Frugal Homemade Halloween Costume Ideas

This scary economy has many folks terrified at the thought of spending $40 (or more) on a Halloween costume, so frugal ghosts and goblins across the country have yet again decided to go with homemade, frugal Halloween costumes.

We typically do this in the Frugal Household, although we did spend a bit more in planning this year’s trick-or-treat outing. My son wanted to be an “Army Man” or “Sniper.” We splurged on some camouflage gear, but it does have a dual purpose as he wears the jacket to school quite often (minus the outer ghille suit layer).

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” a couple years ago)

  • 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

Hunter/Soldier (my son’s choice this year)

  • 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. We almost always did homemade costumes. It’s so much fun! One of the most used items was an old black t-shirt dress of mine. It was used as part of a costume for a witch, mad monk (with a rope belt) and any number of scary creatures. Just a heads-up, many schools no longer allow kids to wear costumes depicting a “bum” because it’s thought to be making fun of homeless people. Of course many schools don’t allow costumes at all anymore!

  2. I spent $60 back in 1991 to make a Ninja Turtle costume – my first Halloween costume effort after my Mom (a brilliant seamstress) died. I liked the outcome but definitely not the price. The next year I started with what already had: a moth eaten red wool coat. The movie Captain Hook was big just then, so I tricorn hat and shoe covers to look like boots were made using a pattern from a library book; $1 for a witches wig (cutting out the white bit and chopping the black to shoulder length); eyeliner moustache, coat embellished with black and gold rick rack from Mom’s sewing stash, my lycra aerobics tights, $1 for a sword, an old white blouse with a bow under the jacket (which was really just a pull over top). The hook was the hanging thing off a bottle of shower gel covered with foil and sewn to the sleeve of the jacket.

    Another year a scarecrow: patches sewn on old jeans tied at the waist with a rope, his oldest tennies, a straw flower pot cover turned inside out for a hat, a visit to the stockyards to pick up straw which got glued around the patches and at the sleeves, a pair of my old gardening gloves and a painted face.

    Black Ninja: all black clothes and a balaclava.

  3. One year my daughter went as Cocoa Puffs. With paper and markers she did the front of a box of cereal on a big cardboard box that she put a head hole and 2 arm holes in. She got plenty of laughs, which was good because she was probably too old to be trick or treating that year.

  4. Thanks for the tactically useful article Jason. I like your consistent combination of creativity and frugality on this site. One of my favorite posts of yours along this thread is “Free Dates Your Wife Will Love”

    It seems that a theme on this site is the creativity that results from living a disciplined financial life. Would you say that is a fair characterization?

    To build on your idea, here are a few things I have tried:
    – $20 weekends
    – Made a book for my sister chalk full of pictures from one of her favorite photographers
    – Cooking Asian food (have cooked more at home to keep costs down)

    I wonder what other creative pursuits can spawn from pinching the dollar:
    – Creative ways to re-style old clothes?
    – Spend more time using your local library?
    – Create a website about one of your passions (cheap to set up )?

  5. 4 years back in a Halloween Party five of my friends brought 5 sets of costumes. we take turn each year and wear on a specific set. We will repeat the costumes once again. In effect, I spent $20 for 10 years worth of Halloween costumes. this 10 can be increased to 20 years as we wear them only once a year 🙂

    I like you white ghost idea a lot.

  6. My 3 favourite costumes…
    Corpse (old ratty clothes and pale face paint with dark eye circles)
    Vampire victim (normal clothes with 2 puncture wounds at neck and very white makeup)
    Crazy, sad mistress out for revenge (fancy evening gown, fake jewels, very smudgy makeup – to look like crying- and a rubber knife or gun)