Be thrifty — clever costumes that won’t break the bank


Kids' Halloween costumes can cost more than $50 in retail stores. The material is often cheap, and most of them will only be worn once and end up being smeared with chocolate. A waste of money? You bet. With a little planning, your kids can dress well for the holiday with little cost. Here are a few ideas:

Buying. If you want to buy, try consignment, thrift shops, or online sites such as eBay or Craigslist first. You can find used or even new costumes there for much less.

Use what you have. Look around the house. Try a sports theme with an old karate or baseball uniform. Last year's dance recital costume can be recycled. A gypsy costume can be put together with scarves and lots of mom's makeup and jewelry. Does Grandma still have her poodle skirt? What about Grandpa's old bowler hat? Teens can raid a parent's or even a grandparent's attic for old clothes and dress as a teen from decades past.

Create. Create a costume from dollar- and thrift-store finds. Crown your daughter as a fairy princess with a fancy dress from the thrift store plus a tiara and scepter from a dollar store. Your son could be the Incredible Hulk by wearing torn-up thrift-store clothes, green face makeup and spray-on hair color. Dollar stores are also a great source for accessories. Start with a pirate's sword or a great hat, and use that as a starting point to create a unique costume.

To sew or not to sew. You can sew beautiful costumes from patterns, but with the cost of material, it isn't the most frugal option. Felt by the yard can become the base for several costumes, is inexpensive and requires no hemming. Buy a length, fold it in half and cut a half-circle for a neck hole in the center. Trim or fold the sides in to fit the child. Put this over the child's head like a tunic and cut a jagged edge at the bottom. Try green for Robin Hood or black for a pirate costume. Tie another piece of felt around the waist for a belt, preferably in a contrasting color. Then slide your dollar-store dagger or sword underneath the belt in the front. Try a longer length of felt in red or purple and use a glue gun to embellish it with glittery trim to make a king or queen costume. Put a sweatsuit underneath and it will be warm, too. Felt isn't your only "no-sew" option. Check out the fabric store for other ideas. Armed with a glue gun and iron-on seam tape, there is no limit to what you can do with fabric and trim.

Search the web. It's a great source for homemade costume ideas. has more than 100 costume ideas that range from easy to difficult. Pinterest is also a good site for ideas.

Last but not least, don't forget that the most important ingredient for a great Halloween costume is imagination. Get older kids involved in the process; they will be more pleased with their costume if they help to create it. If you have little ones, remember you don't need to spend a lot of money or endless hours sewing for them to have a fun holiday.

Tiffany Doerr Guerzon is a freelance writer and mother of three children who will use a glue gun on just about anything.

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The Frugal Family

Deals, tips and more for frugal living.

About This Blog

We're all looking for ways to trim the budget and find ways to have fun with the family without spending a lot of money. Piedmont Parent's team shares tips and local finds with you. Check out this blog for local bargains, savvy shopping tips and ways to save your family money. 

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