Frugal (and last minute) Halloween Costumes for Kids

October 22, 2011

When I was a child, I had some really amazing costumes. I can remember being a witch, a clown, a ghost (of course) and Dracula. My brother was a clown also, a skeleton and a robot. The one amazing thing about all of our costumes is that they were either completely homemade by my mom or they were assembled with items we had at home!

She planted the seed in me that the best Halloween costumes do not come from stores!

I have tried to continue that with my own children. And I wanted to share some tips that I’ve learned along the way (and sneak in a few pics of my adorable boys).

1. Use what you have at home.

The year I was Dracula, I wore nothing but black that I already owned and a large black cape that my mom made from an old sheet that she dyed black. We greased my hair back with Vaseline (FYI: Do NOT ever grease your hair back with Vaseline!) added some make-up and I was done.

With my own boys, I have done the same thing. Kids usually have dress up outfits that they play with, use them for costumes and save yourself money. My boys have been a soldier, a firefighter, an airline pilot and Bob the Builder. All of these items were things we had around the house for dress up or in the case of the firefighter, it was my son’s raincoat, rain boots and the hat that matched the coat. I added black pants and he was done.

Bob the Builder was made from some denim overalls, a flannel shirt and work boots that he already owned. We added a tool belt and construction hat and my son spent the night shouting “Can we fix it?” (Handy Manny could also be done this way too.)

I HAD to use this pic because the look is too cute!


2. Make a costume from items you have or can easily buy for little money.

My mother was a genius when it came to making costumes with very little money. Of course we were the old standby of a ghost, but also an angel (I wore a white sheet, my head had a gold garland around it and she made wings with hangers that she stretched white panty hose over.). She sewed clown costumes out of white sheets (notice the pattern here? My grandmother worked at a hotel and would bring home all the sheets that had holes in them.) Once the costumes were sewn, she drew all different sized circles around them with Crayola markers. She made hats with poster board! They were amazing. I would love to share the pics for these costumes but they are with her and I can’t get them.

Another year my brother went as a skeleton. My mom used paper plates and white poster board to cut out body parts then glued them to black garbage bags which she molded into shape with black electrical tape. This would work with all black clothing as well.

He was also a robot one year. Our mom used cardboard boxes covered in aluminum foil. She then glued stuff that she either found in my dad’s workshop or she had crafted herself. Find someone with an old computer that no longer works, take out all the inside pieces and use those. You could also pick up an inexpensive appliance at a thrift store to take apart. Of course, the hardware store has nuts and bolts for very little money.

My all time favorite costume was one I came up with myself. I bought a red sweat suit, the kind that is fuzzy on the inside and made sure the jacket had a hood. I turned it inside out and glued a face onto the hood. I used two round styrofoam balls and one oval-shaped one which I painted orange. I painted two black circles on the round balls. I glued them to my hood and went as Elmo!

Below is a picture of my youngest son. We found the Elmo costume at Target the year before for very cheap. This is not what I did when I dressed up but you can kind of get the idea. Plus, it gives me a chance to show off another picture.


3. Buy from clearance sales at the end of the season.

I frequently shopped after holiday clearance racks. You can get Halloween costumes very inexpensively this way. Just be sure to buy a size or two bigger to fit your growing child. My oldest was some GI Joe dude one year after I purchased the costume at Target the year before at 50% off (if we’d have waited for 75%, it would have been gone!). This is also a great way to get inexpensive dress up outfits for you kids.

The Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story Costume was purchased at The Disney Store at 75% off. It was a fairly expensive costume but at that discount, it was around $15.00. It was extremely well made and we had it for years.

4. Use thrift stores, consignment shops and borrow from friends.

Consignment shops are a great place to get Halloween costumes. Go early in the season to get the best selection. The lion costume in the above picture was purchased very inexpensively at a Once Upon a Child, he just happened to have a brown outfit that was given to us that matched perfectly!

One year my younger son went as a Wonder Pet. I used all of the above tips to create his costume and it turned out superb.

I found a furry animal costume. I think it was once a bear but it did not have a head to it. It was marked down to, maybe $3.00, it could have been less. We made a cape out of inexpensive fleece and assembled it with fabric glue and a little stitching to make the ties for the cape. I asked around and found an orange ball cap for him to wear. I bought some brown slippers that resembled boots at a thrift store. Viola, we had a Lenny, The Wonder Pet Costume.

It has been two years and he still wears the cape all the time!

The quality is poor, it was taken with my phone.


Expensive Halloween costumes can be great and a lot of fun. I have bought a couple over the years when my son REALLY wanted to be something or we had an idea that was perfect for my kids.

My youngest was a Mail Carrier one year because he was obsessed with them. I sold that costume at a consignment shop the following year and recouped some of my money. My oldest was Goose from Top Gun one year when my best friend and I decided that he looked just like him while her son would make a great Maverick. So we paired them up and went Trick or Treating together. We bought iron on letters and added their character’s name and paired it with a pair of aviators that he already had (even had his hair cut to match!) He wore it again last year when we went to a function at the Air Force Museum. It was a hit!

One final picture because it is really one of my all time favorites pictures and costumes. The police costume is a dress up outfit that we got (from Toys R Us on clearance years back). The robber costume is all black clothing that we had on hand. Black face paint dabbed on w/a sponge. I made the bag from one we owned, painted the dollar sign on and then glued all the money together and pulled the bag in tight (I added some “coins” at the bottom to for the sound effect!). We got a lot of compliments that year.


I hope this post has given you some ideas for inexpensive Halloween costumes. I really think homemade costumes are the best and always love to see them when I’m handing out candy!

Have a safe and happy Halloween!


Sidenote: I really wish I had more pictures to show you the examples of things we’ve done. I have one for every single example but they are either stored on a laptop that I cannot access or they are in actual pictures that are at my mom’s house. If I get them someday, I’ll edit this post and let you all know.


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