For one night a year, on Halloween, we escape our usual personas. We embrace our collective fears and superstitions, and turn them on their heads by becoming them. In your face, Grim Reaper!
Halloween is a must in my world, but so are the winter holidays that follow, and all those celebrations add up. To help stick to my budget, I always hit my local thrift stores for cheap Halloween costumes.
This year, I came up with seven quick, easy Halloween costumes at Goodwill, where you can combine donated clothes and accessories with cheap props that often tie the whole outfit together.
1. Rosie the Riveter
Feminism is alive and well, and Rosie is the classic face of that “We Can Do It” mentality.
This costume couldn’t be simpler. It’s just a rolled-up, long-sleeved denim shirt and a red bandana for a total of $11.04, and you can wear jeans you already have.
Since all we ever see of Rosie is her torso and face, you can probably wear whatever shoes you want. Work boots or hiking boots seem like good options, but work with what you have.
2. A Flapper
Who had more fun than flappers in the 1920s?
This costume is made up of a flapper dress I found on the rack, a set of long costume pearls, a sequin headband and chunky-heeled shoes, which came to a total of $21.21.
You’ll be the cat’s pajamas at the speakeasy!
3. 1950s Housewife
The 1950s housewife didn’t have the luxury of yoga pants and flip-flops. Thanks to TV and movies, we imagine the iconic, well-dressed, high-heeled and pearl-necklaced wife looked ready for a dinner date at any moment.
This ensemble, including the dress, duster, apron, shoes and pearls, cost a total of $19.38. Just swell!
Ever so classic; ever so easy. And who says witches have to be warty and ugly?
Find a black evening gown and pair it with a traditional witch’s hat, a broom and the some chunky-heeled shoes or boots. This costume cost $25.78.
Rock ‘n’ roll will never die, so let your inner groupie out with a simple outfit of tight jeans, a tank top, a bandana, something metal on your belt, aviator shades and a nylon tat sleeve or two.
Mostly though, you need attitude to rock this ensemble. We found this one for a total of $22.66, though you could save by wearing your own jeans and accessories.
Shine on, you crazy diamond.
6. Zombie Doctor
I love a great horror costume.
We took these scrubs, which I found already covered with fake blood stains, and added “bloody” gauze, crutches and a blood-filled knife. What’s scarier than the idea your surgeon could go rogue?
The total came to $15.91.
You can add a fun twist to just about any “persona” costume with some good, old-fashioned fake blood and makeup. Why just be a nurse or bride or roller derby gal when you could be a dead or zombie version?
Zombie housewife? Yes, please.
Living in Florida, I see a lot of these. Oddly, it added up to the most expensive of the costumes, but that’s how vacation is, amiright?
Tourists need a lot of swag, including shades, shoes, shorts, a belt, a shirt, a bag and definitely a hat. This costume works best the tackier it is, and this version topped out at $30.01.
However, you probably already have at least a couple of these items, which will knock your cost down. The Penny Hoarder’s editor Matt created his tourist costume completely out of his own closet!
The Key to Creating Halloween Costumes on a Budget
Here’s the secret to sticking to your budget: Use as much of what you already own as possible. Bandanas, hats, belts, shoes, and costume jewelry all go a long way to completing a costume, and you’ll probably wear them again.
If you’re adding face makeup to your costume, I recommend buying the best quality that fits your budget. In my experience, the cheap stuff doesn’t go on well. It’s greasy, dull in color and fades quickly.
Plus, if you splurge on quality makeup and keep it covered so it doesn’t dry out, it’ll last you til next year.
Happy Halloween, Penny Hoarders!
Your Turn: What Halloween costumes have you created in a thrift store? Share your tips in the comments!
Amy Beeman is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder as well as three other Tampa Bay-area publications: Creative Loafing, 83 Degrees Media and Green Bench Monthly. She has been published nationally at Salon.com and in Bust Magazine.