10 Easy Ways to Do Halloween on a Budget This Year
Hear that sound? It’s the first of the major shopping holidays at the door! Halloween is the fourth most popular holiday that gets consumers to open their wallets—the kick-off to a lot of shopping before the end of the year.
Here are some numbers that should scare you to death, brought to us by the folks at The National Retail Federation:
Americans spent $10.14 billion on Halloween in 2021, up from $8.05 billion in 2020. Mindboggling, right? This is how that broke down:
- Candy $3.65 billion
- Decorations $3.17 billion
- Costumes $3.32 billion
I don’t know about you, but I find those numbers beyond frightening.
There’s no denying that we love Halloween. What other night do we get to eat, drink, and be scary?
The problem is we’ve come to love it a little too much. Sadly, much of that spending will translate to new credit card debt and a terrible way to start the New Year.
I know we can do so much better this year if we stop, think, and then find ways to keep all the fun while doing Halloween on a budget.
Even if your neighborhood attracts busloads of kids, that doesn’t mean filling their bags with gourmet chocolate is up to you. Between our sons and now our grandsons, I’ve been on the receiving end of trick-or-treat bags for many years. Here’s the cold, hard, sugary truth: Most of it ends up in the trash. It’s the fun of getting treats and guessing the final weight of a kids’ haul that matters—not the quality of its contents.
So think of that before you drop the big bucks on candy. Buy what you can pay with cash, period. The dollar store is rife with knock-off lollipops and non-descript candy. And do not worry about running out. Adopt a guilt-free attitude that when it’s gone, it’s gone. That’s it. Shut the door and turn off out the lights.
Look, Halloween is a really big deal for many folks, and I get it. There’s one house in a community near me where the owners start months ahead getting their front lawn display ready. It’s massive in both size and effort. I cannot even imagine the time and money required to put on their annual spooky show.
Be careful if you find yourself somewhere between that and my two-pumpkins-on-the-porch choice of decor. Halloween decor can quickly rip the heart out of a budget. Check the dollar store where you can stretch your decoration dollars until they scream!
Look for items throughout the year at garage sales—all the stuff folks paid for, then decided they couldn’t be bothered to store. You’ll be able to pick up that blow-up mechanical Frankenstein for pennies on the dollar. Of course, now you’ll be the one trying to figure out where to store him.
My kids say this is the best part of Halloween,and not just for the little ones. Nowadays, people dress their pets, newborns, kids, and themselves. And this is where the budget can quickly fall apart.
I blame a lot of this on Pinterest and Instagram. It can be compelling to see what everyone else is doing! But here’s the problem: We wait too long—much longer than needed to make elaborate costumes ourselves, leaving the only option to buy them. Yikes!
If you can’t get started making costumes in time this year, change your plans. Go cheap using stuff you have already to make costumes that take minutes, not hours. Protecting your budget is far more important than winning First Place in the costume this year. Remember, there’s always next year.
To get your creative juices flowing, here are a few ideas for cheap Halloween costumes:
Bag of candy
Get a big, clear garbage bag. Cut two holes in the bottom for your legs and two arm holes near the bag’s opening. Fill it with multicolored blown-up balloons for jellybeans. For M&Ms, take multi-color round balloons and choose ones that match M&M colors. Blow them up to about 80 percent (less likely to break), and write “M” on each of them with a black marker. Fill the bag only half full, so you can move easily and, with any luck, sit down.
Get a shower cap or swim cap and a plastic plant with tons of small leaves. Staple enough plant material to cover the cap. Wear brown clothes so you’ll look like a terra cotta pot. Carry a watering can to hold your treats. So funny!
- MORE: This Halloween Go Cheap
Paint your whole face with white grease paint. With black eyeliner, draw numbers on your face, including appropriately located clock hands that start from your hose. Go ahead and gel up your hair and slick it back. Silly, right? And that’s what will make you so unique.
Mr. Potato Head
You can probably figure this out on your own, but just in case you need help, here are quick instructions.
Get a huge burlap bag (you might have to make it from burlap you can buy in a fabric store) that you will wear upside down so your head is covered. Cut small eye holes so you can see out and armholes near the top of the bag in a place that will make it comfortable to wear. Get some felt in Mr. Potato Head colors to cut out eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. Attach Velcro to the backs of these items and the bag so they can be applied and pulled off easily.
Wear black sweatpants or leotards. When you’re in the bag, fill it with old shirts or rags to fill out the potato shape. Wear a black hat, then let people change your “face” around all night. This is my personal favorite. Just so funny!
Gather the black clothes you don’t wear anymore for a very funny, albeit gross, costume. Paint a white dotted line down the middle of the clothes (think: road). Attach a stuffed animal or rubber chicken from the party store to the shirt. Fling some red paint on the animal. Gross as this costume might be, I think it’s a winner.
Guys: A loud Hawaiian shirt, shorts, a large straw hat. Gals: A bright, loud dress; flats; big sun hat; straw bag. Don’t forget to have a camera and maps hanging out, and the expression of being lost. Guys can use a travel agent-issued tourist bag, and gals can use the straw bag for their treats. Hilarious!
Wear anything that is a solid color. Use safety pins to attach socks, underwear, and dryer sheets to yourself. Spray your hair, so it stands straight up in the air.
Well now, wasn’t that fun? And it will be more fun if you and the kids carry through with any one of these harmless gags come Halloween night. We’d love to see pictures of how you do Halloween on a budget this year.
Question: What’s your favorite homemade Halloween on a budget costume? Any other tips or tricks you would like to share? You can do that in the comments area below!
Another easy costume is to be a zombie – choose some old clothes that are a bit worse for wear, and grubby them up by ironing in some wrinkles, and using ash, or eyeshadow to make them look a bit icky here and there. Use your makeup you already own (or craft plain mixed with a tiny bit of dish soap for easier removal) for zombifying. apply blush and any colors of eyeshadow at random to create bruises, and use lipstick and eyeliner to create stitches and wounds. Lastly, wet your hair and apply a small amount of hand soap throughout – do not rinse. Blow dry it without styling for a wild, messy look.
Facebook Marketplace is the place to go for kid’s costumes- gently used, likely only worn once and inexpensive! I’ve found lots for my grandkids this way!
if i have to buy something major for a costume, i make sure it is something i can use afterward. one year i bought blue long johns for my son. he wore his red swimsuit over them, my red knee socks for boots and a red dishtowel for a cape. i did a red s on a scrap of yellow felt and a spray can of hair dye. viola! superboy. his little brother was krypto-white, hooded sweats, the other red dishtowel and black socks pinned on for ears. superboy’s dog! another year one of them was the great american hero in red longjohns.
last year i bought flour sacking dish towels at the dollar store. i cut and painted the dishtowels to look like wings of the spotted lantern fly. worn with black pants and sweater. first prize at the senior citizens halloween party.
this year i will be bilbo baggins. borrowing a pair of those reprehensible below the knee cargo shorts and a sword from my son’s sword collection, a bright tunic top and a grey fleece cape that was given to me a few years ago. it originally had white fleece trim, but ‘widow claus’ is not a look i like, so i removed the trim. worn with a leaf brooch. the feet will take some doing–i plan on cutting toe holes in a pair of knee-highs and threading brown eyelash yarn [which i already have] through the top of the foot to imitate hobbit’s feet. i even have a ring with letters on it…
do you get the idea i love doing halloween costumes?
GREAT ideas and forethought! You are very creative and practical too. Thanks for sharing!
A few years ago a boy came to the door wearing a giant (made of cardboard) Cheerio’s box. He carried a fake plastic bloody knife. He was a cereal (serial) killer. I thought that was pretty clever.
Well, clever for sure. But appropriate? Hmmm … no.
Get a bag of smarties and tape them all over your pants. Now you’re a smarty pants . Maybe find some glasses at the dollar store and a dress shirt with a pen in the pocket
I’ve made an art of thrifted/repurposed costuming. I use items in my costume that are either part of my wardrobe or that can be reused later. I was inspired by my mother, who turned a jumpsuit into Madge the manicurist.
Many years ago our daughter painted a large square cardboard box white. Then she painted large black dots on all sides. She cut away one of the closure (folding) sides and sealed the other. Then she cut holes in the opposite two sides for her arms. Over her head it went and she became a die. Her clothing were one piece leotards, black; and heavy makeup. The next year her brother used it in the same manner wearing black clothing and a jaunty driver’s hat.