Cheap Homemade Halloween Costumes

Great Halloween costumes don’t need to come from the store.

I remember when I was a little girl, I used to make my own Halloween costumes. I don’t know whether it was because we couldn’t afford store bought, or whether my mom just wasn’t into buying costumes. Regardless, I can’t ever remember buying a costume.

One year I was a clown. I took some old clothes and stuffed them with pillows to make myself round. I painted my face with my mom’s makeup, and voila! Instant clown!Another year I wanted to be a witch. I wore my dad’s black college graduation gown and made a black hat with cardboard, glue, and some black spray paint. I think I might have even used my mom’s green eye shadow on my face.

Halloween doesn’t have to be an expensive affair. More than that, it can encourage your child’s (and your own) creativity.

Frugal Homemade Costume Ideas

For Girls:

  • A Southern Belle – An old formal gown and a fancy hairdo is all you need.
  • A Cat – Wear black leggings and a shirt. Make a tail out of black fleece or other fabric and pin on the leggings. Make some ears out of cardboard and attach them to a headband. Paint on whiskers, and you’re done.
  • An Angel – Fashion a gown out of a white sheet. Make a halo out of gold garland. Add some wings from the dress-up box, or make some wings from cardboard and paint them white.

For Boys:

  • A Sports Star – Use a jersey, some sweats, and your ball of choice. Add a team hat, if you have one.
  • A Military Man – Wear camouflage and paint his face different shades of green and brown.
  • A Safari Guide – Wear a Khaki vest and a straw hat. Accessorize with binoculars around his neck.

Let your imagination run wild. Ask your child what he/she wants to be for Halloween, and then try to figure out how to make the costume yourself. You’ll be surprised at what you can come up with.

Where to Find Cheap Halloween Costumes

Contrary to popular practice today, you don’t need to run to your nearest discount store to buy a costume. There are several frugal options.

  • Look in your closet. Let it inspire you.
  • Borrow from friends. If you need a piece to complete a costume, ask your friends if they have something you could borrow for a night.
  • Hit the thrift stores. I went to Goodwill a couple of weeks ago, and they had two full racks of Halloween costumes.
  • Check consignment stores. I was a bride one Halloween. I found an old fashioned bridal gown, complete with veil at a consignment store. Total cost: $5.

Cheap Halloween Costumes

A Baby. This one is always popular with elementary aged girls. Put on footed pajamas, braid your hair, paint on some rosy cheeks, and stick a pacifier in your mouth. Kids always seem to prefer those candy pacifiers. :) Carry around a doll, if you like.

A Scarecrow. Wear an old pair of jeans, a flannel shirt, a straw hat, and some boots. Stuff straw or raffia into the sleeves and boots, so some is coming out around your hands and feet. It might help to wear a tight fitting shirt under the flannel shirt, so the straw isn’t up against your skin. Paint your face like a scarecrow, and you’re set!

A Pair of Dice. You’re going to need two people for this one. Paint two boxes white. Then paint black dots on them, in the formation of dots on a dice. Use string to hang the box over your shoulders. Easy peasy!

A Haggard Housewife. Wear a bathrobe and slippers and put your hair up in rollers (look for these at the thrift store….and wash them in very hot water before you put them in your hair). You could even add a bon-bon box for effect.

A Bag of Jellybeans. Cut arm and leg holes in a clear trashbag. Put it on and fill with balloons of all colors. Gather the bag at the neck and tie (but not too tightly). Viola!

If none of these ideas appeal to you, just put on your thinking cap. Often a pair of sweats can be transformed with paint, safety pins, glue, paper, and accessories that you can find at the thrift store. Halloween doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun. And truth be told, some of my favorite Halloween memories consist of thinking up a costume and using what I had on hand to make it happen!

Halloween doesn’t need to be another holiday where you run to the store and spend a bunch of money. With a little planning and creativity, you can have a fun, creative, and frugal Halloween.

Halloween Decorations

  • Stuff old clothing with leaves to make scary dudes for the front porch. Add a little hay and this is a great way to make a scarecrow.
  • Use old thread and yarn for cobwebs and hang it around the house and porch.
  • Decorate windows by putting plastic wrap on them and then paint scary ghosts and critters until your heart is content. When Halloween is over you can just peel it and throw it away.
  • Shop at the .99 Cent store for inexpensive window decals and Halloween decor. Let the kids each pick out something new each year.

Halloween Activities

  • If you do go to a harvest farm, find one that let’s you pay only for the activities the kids want to do. Let them pick out 2 or 3 they really want to do like the corn maze, pony ride, or hay ride, and call it good!
  • Buy a handful of the mini pumpkins from the grocery store and let the kids decorate them with markers or paint. We did this last weekend and my son and I actually were able to carve one into a Jack-O-Lantern, we had a lot of fun doing it!
  • Make Caramel Apples, this is a fun and cheap activity that kids love.

Halloween Costumes

  • Homemade costumes can be really cool and save you a lot of money. Since I don’t have a creative bone in my body I have found some great resources for making your own costumes: Creative Costume Ideas for Kids and Great Costumes for Less!
  • I can remember raiding my Dad’s closet a couple times and dressing as a nerd for Halloween. Disclaimer: This only works if your Dad is a nerd. :-)

Do you have any creative costume ideas? When you were young, did you make your own costume? Share your ideas!

12 thoughts on “Cheap Homemade Halloween Costumes”

  1. Best costume I ever saw, hands down, was the kid who looked like Richie Cunninham. He got his red hair to stand up on end, dressed in white, and went as a cigarette.

  2. This brings back a lot of childhood memories! I always had to make my own costume, and it was so embarrassing! Now I love doing it! I love looking at all the Halloween info out there; it’s funny to read.

  3. Hello! New subscriber and commenter here. We often made/improvised our own halloween costumes over the years, as children and adults. Some favorites that come to mind:

    – Pirate – jeans, white button-down shirt, added white scrap fabric triange with pinned-on lace ruffle bought from the remnant bin; also pinned lace to shirt cuffs. A bandana on the head and dollar-store-bought patch over the eye and black shoes/boots completed the outfit.

    – Little Red Riding Hood – I made a quick-sew red hooded capelet and wore it with a red t-shirt and black shorts (lived in Key West at the time–warm weather); husband went as the Big Bad Wolf dressed as granny–wolf head bought mask on deep discount because the eye holes were in the wrong place, so we cut them and inserted his glasses through the new holes. The result was the appearance of glasses on the wolf’s nose. With a thrift store granny dress and unshaved man-legs with flip flops, the look was complete.

    – A little 3-yr-old trick-or-treater that came to my door one year was in all black–stuffed hefty bag surrounded him and black makeup was smeared on his face. I asked him what he was, and he said, “A tire.” SO FUNNY, and clever!

    – I went to a party where one man came as a cereal killer. A box of breakfast cereal was affixed to his back with a knife stabbing the box, blood drips, etc.

    – The man’s wife had smartie candies sewed to her jeans on the side seams and pockets. (Smartie Pants)

  4. We did a lady bug one year. Used black turtleneck and black leggings. Got some red fabric we put black paint on and secured like a cape (we shaped them round and attached them with safety pins to daughters black turtleneck). Attached some pipe cleaners to a headband. We reused the turtleneck, leggings and headband. We also scoured thrift stores for an old silk nightie to create an angel costume. I have bought storebought but half the fun of halloween is using your creativity.

  5. Yes, let’s not forget sewing!
    My Mom sewed most of our costumes when we were kids, and I did the same for my kids. Usually the costume was something that could be worn again, such as a flannel clown suit with hat that was pajamas later on: a pink dinosaur which was a hooded sweatshirt with the ruffle/ridge pinned from the hood to the bottom; a sewn fuzzy smokey bear coat with overalls and hat and cardboard shovel, etc. And the usual princesses, ghosts, pirates, and witches. A lot of the accessories were cardboard covered with tinfoil :)

    The kermit frog is adorable – it’s what reminded me of my daughter’s little pink dinosaur :)

  6. This year, I am going as a dead/injured cyclist. I have the bike shorts, jersey, helmet, etc. I even have some scars thanks to recent hand surgery. Now all I have to do is use some make up to add bruises, etc.

  7. My two fave frugal costumes for my kids were a golfer struck by lightening (burn holes in an old or garage-sale purchased golf shirt & plaid golf pants, use lots of gel to spike hair all over the place, little black make-up around the eyes, and an old golf club) and the Lil Squeaker (a little mouse) when my youngest was 6 months old – I STILL can’t find that picture, I think he’s hidden it on me now that he’s fourteen, but I did write out directions for that costume here:

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