Get prepared to be scared!
Fun, Yet Frugal, Halloween: Costumes, Decorations, and Party Games
TDS Reader Solutions
Family Halloween Costumes
Tricks that Treat Your Wallet Right
Trick or Treat 'Em: Halloween Decorations
Dorothy, a Sea Urchin & the Energizer Bunny
I used to work at a job that required wearing costumes from time to time. Here is what I did on short notice, twice:
- To appear as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, I scoured the local thrift shops for a blue and white dress, took two lengths of doll hair for hair extensions, emptied the yarn out of my knitting basket and stuck a stuffed dog toy in it. Not authentic, but it suggested the character enough that everyone knew who I supposed to be. The cost? $5 for the dress.
- When told to dress 'in an underwater theme', I pulled on my old Army pants (which I paint in), a green t-shirt, and rummaged in my quilting supplies for old green material. I tore the material in strips, and either tied the strips on or attached them with safety pins. I smeared green make-up on my face and arms, put my hair in little pigtails, and I was a sea urchin.
One of my most popular Halloween costumes was the Energizer Bunny. I borrowed my roommate's huge Tupperware cake holder for a drum, and used my cat's harness and leash to hold the harness. I made drumsticks using two pencils and two wooden beads. My only purchase was the bunny ears.
My point is to work with what you have, or see what is in the local Salvation Army that can be transformed. At work, we had lots of clothes in our Tickle Trunk that could be worked into anything. A satin dress can be wrapped around your head to become a turban, for example. Being a pack rat has its uses; I can usually find at least two uses for all the stuff in my crafting supplies.
Here's a quick and easy tip for a cheap Halloween costume that I learned years ago. To create a witch: Mix a drop or two of green food coloring with any light to medium shade of base makeup & mix. Apply to face. This also works well when creating an alien face. To finish the witch cheaply you can use a black plastic garbage bag with a hole cut for arms & legs and cinched at the waist. Add your own witch's hat , a broom, some black boots and you're ready. For the alien, add any glittery shirt to leggings or use a one piece jumpsuit. Add alien ears of your choice. Happy Haunting!
Dr. Seuss & the Little Ghost
In looking through all the catalogs that come our way, I get a lot of ideas for costumes that won't cost a small fortune. This year my son saw the Dr. Seuss costume - 39.95 in the catalogs, we got a cat in the hat hat from a local carnival (friends may have these laying around), used a black sweat suit as a base, add white gloves and a white piece of felt attached to the neck area - all done at a reasonable price and we can ruse most of it. Another cute costume I made to fit a toddler, took a white piece of cloth, cut a neck hole and used fabric Halloween appliques and fabric paint to make a friendly ghost. The costume fit over a winter coat, a plus in the unpredictable mid-west, and fit for several years. Lastly, a friend purchased a costly Winnie the Pooh costume, her daughter wore it for 4 years but no longer can, so my daughter will wear it this year. Many costumes are at used clothing stores and yard sales!
A Special Celebration
We don't like the way the children in our neighborhood behave on Halloween (pushing, swearing, ruining people's property, etc.) so we have our own special celebration. We decorate a Halloween tree (pumpkin lights, ghosts made from tissue paper, etc.) and on Halloween night we sit around the tree telling ghost stories, reading Halloween books out loud for the whole family to hear and we sing Halloween songs. We have a fire going in the fireplace to add to the festive mood. Then my children go to bed, but not before putting out little "treat bags" for the Great Pumpkin. While they are asleep, the Great Pumpkin (yes, we stole the idea from Charlie Brown!) comes and fills their little bags with a few candy bars and some little trinkets, like Halloween socks, a little book or a bracelet. Naturally, we dress up for our little family celebration. It has a lot of meaning for us as we are able to bond so well during little festivals like this, plus we can control how much candy they get and what thoughts are put into their little heads!
One of my kids favorite costumes was a skeleton. They wore black sweatsuits and white gloves. I cut bones out of white contact paper, peeled the back paper off and just stuck them on. Painted their faces white and black, and off they went! When they were done, I peeled the "bones" off the sweatsuit and they wore the suits all winter! I also used the same "bone" pattern to cut bones from paper plates (the cheap, 100 plates for 99 cents kind) and tape them to our front door to make a skeleton. (The pattern came from an old book by Dian Thomas - sorry I don't remember the name. I "laminated" them with clear contact paper just because I don't like to cut them out every year, but they are so inexpensive, you can consider them disposable. This idea is so cute, my public library used it for several years.
The easiest costume (and cheapest) I ever made was when my daughter was about seven. I got a big box, took off the bottom, cut holes for arms and head, and wrapped in in gift wrap. Then I taped ribbon around it, and tied lots of curly ribbons in her hair. She went as a present. Everyone raved about how cute and clever the costume was. I was thrilled that, after years of sewing, one with so little effort got such a result!
Cherie J. in Michigan
Brain Salad & A Mummy Relay
Halloween is a big favorite at our house and we go all out! I have a few very simple and inexpensive ideas for your next Halloween Party:
One dish you could serve that is pretty simple is a brain salad: boil plenty of elbow macaroni, making sure to add food coloring to the water (adding several will usually get you a nice icky shade of grayish-brown). Drain it well and dump it into a bowl with high sides and really tamp it down so it gets compact. Refrigerate it and unmold it right before your party. This really looks like a brain! You can serve it in slices with any type of pasta sauce you like - it's easy to come up with names, such as witches blood for red sauce or batwing sauce for alfredo with mushroom, etc.
For games, I don't know how silly you want to get, but my husband and I made up a game we called Toilet Paper Mummy Relay. It's simple and hilarious. You divide people up into teams (how many teams you need depends on how many people are there) and have them line up in single file, leaving a large open area. You hand a roll of cheap toilet paper to the second person in line on each team. Blow the whistle and have the first person run across the open space and stand at the spot you have designated with his/her arms out and legs spread. The second person then runs to this person, the future mummy, and tries to cover them with toilet paper and "mummify" them. Then the mummy takes the roll of paper and runs it back to the head of the line while the second person waits for the third one in line to run back with the paper and make him a mummy. You continue this until the whole team has had been mummified with toilet paper.
This is absolutely hilarious because the toilet paper is impossible to make stay on and by the end of the line, the people are practically throwing toilet paper at their mummy while they're staggering back in line. Obviously, the first team who is mummified and sitting down in line is the winner. This was the big hit at our last party and had us all in hysterics. You'll need lots of t.p. which means lots of t.p. to clean up!
Another simple game is to tie an apple on a string and hang it from the ceiling...you play it the same way you bob for apples, but it's way funnier (and harder) but less messy and won't ruin costumes or the floor.
Andrea D. in Port Hueneme
Shop for party supplies and decorations at The Oriental Trading Company!
'Hand Made' Ice and More
Instead of standard ice cubes, freeze your punch ingredients in rubber gloves (unpowdered) for that "Hand-made" eye-catching punch bowl.
Small children can decorate paper sacks crafted into cowboy vests etc. using construction paper cutouts, fringing the edges, crayons, markers.
Please make sure children can see adequatley through their masks for safety reasons. Better yet, use face paint instead of masks.
I used to give away homemade treats such as cookies or popcorn balls and would include a return address mailing label to allay parent's fears of tainted homemade products.
Spider Webs and Coin Treats
- Use the tape from old cassettes to make spider webs. You can drape them all over the room, and you only need one or two to get great coverage.
- For trick or treaters, we hand out foreign coins accumulated in our many travels. While this isn't necessarily frugal, it is fun, and it is a lot less fattening than candy (especially since we don't get many trick or treaters in our area).
Crayons & Unicorns
Use leotards for girls as a costume base.
Black: cats, cow, dogs, panther
White: cat, horse, unicorn
Brown: puppy, rabbit, butterfly or moth, caterpillar
Any color leotard can be a CRAYON! Dress in matching leotard and tights. Get a piece of poster paper and create the paper "wrapper". Spray paint a flower pot as the crayon "point" to wear as a hat. The only down side of this outfit is that you can't sit down in the crayon once you put on the wrapper!!!
Very cheap, very quick and easy! (Our 6 year old is going to be a unicorn this year. I am making a yarn "mane", "tail" and a fabric horn to wear on her head (kind of like a skinny party hat!) Total cost: $5 for yarn and remnant for horn, and a new pair of tights.
Deb in Maryland
Three Blind Mice
We haven't used this yet, but I thought it was a good idea for a family of 3 (the size of mine). Got some old gray sweats? How about baseball caps? Sew long tails on the sweatpants, glue a couple of ears on each cap and get 3 pair of cheapo dimestore plastic sunglasses, and voila! Three blind mice! If you do any hiking, you can use your staff for a "cane." Also, if you don't live in a cold climate, you can substitute a tshirt for the sweatshirt.
Tony the Tiger
My mother usually made our costumes when I was a kid. I feel guilty if I don't make my son's outfit. However, I have a demanding job and long commute. Two years ago when my son was three, he said he wanted to be a tiger. I went to the local consignment store and bought a yellow shirt with hood about 5 sizes too big (it went past his knees). I sewed ears on the hood and made a yellow tail which I stuffed and attached in the logical place. I also sewed on a white muslin piece on his chest. I took black permanent marker and made tiger markings over the whole thing.
He wore a black turtle neck under it and black sweat pants and was too cute!
I think hooded sweatshirts or tshirts are great costume starters. I had Batman all planned last year until someone told my son I had the wrong color sweatshirt (now I know there are two Batman colors-black and blue--and even more if you look at the new ones in the store).
He wants to be a parrot this year so I am starting with a yellow sweatshirt and will sew on "feathers".
Around September each year I start buying a lot of large second or third hand sweatshirts in different colors. I cant go wrong--if they don't end up as a costume he can wear them in a few years!
Take the Next Step:
- No time for a DIY costume this year? Shop the newest costumes available at HalloweenCostumes.com!
- Create more Halloween fun on a dime.
- Need Halloween ideas for teens?
- It's tough raising kids today! You need every time and money saving idea you can find. That's why you'll want to get our free weekly Dollar Stretcher for Parents newsletter. You'll find great ideas designed just for parents that will help your family 'live better...for less'! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.
We're still paying off last Christmas and worry how we'll afford the holidays this year without charging it again! Tell us: Yes, we could use help getting out of the debt trap we're in! or No, debt is not a problem for us but I'm always looking for ways to trim my family's expenses further!