Halloween costumes on the cheap

With Halloween looming less than two weeks away, it’s crunch time for Richmonders facing the crucial costume decision: How do we get big looks without shelling out big bucks?

With Halloween looming less than two weeks away, it’s crunch time for Richmonders facing the crucial costume decision: How do we get big looks without shelling out big bucks?

Here are some ideas for cutting costume costs:

If at all possible, DIY. Not only do homemade costumes score points for low cost, they also provide the opportunity to be one-of-a-kind.

I come from a proud family of makers; my very first costume was a Pampers box:

(The wee Alison, getting into the Halloween spirit.)

Through the years, I was also a Colonial America girl, a hobo, a cat burglar, and Abraham Lincoln. All were created from craft supplies and our well-stocked dress-up box.

If I had any confidence that I could get my toddler to wear a party hat, this year he would be dressed as one of his much-beloved Crayola crayons: wrap some blue construction paper around the pointy hat, blue shirt, blue pants, blue shoes, and some hand-made “Crayola” signs on front and back complete the look. (His favorite color is actually purple, but his wardrobe is a little light on purple clothes.)

Fortunately for those born without the creative gene or who just need something to spark it, the Internet is brimming with clever, cheap DIY ideas for creating your own killer styles. And thankfully for those of us who are creatively-challenged, many include simple, step-by-step instructions.

A few resources:

Then there’s the hybrid approach, a la Sandra Lee of Semi-Homemade Cooking fame. Purchase one key piece around which you can build a costume, without having to buy a full ensemble. The right mask, glasses, or weapon can make a costume theme instantly clear. Start the search at low-price stores like the Dollar Tree or 5 Below, which carry cheap accents that can complete a look. And don’t forget non-traditional sources, like chains from the hardware store.

Sometimes pre-fab outfits are the way to go. For instance, it’s tough to match the cute factor of store-bought infant costumes. Those little pea pods and bumblebees get me every time!

If you’re buying a costume, there’s another decision to make between new and used. Costumes make a great second-hand buy because they’re often only worn once. Children’s consignment stores usually put out their costume stock out in September on a preset date. Sign up for the email lists to hear about first picks in the future. Thrift stores, Craigslist, eBay, and friends are other possibilities explore for scoring second-hand.

Going the new route, timing is everything. Buying retail is best done last-minute when retailers begin to despair of selling their stock and mark it down. Last year, Old Navy held a sale the weekend before Halloween and priced kids costumes $5. The weakness to this strategy is you have to be flexible and choose from what’s left.

Lastly, adults looking for specific, elaborate get-ups should look into renting. At Premiere Costumes in Carytown, costume rentals start at around $25.

Don’t forget the camera!

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Alison Brown

Check out more of Alison’s stellar cost-cutting tricks and tips over at Richmond Bargains or follow her on Twitter. Your wallet is sure to thank you.

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