This Halloween may be more scary than previous holidays. Obviously, you’re worried about the possibility of COVID-19 lurking in the shadows, but also, if you’re trying to save money, you may be worrying about how to find cool costumes for your kids, or yourself, without your bank account having a meltdown.
According to the National Retail Federation, consumer spending is expected to reach $8.05 billion in 2020 on Halloween spending, which is down from last year’s $8.78 billion (fewer people are expected to participate in Halloween). The average amount of money a consumer will spend on Halloween this year, a cost that includes candy and costumes, is $92.12. Still, if you’ve ever shopped for Halloween costumes, you already know that you could easily spend hundreds of dollars on a giant robot suit or pirate outfit. If you aren’t careful, Halloween can be about as expensive as Christmas or Hanukkah.
But fear not. With a little ingenuity and creativity, you can find, make or buy some inexpensive Halloween costumes. Here are some ideas to get you started:
— Ask friends and family for old costumes.
— Shop thrift stores.
— Tap your crafty friends.
— Make a classic ghost costume.
— Create a zombie costume.
— Search your closet.
— Shop online.
— Buy late but not too late.
— Avoid Halloween pop-up stores.
— Shop department and discount stores.
— Do a combination of the above.
— Stay thrifty this year.
[Read: Money Saving Challenges.]
Ask Friends and Family for Old Costumes
Lorie Anderson, founder of parenting resources site MomInformed.com and based in Vancouver, Washington, suggests asking friends and relatives for hand-me-down costumes.
“Every parent has at least a few old costumes in a storage tub somewhere. And who doesn’t want a chance to get rid of something from their basement?” Anderson says. “My daughter is 4 and wants to be a witch, so instead of going out and buying a witch hat, I just called my sister and asked if she still had the one my niece wore a few years back. She did and was thrilled to get rid of it. I was thrilled because I saved 10 bucks I would’ve spent at the Halloween store.”
Shop Thrift Stores
“In the age of COVID, walking into a used clothing store may not sound like the smartest decision in the world,” Anderson says. “But stores like Goodwill and Savers are back open and taking extra health precautions. I called the Salvation Army in my town to ask about their current hygiene protocols, and they’re sanitizing every item before it goes out on the floor.”
Of course, every store is different — and it matters whether the municipality and shoppers in the stores are taking the virus seriously. But if it doesn’t look safe, you can always leave.
In any case, Anderson says that the deals in thrift stores are great.
Tap Your Crafty Friends
“Call your artist friends for help making costumes,” Anderson suggests. “If you aren’t good at sewing or painting and want to make a decent costume, ask someone for help. Some people just love making things and are always down for a craft project. If you have any family members or friends like this, call them and ask for a hand.”
As payment, “you can make them some cookies or buy them dinner,” Anderson says. “Considering the price of costumes at the store these days, you’ll probably save quite a bit of money.”
Make a Classic Ghost Costume
Shayne Sherman, CEO of TechLoris.com, a website that helps people fix their personal computer problems, says, “As much as I like the tech solution, complex and convoluted, I can also do the basics well.”
He suggests grabbing a white sheet and cutting two holes in them, like, you know, the Charlie Brown gang used to do.
“And if you want to keep it COVID-friendly, then don’t cut a mouth hole,” Sherman says.
[Read: How to Save Money for Your Kids.]
Create a Zombie Costume
Why? Because it’s cheap. “This one just requires distressed, possibly bloody, clothing and scary makeup,” says Candy Keane, who writes GeekMamas.com, a parenting and lifestyle blog. Keane, who is based in Atlantic Beach, Florida, also used to own a costume store.
“You can also zombi-fy any costume,” Keane adds. “Turn last year’s outfit into the zombie version this year.”
And in case it wasn’t clear — if you go with bloody clothing, use stage makeup or ketchup.
Search Your Closet
“If you want to go with cheap and simple, then go with the basic closet costumes,” Keane says. Depending on what you have, she says you might be able to find something that could go toward a pirate costume, a witch, vampire, fortune teller, and, of course, the aforementioned zombie.
“If you are looking to buy a cheap costume, then Amazon and eBay are filled with low-priced options. However, be prepared for anything that isn’t a name brand to be a possible knock-off barely resembling the actual costume in the photo,” Keane warns. “And always pay attention to where it is coming from, because many of those are being shipped from China and take three to four weeks to arrive.”
And, of course, if you buy Halloween costumes online, remember to look for coupons and coupon codes. You also may want to utilize shopping apps like Rakuten and RetailMeNot, which will give you cash back — if you’re shopping at stores they partner with.
Buy Late but Not too Late
Michael Bonebright, a consumer analyst with the comparison shopping website DealNews.com, suggests procrastination as a savings technique.
“The closer you get to Oct. 31, the steeper the discounts often get, especially for topical or meme-based costumes. Just be aware that stock and sizes will be more limited if you wait too long,” Bonebright says.
Avoid Halloween Pop-Up Stores
“Shopping in person at a Halloween pop-up store is not the best way to save money. In general, these retailers charge more than online stores, and you’re less likely to find a coupon. Plus, they are notoriously bad about accepting returns or issuing refunds,” Bonebright says.
Shop Department and Discount Stores
You can bend yourself into a pretzel looking for cheap Halloween costume ideas and forget that you may find them at the usual discount stores, like Dollar General and Family Dollar, as well big-box department stores like Target and Walmart and warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club. Drugstores like Walgreens and CVS have them, and even your local supermarket will probably carry a few costumes along with Halloween candy.
Do a Combination of the Above
Keep in mind that if you or your kids want something really elaborate, and you plan, you could find pieces of your costume everywhere. You don’t only have to get a costume at one store. If you were dressing up as a clown, you might buy the clown makeup from some online store, the giant clown shoes on eBay, a ratty old suit at a thrift store or your closet and so on.
Stay Thrifty This Year
You might get a bunch of deals and still find that it all adds up to a lot of money. Maybe that’s not a big deal if you’re really having fun putting together Halloween costumes, but with the pandemic, Bonebright does suggest not going too crazy on your spending.
“Many towns will limit trick-or-treating this year, and Halloween parties may be subject to strict local ordinances. As such, there’s no reason to spend a ton of money on an elaborate costume in 2020,” he says. “Save your money for the bulk candy sales you’ll see on Nov. 1.”
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How to Find and Where to Buy Cheap Halloween Costumes originally appeared on usnews.com