are fun for parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles. If you have a family member who takes an interest in your child’s costume, ask them if they can help you make the costume.
I have a friend whose parents take charge of their granddaughter’s costume, including picking it out and paying for it as their special thing they do together each year.
16. Take Part in the thredUP Costume Swap
thredUP connects parents so that they can swap children’s items. This year they are holding a Halloween costume swap. It works just like any other costume swap, where you look for costumes, and offer your costume as a swap. It costs only $5 to cover the cost of shipping.
The thredUP costume swap helps families find gently used costumes for very low prices, all from the convenience of home.
17. Buy One Great Item
To save money on your Halloween costume, consider buying or making one great item that you can wear with the clothes you already own. For example, you can wear a Dracula cape with jeans and a sweater.
Three friends of mine wore dark sunglasses and mouse ears with sweatshirts and jeans one year; with a bit of face paint they were the three blind mice.
Get used costumes and be flexible to save the most money on Halloween costumes. I recommend going through your home first to look for uniforms you already own, and to find fun items that you can use as part of a costume. Halloween costumes are meant to be fun; make them fun for your wallet too, by carefully utilizing what you have and by shopping carefully for what you don’t have. Have a happy and safe Halloween!
What are some of the methods you’re using to save on Halloween costumes this year?
(photo credit: Shutterstock)