4 Ways to Save on Halloween Costumes

by Ashley Eneriz · 1 comment

Do you have your costume and your child’s costume yet? Halloween is only a few weeks away, and things can get expensive if you have to buy everything last minute at the store. After all, dressing up can set you back $50-100 depending on how many children you have and if you are dressing up too. Here are some easy solutions to save money on costumes this year.

Shop from What You Have

I scored two adorable dog Gymboree costumes for my two girls this Halloween on super clearance. The only problem is that I shopped while I was pregnant, and even though I bought a 6-12 month costume for my would be 8-month old, the costume is too small. Buying the same costume on eBay would cost me over $40. It then hit me that I had the perfect alternative already sitting in my children’s closet. I had a Dalmatian print dress, which is a little too big for my baby, and a homemade black tutu from last Halloween. Bam! A free alternative to my costume problem. I bought Dalmatian dog ears and a tail from a seller in China through eBay for $5.

Think about what you already have on hand before you go shopping. An old prom dress can be turned into a great costume, such as zombie prom queen. Last year, I dressed my toddler in a black dance leotard and the homemade tutu and a string of my faux pearls, and she was Audrey Hepburn. It’s Halloween, anything goes.

Shop the Thrift Store

Most thrift stores hang on to their costumes year-round so that they can sell them during this season. Their costumes are a little pricey for thrift store wares, but they will be much more affordable than the party store. Last year, I found an expensive peacock costume for $6, which I then sold this year for $29. The thrift store is also a great place to look for costume props.

Borrow from a Friend

I am not one to hang on to old costumes, but many people do. If you can borrow your costume or your child’s costume from a friend, then you can enjoy an inexpensive Halloween this year.

Shop Craigslist and eBay

If you still haven’t found the costume you want through shopping at home, making your costume, or the thrift store, then check Craigslist and eBay. Most of the time, individual sellers will have better prices than the local Halloween costume store. I would advise to go towards costumes that you will know will hold their value. I buy Gymboree costumes because I have no trouble selling them later on. Paying $50 for a costume is not so bad if you can then sell it next year for $30-40.

Whether you celebrate Halloween or just dress up for fall festivities, these tips will help you save money on your costume. Here are a few more ways to save on Halloween.

Don’t Get Spooked by Halloween Costs This Year

Does it seem to you that Halloween gets more and more elaborate every year? I will have to consult with my parents to be certain, but I remember when I was a kid that it was just one night of trick or treating wearing either inexpensive costumes, homemade clothing or stuff from a discount store.

Of course, I’m probably seeing the past through rose colored glasses and my parents were just as aghast at the cost of it all as I am now, but I’m also pretty sure that holidays in general have become much bigger productions over the years.

While here are a few tips specifically about Halloween, I think that the ideas can carry over to managing the financial expectations of all the holidays too. What do you think?

1. If you wish to decorate your home and yard, be sensible about it. You don’t have to compete with the old guy down the block who has been collecting decorations for decades your first year as a homeowner. Inexpensive decorations can be bought at the dollar store, but beware of any safety issues with decorations that light up or have motors.

And by all means, don’t feel like you have to keep up with your neighbors. If it’s something that gives you pleasure, go for it as long as you keep within your budget but if you’re happy with just a jack o’ lantern or even nothing at all, don’t feel like you have to decorate because the neighbors are.

2. Buy candy ahead of time unless you really hate the sight of them. There will be sales on Halloween candy now through October 31st so it’s not as if you’ll be stuck paying triple if you don’t buy two months ahead of time. What is more likely to happen is you or a family member will eat it all up and you’ll have to buy more…which will be eaten…so you’ll buy more…until your wallet is light and your pants are tight.

3. However, if you or your child has your heart set on a certain costume, now is the time to buy. The popular costumes go fast, both in stores and in thrift shops and online auction sites. I’m of two minds about this. In a perfect world, you’d explain to your child that being a $10 generic fireman is just as good as buying this $40 Luke Skywalker costume and that you’re paying 4 times as much for the Star Wars name.

On the other hand, if you can afford it and it will make your child happy, I don’t see anything wrong with indulging to get them the costume they really want especially if you can make it a learning lesson by having them work towards the cost or help to figure out how to pay for it by cutting out some other small luxuries.

They will either learn that it’s worth the effort to work hard and make sacrifices to get something that they really want or they’ll realize that it just wasn’t worth it and they put a lot of time and effort into something that didn’t mean very much.

Ask around to see if friends or relatives have outgrown ones that you can borrow if you are buying a costume for a younger child or infant. If you have to get that incredibly cute bear or skunk costume, know that higher quality infant and toddler costumes tend to retain their value and if you save it until next September you’ll be able to resell it on eBay or Craigslist and recoup most of your investment.

Grownups and older children can get really creative and make it a game to come up with the most unique costume for the least amount of money. Besides being frugal, it’s lots more fun than going to the party dressed like a giant Winnie-the-Pooh.

4. Back to candy… don’t buy too much. If you are new to the neighborhood, ask around to find out what typical traffic is like, it varies widely by location. To make myself feel less anxious about running out, I buy a few boxes of things that can double as lunch box treats (fruit snacks, those granola bars that are more like candy, fruit leathers, etc) and if we don’t need to dig into them, my kids get a nice dessert in their school lunch every Friday until we run out.

5. There will always be *that* mom/dad in every classroom. The one that has time to make 20 elaborate little Halloween gift bags stuffed full of candy and small toys and little ghosts crafted from Rice Crispie treats and rolled fondant. Don’t even try to outdo them unless you want to spend the next 12 or more years trying to top the last year. Send in a bag of dum-dums or orange pencils and call it a day.

6. Be sensible about how many activities your family takes part in, both for your finances and because it’s not good for your stress level or your child’s future expectations to overdo everything. In other words, you don’t have to go to the pumpkin patch and the hayride and four different special events at various venues and two parties and go trick or treating.

This year, we’re trying to make our children more aware of how much these things cost so that they can have realistic expectations for the future and learn more about budgeting. They’ve chosen one very special event to go to that will cost our family $60 to attend and have agreed we’ll forgo any fast food treats to cover the cost. Whenever they ask if they’ll get some ice cream or Starbucks, we’re reminding them that we’re saving for ZooBoo.

My hope is that they learn to appreciate things more by having to sacrifice to pay for them and that lesson will carry over to adulthood. So many people these days seem to expect to be constantly entertained and spend much more than they can afford going to movies, concerts and other events just because they are accustomed to doing something every night.

7. If you’re throwing a party, aim for casual and keep the costs down. Perhaps you could have a potluck and have everyone bring creepy foods or serve punch instead of more expensive cocktails and wine. Remember it’s the people who make the party, so invite your most entertaining friends and nobody will care if you didn’t spend hundreds on decorations or drinks.

Your turn. Has Halloween become more and more elaborate? Do you aim to keep costs down or splurge?

What are you and your children dressing up as this year? Bonus points to readers that saved money while picking their costume.

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  • Carey says:

    Good tips! I had not thought about thrift shops maintaining a costume collection, but that’s a good idea to check out.

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