Halloween.  I used to despise this holiday, even as a child.  But somehow the minute I became a parent, I immediately wanted to dress up my child in the cutest outfit and prance him around our neighborhood and community events.  That first year I was completely unprepared (which is unlike me in so many ways) and waited until about a week before to find him the cutest costume ever made.   I scoured stores for a suitable costume and came up with one I was only half-heartedly happy about, not to mention appalled at the price for a one-time use costume.

Costumes are expensive, and you are lucky if you get to use them more than once.  So why shell out the money year after year?  If you have some time and you start early enough, you can save a few bucks.  But if you wait until the last minute, it seems that you pay too much (more than planned anyway) on something you really didn’t want in the first place.

In light of the occasion, I came up with a few ideas on how you can save on costumes this Halloween and next.

Online Resources

When it comes to Halloween, I start early.  I check Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace daily for new entries, checked out the ones that appealed to me and finally found the perfect costume, a chicken (or a baby rooster, in his case).  It was $10 for a brand new costume that we were fortunate enough to use two years in a row (we decided on a costume that was sized for 1-2T, so it was slightly big the first year and perfectly sized the second).  If you live in an area with a good Craigslist community, then you will be able to find costumes for next to nothing.  Some will be lemons, but I guarantee that if you have some patience you can find a quality costume from a previous year (that was probably only used ONCE, or in my case, brand new with tags still intact).

Another good resource is eBay, though it takes more time (and patience). Of course it can be more expensive than Craigslist, but the selection is much better.  If you really start early, you can play the “watching” game and bid on items that you like, setting a predetermined spending cap.  But if you are in a pinch, you can search through the Buy It Now options or the ones that are ending soon.  (Remember to add shipping costs.)

Start now for next year’s costume to get ahead of the game.  You can usually get even better prices (marked way down) the day before, the day of, and the days following Halloween, and not just on the shelves at your local store.  How many people are actually bidding on costumes after Halloween on eBay?  Not many.  If a listing/auction ended but the item went unsold, don’t be afraid to contact the sellers to see if they would be willing to strike a deal.  Same with Craigslist.  Just email the seller and ask if their costume is still up for grabs.

Halloween Costumes

Consignment Shops

Consignment shops can be a great place to find used Halloween costumes.  Again, you may want to shop early to find the best selection.  Most costumes have been worn only a few times, so it is a great way to find costumes at a bargain price.


You can reuse the same costume from a previous year, if it still fits, and even revamp it a bit.  If you have an older child, see if you can dig up past costumes for the younger siblings to reuse.  Or try swapping one with a friend.

Halloween Costumes

Make Your Own

Last year was the first time I decided to attempt making my own costume for my son, and I am not a crafty person.  In fact, I have no creative bone in my body.  At all.  So if I can do this, so can you.  It was so easy, we saved tons of money, and I was so satisfied with the results, that I have decided to home-make all of my kids’ costumes from here on out.

You can make this as simple or as elaborate as you want.  If you know how to sew or know a friend that can help you, then that’s a plus.  Unfortunately, that is not to case with me, so I had to be more creative.  There are so many amazing things you can do with boxes.  My son really wanted to be a train engineer that year and all we had was a cap, some overalls, and a train whistle.  The afternoon before trick-or-treating, I came up with a better plan.  I saw a box and had a vision.  I cut out holes, added construction paper (we didn’t have paint available), and some paper plates for wheels.  My husband later added some duct tape for a “handle” and some wheels at the bottom so that it would roll along and be easier to maneuver.  It worked and though a bit rough, everyone loved it wherever we went.  At a radio show costume contest event, I even heard the DJ say that the homemade costumes were by far the best ones.  I agree.

Halloween Costumes

Want to make your own, but are out of ideas?  Look around your house and closet for some inspiration.  You don’t have to settle for a ghost made from a white sheet or even a hippie or rapper.  You can search the internet for some really fun ideas.  Places like eHow have of step-by-step instructions on lots of great and not-so-typical costumes.   Since I don’t know how to sew, I improvise on some of them.  I’ve been so inspired by all the ideas I found that I am also making him a dog costume for pretend play at home.

This year I contemplated a few I found, but my son ultimately chose his favorite, the frog prince.  I will be using this as a base and adding a few fun touches by combining this one.  My daughter can be the fairy princess.  I can’t wait to start on it this week!

You could also upcycle some old clothes and make them into a zombie type costume, simply by adding some paint. Check out my daughter’s Zombie Ballerina costume simply using an old ballet outfit and some paint!

DIY Zombie Ballerina Costume

I think I can “convince” my son next year to be this toothbrush amidst all those sugary treats!  I can dress up my daughter as the tooth fairy, my husband can go as some toothpaste (I’ll have to really get creative with this one), and the dogs can go as cavities.  How?   Make a tooth out of cardboard that they can stick their heads through.  Their dark heads become the cavity on that tooth.  What do you think?  And as for me?  I’ll just be the photographer.

Do you have any money saving tips or easy and cost-effective costume ideas to share?

Valerie, a God-fearing coach’s wife and stay at home mom of five bright-eyed little ones.   She is the original founder of A Nation of Moms, a “one-stop shop” blog-azine of resources and advice for all moms who, like Valerie, just needed a little help.