WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

How to make your Halloween expenses less frightening!

Posted October 8, 2013
Updated October 9, 2013

Halloween Pumpkins


As a parent, the most spooky thing about Halloween is the cost of costumes, candy and decorations! Here are some easy ways to cut those expenses and still have a frighteningly fabulous and fantastically frugal Halloween!


How much do you spend on Halloween costumes per child each year?

I know some parents who spend $50 or more on kids costumes every single year.  If that's not enough to scare you, I don't know what is!

Here are some funny and really cheap costume suggestions from readers on the Smart Shopper blog that would definitely make your Halloween costume costs less frightening.

1. Tape Smarties candy all over your pants and now you're a smarty pants.

2. Tape a big picture of a quarter on your back and now you're a quarter back.

3. Wrap yourself in tin foil and now you are……. leftovers.

4. Get a plastic dirty clothes basket from somewhere like the dollar store. Cut a hole in bottom so you can fit through it. Use a rope or suspenders to make straps over your shoulders to hold it up, Fill the basket with clothes and pin socks to your shirt with safety pins. You are dirty laundry!

5. Cut out a bunch of copies of the letter "P" from construction paper or black felt and pin them to your shirt. Then use makeup to give yourself a black eye. What are you? Black eye'd peas!

Find 39 additional frugal and last minute costumes on including an hysterical Gross-eries costume!

Additional suggestions:

Look at your local group for free costumes. There are over 10,000 members of the Wake County freecycle group. Someone must be offering up a free costume!

Hit the thrift store for Halloween costumes or pieces of clothing that you can make into a costume.

Do a costume swap with friends and trade the costumes your kids wore last year for the ones their kids wore.

Buy costumes including makeup and accessories for 75% - 90% regular retail after Halloween to use next year and for playing dress-up all year long.


The best deals on candy are found when matching coupons with sales and drug store rebate deals. All the drug stores have candy deals every week until Halloween that match well with available coupons. Look for deals that offer a reward when you buy a certain dollar amount and then couple that store reward with your coupons. I usually aim for $1 - $1.50 per 9 oz. - 11 oz bag of chocolate candy after sales, coupons and rewards.

Remember that non-chocolate candy is usually less expensive than chocolate.

Don’t feel like you have to get enough candy for every kid to get a handful. They will get a TON of candy throughout the night. You don’t have to fill their bag.

If you don’t want to contribute to tooth decay, go with some fun non-candy giveaways like temporary tattoos, pencils, erasers, stickers, mini bubble bottles. Many stores have inexpensive Halloween items like pencils, Halloween plastic tumblers and Halloween activity books that go as low as 10 cents each.

Consider the candy buy back program at dentist offices: Many dental offices here in the Triangle give you $1 for every lb of candy you donate and then they donate the candy to our US military troops overseas! Check out for a list of specific dental offices that are participating. If you work for a dental office, it looks like you can still sign up to participate this year.

Don’t forget the clearance candy! Hit those Halloween clearance sales for chocolate candy – it freezes well and solid chocolate bars can reappear for holiday baking in November and December.


Stock up for next year after Halloween this year. Starting November 1, Halloween is marked down to 50% off and 1 to 2 weeks later usually goes to 75% off. This is a great time to buy some bigger items you wanted but didn’t want to pay full price for.

Buy solid color plates and napkins (in orange and black) to use all year for functions or save them until next Halloween.

Your suggestions

How much do you spend each year for Halloween costumes, candy and decorations?

What's the most you have ever spent on a costume?

What do you do to keep the Halloween budget under control?



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  • jackiesemail Oct 9, 2013

    One year a friend and I glued leaves all over old clothes and went as piles of leaves. Warning: If you use contact cement, like we did, be careful around smokers! LOL

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Oct 9, 2013

    Thanks to everyone for the suggestions and links to other costume ideas!

  • ladybugs-mom Oct 9, 2013

    Just saw this super cool costume ideas you can make from stuff you already have (or by purchasing very little). Who knew you could do so much with cupcake wrappers?

  • Oxymoron02 Oct 9, 2013

    I have, just once, spent $50 on a Halloween costume. It had to be 1997, maybe 98. I bought 5 yards of fabric ($20/yd, on sale half price) and a friend sewed me a costume.

    I have sewn my kids costumes (several years running, without a sewing machine, or a pattern because Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty isn't a popular character, but how do you say no to a 4 year old?). I have bought them costumes. I have sewn additions onto store bought costumes. As a kid, my Mom made all our costumes, so the idea of buying costumes is still weird to me.

    The biggest savings we have on costumes, on going, is that we're kind of strange already, so pulling a costume out of thin air just isn't that hard. I mean, my husband doesn't want the mad scientist get-up on that steampunk website for Halloween, he wants it so he can wear it whilst taking a chain saw to the holly bushes in the spring. You don't have to be crazy to live here, but it helps.

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Oct 8, 2013

    Thanks for all your suggestions, everyone! Love the speed bump costume UNCW Ash!

  • grkmiley Oct 8, 2013

    Also kid 2 kids at southpoint and in cary has a lot of baby/toddler/kid costumes

  • grkmiley Oct 8, 2013

    I love black plates/cups/napkins for over the hill parties and other aniversary events; orange paper products are great for spring and birthdays.

    I stock up on muffin cups for all year long. Halloween frosting (usually orange) and halloween cake mix can be tinted into red and brown for decorated cakes and cookies.

  • UNCW_Ash Oct 8, 2013

    Not sure if I've ever bought a costume. My mom-in-law always did that while my kiddos were still dressing up. FREE is the best! The best cheap costume I've ever seen was in college a friend wore a yellow sweatsuit that her brother hand run over once with his truck...she was a speed bump. ;o) As for candy, target had a huge 200+ piece of good candy for $10 each plus when you bought two you got a $5 gift card. Couple that with my 5% off and I thought that was pretty good. We give out two pieces.

  • lorawatson Oct 8, 2013

    I buy candy every year, even though I dont get trick or treaters as I live on a very busy street. But yet I still buy candy every year!;) Funny, it is always the stuff that i like too.

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Oct 8, 2013

    Good mime costume, jdouglas! And yes, some houses give out candy by the handful, which is generous, but costly and unnecessary.