My Fun and Frugal Halloween Philosophy – Crafts, Costumes, and Deals

Hi all! Today I wanted to talk a bit about my strategies to have fun and save money for Halloween. Adorable costumes, delicious recipe links, and deal strategies to save money and still have a bunch of fun decorations will abound throughout this post. I’m also hoping you’ll share how you save money and still have fun on Halloween!

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year to spend with the boys. It can be expensive – the average American spends between $169 and $183 per person!! Talk about scary.

As an awesome CMO reader, you of course don’t need to be that person. Over the past fifteen years as a parent, I’ve developed a variety of money-saving strategies. You can use just one or two, or all of them, to have a fun and frugal Halloween.

Having a Fun and Frugal Halloween

Costumes – Secondhand or Make Your Own

Even if you’re not usually a fan of secondhand or consignment clothes (which are one of my favorite things ever, especially for small kids!), Halloween is the time to change your mind. Costumes are usually worn for only one year, maybe two if you’re lucky and your kid doesn’t grow like a weed. That means you can find amazing costumes at great deals if you get them secondhand.

Of course, the best costumes would be free ones that were handed down from a friend, family member, or older sibling. That may not always be possible because of the ages of your friends children and/or lack of older siblings. That was always the case for my oldest son. We were the first among our friends to have children and we rarely received hand-me-down clothes.

We did get handed down this costume by a co-worker back when my now 15 year old was small.

So we would go with the second option-consignment costumes. For less than the cost of a low-quality Walmart costume you can get something amazing. The disadvantage to deploying this strategy is that you don’t get to decide what you want to dress up as.

Although this works just fine for younger children, older ones will usually refuse to go along. It’s always worth checking, though, and some kids don’t really care what they go as. I also find that the costume selection variety and volume goes waaaaay down as the kids go up in size. So while you’ll find plenty of costumes for toddlers, you won’t find many for teens.

Alex in his Monsters Inc Costume
This is my little guy in his Sully costume (from Monsters Inc) from the consignment shop (Note for Penny – this is the last time I’ll put it up, I swear!!!). It cost under $10.

If you don’t get anything for free, and can’t find anything used, see if you can make it yourself. This year my middle son wants to be Shredder from the Ninja Turtles. Instead of going out and buying it, my husband is making the costume using ordinary clothing (that can be re-worn for school), things we got from the Dollar Store, and aluminum tape. Check out how cool it is!

Nathan As Shredder

The year before last, my oldest son (13 at the time) wanted to be Vash the Stampede. Now, this is a tricky one, because you can’t find any costumes of that character unless you want to pay hundreds of dollars for a cosplay costume.

Instead of doing that, I used coupons to buy a 99 cent pattern from JoAnn fabrics, buttons, interfacing, and a bunch of red fabric to make the costume myself. And by “myself” I mean with the help of my mother, who is a phenomenal seamstress. That costume was re-used again last year for Vincent from Final Fantasy 7. We only needed to make a few changes and get him a wig.

Nick in his Vash the Stampede Costume
LOVE AND PEACE!!!! from the 60 billion double dollar man (Vash the Stampede)


All Things Food – Pumpkins, Apples, and Cookies!

One of my favorite parts of fall is all the food. For special holidays I really like going wild with sugar cooking decorating. Not only is it inexpensive, it’s also easy. You can get as fancy or as basic as you want to. Most of the craft stores sell tons of Halloween sprinkles, and those craft stores always have coupons. It’s a lot of fun for the kids to sit down with some white, black, orange, yellow, purple and green colored icing and go to town.

If you’re looking for the recipe to try this yourself, scroll down to the end of this post!

Homemade Halloween Cookies
OK, last year we might have gone a little crazy with the decorations. And by a little I mean a lot.

Since the CMO clan lives in Connecticut, you know that we need to go apple picking every year. We’re fortunate where we live to have two apple orchards just down the street and around the corner from our house. Every year we go apple picking, and then once the apples are all off the trees, we buy them from the orchard right up until it closes in May.

Then of course there are pumpkins – tons of pumpkins. I  get a sugar pumpkin and use it to make pie and bread. The nice thing about using a real pumpkin is that not only does it taste better than the canned stuff, but it also freezes very well. Never made actual pumpkin before? It’s easier than you think.

All you need to do is cut the pumpkin into chunks, remove the insides (seeds and string), and steam it for about 25 minutes. Once steamed, blend it all together in a blender.  After I use pumpkin in a recipe, I’ll put the rest into a freezer bag and lay them flat in the freezer so they can stack easily. Here’s a link to my all-time favorite pumpkin bread/muffin recipe – although I do leave out the chocolate chips.

Alex in the pumpkin patch
Someone looked so cute in the pumpkin patch!

Crafts, Dollar Stores, and Buying in November – Three Ways To Save

In addition to having random pumpkins, piles of apples, and heaps of Halloween sugar cookies around the house, we also decorate for Halloween every year. I tend toward reusable decorations, because I don’t like buying things I have to throw away. Having kids as long as I have, we’ve built up quite an impressive collection of Halloween crafts. I like to go to the craft stores and, using a coupon, buy us some blank wooden crafts to paint.

I then save them to put up again every year. It’s fun to look back on crafts the kids did years ago, and to see how much they’ve improved over time. I also usually get a craft for myself so I can join in the fun. And with the crafts usually only being a dollar each (less with coupon) it’s a frugal way to have some seasonal fun.

Another favorite place to pick up decorations is the dollar store. For $5 you can get five different fabulous things you can use (and re-use) for years to come. Just don’t go too crazy and get more than you need. Also remember you’ll build up over time. I’ve lived in this house now for 11 years, and lived on my own household away from my parents for nearly 20 years. Even picking up one or two new decorations each year will go a long way over that kind of time-frame. Here’s some of my amazing dollar store finds.

The last tip I have for you today is to be fearless about seeking discounts on November 1st. If there’s a more expensive seasonal decoration that I’d like to pick up, I always do it right after the holiday. On November 1st all those things that were on the shelves for Halloween suddenly need to disappear to make room for the all-important Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday stuff.

You can find all sorts of things at deep discounts, and store them away for next Halloween. So make a note on your calendar to head out November 1st to see what you can find! And be sure to follow me on social media to see what kinds of bargains we pick up.

Halloween Sugar Cookie Recipe

As promised earlier, I’m leaving you my (not so secret) Halloween sugar cookie recipe. They’re so easy and delicious, we make this same recipe – with different colors and sprinkles – for all the holidays! Be sure to pin this for later.

Halloween Sugar Cookies

If you make sugar cookies, be sure to tag me on social media so I can see what you’ve done! You’ll have a lot of fun with this – and your kids will too.

More Frugal Family Fun Resources

So now you know more about how the CMO family celebrates a fun and frugal Halloween. What’s your favorite tip, or your favorite thing to do? Let me know in the comments or over on social media!

Want to learn more about teaching kids about money? Check out this great page with my top articles and resources I’ve found from around the web.

Family Finance

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6 thoughts on “My Fun and Frugal Halloween Philosophy – Crafts, Costumes, and Deals”

  1. We are reusing costumes this year. I made Mr. ThreeYear’s costume last year, but decided that I’m really not that crafty, so I put it on my “Not to Do” list this year. 🙂 We reuse the same Halloween decorations each year, and carve a pumpkin, then go trick-or-treating in our town. We also simplify the entire Halloween process. Our town has two trick-or-treating experiences (because we have a retirement community/golf course in our town and they have their own event) but we just go to one. But we definitely do apple picking in the fall! That’s a must!

    1. chiefmomofficer

      Ha ha, I said the same thing after making my older sons costume last year. Even though my mother helped (a lot) it was still a bit much.

  2. I’ve generally bought my daughter’s costumes new (except for the year she went as Honey Lemon from Big Hero Six, because there didn’t seem to be any costumes), but I also have bought things that she’ll use again. For instance, 3 years ago she went as Hermione from Harry Potter. Last year, she added a pair of glasses and a makeup scar and was Harriet Potter. She used it for the story book parade at school today. And she worn it about a dozen times just to dress up and play Hogwarts.

    And I don’t even want to think about how many times she dressed up in her Tinkerbell costume just to pretend to be a fairy.

    While I’m guessing that this will be less common as she gets older, for now she still enjoys dressing up year round so we probably get our money’s worth out of the costumes.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      That’s awesome! My boys weren’t/aren’t very into dress up, but they sometimes have worn their costumes for school events. Although as they get older that does change

  3. The best time to buy stuff is right after the season! I was in Michaels and ALL of their fall stuff was 80% off, and most of their Christmas stuff was out already. I was so tempted to pick up some decorations, but I have nowhere to decorate 😛 These are great tips!

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