Cheap Halloween Costumes

Giddy to get your ghoul on this Halloween? It doesn’t take blood money to get a head-turning cheap Halloween costume…

Lady Gaga 2009 VMA Performance Outfit Adult Costume

Giddy to get your ghoul on this Halloween? It doesn’t take blood money to get a head-turning cheap Halloween costume. A creative and inexpensive costume idea won’t just save you money; it might even win you a chunk of that costume contest cash!

Sure, making your own Halloween costume is the frugal way to be frightening; but it can also score points for creativity when you walk into a room of guys donning expensively generic celebrity facemasks. You don’t have to have an attic brimming with old garb to pull off a cheap costume; check out your local Salvation Army or Goodwill store for everything you’ll need.

Cheap Halloween Costumes for Women

Hot Halloween costumes for women this year include Lady Gaga, Jersey Shore’s Snooki, Alice or the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. Although you could spend $50 or more on a prefab costume, you could probably pull many of these off for less with some creativity and a trip to your local thrift shop.

  • Lady Gaga: Perhaps the only requirements for a Lady Gaga costume are a blonde wig and some creativity; the crazier, the better. Just don’t attempt to replicate the meat dress she wore to the 2010 VMAs; you’ll pay dearly for the 50-plus pounds of beef needed to pull it off. Ready-to-wear Lady Gaga costume »
  • Snooki: Got a dress that’s too tight, a spray tan, and a couple of cantelopes? Congratulations, you’ve got a Snooki costume. Just go easy on the Malibu. Ready-to-Wear Snooki Costume »
  • Linsday Lohan: Want to dress up as Hollywood’s infamously-sloshed starlet, Linsday Lohan? Easy, just wear any old cocktail dress and pop one of those black digital watches around your ankle. Add a little powdered sugar to your upper lip for effect.

Cheap Halloween Costumes for Men

Trendy men’s Halloween costumes in 2010 might include Wonderland’s Mad Hatter and Iron Man. Unfortunately, however, I don’t have out of any brilliant ideas for whipping up these costumes on the cheap. Here are some others, however:

  • Disgruntled Flight Attendant Steven Slater: Add a forehead gash and plastic wings to any old shirt and tie or work uniform and you’ve got one angry male stewardess.
  • Don Draper: Although the acclaimed show Mad Men isn’t new, the show’s 60’s men’s style is hardly passe. And dressing as Mad Men’s leading man couldn’t be easier if you can get your hands on a vintage suit. A cigarette and tumbler brimming with whiskey complete the costume.
  • 1920’s Bootlegger: In the spirit of HBO’s new prohibition-era series Boardwalk Empire, simply don a three-piece suit and a flat cap and call yourself Nucky Thompson.

Perennial Money-Saving Halloween Tricks

Some costumes never get old; nor does saving money.

Sheets are for more than ghosts. Don an old sheet for myriad effects. It’s a toga, burqa, loin cloth, and robe all in one. Tear up pieces of several old sheets and pin them together to create a haggard look perfect for going as a vagrant, bum, vagabond, scoundrel, old hag…well, you get the idea.

Your own clothes go a long way. Wear all black and you can be any number of figures like a priest or a thief. Gray sweats with the right make-up can make you any number of animals including a mouse, a bunny, or an elephant. Think you got your Tom Cruise down? Half-decent impersonations can make up for donning everyday clothes in the style of your favorite celeb.

Use props. The right costume jewelry, pair of oversized glasses, or flavor flav clock around your neck can make a costume, even if you’re wearing little else. Dig in the attic or thrift store for the one piece that will make your get-up stand out.

Make up for shabby attire with creativity. Some examples? Graduate: Don flip flops, a college sweatshirt, and a will work for food sign. Unemployed puppet: Wear whatever you want with a hat that has strings and handles attached. Walk around with the strings dragging. Cast away: muss up your hair and wear cut-off shorts with a wrinkled business shirt. Carry a coconut for good measure.

Make your own make up. Why drop dough on a tube of fake blood you’ll trash tomorrow? If you have some basic foodstuffs around you can make your own costume makeup. Combine 4 parts cornstarch and 2 parts vegetable shortening and add food coloring to dye. For the best results, clean and dry your face first, apply a super thin layer of moisturizing cream and cornstarch second, and lastly apply the makeup.

Prefer a ready-to-wear costume? Shop for affordable Halloween Costumes online now »

About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


  1. David Weliver says:

    My wife had another idea last night while watching Glee:

    Sue Sylvester. All you need is a track suit. And let’s face it: this costume could work for both the ladies and the guys.

  2. I know someone that is going as Flo the Progressive insurance gal…all you need is to do your makeup like her…a bumpit and headband and dress in all white and paint the word Progressive on a white apron. Youtube it to look at her style/apron closely.
    ALSO…someone else I know is going as Mother Nature from those tampon commercials. All you need is an elaborately wrapped gift in red with a big red bow with tag that reads “Your gift” and dress in green ladies skirted suit and greenery tucked behind your ear. Voila!

  3. I love the Don Draper idea! I’d love to be Joan Holloway this year actually :)

  4. Haha, I love the costumes for women…snooki and lady gaga. Soooo true how easy it is to dress up like those and how cheap it is…who knew being frugal could be so much fun! Awesome stuff David!

  5. Hey I got good super hero hallowen costumes for my kids at