How To: Halloween Costumes on a Budget

By Cassidy Camp on October 8, 2017

The weather is getting cooler, decorations are out, pumpkin spice has infiltrated all of our favorite restaurants… it’s the Halloween season again, and spooky fans everywhere are freaking out! For those of us whose favorite holiday is Halloween, getting a great Halloween costume for the occasion is absolutely essential. There are parties to attend, pictures to take, and an already overflowing costume closet to add to! Okay, maybe not everyone is as Halloween crazy as me, but having a killer costume is what makes Halloween so great! There’s just one problem; we’re broke college students. What do we do if we can’t shell out $200 on Yandy? Don’t panic, after years of being a fanatic, I’ve learned a few tricks to getting a treat of a Halloween costume on a budget and I’m here to share them with you.

Halloween party at the Tangerine Lounge Nightclub at the Treasure Island Hotel; Casino October 31, 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Physical Shopping

1.) Do not, I repeat, DO NOT go to Spirit Halloween pop-up stores. Although these shops are fun and exciting to check out for inspiration or to get into the spirit of Halloween, their prices are insanely inflated. Instead, try to look for local costume shops that are open year-round! Usually these stores have better quality costume pieces, better prices, and you get the nice feeling that comes from shopping local.

2.) Check out your local thrift stores for clothing or props that you can use! You’d be surprised at how much thrift stores carry that works really well for Halloween costumes. If you see something that might work for your costume, spend the $5 and get it! If it ends up not working like you’d hoped, it’s a really small loss compared to if you didn’t buy it and it’s not there when you realize you actually needed it.

3.) Drag yourself out of bed early on a Saturday and/or Sunday and go yard sale and garage sale hunting! People have some crazy things stockpiled in storage, and something may be perfect for your costume idea. These people are usually open to price negotiation, and you may find yourself walking away with a car-full for $20 or less. Be careful, though, as some experienced yard-salers may drive a hard bargain. Don’t exceed your budget out of guilt. Unless you really need that item, walk away.

4.) Look on local Facebook groups for makeup, costumes, and props that you need. Most towns and cities now have Facebook groups specifically for selling things (like a less sketchy Craigslist). You can even make a post in search of (ISO) what you want for your costume! People have the craziest things stocked in their closets, and someone may be willing to part with what you need for a small price.

5.) Keep an eye on your local theater groups (high schools, colleges, non-profits, etc.) during October because sometimes they’ll host costume rummage sales to clear out their prop rooms. These events will usually have costume supplies for an extremely low price, and the proceeds will go to help out the organization hosting it! Additionally, if you need something altered to fit you or to work for your costume, you can ask around at these events and find out who alters costumes for the group. They may be able to fix up your costume for a lower price than a professional tailor!

Online Shopping

1.) Reviews are key. If a seller or item has mostly negative reviews, scratch that item from your list. Even if you think it’s exactly what you need, chances are it is low quality and/or it will take forever to arrive. In either case, it can leave you stuck without a costume! Also, if an item has no reviews, be extremely cautious when purchasing. In some cases, the item may be new and people just haven’t been brave enough to purchase it yet. In other cases, the item may be a knockoff from an less than reputable seller, and what you receive will look nothing like the photo. This can be a catastrophe! Be sure to pay close attention to reviews, and customer photos are a bonus!

2.) Buy early. Shipping can always end up delayed, which could mess up your entire costume plan! If the item is supposed to show up the day you need it, you should consider expedited shipping or finding something that will make it to you earlier. Nothing will make you scream like getting your perfect Halloween costume in the mail the day after you needed it!

3.) Shop around! Websites like Amazon and Ebay can be saviors when looking for a Halloween costume on a budget. You can find awesome lightly used costumes (meaning someone probably wore it one year for Halloween and never again) for way cheaper than retail. On these websites you can even find name-brand costumes from websites like Yandy for half the price!

The most important tip I need to share with you about buying used costumes, however, is ALWAYS wash used costumes before wearing them. If the costume cannot be machine washed, soak it in cold water in your bathtub or take it to a dry-cleaner. You can even find DIY guides online on how to dry-clean clothes at home if dry-cleaning is too expensive for you. If you bought a prop, spray it down and use some soapy water on it! If it can’t get wet, set it out in the direct sunlight for two to five hours to naturally clean it.  You never know where a costume came from, so protect yourself and those around you by washing used costumes! I say this from experience because I once got scabies (yep, you read that right) from a thrift store jacket that I didn’t wash before I wore it. No fun!

Halloween is the most awesomely spooky time of year, and we all want to look great for our Halloween parties and pictures! Your amazing Halloween costume doesn’t have to make you replace everything on your grocery list with ramen for the next three months if you follow the tips above. Be creative, get spooky, and have fun shopping!

Cassidy is a dual degree student at FSU in the Humanities and Editing, Writing, and Media majors. She is a bibliophile and bookworm, and you'll often see her walking to class with her nose between pages of a book. Music is an important part of Cassidy's life; she's a vocalist and a songwriter in her spare time. Cassidy aspires to attend a Master of Communication graduate program after graduating FSU and, once finished with school, strives to enter the Public Relations field professionally.

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