Who says Halloween is just for kids? The truth is, the majority of Americans see Halloween as a full-on family affair. And this year, with Halloween falling on a Saturday, you may have a tad more time and motivation to get your spook on. Don’t let a tight budget hold you back either, because Halloween costumes and decorations don’t have to be expensive. Read on to get inspired by our top tips for affordable Halloween fun.
1. Hold a Halloween Supply Party
Chances are, you have a box of old Halloween stuff in a closet somewhere. Find that stash and take stock of what you have. Call up all your friends and arrange a get-together to trade out Halloween leftovers. If you have whole costumes still intact, use them to barter for for costumes previously worn by your friends or their kids. Sometimes you can dress up your whole family for free this way.
If your Halloween stash is more fragmented, try mixing and matching elements with your friends to create new costume ideas. The easy path here is to turn any old costume — nurse, pirate, police officer — into a themed zombie costume. Or, you can shop your friends’ old Halloween stuff for that last piece you need to finish your costume. As an example, I once lent a zombie bride wig to a male friend, who wore it proudly as part of his Meatloaf costume.
2. Raid Your Closets for Remnant Fabrics
Old sheets, tablecloths and drapes are super useful for inexpensive kids’ costumes. I once made my daughter a Cleopatra costume from an old drape. All I had to buy was some gold fringe and a cheap black wig. I took some scissors to the drape, and added the gold fringe to the neckline and waistline. She borrowed a pair of my bedazzled sandals and was good to go.
I will admit that when my kids were little, it was much easier to buy costumes than make them. If you’re in that frame of mind, take a trip to a Kmart store or see Kmart.com/Halloween for a huge selection of costumes, from Minions to Marvel’s Avengers. You know the price will be right, and your little ones are sure to find a costume they’ll love.
3. Choose Characters with Easily Recognizable Elements
My homemade Cleopatra costume was successful because the Egyptian princess is a distinctive character. The black bob with bangs, combined with a white, flowy dress and gold accents pretty much told the story.
The simplest way to put together a good costume without spending too much is to pick a character with highly recognizable elements. My favorites from Halloweens past? Pippi Longstocking and Dorothy from Wizard of Oz. Pippi’s gravity-defying braids are instantly recognizable, and Dorothy’s known for red sparkly shoes and her little dog Toto. I transformed my daughter Megan into Pippi with red hair paint, black mascara for the freckles and a coat hanger to hold up the braids. And my daughter Jessica once delivered a convincing performance as Dorothy with red sparkly shoes, a blue denim dress with straps, and a leftover Easter basket with a stuffed dog in it.
4. Remember that Last-Minute is OK
The last time Halloween fell on a Saturday, my family and I decided sometime that afternoon to create a haunted house. We didn’t buy any supplies; we created our masterpiece entirely from stuff we had sitting around. My husband found a roll of thick black plastic, fluorescent spray paint, and fake spider webbing in the garage. We sprayed fluorescent orange and pink polka dots all over the black plastic and covered our front porch with it. We cut holes in the plastic so our daughters could stand behind it with their heads sticking out, for a creepy floating-head look.
Once it got dark, we turned on a black light and some haunted house music. We also left the front door open so our big dog would bark at everyone who walked by.
The piece de resistance to our impromptu haunted house was a table we put on the porch with a head sitting on it — my head, actually. We cut a hole in the table and I sat underneath it with my head sticking out. I had a tablecloth was draped around my neck to cover up the hole. And of course, I had on a black wig (the former Cleopatra wig) and white, ghostly makeup. We dumped a bunch of candy on the table around my head.
My husband gave all the little kids candy, but when older kids would walk up to the porch, he’d point at the table. My daughters and I would just stare at them silently as they walked up to collect their treats. I’d wait until they got really close and then scream or grunt randomly. Yes, we took it on as a family mission to scare our neighbors! Good times.
A note here is that Halloween is the only time it’s OK to dress your kids in plastic and grunt at strangers.
5. Don’t Buy Halloween Candy at the Grocery Store
My grocery store charges more for Halloween candy in October than any other time during the year. Maybe it’s different in your neck of the woods, but my rule is never to buy Halloween candy at the grocery store. Kmart has your favorite candy on sale between October 25 and 31 — snag two Hershey, Mars or Nestle fun-size for $5 while supplies last.
6. Take Advantage of Community Events
Unless you have a tight-knit neighborhood, it can be stressful to take your little ones trick-or-treating. Remember you can look to community events to provide a safer, but still spirited Halloween. Local malls and community centers typically have Halloween events.
You can also make Kmart your destination for Halloween fun. The first 100 kids 12 years old or younger receive a free fun-size candy bar at every Kmart store on Halloween. If you wear your costumes, you’ll also get a coupon for 5% off your total purchase of $30 or more that day.