Non-Consumer Halloween Costumes

by Katy on October 30, 2008 · 11 comments


Illustration by the ever talented Jessica Wolk-Stanley.
Illustration by the ever talented Jessica Wolk-Stanley.

I have a confession to make. I’m not super into figuring out Halloween costumes for my ten and 13-year-old sons. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they seem to change their costume goals faster than you can say alien/grim reaper/wizard/skeleton.

I’ve mostly just let the boys loose in our trunk of most excellent dress-ups in years past. They’ve usually been able to pull together a decent costume without a problem. But my 13-year-old is tall now, and has outgrown his childhood dress-ups.

So I took the boys on a tour of local Goodwill thrift shops after dinner tonight, in search of the perfect costume. The first store we hit looked like a convention of ransack-enthusiasts just blew through, leaving behind a wake of those awful holiday theme turtlenecks.


We then stopped in at my father’s house for a (clean) potty break, where we scored a loan of some creepy plastic zombie gloves. A good start, indeed.

The second Goodwill, although smaller, provided everything else we needed. A cage mask caught my son’s macabre teen eye and was bought for the low price of $2.25. A pair of thin gloves to wear inside the plastic zombie gloves were bought as my son reported that the plastic zombie-ness felt kind of gross on his hands. 

A black cape and a scythe from our personal collection completed the ensemble.

So what is my son for Halloween?

Umm . . . I’m not quite sure. But I do know it was inexpensive, simple to assemble and there was no packaging involved.

Americans will spend an average of $66.54 on their costume this year. 

We spent $3.25 including the gloves, (which my son can also wear through the winter.)

This leaves us more money for candy expenditures, which truly — is the whole point of Halloween.

What kind of costumes are your family doing this year? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy October 30, 2008 at 4:45 am

We were discussing Halloween last night “What are you going to be….” The boys will wear some Transformer costumes they scored earlier this year…even though they are pretty sure they want to be something from Star Wars. I told them if they could figure out the costumes from stuff we already had, go for it. I don’t think its going to happen, so Transformers it shall be. They told me (get this) that I can go as a baked potato and just wrap myself up in aluminum foil. 🙂


BeThisWay October 30, 2008 at 5:17 am

I’m very big on making costumes for my now 4 year old son. I’m not a sewer or particularly crafty, but to me this is one of the points of motherhood I’m most enjoying.

At first Son said he wanted to be a urinal, which was a challenge in more ways than one. He thankfully changed that to a garbage can, and I’ve made it myself from cardboard, some spray paint and items from our recycling bin. Didn’t cost an extra dime (I needed the paint for something else)! I’m sure I’ll post photos in the next few days, to go along with last year’s cookie and the year before’s train, neither of which cost a penny!


Meg October 30, 2008 at 11:32 am

I’m a big fan of home-made (or at least home-assembled) costumes. I normally dress really nice (maybe even a bit Stepford), so this year I decided that I’d don some fashion faux pas and go as… well, I’m not sure exactly, but the end result should look something like Peggy Bundy but more trailer trash, lol.

Anyhow, at the risk of shameless self-promotion, if any of you are looking for more frugal costume ideas, you might want to check out these pages:


Sparkyk1971 October 30, 2008 at 12:56 pm

My 10 y.o. niece went through all her old halloween costumes and started cutting/taping/constructing what we thought was a monstrosity… until she told us what she was. Then it made sense.

She’s going as the “Ghost of Halloweens Past.” She’s awesome.


LeAnna October 30, 2008 at 1:59 pm

I’m pretty proud of myself for this year’s costumes, not gonna lie.

My 17-month-old daughter is going as John McCain, and I’m going as Sarah Palin.

I like this for so many reasons:
1) They’re the scariest thing I could think of.
2) I already have the hair and glasses for SP, and I have to dress like that for work anyway, so no extra work or expense for my side of things.
3) I’m all about breaking gender norms with H, so cross-dressing her makes me smile.
4) We got her suit from Freecycle.
5) Her hair and (of course) American Flag Lapel Pin (c) are going to be done at home.
6) Good canvassing opportunity!


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl October 30, 2008 at 4:32 pm

Well, we don’t do the whole trick-or-treating thing, so we spend exactly $0 on costumes. lol

We do, however, buy candy. We hide it in the kids’ rooms, turn out the lights, give them flashlights, and then they go and find the candy. No costume required. 😉


Magdalena Julie Bragdon Perks October 31, 2008 at 10:47 am

Kristen, that’s great! Wish I’d thought of that when the kids were little. They were not into Halloween much, probably because I wasn’t – Baptist upbringing and all, I never took to the spooky thing. One year, when the older one was six, I hand-sewed a cat costume for him to wear to the school party. His strong masculine identity asserted itself, and on the way to school he wouldn’t go any farther until I took him home to change. He made a Frankenstein mask from a paper bag. Day was saved, Mom’s feelings hurt. Oh, well. He’s still independent at 30.


Tara October 31, 2008 at 2:58 pm

This year 4 year old son wanted nothing more than to be a Humbolt Squid. What? He has seen the Blue Planet and Planet earth and has since become a fan of scary sea creatures. We live in a town with a salvage fabric store which technically is not used ( we are compacters). The stores carries fabrics and notions from before I was born and it is also owned by a friend of mine and his family. I am pretty handy with a needle and found some red car headliner, A yard for 2.00 enough for the entire costume. My 2 year old daughter decide on mermaid with hints from her mother. A handed over leotard and some remnant fabric we already had became tail. I glued a shell onto a strand of fake pearls and we have one very happy girl. And for 2 bucks a pair of cute kids ready for some fun.


mentalutopia October 31, 2008 at 6:45 pm

I happened to mention to the cashier at the grocery store that I needed to make some sort of bride outfit for my 6-yr-old. Another woman overheard the conversation and dropped a white flower girl dress off at my house a few hours later. Her daughter had worn it in a wedding 2 years ago and it was a perfect fit for my little girl.


organicsyes November 3, 2008 at 9:28 am

So funny…my 13 year old, when asked what he was for Halloween, replied “monster from the dress-up box!” It is fun to go through all of the “stuff” and create!

Thanks for your post.


barry July 9, 2009 at 9:34 pm

My son who is 16 and 6’2″ tall asked me what he should wear for halloween as he could not come up with and Idea being so tall and he wanted to be with his siblings on the day , I had to come up with something so I rembered a scene in a movie I once saw , where one of the actors went as a shower ,. Mind you it was very simple to make and he absolllluuttlly…loved it. ….very enjoyable day.


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