Homemade Halloween Costumes

This scary economy has many folks terrified at the thought of spending $40 on a Halloween costume, so frugal ghosts and goblins across the country have decided to go with homemade, frugal Halloween costumes.  We typically do this in the Frugal Household, although this year my son had to be The Incredible Hulk, so we caved and bought him an inexpensive Halloween costume.

My daughter is more creative, and each year enjoys coming up with her own homemade Halloween costume ideas.  With her help (and a lot of input from my wife) we offer up the following frugal homemade Halloween costumes, along with the supplies needed for each:


  • Old tattered clothes with a few holes (maybe some of Dad’s old work clothes)
  • An old, beat-up hat
  • An old pair of well-scuffed shoes
  • Worn canvas sack on a stick over the shoulder carrying belongings

Spa girl (My daughter dressed as a “spa girl” last year)

  • Green face paint to simulate a mask
  • Towel for head or curlers
  • Sleep mask
  • Bedroom slippers
  • Bath robe
  • Pajamas


  • An old pair of eye glasses with black electrical tape for reinforcement
  • Too-small pants (short ones/high risers)
  • Shirt tucked in with pocket protector and a handful of pens
  • Hair slicked down with gel
  • White socks
  • Black shoes

Ghost (a frugal Halloween classic!)

  • Sheet with holes cut out for the eyes
  • White, long sleeve shirt to wear underneath
  • White gloves
  • white pants, socks and shoes


  • Camouflage clothing
  • Dark green (olive) paint for face
  • Black face paint for under the eyes
  • An old Army belt with canteen
  • A green backpack


  • Flannel Shirt
  • Overalls/Jeans
  • Rope belt
  • Wheat straw to stuff under the cuffs of the jeans and shirt
  • A straw hat
  • Paint a few freckles on face


  • Big box wrapped in festive wrapping paper
  • Large bow to place on your head
  • Cut holes on sides of box for arms, and in the top of the box for your head

Bunch of Grapes (This one reminds me of the old Fruit of the Loom commercials)

  • Purple sweatsuit
  • Purple balloons pinned to sweatsuit


  • Tall chef’s hat or hair net
  • Apron
  • White button down shirt
  • Black pants and shoes
  • A big pot to collect candy in (with a big wooden spoon)

Kitty cat

  • Black clothes
  • Black shoes/socks
  • White cardboard for the belly
  • Tail (can use an old sock or buy one)
  • Ears (headband with felt)
  • Facepaint for whiskers and nose
  • White gloves (optional)

Most of these homemade Halloween costumes can be put together with items from around the house, or for less than $10 by visiting a consignment shop or Dollar Store.


  1. DIY is trendy these days and you’ll know that no one else will have the same exact costume! Homemade costumes are also a good way to go through old clothes that haven’t been worn in years and to make use of them once again!

  2. i think homemade halloween costumes at the BEST! much more creative than the $40 pile of plastic you buy in stores.

    my MIL picked up some dress-up clothes for my girls this year. one is using some of them to be a witch. my other daughter wants to be a native american girl. we just bought a $4 ladies brown shirt at goodwill and will do some sewing to make it into a dress. i think it will be fun to get it ready for her.

  3. Several that I have seen at parties…

    sky blue sweater and skirt with tights that had clouds…squirt bottle full of water

    black sweat suit with the mini boxes of cereal attached all down the front, the cereal boxes have the small weapons from a clue game on them or near them

    yellow sweatsuit with brown spots painted on, tail and small horns attached

    woman dressed in trench coat with hat and notepad, man dressed in sportcoat and dress shirt wearing glasses and also carrying a pad, underneath his dress shirt he has on a superman shirt, if anyone asks who they are he unbuttons his shirt to reveal his identity

  4. I once threatened to do this, but I never actually did it.

    Since I have extremely long hair I was thinking of getting skin-colored tights and a body suit, and going as Lady Godiva.

    The problem is that my feet would get really cold.

  5. My 3 year old decided after watching Eragon that he wanted to be a dragon. So I bought a green sweatsuit for less than $10 and a yard of green fabric for $2 and made him a green dragon costume. He is also going to have green painted hair that is spiked to look like the dragons spikes.

  6. Back in the day, I was a punk rocker for three years. Oh, and a hippy one year. And my mom had a red hooded cape that I wore for several years as a little red riding hood.

    My son went as a chef last year, this year he says he wants to be a ninja. We are making the ninja mask on You Tube out of a black t-shirt. My daughter is wearing the bee costume that my son wore one year with yellow ribbon in her antennas to signify her girlie bee status 🙂

    Great round-up!

  7. The neighbor girl that I used to babysit went as dirty laundry one year.

    She got a round plastic dirty clothes basket and cut a hole in it the size of her hips, and used suspenders to make shoulders straps to hold it up, then just filled the inside with clothes and used safety pins and clothes pins to attach socks, etc to her shirt.

  8. My local thrift store has a flyer about all kinds of great ideas for Halloween costumes to put together from stuff at their store. Although I did notice they had their actual costumes marked a wee bit high for my budget. But the thrift store is always a great place for bargains!

  9. Spa Lady is brilliant FD!
    This year I’ll be Mortisha Addams. I bought 90% off Halloween makeup last year and have kept it in my Halloween storage box! I love Halloween!

  10. My daughter is going to be Spa Girl this year, which I think is way cuter than a store-bought costume anyway! My sons are just going to dress up in some of their Power Ranger Costumes that we got at a local Consignment Sale for $4. We will use them over and over again playing dress-up so that’s a good deal.

  11. Went as “brain dead” once and won the contest. Old ball cap with bill cut off, covered with thick multicolored knitting yarn in brown & red “brain” colors. Covered the bill to look like a tombstone and stood up on top. Easy and only cost was the yarn.

  12. I’m a big fan of inexpensive store-bought costumes just becuase they’re easy and they look a lot better than anything I can put together. We gnereally attned multiple Halloween celebrations and my kids tend to use them for dress up after Halloween, so I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.

    Alas, this year my son decided he had to have a homemade costume (robot — and it’s been a disastrous endeavor), and my daughter pulled together a costume from stuff she had that required only the purchase of wings.

    Between that and free candy at CVS (coupons and ECBs) I’m getting off cheap this year!

    Also, if you have kids who love to play dress up, consider hitting the costume rack the days after Halloween. In past years I’ve picked up Chanukah presents for my kids for a fraction of what they were two weeks before.

  13. Women can throw on their favorite dress, borrow/or buy a cheap breif case, put a number on it (cut out 2 numbers from a piece of black construction paper & tape them on with a piece of double sided tape) and go as a deal or no deal girl.. Simple and works great for a last minute invite somewhere..

  14. One year, when my kids were young, I spent absolutely nothing on Halloween costumes… all four of them “dressed up” as swimmers. We had the equipment because they were involved in swimming. So… a swim cap. Goggles (worn over forehead, like the Olympians!). Gym bag (great for actually trick-or-treating!). Sweat shirt. Sweat pants.

    I got the idea from my own parents. When I was young (I am now a grandma to 9)… my brothers and I always dressed up in whatever sports uniforms we were using at the time. Football was a big one. Helmet. Pads. Jersey. Lots of make-up for the injuries to the face!! These are my best memories of Halloween as a child! And… I was always nice and warm!

  15. Hi Frugal Dad-

    I’ve been reading your site for some time now, and I enjoy the tips. I’m in grad school and trying to live within my means, and there is a newfound joy I feel being frugal and responsible with money. However, I was very surprised that you recommended dressing up as a ‘hobo’ for Halloween. Really? That’s just offensive. It’s disrespectful and unreflective of what life is like for people who actually live the hobo life. The homeless are often seen as occupying the lowest class and status positions in our society, and their life is a struggle. Street homeless often spend hours a day securing basic necessities, such as a bathroom and food. I don’t think it’s okay to teach our children that it’s fine to dress up as hobos and make light of a very serious life situation that thousands of Americans face. Would you have your children dress up as a ‘welfare queen’ or a ‘junkie’ or an Indian? Is it okay to dress up as exaggerated and romanticized stereotypes of oppressed people or races? I don’t think so, and I don’t think you do either.

    Instead, I have two frugal ideas from my childhood. One year I took a clear garbage bag and filled it with colored balloons and was a bag of jellybeans. Another year I was a jack-in-the-box. My mom fixed up a cardboard box and I painted my face. Both costumes were fun to make, cheap and unique.

  16. @Liz: Thanks for your comments, and the ideas you shared–I agree, those sound fun (and frugal!). Sorry you took offense to the idea of being a “hobo.” It was more about the costume idea than making fun of someone down on their luck. After all, striped suits are always a popular Halloween costume and people who wear them are not necessarily making fun of people in jail.

  17. Don’t forget the mighty power of craigslist! I got my 2 yr old’s pirate costume for $10 from craigslist (which is perfect because my husband and I also have pirate costumes!). My 12 year old is wearing the costume from her hip hop dance recital, so no additional cost there.

  18. I am 12 and i think i might go as a spa goer this year… i have nothing else to wear. A friend of mine is going as Daisy Duke of of the Duke of Hazards(cowgirl/hillbilly). and i was also thinking about dressing as a beautiful bee (queen bee) to show of popularity.lol. ummm… if u have a extra super cute dress u can dress up as a little girl. curl your hair and put a bow in it and carry around a little teddy bear. Another one of my friends are going as Amber and Ashley off of Hannah Montana. If there is 2 of u u can go as Miley and Hannah and show off both egos… Have Fun! ps and i was going to go as an i-pod commercial (dress in all black even ur face and hair, and hook a white i pod onto ur belt).

  19. @ Liz.

    I think that you’re getting way too offended. It’s halloween! People could get offended about any costume. What about all the little girls dressed up as Native Americans? or Pocahantus? Isn’t that just as disrespectful as a hobo?

    And don’t even get me started on witch costumes. Isn’t that offensive to wiccans? Not to mention the hundreds of women they burned at the stake…

    Halloween should be taken lightly, its just a harmless holiday

  20. My daughter’s school had “Spirit day” where each class had a costume. Their budget was fifty cents per girl. They used roll plastic (lots of girls) but you could use dollar store tablecloths. They created wonderful costumes with that little bit of plastic sheeting, poster board and a little tissue paper. One year they were Cleopatra. The body of the costume was white plastic but could be a white garbage bag with a neck hole. It was belted with a strip of the poster board. The Egyptian collar was gold painted poster board with Mardi Gras beads hot glued on. The head piece was a strip of poster board, painted gold and a hand drawn Egyptian eye hot glued to the forehead. Under the headband was attached black yarn for the hair and cirlces punched out of the gold painted poster board and hot glued to the yarn to represent jewels. They lined their eyes with eyes liner pencil. Sounds crazy but looked great, especially in a group. Fifty cents each folks! You can recreate any costume this way if you use your imagination!