Don’t Get Spooked by the High Cost of Halloween Costumes

/ BY / Personal Finance

Are you (or your kids) planning on dressing up this year for Halloween? You’ve got lots of company, according to the recently released Halloween spending survey from the National Retail Federation. It found that 43.6 percent of Americans plan to costume themselves for the holiday, and they will spend a total of $2.6 billion for that purpose. Specifically, consumers will shell out $1.04 billion on children’s costumes, and $1.22 billion on adult costumes.

But Halloween costumes can put a scary dent in your budget, running from $25 and up for the most popular characters. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend that kind of money for an outfit your kids (or you) will wear only a few times. There are cost-busting ways to get a great look for the Halloween holiday.

Arrange a swap ghostly gear

Kids’ interests change quickly, and your first grader who was so thrilled with his pirate or ghost costume last year may balk when you suggest that it could do for this year as well. (He’s more into Batman characters these days.)  But there are likely to be kids among his circle of friends and their siblings who would be happy to make use of your son’s no-longer-wanted pirate’s sword and eye patch, or the yards of gauze that you used to create ghostly layers. In the meantime, older kids may have moved beyond the Batman and superhero universe and would be happy to get rid of their too-small Riddler or Joker costumes.

A costume swap can make everyone happy. Start with friends and family members, letting them know about the outgrown costumes that you have and asking if they (or anyone they know) are willing to pass on one of the costumes you’re looking for.

Set up a Facebook Halloween costume swap page for your friends or your neighborhood and encourage people to list the costumes that they have to exchange. Offer to host a small neighborhood swap day where kids and their parents can shop for a new Halloween look, or help start a community-wide swap at a local church or similar gathering place. (Although it may be a little late to organize a large-scale swap this year, you can get some ideas for arranging one next year at the National Costume Swap Day Facebook page.)

Try the magic of online shopping

It’s easier to find cheap costumes if your child is willing to be a generic fairy princess or a black cat. But if she has her heart set on an authentic Catwoman costume, you may be able to get a discount from the regular retail price on sites like Amazon or eBay. Just make sure that you check the shipping information carefully—you don’t want to face your daughter’s tears on Halloween night because her costume didn’t arrive on time.

Haunt the used clothing stores

As the holiday draws near, some used clothing stores, especially those specializing in kid’s clothing, often have a special costume section. But even if they don’t, a walk down a few aisles should spark some ideas for great costumes. (And if your costume involves putting red paint “blood” on the outfit, you won’t feel bad about ruining a shirt or a jacket that only cost you a few bucks.)

Unleash your creativity

If you’ve got even basic sewing skills there are many Internet sites that can guide you through whipping up a creative, funny or striking costume that outshines the store-bought competition. Just do a Google search for quick/easy/cheap Halloween costumes and you’ll find dozens of sites. (As an added benefit, you’ll probably find on many of those sites some equally clever ideas for food and decorations for the holiday.)

Looking for something even a little easier? The queen of crafts, Martha Stewart, has several no-sew costumer ideas on her site. (How about a garbage bag witch, a coffee filter fairy godmother, a bubble wrap jellyfish or an umbrella bat?) 

Pinterest can be another great source of inspiration for low-cost and striking dress-up ideas.

There’s no trick to it—a little bit of creativity goes a long way when it comes to great Halloween costumes. And you’ll enjoy the treat of knowing that you’ve been able to enjoy the holiday without spending too much.

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