5 Reasons We’re Spending MORE on Halloween Costumes This Year

by Linsey Knerl on 15 October 2009 10 comments

The frugal gal in me would seem poised to present several homemade options for the trick-or-treat crowd. After some careful thought and an analysis of what we truly needed for costumes the past few years, I have done a complete 180, and ended up buying some of the most expensive costumes we could find. Here’s why….

Super cheap costumes never last.

Two seasons ago, I purchased identical Batman outfits for the boys. I had spent $5 for $20 outfits on clearance. They should have made it until a couple of weeks after Halloween. They ended up tearing before we even made it inside the community party on the 31st. Tears and duct tape are what my boys remember most about the holiday. What a shame.

Stair step kids make hand-me-downs the “only” way to go.

I have three boys, ages 6, 4, and 2. Simply stated, anything I buy had better last one season, for sure. Extra points if it can last three. When choosing our costumes this year, I went with a high-end children’s clothing retailer to make my purchase. I knew from experience that these would not only be around this year, they would be around 10 years from now. (We also go with themes that are somewhat timeless. Superheroes will generally be cool for years to come. Disney movie megastars like Monsters, Inc? Not so much.)

Higher prices sometimes mean better selection (and more clothing).

Try telling your 11-year-old daughter that none of the outfits marketed to the “tween” crowd will be acceptable this year. (This “tween” Goldilocks looks eerily like this “adult” costume sold at a different website. Why can’t it look more like this one?) Instead, we will take after my daughter’s own cues, and invest in a nice pair of scrubs so that she can go as someone a bit more respectful — a veterinarian.

Bigger price tags can equal bigger savings.

Several retailers are offering 20% off their prices during these last few weeks before the big holiday. This won’t seem like much if the costume was $8 to begin with (you’ll save $1.60). If the outfit is closer to $50, however, you’ll see a good $10 knocked off the price tag, which may help you get over your initial shock of spending that much (if the first three points were lost on you). Factor in the fact that some high-end shops offer points or loyalty programs and free shipping, and you may walk away with high-quality costumes for the whole family — at a cost closer to what you were hoping to spend at that discount store.

Nothing is cooler than a box of dress-up stuff.

When friends come over to play with my boys, they are instantly mesmerized by the laundry basket hiding in their closet. No, it’s not harboring video games and trading cards. It’s filled to the brim with past years’ costumes and well-made accessories. Among the collection resides a plush dino costume, cowboy attire, plenty of Spiderman masks, and the best Jedi swords this side of the Missouri River. All are the result of carefully-made Halloween purchases, and all get plenty of use throughout the year. (They have put the phrase “Mommy, I’m bored” completely out of commission around here.)

If the thought of buying yet another plastic garbage accessory has you dreading this year’s holiday, look at it from another perspective. The healthy imagination that comes automatic with Halloween is a chance to feed your kid’s more lofty dreams with high-quality clothing and costumes to provide years of entertainment and learning. (And the after-season sale just makes it that much better!)

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Guest's picture
mr_aok

In addition to those five reasons, Halloween falls on a Saturday this year. Many who would usually forego a costume on a weekday, will pony up last minute, considering it is a weekend. This is especially prevalent among the college student population.

Carrie Kirby's picture

I have stored away all the hand-sewn costumes my mother-in-law made the oldest each year: monkey, kittycat and doggie. Has her younger sister worn any of them? Only the monkey costume for her baby year. After that, even tho she was too young to have an opinion, her older sister had ideas about what she should be.

Makes me wonder why I am keeping these things. Our local consignment shop had a costume swap, but the didn't take any homemade costumes.

Guest's picture
Spooky

The day after Halloween, hit Target or the big chain stores for 75-90% savings. Stock up for next year!

Guest's picture
martha in mobile

Make/buy costume pieces that can be recycled as well as using for dress-up. A peasant blouse and skirt can be used for a gypsy, belly dancer, pirate (female) or 16th century peasant with the right accessories.

Guest's picture
bjs1109

My sister would make her kids' costumes out of flannel. After Halloween they became their nightgowns, and were worn till they outgrew them or wore them out.

Guest's picture
Steve C.

I remember having to wear my siblings old costumes every year growing up. I hated it. There is just so many times I could wear a Barbie or Disney Princess costume before it would get embarrassing.

Myscha Theriault's picture

Actually Linsey, you touched on something I've advocated for years with the dress up clothes collection. Kids love to play act all year long, and if you spring for non Halloween themed costumes (gypsy, doctor, etc.) you can get them after the actual holiday and set them aside for a Christmas trunk of dress up clothing. Pick up one of those affordable foot lockers at Target and stuff it full of dress up costumes. Put a big old bow on it for a frugal wrapping job. Sounds like it would be a huge hit at your house. Great post, as usual.

You can also follow me on Twitter and Trek Hound.

Guest's picture
DivaJean

Why not work on costumes that are regular clothes put together differently to evoke the character? That way you have good regular clothes that will get worn- rather than just costumes.

Case in point- my daughter wanted to be Kim Possible- a Disney character who is a tweenage spy expert. She wanted me to buy cheapy, flimsy costume stuff that Disney had put out that year. What I bought her was a regular black turtleneck shirt and the type of cargo pants that Kim wears on her missions- plus some bright red hairspray to give her the cartoony red hair color. We augmented the costume by holstering a magnifying glass, some rope, and other "spy-adventurer" stuff to the cargo pants. She got rave reviews from her friends at the Halloween parade that year- and remembers that bigger kids were impressed. She then had good cargo pants and a regular turtleneck after Halloween she could regularly wear- not just something that went into a costume box.

I know littler kids really like to dress up in more character driven costumes- but sometimes its fun to get into family mode. One year, we made simple bear headpieces- a glorified hood that stayed together at the chin w/ velcro and had bear ears on top-- and went as the three bears. I wore a regular "mom" outfit (dress w/ apron, etc), hubby had just khakis and a regular shirt w/ the bear hood on, and our youngest wore the bear hood w/ a baby bib. Once another sibling came along, our oldest daughter was Goldilocks that year with just a nice dress on and me curling her hair all crazy and putting circles of rouge on her cheeks. When we became more overrun with kids, we were zookeepers- wearing cheap straw pith helmets- and we had our kids pick zoo animals to be- one was an elephant in gray sweats and a headpiece I made, another was a lion with a homemade headpiece, and baby was wearing a dragon costume gifted to us- we explained she was really a lizard from our zoo program. I think the kids were happy that we all worked together that year on our creative ideas, rather than just going to buy somewhere.

This year- hubby and I are going as Leia and Han Solo to a Halloween party. I could spend a ton of money on a costume- or get creative. I decided that the easiest would be Leia from the original Star Wars. I will wear a white mock turtleneck, make a white long skirt (out of free white muslin I always seem to get from my uncle in law), and try to make some type of belt that evokes the feeling of the costume. ANd put my hair in Leia buns. Hubby will just be wearing a pair of black jeans, a white shirt and a black vest- with a kids toy "blaster" velcroed onto the thigh. We won 1st prize ($250) one year for a very simple Miss Piggy and Kermit costume I made (sewed pig ears on a blonde Halloween wig, found pig nose piece and dressed divinely swinely; had hubby wear bright green Kermit head I made with some free uncle in law fabric). we won't win this year- but will be presentable enough to not be the saddest costumes in the bunch.

There are so many creative ideas that don't mean buying so much. And don't forget- if you do have to buy actual clothes- that's what thrift stores are for.

Guest's picture
Remy

Great post and good points by all. In between use and play, why not rent them out to individuals, schools or professionals (production) in your community. Especially the higher quality ones. www.toolzdo.com let's you rent, swap, donate locally all from one site. As far as hand-me-downs costumes, maybe a swap with other families would work better - the costume would be new to all in its new home. Children get weird like that when it comes to siblings. Check out ToolzDo. It's the safer and easier way to rent, swap, give & get free stuff online. You also get to check what your neighbor is up to. Really cool!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

I suppose you could spend lots of money on a costume. But a home made one is so much better! You can pay very little (Or even nothing at all) for parts and materials for it, and you have something unique that (Assuming you did a good job on it) will last at least as long as a store-bought costume, if not longer. Home made costumes can be reused, especially if individual garments can be reused in different costumes. And of course, there's the pleasure of making it and the satisfaction you get having made it yourself. If you're a parent, then making a costume with your child is also a good way to pass useful skills along, which far too many people don't have these days.

Plus, a definite advantage for the kids- lots of people will be more impressed by a home made costume, because more effort has gone into it. This means they'll give more sweets. Hell, I don't give kids anything if they turn up in a shop bought costume. Why not? They haven't earned it.