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Frugal Costume Ideas

Category Costumes
When dressing up for Halloween, a masquerade or a costume ball, you can save money by using your imagination.


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I need cheap, free, or homemade costume ideas for Halloween.

By BargainGirl from Greenville, SC


September 18, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

I made my g-daughter into a" Bag of Groceries" I used a store's brown bag, cut out the bottom and slit the bag up the back to wrap around her. I didn't do arm holes as the bag hung below the arms and stayed on by hot gluing an old fabric belt cut to size for shoulder straps. Then I filled it with "products", like cutting out the fronts of boxed items (different sizes) and layering them every which way around the body of the bag and glued them together in batches. I found smaller items to glue up and down the straps (empty Jello boxes, pet food treat containers, a toothpaste box, etc). I took a ketchup bottle, cleaned it and inserted a piece of red construction paper to give it color and put the bottle into the body of the bag). Then I paper-clipped a bunch of coupons to the front of the bag along with a long register receipt that was dangling out. Her head was covered with a white knit cap and an empty bag of sugar placed upside down on her head. Cut the flaps to lay flat for using bobby pins to hold it in place. (Just wear something neutral underneath). Everyone loved her costume! Carrying one of those recycled totes from the store for getting treats completes the outfit. This outfit cost was ZERO, too :D---a little imagination goes a long way!

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September 21, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

There are lots of costumes you can make from old clothes. Try a hippie, if you have torn jeans, a vest, lots of love beads, a scarf for a belt.


A tramp, out of whatever ragged things you can devise, use a broomstick and a bag of "something" on a stick so it looks hobo-ish.
A farmer, jeans, plaid shirt, straw hat or cap.
A maid, dress, apron, tray with dishes on it.
Cowboy, if you have the appropriate hat, and boots are a bonus, otherwise jeans, shirt, vest, hanky around neck, maybe a hobby horse.

Ask your kids for ideas, if they are school age. My son once dressed up as the "chensopater". I didn't know what that was (a word he made up) , but we used things we had, big hat, cape, ragged pants and shirt, he put together the costume and was thrilled.

Just a reminder that face paint is always better than a mask for trick or treating (unless you are the Lone Ranger, he has to have a mask! LOL)

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

September 16, 2010

I am looking for ideas for easy and inexpensive, yet unique, Halloween costumes. Thank you.

By Deborah Tatroe from Nederland, TX


Frugal Costume Ideas


Bicycle shops give away old tubes. Get one or even two or three, paint them the colors of a child's favorite cereal. For example: tan for cheerios, or one red, one blue and one green for fruit loops. Then have the child dress in all white. Cut out a large, maybe 20" long depending on the size of the child, spoon from a cardboard box, cover with foil, and there you go; a bowl of cereal costume!

Another idea-

Buy a large balloon, blow it up and tie it, then secure it to a headband. Take an old pillowcase and paint it like a package of gum. Cut a hole in the closed end for the child's head and one in each side for the arms. You don't have to be fancy with the paint job, just paint the words bubble gum in big letters on front and back of the pillow case. You could use a large T-shirt instead of the pillowcase. Have fun. (10/09/2009)


By Ann Winberg

Frugal Costume Ideas

Using a set of sweatpants and a hoodie (in a neutral color you can make any sort of animal costume), sew on or glue on felt to add spots, stripes, etc. Make ears of whatever shape the animal has, add a tail if appropriate, and use an eye pencil to add some whiskers to your child's face. After Halloween you can remove all the spots and stuff if stitched on and continue to use the sweats. Pajama sleepers work equally well, but you'll need a hat or headband to attach ears. (10/11/2009)

By Linda L.

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October 6, 2009

Frugal Costume Ideas

Halloween is coming! Here are some inexpensive costume ideas and a recipe for face paint. Hope you all have a safe and happy Halloween.

  • Ghost: This is always an inexpensive costume. Just cut holes in an old sheet. If you don't have an old one, I found a twin size one at a discount store for $3.00. We cut holes in it, drew on some chains, spider web, etc.. with a permanent marker.
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  • Angel: Use a sheet like for the ghost, spray it lightly with some clear spray paint and toss glitter on it before the paint has a chance to dry. Make a halo and the wings out of clothes hangers covered with aluminum foil.

  • Nerd: My son won first place last year with this costume. Too small pants, shirt buttoned up wrong, hair slicked back, old pair of glasses with tape, white socks, BIG book to carry under his arm. Cost was ZERO.

  • Bum or Hobo: Old clothes, dad's garden or old work clothes are great, old hat, use watercolor paint to put beard on him.

  • Clown: Use mismatched over sized or too small clothes from everyone's escape the cost of a wig, make a hat from construction paper or use an old one, decorate it outlandishly with flowers, pins, etc...
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  • Ninja: Black clothes, my son who is eleven used a pair of stretch pants of mine that were to small for me, they were baggy just like ninja clothes. Make a ninja mask out of a small scrap of black cloth. Instead of buying make believe weapons, make them out of card- board and color and cover with aluminum foil - easy to make Ninja stars, knife. Use long stick or old broom handle for a bow, take two paper towel rolls, connect with piece of twine, cover them with black construction paper and you have num-chucks.

  • Tourist: loud clothes, camera, hat, maps sticking out of every pocket, use your imagination.

  • Princess: Use one of mom's old slips, hem and take up enough to fit little girl. You can get sparkly netting at a discount store for between 75 cents and $1 a yard. 2 or 3 yards attached to the bottom half of the slip will make a billowy skirt. Use a long length of it doubled and wrap around the shoulders, clasp it with a pretty pin. Mom's jewelry and makeup add the finishing touch.

  • Soldier or Hunter: Living in the south, everyone we know has camouflage clothing, just piece together what ever combination you want, apply some paint to the face. We borrowed a canteen, compass and backpack from a friend we was a boy scout.

  • Rock Star: Torn clothes, spike their hair using hair spray. Make jewelry with safety pins, clip on earrings, the dog's collar :)....paint their face with makeup... Only thing we bought was some spray on hair coloring.

  • Hippie: old clothes, sandals. We dyed our own shirt by using some old fabric paint that would not squeeze out of the bottle good, cut the top off and mixed it with water and dipped the shirt in then drew symbols on it with a permanent marker. Top off the outfit with a bandanna, sun glasses and a pack of cigarettes (deck of cards) rolled up in the sleeve.

  • The above are printed with kind permission from Dollar Stretcher (

  • 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

  • Sea Urchin: Green Army T shirt and rummaged 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 taped them to our front door to make a skeleton. 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.

  • A Present: 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!

  • Witch: 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 and 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 and legs and cinched at the waist. Add your own witch's hat, a broom, some black boots and you're ready.

  • Alien: Add any glittery shirt to leggings or use a one piece jumpsuit. Add alien ears of your choice.

  • Dr. Seuss: 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 reuse most of it.

  • The Little Ghost: Another cute costume I made to fit a toddler. I 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

  • Evita Peron: Blonde hair slicked back into a tight bun, twin set sweater, simple skirt, high heels and make-up. Feign a Spanish accent.

  • Fidel Castro: Army fatigue, salt-n-pepper beard, cigar, army boots, green cap. A copy of an appropriate book by Marx or Mao is helpful.

  • 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!

  • Unicorn: 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.

  • Three Blind Mice: 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 dime store plastic sunglasses, and voila! Three blind mice! If you do any hiking, you can use your staff for a "cane".

  • Tony the Tiger: 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!

  • Batman: Use either a black or blue sweat shirt and add Batman insignia and a blue or black cape

  • Parrot: I am starting with a yellow sweatshirt and will sew on "feathers".

  • A Snowman: I bought a white sweatshirt and pants. We painted his face white, black around eyes and an orange nose.He wore mittens and a matching knit hat. For "coal" buttons, I cut circles of sticky backed black felt that could be removed easily off of his sweat shirt after Halloween. This costume worked well because he stayed warm all night while trick or treating and then we were able to use everything all winter.

  • The Baby New Year: All you need is a diaper and a banner with the current year.

  • A Baby: A pair of footie pajamas, a baby bottle and a pacifier on some ribbon around the neck.

  • The Ace Of Spades Or Dice: Two pieces of poster board held together by a piece of String. Draw on and color in the Ace or a pair of Dice. Underneath, you can wear a white sweat-suit.

  • The Tin Man: Some cardboard tubes to fit around legs and arms. A tube large enough to fit around the body, all of these should be painted silver. A funnel for a hat and some silver face paint and there you go. Don't forget his heart, paint it right on the front of the body tube.

  • Mad Scientist: Old lab coat, pocket protector, hair that is teased until it stands on end, calculator. The effect is better is you wear a dress shirt and tie and dress pants. Also mis-match socks and dress shoes.

  • Hula Dancer: Take an old sheet and dye it green or if you have a green sheet, even better. Cut the old sheet in strips and tie strips onto a piece of rope. If this costume is to be used for a child, make sure that the strips are only long enough to cover the ankle. A tie-dyed tee shirt and a flower lei complete the outfit.

  • Graduate: Shop your local thrift store or talk to your latest graduate and get their cap and gown. Add your own tassel if you are an adult or make one out of yarn for a youngster. A scroll made out of a piece of paper rolled up and tied with a ribbon completes this costume.

  • Pirate: A cut off pair of jeans, a bandanna or bandanna type fabric to tie around the head, a white long sleeve shirt (girl tied up, boy tucked in), a pair of high topped boots, a piece of fabric to put through belt loops to use as a sash. A sword cut out of cardboard and painted silver and brown.


Use leotards for girls as a costume base.

  • Black: cats, cow, dogs, panther
  • White: cat, horse, unicorn
  • Brown: puppy, rabbit, butterfly or moth, caterpillar

Face Paint

  • 2 Tbsp. white shortening
  • 5 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. white flour
  • 3-4 drops of glycerin (see note below)
  • a few drops of food coloring

Use a rubber spatula to blend the first 3 ingredients on a plate to form a smooth paste. Add 3-4 drops of glycerin to make a creamy consistency. Divide mixture into batches to color as needed.

For dark beards, mustaches, etc. add 2 1/2 tsp. of cocoa to above mixture. Heat is an enemy for this type of face paint as it will melt if child gets sweaty, but it *is* fast, easy and cheap. Remove with a little soap and water.

NOTE: Glycerin is available in pharmacy departments. It's in a small brown bottle, often located in the first aid section. It's quite inexpensive and can be used to make a very good homemade bubble solution.

*** I checked with Poison Control about the "lick-ability" of the glycerin in this recipe and they say that though glycerin has a laxative effect in quantity, a few drops wouldn't hurt a child even if he/she eats the entire batch! It's smart, however, to avoid the area around eyes and mouth.

By Debra from Colorado Springs, CO


Frugal Costume Ideas

What amazing idea for costumes! Thanks for taking the time to write it all out. (10/28/2006)

By Brigitte

Frugal Costume Ideas

Wow, no one came up with a nun costume? Wear all black, carry a ruler, and stick a skirt on your head. ;) (10/29/2006)

By Viv

Frugal Costume Ideas

All good ideas! (10/21/2007)

By betty

Frugal Costume Ideas

Sheer curtains over white or gray sweats make an ethereal and safe (see through) ghost costume. Use safety pins to tack the curtain, in folds, to the sweats. (10/22/2007)

By Doris

Frugal Costume Ideas

Hickory Dickory Dock, the rhyme. Take one box, spray paint with brown paint a few days in advance, add numbers that can be bought from dollar store, make into clock shape, add small mice that are cat nip toys and do up and down the clock. On the back say the rhyme. Big hit at my sons pre-k. (01/14/2008)

By amy

RE: Frugal Costume Ideas

Frugal Costume Ideas

My 10-year-old wanted to be Wednesday Addams for Halloween, but I didn't feel like shelling out $30 for the costume in the store. We found a short black flippy skirt of her sister's, a black long-sleeved shirt and put a white pointy-collar top underneath. Black tights, black flats and her hair in braids completed the costume. I also basted some silver buttons down the front of the black top and painted her fingernails black. (10/29/2008)

By Leigh Sasser

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