9 Ways to Save a Hoot of Money on Halloween Costumes for Kids

Rising smoky fog and echoing shrieks in a sugar infected candyland that reminds you that perhaps Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory could have existed in real life. Yes, it’s October once again and Halloween is fast approaching as kids eagerly strategize their trick-or-treat routes for the year. To parents however, Halloween can sometimes come with mixed emotions, particularly when it comes to the topic of Halloween costumes.

Will Tommy want to reuse a costume he had from last year that still fits? Will Sarah’s current infatuation with the color purple and princesses require several antagonizing trips to the store for the perfect costume? Things become a little stickier when the cost of these used once-in-a-lifetime Halloween costumes come to mind. For the frugal parent, saving as much money on this fun, yet unnecessary expense is important.

In hopes of making moms, dads, and kids alike content this Halloween, here are some costume saving tips to help solve this dilemma.

  • Swap costumes with other families. Trading costumes is easy and cost free.  In fact, this idea has become so popular that there is a day completely devoted to it called National Halloween Swap Day, which this year is celebrated on Saturday, October 12. It's part of the Eco Mom Alliance program that encourages costume swaps in the United States so parents can save money and be environmentally-friendly at the same time.  Find a costume swap location near you. If none of these locations are convenient for you, try asking around the neighborhood to see if there is a local costume exchange hosted in your town or create one yourself.  It can be as simple as asking friends with kids if they are interested in trading costumes, families at your child’s school, other parents on your street, people in your mommy or daddy group, church, or workout buddies at your fitness center. Libraries are another excellent place to consider since some do host costume swaps. If your library does not, suggest it as an idea to your librarian. A great youth librarian will jump at this idea, and perhaps be crafty enough to find a spooky Halloween book and an activity to coincide with this event. Free fun and free costumes make for a winning combo!
  • Sew your own costume. For those who can sew, a quick trip to fabric stores Jo-Ann or Hancock Fabrics for about 3 yards or so of fabric can help you pull together a unique Halloween costume. A decent fabric can cost from $4-6 a yard, but that’s before you apply the weekly coupons these retailers regularly send out, which can save you up to 50% off at times on one fabric. Try the clearance section and you’ll save even more. You can also get basic Halloween costume sewing patterns, such as select Simplicity SewSimple designs from pandas to clowns. These patterns are currently priced for as low as $0.97 in stores at Walmart
  • Use what you have at home. Is your son or daughter in a sport or involved in an activity that requires a uniform?  This uniform can also double as a Halloween costume. Sometimes pairing a regular outfit with the right accessories and makeup can do the trick too.  A simple long sleeve black and white striped shirt will scream prisoner when it’s worn with a prison ball and chain restrained to the leg. A fun flashy dress with some glitter to the hair and a microphone can help your daughter be a pop star for the day. Switch the microphone for a tiara and you have a princess in waiting.
  • YouTube tutorials. YouTube is great resource for cheap or no cost Halloween costume ideas. Some years ago, my brother came home and declared he no longer wanted to use the Halloween costume that I had bought him last year. I grumbled under my breath about how much money I had spent on the costume, but ultimately I decided I didn’t really want to fight about it. So we sat around brainstorming ideas. It was then that I remembered watching some YouTube tutorials on Halloween costumes and makeup. One video that stuck out to me was top makeup guru Michelle Phan’s video “Be A Ninja In 30 Seconds...I Think,” where she showed her viewers how to fold and tie a black t-shirt into a ninja mask in 30 seconds. Decked out in a matching black shirt and pants, my brother’s costume was complete. He didn’t even request that I buy him a fake sword. Now that’s success in my book!
  • Rent or buy new and used costumes from places that offer deep discounts. Think garage sales, thrift stores, and online merchants (eBay and Amazon) where you can get used costumes sometimes for as low as 50 cents to a few dollars. Some secondhand stores even rent costumes, which will save you money and storage space. Dollar stores, such as Family Dollar sell costumes starting at $10 and Dollar General and Dollar Tree are promoting Halloween masks and costume accessories for $1.
  • Sell your old costumes. Just as you would buy used costumes, selling your child’s old costumes to local used clothing stores or online sites such as eBay and Craigslist will give you the extra cash you need to invest in new ones for the year. The best time to sell these would be a month prior to Halloween or sometime during October. Think of it in terms of supply and demand. Buyers and stores will be willing to pay you more for costumes when they need it.
  • Prepare to reuse next year by buying big. If your kids are too young to remember what costume they wore last year or simply do not care, take advantage of this situation by purchasing a costume that is slightly bigger than their current size. Kids grow like weeds and just like the regular clothes you buy them, the rolling up and pinning together tips apply for Halloween costumes as well.
  • Use coupons and browse deal sites. This may seem like basic advice, but how many times do you recall yourself using printable coupons or coupon codes for a Halloween costume? Many Halloween costume codes and printables are promoted to the public as early as September through the month of October. Always search online for these goodies, register your email at specific stores you’re interested in to get the latest promotions, or keep a close eye out for advertisements sent directly through the mail. Daily deals sites such as Groupon, LivingSocial, and many others usually have bargains on Halloween costumes too.
  • Buy costumes at the last minute,after Halloween, or during the off-season. Buying the day before or day of Halloween is a riskier way to save money because you’ll have a smaller selection of Halloween costume styles and sizes to choose from. Yet, you can also save up to 50% off (depending on the store you shop at) and sometimes even more if you choose this option. The best time to get the biggest discounts on Halloween costumes is right after Halloween, where sales can range from 50-90% off the regular price. You can also get great deals on costumes when no one wants them, such as in spring and summer.  Last April, costume retailer BuyCustumes.com promoted an Annual Spring Clearance Event in which costumes were discounted up to 94% off with costumes usually priced at $50-$40 selling for as low as $10 each.

As always, with anything that involves kids, whether they are two, ten, or thirteen-years-old,  it’s always important to consider their opinion. Kids like to have a choice in what they do, including wear. Don’t force your kids to use a costume they dislike because you want to save money. Instead, provide them options to select from so they can feel empowered. Halloween can only be frighteningly fun when everyone in the family is happy.

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