How to Buy Halloween Costumes and Not Break the Bank Plus a Giveaway!

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Halloween Costumes

If you didn’t know this already, Halloween is a little less than three weeks away which means it’s time to buy Halloween costumes – especially if you have kids. The problem is that Halloween costumes can cost a pretty penny, if you allow them to and can be a challenge when you want to be frugal. We spend $8 billion on Halloween costumes in the States. I mean there are even quizzes that help you find the right costume! That averages out to right at $30 per family. I don’t know what size family they’re study examines, but it can easily get out of hand, though there are ways to get around that if you’re creative. If Halloween costumes aren’t your thing, stick around for the end of the post as you’ll be glad you did.  🙂

Look Around the House


We did this all the time when I was growing up and it can be a great way to save money on Halloween costumes. The key is to think creatively and be willing to use whatever you find towards the costume. From a simple white sheet to be a ghost to a wide variety of other options, the sky really is the limit as to what kind of costume you can come up with. Particularly if you are crafty, put your creative skills to use to buy the raw materials you need and then construct Halloween costumes yourself. You’ll save some money that way and feel more invested in the final product.

Shop Last Minute for Your Halloween Costumes


If you’re a closet Wal-Mart shopper like we are you’ll know that they often discount their Halloween costumes by up to 50% off as the holiday approaches. There are drawbacks to this though as the selection can be pretty limited in both sizes and costumes. But, it can also mean that you can score a pretty nice Halloween costume and get it for fairly cheap if you’re willing to look. Consignment shops and semi-annual sales are also a great way to find Halloween costumes that are deeply discounted, especially for kids. Mrs. Frugal Rules found adorable pirate, puppy and princess costumes for the little Frugal Rules for 50-75% retail prices.

Shop the Year Before


This is one of our favorite ways to shop for Halloween costumes, or pretty much anything holiday related. We just go shopping the day after the holiday and you can often find (in this case the costumes) for upwards of 75% off or more. The only real problem is that if you’re buying for kids then you’ll have to estimate what size they’d be in, but it can be a great way to save money on Halloween costumes. One thing I will add is that many stores will not accept returns on them if you find out they don’t fit after taking it home. We ran into this problem last year when Wal-Mart would not accept the return, so we ended up with an extra Buzz Lightyear costume that we eventually sold at a consignment sale six months later. After the sale we were able to recoup our losses.

Combine With other Holidays


We’ll do this all the time with our kids. The oldest little Frugal Rule turned six a few weeks ago and she wanted an Ariel dress she had seen at Costco. The costume cost somewhere around $20 which is usually a little more than what we spend, but why not buy it and use it for both occasions? She instantly got a present for her birthday and her Halloween costume at the same time. It took care of two situations for us and meant we didn’t have to spend as much on her costume as we could split the cost.

Try Goodwill or Garage Sales


Another great option for Halloween costumes is looking at the Goodwill, second hand stores or even garage sales. You can win in multiple ways going this route as you can often find costumes that look new or even find something you never thought of as a costume idea. The one drawback is that you might have a limited selection to choose from, but you can still save a good bit of money none the less.

Costco Can Be a Great Option


I mentioned Costco earlier, but they really can be a good option. At our Costco, they usually start putting out Halloween costumes in mid to late August, which is the time to buy them there as you get more selection. We’ve found that many of the costumes can be as little as $15 and they also take returns if it doesn’t fit.

I am assuming you won’t be spending $360 on Halloween costumes if you win, so what would you spend it on and do you have any Halloween costume saving tips?

Photo courtesy of: Pets Adviser

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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to GoBankingRates, Investopedia, Lending Tree and more.


  • Shopping the year before is probably the easiest way to get a cheap Halloween costume. I did this a couple times and have always spent 50-75% less than if I had bought the costume the month before Halloween. Great to be co-hosting this giveaway with you!

  • Matt Becker says:

    We haven’t totally figured out our Halloween plans yet, but with a 1-year-old you can bet it will be pretty cheap. I’m sure it will be a little tougher once he gets older and has specific things he wants to be.

  • Great tips! And yes, another giveaway, I hope I could win this time. 🙂

  • Alexa says:

    We have costume shopped quite yet but my girls have enough princess dresses, accessories, hair things, and shoes to come up with some pretty cute costumes. I may just mix in some old with some new.

  • When I have children, we’ll be “shopping” through the piles of costumes in my parents house. As one of five children, we had quite the collection.

  • E.M. says:

    I’ve never been a huge fan of Halloween, so I never placed much importance on dressing up. I remember one year when I was maybe 4 or 5, my mom made me a tube of toothpaste. She got a bunch of felt material and made a simple costume. It was unique at least!

    • John says:

      That sounds awesome E.M. ! I am not much into it either, though that changed a lot when we had kids. We like to make it fun for them, otherwise it’s just another day to me.

  • Most of my Halloween costumes were homemade. I’m not sure how much my mom usually spent, but she did put time in at the sewing machine. I remember a few times going to the local Goodwill to shift through discarded clothes to complete my costume. As a “grown up” I don’t think I’ve spent more than $20, which is way cheaper than my peers shelling out $60-$120. I usually try to use what I already have or borrow from friends. It’s a fun frugal game!

    • John says:

      Ouch! $60-120. I know people spend that, so I don’t know why it surprise me. 🙂 A lot of my costumes were homemade as well. I think once I was 9 or 10 they all were.

  • I’ve always been a fan of swapping Halloween costumes with friends and family. That way you only have to buy one in a few years. We tend to buy more generic costumes so that they’ll fit everyone and go with what everyone wants to be for the holiday.

  • I think this year I’m going as low budget as possible. I don’t have an Halloween plans but I do pass out candy, so if I do I’ll probably just put on a red dress and some devil horns, and as far as candy I’m going to see what I can get at the dollar store. Yeah the kids are going to love me as the house that passes out crappy candy. 🙂

    • John says:

      Lol, we’re not far off from you Tonya. We’ll likely pull something out of the freezer that we bought the day after Halloween last year. They’ll love us! 😉

  • I’m not really a fan of Halloween or costumes so when I do wear a costume, I usually go as hodgepodge and wear whatever mismatched clothes I have. Usually it involves pajama pants so I’m comfortable too! 🙂

  • I actually made money on a costume this year. My Mom bought this very elaborate Tinkerbell costume from the Disney Store last year that we sold on Ebay for $34. Mom wasn’t doing the costume this year, so we bought one on Ebay for $14. $20 profit, and I think we’ll be able to sell this one for about that amount next year if we don’t destroy it.

    • John says:

      That’s not too bad at all Kim. I think we’ve done very similar in our house, though if my Mom is reading this then I take the Fifth. 😉

  • Halloween costumes can be so elaborate and spendy these days. I can remember the days of those horrible plastic masks. Totally dating myself. 🙂 We try to keep the girls’ costumes pretty cheap too by looking for sales and embellishing them with things they already own. Because the girls have become a lot more money conscious this past year, it’s nice that they are actually looking at the price tags too!

    • John says:

      Oh, I remember those masks, they would always drive our dogs absolutely crazy. That’s really cool they’re looking to be more price conscious too as those costumes can add up quickly.

  • anna says:

    I agree about shopping after the occasion for most holiday stuff – it’s amazing how drastically reduced the prices are. Going off garage sales and Goodwill, Ebay and CL are good sources, too… or just using the same costume for the past few years, but then going to different circles of friends’ parties each year. 🙂

    • John says:

      I agree Anna, it’s crazy how much the prices go down the day after. And, yes, it might be a good idea to go to a different party the following year. 🙂

  • 1. 2-year-old

    2. Old pillowcase

    3. Scissors

    4. Baby ghost

    Literally priceless 😉

    Also, 8 FREAKING BILLION ON COSTUMES?! Ridonk! Srsly.

  • krantcents says:

    Great ideas! Halloween is a young person sport! I don’rt even see trick or treat costume children anymore.

  • That photo is too funny. We don’t dress up anymore (we just dress up the dog…yes we’re “those” kind of people) but we do save money on Halloween candy by using coupons and pairing coupons with sales at the drug stores. Really enjoying this series of posts. Lots of fun ideas.

  • Ankit | Getting Money Wise says:

    I remember borrowing halloween costume from my college senior last year. He was not going to wear the same one anyway and it was as good as new for me. I am gonna try the last minute option this time i guess

  • Nice hints:) I especially like the idea re: giving costumes as gifts considering that they can be used for playtime. I’m going to be hitting the clearance sales shortly after Halloween, stocking up on costumes for future years. I’ve found that Halloween costumes often don’t come in that many sizes for little kids (for some, I’ve just seen 2T and 4T) so the estimating future size issue may not be that big of a hurdle. And the costumes can always be used for playtime. Here’s my take on the topic:

  • Gotta go with the Goodwill solution. We put together most of the cast of Wizard of Oz one year. Trick or treating with my daughter is always fun.

  • I don’t do Halloween much these days.

    However, back in the day, I would often rent my costume from the local costume shop. They would get their costumes from local theaters and rent them out for a reasonable price. So you end up with a great costume that you don’t have to worry about making, storing, or selling after you’re done with it.

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