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Free Halloween Costumes {Day 17}

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31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero. Freeze your spending. Change Your Life. Awesome way to reset your spending patterns or kick-start your budget!

This is the seventeenth day of my 31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero challenge. To read all the posts in order, start with Day One or visit the Overview Page.

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These creative costume ideas for your children are totally free.Can you believe Halloween is only two weeks away? Now none of you mentioned it out loud when I first brought up this 31 days challenge last month, but I know at least a few of you were thinking “Spending freeze? In October? Yeah right! What about HALLOWEEN?” Or something like that.

But I promise I didn’t forget about Halloween. In fact, the girls and I have been working on ideas for this post for weeks! Because let me tell ya, it isn’t always easy to get a 3 and 6 year old to repeatedly cooperate with getting dressed up and posing for pictures…..especially when you are all out of bribes Lifesavers and unable to purchase more because of said spending freeze.

They were such troopers.

My goal was to come up with as many FREE Halloween costumes as we could possibly think of, using ONLY the things we had at home. I must say, though, if you have to buy something, let it be this face painting kit. I bought ours more than 3 years ago and we have used it for countless costumes, birthday parties, play dates, & church events since and it is still going strong. It is by far the best $17 I have ever spent.

Along the way I came up with six tips that will hopefully help you come up with some free costume ideas of your own, since obviously the things I have laying around my house might not be what you have lying around yours.

Finding a budget friendly costume starts with raiding your kid's closet to see what they already have.

1. Raid your kids’ closet

Even “regular” clothes can turn into a costume when you mix them up in a silly way or add different accessories. Most kids have at least a few colorful or eccentric pieces to choose from. Between the clothes in their closet and the box of hand-me-downs in the attic that I am still waiting for Trouble to grow into, I found enough costume-worthy elements for a Movie Star, Rock Star, & Harriet the Spy.

Check your child's dress up bin for Halloween costumer materials.

2. Check the dress up bin

Most kids love to play dress up so chances are you’ve already got a stash of ready-made Halloween costumes ready to go. Pair a playtime fire hat with a few other accessories (in this case old boots spray-painted black and a faux fireman’s coat) for a quick & easy fireman’s costume, or pair a red princess dress with a red coat or cape & a basket for a darling Little Red Riding hood ensemble. And if you’ve got a little girl ages 3-8, chances are they probably want to be a princess anyway!

Use any sports gear like tutus from ballet class to create costumes like this butterfly.

3. Use your sports gear

My girly girls are into dance & gymnastics so leotards & tutus are the only sports gear we’ve got at home. However most little boys would be perfectly content wearing their football, baseball, or soccer gear & dressing up like a sports star.

Think outside the box and use materials already in your home to create a totally free and awesome costume.

4. Think outside the box

Husband and I needed to dress up earlier this month for an early grown-ups-only Halloween party with friends. Since our clothes are pretty boring and we don’t have a dress up bin, we had to be a little more creative. We decided to “think outside the box” and go with something that could keep people guessing. I’ll give you a hint:  our costume themes are related. Any guesses?

Recycling old costumes for your kiddos works just like new and is free.

5. Recycle Old Costumes

Who says you can’t re-use an old costume? Too-small costumes can be given new life with leggings or other accessories, or consider trading last year’s costumes with another family.

Sew something for your kid's Halloween costume and throw something together with what you have.

6. Sew something

You do NOT have to be an expert seamstress to make a Halloween costume. In fact it really only has to look good for one night (or one picture, if we’re being honest with ourselves!)  If sewing is too hard, then try hot glue or safety pins or even staples. It’s one night!

For Trouble’s super hero cape, I literally just sewed two pieces of scrap fabric together, then sewed a ribbon to it. It took all of 10 minutes, if that, and required sewing nothing more than a straight line. The ninja costume was one I whipped up for a Ninjago-themed birthday party a few months ago. I made 2 of them in less than an hour–hardly quality craftsmanship, but good enough! (It was a ninja princess costume because a skirt was easier to make than pants)  Princess’ Bumble Bee costume, which I actually made last year, was only very slightly more effort. (Get the full Bumblebee Costume tutorial here.)

Of course sometimes the costume you sew ends up something like this one, in which case you can just let people try and guess. Any ideas what Trouble is supposed to be here? 🙂

Your kids will have so much fun playing dress-up for Halloween they won't miss an expensive costume.

These were all the costumes we managed to get pictures of before the girls finally flat out refused to help me anymore, but there were several more on my list, including:

  • Fairy (dress up dress + butterfly wings + face paint)
  • Black Cat (black leotard + black tights + face paint + handmade ears & tail)
  • Robot (assorted boxes covered with tin foil)
  • Balloon Bouquet (black leotard + black tights + balloons attached all over body)
  • Ghost (white sheet with holes for eyes–classic!)
  • Pirate (pirate-y clothes + eye patch + bandana)
  • Lumberjack (flannel shirt + jeans + suspenders + fake beard)
  • Reporter (trench coat + fedora with “press” card inserted in brim + notebook & fake camera)
  • Paper Doll (paper doll “dress” with tabs made out of cardboard)
Find a budget friendly Halloween costume idea for your kiddo here.
And finally, the girls & I thought it would be fun to let y’all vote on what costumes they should wear for Halloween this year. Please let us know in the comments below which costume for each of them you like the best!

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Do you normally choose homemade or store-bought costumes? What are your kids going to be for Halloween this year? What’s the most creative homemade costume you’ve seen?

{Go to Day 18}


  1. Amanda
    October 17 at 08:52AM

    Trouble is so hilarious! Is she a green Smurf? My vote is Super Trouble and Bumblebee. Thanks for the great ideas!

  2. Sarah L.
    October 17 at 09:04AM

    I like the spy and movie star. 🙂 Great tips. Your kids are so cute!

  3. Denise
    October 17 at 09:06AM

    Oh my gosh Ruth, these are SO awesome! I love them all! That green one is so funny. Is she a pickle? It is hard to pick but I really like the spy and the ballet costume one.

  4. Heather
    October 17 at 09:21AM

    I was wondering what you were going to do for Halloween this year. I love the movie star & super trouble. Thanks for the great tips. Due to circumstances beyond my control I haven’t been able to follow this challenge all the way but I have really enjoyed all the posts so far. I think I will give it another shot in January!

  5. Alisha
    October 17 at 09:29AM

    How are you EVER going to choose? Oh my goodness…all so cute! Although Trouble does look particularly cute as a Rock Star and Princess makes a fabulous butterfly. But really, any of them will be a hit!

  6. Sam
    October 17 at 09:41AM

    I like the movie star and the spy:) Is trouble a book worm? So CUTE!

  7. Faith
    October 17 at 09:51AM

    Trouble is a book worm! I think Trouble should wear the Litte Red Riding Hood costume, and Princess should wear either the movie star or butterfly!

  8. Carol
    October 17 at 10:10AM

    I like Little Red Riding Hood for Trouble and the ballerina or bumblebee for Princess

  9. I like the bookworm and the bumblebee!!! So cute!!

  10. Melissa N
    October 17 at 11:25AM

    I love Red Riding Hood and the Butterfly. We have fun with seeing what we have on hand and then thrift shop for costumes. This year is the least $$ spent, found a cute dress that will totally work for a fairy dress for only $2 (bought back in Sept at thrift shop) we already have the pink wings, sparkle spray and wand. Yeah for the budget! I love all your ideas!

  11. Bethany
    October 17 at 01:19PM

    Little Red Riding Hood and the Movie Star! 🙂

    • Andrea
      October 20 at 03:32PM

      I totally agree, Little Red Riding Hood and the movie star!

  12. Jenny
    October 17 at 02:12PM

    Oh my goodness – Princess has to be that Movie Star. I love the pose! And only Trouble can pull off the “Super Trouble” look!

  13. Dawn
    October 17 at 03:25PM

    Little Red Riding Hood and Movie Star!!

  14. October 18 at 02:15AM

    Oh, I thought she was Elphaba from Wicked. Bookworm is much more clever!

    #1Child at age 5 made a pirate costume; at age 7, a “paper bag monster” costume from Trader Joe’s bags and staples. Awesome!

    This year we went to Goodwill to check out costumes (not having signed onto the spending freeze, haha). #1Child is putting together a zombie costume from things found there; #2Child picked out a cheerleading outfit, but today announced, “I want to be a fairy!” “Are you going to wear the fairy outfit we already have?” I inquired. “YES!” was the happy answer — so, as you point out, shopping in our own closet/dressup bin. I will keep the cheerleader outfit in case there’s another change of heart. Also, with several Halloween events to go to between home/school/city events, sometimes costume fatigue sets in and they want to mix it up. It will be nice to have a backup.

    And I got a package of face painting crayons for a dollar at a rummage sale last week. Those will come in handy.

  15. Amber
    May 22 at 12:07AM

    Very cute costumes!

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