Five (Nearly) Free Halloween Costume Ideas

Mrs. Tako and I recently took a trip to our local Costco to stock up on household goods.  We make a Costco run a couple times a month, depending upon what’s needed.

The store had Halloween costumes on display and decorations out for sale.  Our kids (of course) are terribly interested in all this Halloween stuff…so I was practically required to pilot the shopping cart down the Halloween aisle for a look at all of it.

As luck would have it, by the end of the shopping trip we managed to exit the store without buying any Halloween stuff!  Small victories, right?

Later, I remarked to Mrs. Tako, “Hey, did you notice how nearly every single costume in that store was a branded character?”  It was shockingly true — nearly every single costume was a licensed character of some sort.  Many were characters from Disney, Time Warner, and other large media corporations.

There was plenty of Disney Marvel characters like Spiderman, The Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, and various X-men.  Superheroes are very popular right now, so I can understand why Costco had so many of them.

Time Warner DC Comics characters also had a good showing this year — Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman.  Heck, even Lego was in the branded costume business with Ninjago costumes!

Then, of course there’s the Disney Star Wars costumes — Storm Troopers, Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, Jedi, and others.  It is a Star Wars year after all.

I can’t forget the Disney Princess costumes either! — Elsa and Anna from Frozen are still ridiculously popular.  

And the list of characters just keeps going and going…but you must get the idea by now.  Nearly every costume sold was a licensed character of some sort!


Halloween = Profits?

When did wearing a Halloween costume become just another method to fatten the profit margins of giant corporations?  Consumerism is everywhere and in every holiday!

The Costco costumes (for children) typically retailed for around $15-$40, with branded costumes being on the higher end of that spectrum.  Certainly not terribly cheap for a single night’s entertainment, but not unaffordable either.

Back when I was a kid, we didn’t buy costumes.  We didn’t have a lot of money for unnecessary things, so I always ended up making my own costumes….and frequently my costumes were pretty terrible.  

But half the fun was in the making of them!  The creative process, and the knowledge that the costume was uniquely my own, was very rewarding.  They didn’t need to be sturdy either….the costume only had to last one night after all!


No or Low Cost Costumes!

With Halloween right around the corner, the Tako family needed to come up with costumes for the kids (without breaking the bank).  I wasn’t about to spend $30 on a costume for one night, so we decided to come up with some frugal options and show them off for some fun!

In the spirit of my terrible Halloween costumes from the past, I give you Five (Nearly) Free Halloween Costumes:

1. The Bloody Blueberry Vampire

OK, first off we have the Bloody Blueberry Vampire.  It’s a pretty simple costume — Dress your kid in black clothes, and then feed them previously frozen blueberries.  The blueberries tend to be extremely juicy and they work perfect for fake blood!  Use any excess juice for painting on ‘blood’.  It looks pretty frightening in person….especially if your child has any acting ability.

The Bloody Blueberry Vampire: A little blueberry juice — fake blood that’s super cheap.  Works every time!
2. The Pillowcase Ghost

Got a spare pillowcase or bedsheet?  Back when I was a kid, that was more than enough to make a ghost costume!  Sometimes the classics never die — You too can dress your kids in the classic “pillowcase ghost” costume!

The eye-holes might require some cutting, so be sure to use an old pillowcase or bedsheet.  Unless you don’t mind a few holes in your bed sheets…

Pillowcase Ghost
The Pillowcase Ghost: Larger kids might need a bedsheet, but for my little dude, a pillowcase was more than large enough!

3. The Toilet Paper Mummy

Mummies are great Halloween classics, and mummy costumes couldn’t be any simpler (or cheaper).  Instead of buying a mummy costume, or using lots of expensive medical bandages, just grab a roll of toilet paper!  Some toilet paper, and tape are all you need to get started wrapping!

Toilet Paper Mummy
The Toilet Paper Mummy: All you need is some toilet paper and some tape to make a convincing mummy costume!


4.  The DIY/Up-cycle Costume

Do you have any skill with a sewing machine?  It turns out Mrs. Tako is a genius behind the sewing machine.  She sews at least one Halloween costume every year for our boys, using only thrift store T-shirts and small scraps of fabric.  

Usually she completes them in just a couple nights, and they don’t cost more than a couple dollars because she uses fabric scraps.

This year she made a Spiderman costume:

DIY Spiderman Costume
DIY Costumes: If you have any skill with a sewing machine, making a costume is a great low-cost option!  Mrs. Tako is good at this…really good!


5.  The Freecycle or Buy Nothing Costume

Kids grow like weeds, and if your kids are anything like mine they WILL NOT be able to fit into this year’s Halloween costumes next year.  Talk about single use!  

Most commercially made costumes will actually last decently long time with a little care.  Like-minded frugal parents know this, and frequently contribute kids costumes from previous years into the sharing economy.  Freecycle and a local Buy Nothing group are the ones we use.

This year, from our local Buy Nothing group we generously received a spiderman and batman costume!  Yes, we ended up with two spiderman costumes this year!  It was completely accidental!

At least one (or more) of them is going to make its way back into our local Buy Nothing group.

buy_nothing  batman


It’s About Fun, Not Being Fancy

I hope you got a little laugh from this post.  My boys certainly had fun dressing up and taking all the pictures for you guys.  Some of our frugal Halloween costume ideas were pretty terrible…but making bad costumes can actually be a lot of fun for the kids!

Despite what retailers like to promote, Halloween isn’t a competition!  Costumes don’t need to cost more than a couple dollars for kids to enjoy the holiday!

 Halloween is about having fun, not spending money to impress others!  Kids grow up so fast anyway, most Halloween costumes won’t get worn more than once or twice anyway!  Instead, focus on the fun, not the spending!

Spending money on a better costume certainly isn’t going to make my kids any happier.  They have tons of fun just being silly!  

So, I ask you, why waste a whole bunch of money fattening the profit margins of giant corporations?


[Image Credit: Flickr]

13 thoughts on “Five (Nearly) Free Halloween Costume Ideas

  • October 28, 2016 at 5:16 PM

    My wife will probably kill me for sharing this. But our son just turned one. We wanted to get him a fun little outfit for Halloween so she went to a thrift store to see if there were any good costumes. She stumbled across a turtle costume for $5. It fit perfectly and when she brought it home she was look at the tag it said fits large dogs. She bought a dog costume for our son. I couldn’t stop laughing when she told me. Let’s just say we definitely got $5 worth of laughs over that 🙂

    • October 28, 2016 at 5:24 PM

      Haha! That’s awesome! I never would have thought to try used pet costumes!

    • October 28, 2016 at 5:43 PM

      Oh that is so freak’n cool! Love it! I got a really great tiger outfit for our least one at Goodwill. $4.00, and I’ll bet it was $40 new. It will serve well as a onesie all winter for him, and it makes me smile.

      • October 29, 2016 at 4:38 PM

        Count us as another who did the good will thing, at least for the older one. Younger still wears the hand me downs. Not sure how much older that will work though before younger wants to choose his own.

  • October 28, 2016 at 6:41 PM

    My mom made our costumes when we were kids. I spend money on costume parts, like a green leotard for the Poison Ivy costume I’ve worn 5 times now. I also look all year for parts to build costumes. Your kids are adorable! Have a great Halloween!

  • October 28, 2016 at 9:39 PM

    I think you’ll enjoy this one. Today was our company’s Halloween costume contest. I cut out a target and taped it to some cardboard over my desk and sat on top of my cubicle. Guess who won for Halloween Dunk Tank?

  • October 29, 2016 at 6:31 AM

    My 6-year old daughter came over while I was reading this and saw the Bloody Blueberry Vampire and asked what it was. I told her and she said “that’s a good costume” and then just walked away. 🙂

    She’s going as a witch this year, which was a real jackpot for us. We had to get a hat and we already had some face paint, but everything else was able to be pieced together ourselves.

    — Jim

  • October 29, 2016 at 12:33 PM

    Growing up we made our costumes from paper bags, cardboard boxes, sheets, and our clothes. None of this buy a $50 costume stuff – we didn’t have the money. I think it was actually more fun that way because we had fun designing our costumes and using our imaginations.

    We now have a costume bin where we keep costumes and use them throughout the year. Most of them are from thrift stores or were given to the kids as gifts. Playing dress up is fun for the kids more than just one night a year!

  • October 30, 2016 at 8:22 AM

    For the first time ever I made some of our Halloween costumes this year – I made costumes for Mr. BITA and Toddler BITA (there are pictures in my latest post). No-sew glue gun costumes, and I am inordinately proud of myself. I have twenty seven thumbs, so the fact that the costumes look vaguely like what they are supposed to and that I haven’t glued myself to the fabric counts as a win.

  • October 31, 2016 at 7:01 AM

    Right on! That is exactly how we did it when I was growing up, and how we still do it today.

    Buying a costume at the store to use just one night is such a waste, and not very original either. Making your own costume is half of the fun!


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