Ep. 46: Tips to Save Money on Halloween Costumes
Halloween comes every October. But somehow, we don’t think about it until September. By that time, parents need to run out to stores and pay ridiculous amounts of money on Halloween costumes. I listen to many families as they discuss the costumes which will be purchased for Trick or Treating.
Well, let me just put this out there. If you wait until the middle of October to purchase costumes, you often spend too much money. Life is expensive enough, wouldn’t you like to save where you can? Yup, me, too.
Raising kids is like juggling. There are always many “balls in the air” and it becomes difficult to avoid dropping one. And much of the time, it was always about planning; therefore, we must change our thought processes if we want to see different results. So even though Halloween is coming soon, this post is intended to be used year-round to help parents keep these concepts in mind. Why? Because planning ahead is key.
I was there and after dropping balls that cost me more money or time, I started being a proactive mom.
Proactive parenting vs reactive parenting
Did I ever forget birthdays? No. Was I running out at the last minute to buy a birthday gift? No. How about a Christmas gift? (I know, I know. There are many people who are just last-minute shoppers. But you also know that sometimes spend too much money on those last-minute gifts because…well…you don’t have time to look for a better deal.)
The reason that birthday and Christmas shopping is usually done early is that kids are always thinking of these special days. They might even be constantly making lists of presents that they want. But Halloween? It is not a holiday so it is usually not thought about until the weather gets colder and scarecrows and bales of hay are seen everywhere. Well, that tends to be too late.
Although there were plenty of things that I forgot until the last moment, I tried to avoid the last-minute scramble as much as possible by being a proactive parent.
For instance, when school started, I would take the school schedule and put all the dates on the “family calendar”. No more surprises when there is no school due to a teacher workday. I also added all the dates and times for sporting events, recitals and school vacation dates. Trust me when I say that doing this as soon as the master schedule is known can be life-saving. Telling yourself you will do it later…yeah we know how that turns out.
My work schedule was also added to the calendar so I could see any conflicts and plan them. My kids learned that last-minute requests often did not fit the calendar and might not get done. So there was a race to put birthday party invites or other activities onto the calendar. Yes, I helped teach my kids the value of being proactive!
I cannot tell you how many parents are surprised when they schedule surgery or office visits for their kids and then have to call back to say they did not know it was a school holiday. These last-minute surprises add unnecessary stress. Life is filled with unexpected and non-preventable problems, so fix the ones you can.
Kids love Halloween season. I mean, fall festivals, hayrides, and that pumpkin patch visit combined with parties and Trick or Treating, this is a great season. Halloween costumes should be the cherry on top and not an additional burden. Let’s agree to find a way to take the stress out of getting those outfits ready.
Top tips to save money on Halloween Costumes
When my kids were young, I developed a strategy that helped me save money every time October 31st came around. I spent waaaay too much money on costumes that were only worn once, and I still see parents making this same mistake. I am here to help!
The key is to plan ahead. Yes, life is busy but remember how we discussed planning ahead for birthdays and Christmas because these are expensive gift buying days. Well, Halloween costumes are expensive gifts to buy. It is never too late to begin saving money on these costumes.
Also, as a spoiler alert, kids often want more than one costume since there are Halloween parties and other opportunities to get dressed up.
Oh, and one other thing, I am only talking about Halloween costumes for your kids. Pet costumes are a huge business with sales up to 1 BILLION dollars in 2018. Whaaaaat?
Hand-me downs and repeat wearing
- I grew up with my sister’s hand me downs, and I became a pro at saving things for my youngest child.
- I do not understand the need to avoid repeat wearing by the same child so even if it still fits the next year, you might use some of my other tips to make it different.
- The Lamb Chop costume was one of my favorites for my girls. And also one of the most expensive. But I loved the game, who wore it better!
Swap Halloween costumes with classmates and friends
- This is a great tradition to begin for friends which increases the pool of options for parties
- Bonus points for friends who do not go to your child’s school or live nearby. Great to have fresh eyes on the new outfit.
Check out the discount, big box, and dollar stores
- I used to visit the party stores and the pop-up Halloween shops, but the prices were always out of this world.
- Back in the day, there was not a Walmart and Target on every corner or the great selection at warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s. Definitely look at these places instead of the niche specialty stores.
Buy cheap costumes in November to save in costume bin
- The day after holidays RULES in terms of savings. Who has not seen aisles of Easter Candy on Monday? Or the fire sale of Christmas decorations on December 26th?
- Well, if you have small kids, you need to be shopping on November 1st every year. Yes I know you want to involve your kids in deciding what they want to be next year, but we “decided” based on what was on sale or what we already had! Then it was my job to make it exciting.
- This is the time to run to Party City and the popup Halloween shops who are dumping their inventory
- In fact, one of my favorite things was going to buy extra wigs, wands, and masks so that they could be upgrades for a future costume.
Involve kids in arts and crafts making parts of the costume
- This helps to make part of the costume unique, even if it is a basic witches costume. Nothing like orange puffy paint to add a little flare.
- Think about plain aspects of a costume that you have found that could be jazzed up with supplies from Hobby Lobby.
- Many people add a section for making your child’s costumes. Well, that is an option but let me tell you it is not for the faint of heart! I did it one year…and then never again. From scratch. It was awful and time-consuming but they loved it. It was a memory we will always have. If you love to sew, then add that to your to-do list but it added unnecessary stress to me. I prefer to bedazzle and paint something already made!
Thrift and consignment stores for old Halloween costumes…in July
- Finding those nearly new, heavily discounted Halloween costumes is always a joy. But the key is not to start looking for them in the Fall. Many are already picked over and you will not find as much success.
- Christma in July is a thing…and I suggest Halloween in July become your new thing! Getting a jump on things when no one else is thinking about it gives you more time to plan.
- Some parents sell their costumes, which is a great way to make a few dollars but that is not my favorite recommendation. Why? Because of the next tip…
Keep accessories from old costumes
- I wish I knew this little gem of a secret earlier.
- Princess wands and lumberjack axes will always be the same. Do not get rid of them when the costume is too small or passed along to another deserving child
- I can tell you once I embraced this, I saved money for years. I am talking in high school for English class presentations when dressing up is important all the way through themed events in college. In fact, I may or may not still have the orange costume bin the basement.
- There is nothing like your adult daughter swinging by the house to browse my storage bins to find a wig to wear for a gathering with friends. Who needs to spend money on a wig for a night when we have a collection that has stood the test of time.
- Think sheriff badges, capes, masks, wigs, witch hats, pirate eye patch. These accessories may be priceless in the years to come.
My favorite: Practice face painting throughout the year
- Of course, I did not know this early on as evidenced by the above photo of my Lamb Chop girls. My daughter looks at it and asks what I was doing with the makeup. She said it looks like she had eaten a small animal. I definitely upped my makeup game over time.
- Every costume is better with makeup, but typical makeup sold with Halloween costumes tends to be cheesy. You need some good face paints and that can make a simple costume become fancy.
- Also, this is a great skill to have for birthday parties and just random things to do on a weekend. You do not have to be great at this but the effort is not lost of your kids. Take a look at some birthday party face painting I did for my girls. Not stellar but look at these smiling faces.
Don’t ask your child what specific Halloween costumes they want
- I know many parents ask kids what they want to be. But you can expect them to want the newest trend or heavily marketed character. And you can bet this will cost a pretty penny.
- I asked what TYPE of outfit they liked and requested they list a range of options! Then based on what I found, I would come home and SELL IT.
- This is key. You must have enthusiasm over your purchases and share how you can decorate it or mix and match with other accessories to have a unique outfit.
- Full disclosure, I also asked my kids to give me general categories for Christmas presents, too.
- You want a Barbie…not the new work out Barbie.
- You want an Elmo toy…not the Tickle Me Elmo that everyone in the early 2000s stood in line for hours waiting to get! Nope, my kids had Elmo something else. And they survived.
- Parenting is hard enough without adding extra stress!
Halloween can also help improve your child’s behavior
I am not sure of your holiday traditions, but many kids live and breathe for Christmas when Santa Claus comes to visit. Everyone knows that Santa has a Naughty and Nice list. Kids are usually on their best behavior during the month of December to avoid being on the dreaded Naughty List.
Well, I personally think parents deserve to utilize other holidays, in the same way, to eke out a few more weeks (or even a few days) of good behavior. I did not plan this strategy, it just happened. Kind of like a self-defense mechanism.
When my daughter started kindergarten, she developed a suddenly defiant personality. For weeks on end, there was not any improvement. I was at my wit’s end and suddenly, a plan came to me. It turns out that it was not about fixing her behavior, which I sorely failed at achieving, but it was about me finding relief in my mind. Sometimes doing something for yourself can relieve some stress.
In one of my early blog posts, I shared 5 tips for awesome Halloween behavior in kids where I share the way I survived some of the Halloween season hysteria by earning good behavior from my kids. I understand that each of us has a different parenting style and this may not be your cup of tea. But it worked for me. Find what works for you.
I believe it is extremely important for parents to set boundaries and guide their kids in many areas of decision making. Relieving and preventing unnecessary stress is the goal of the tips I shared in my episode about accidental self-care. You also might want to check out a recent post by a physician colleague that was published in the New York Times and shares how simply saying NO to your child is a form of parental self-care. So keep that in mind when your kids insist that they want what they want!
As always, much love for supporting my work. I will be adding many more posts to highlight parenting and healthcare tips, so be sure to consider subscribing to my podcast or to my blog to avoid missing a post!