Easy is a priority for me.
OK, it’s THE priority for me. Every single year around October 30th I do an online search for cheap/easy/DIY/no-sew/last-minute Halloween costume ideas. And every year I ditch those ideas for something even easier. I swear most headlines out there that boast “cheap and easy” ideas are just clickbait trying to reel you in and then wow you with their unparalleled craftiness and pristine photos. Seriously, a costume is not “cheap” if it requires a hoop skirt, “tissue paper in bulk,” or a trip to your “local restaurant supply store.” If you’re like me, you usually just want to get away with spending the least possible amount of time and money. So I decided to share with you my own list of 31 costume ideas that actually are cheap and easy. I’ll tell you how I did some of them, all with things from around the house or a trip to the thrift or dollar store. But you could do them however you find easiest. By the way, did I mention I like things easy?
Costumes For You
A Jack-o-lantern: One year I happened to have an old orange t-shirt and an orange tutu. I turned the shirt inside out, used a black Sharpie to draw a lopsided jack-o-lantern face, pulled the tutu over my jeans, and…voila!
A cereal killer: My Algebra 2 teacher in high school did this. Just stab a few cereal boxes with toy knives, and fasten (Tape? Staple? Hot glue?) the boxes on an old shirt. Or poncho. Or whatever.
A snorkeler: When I was pregnant with Princess, it was all the effort I could muster to put a snorkel on my face to go trick-or-treating. Another year, Hubby was ambitious and wore an entire snorkeling ensemble. Either way it was easy and free!
Charlie Brown as a ghost: In “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” everyone is a ghost for Halloween and wears a sheet with 2 holes for eyes. Charlie Brown, of course, does it wrong and has a sheet with holes all over the place. Classic. *Warning: if you wear this to a church party everyone will think you are the Holy Ghost. C’mon guys, I might be slightly irreverent, but I’m not sacrilegious!
Crippling self-doubt: Have you seen those YouTube videos of Henri the existential cat? In a Halloween one, Henri says, “None of these costumes are truly scary. No one ever dresses as crippling self-doubt.” So I totally did. I used black eyeliner to write “crippling self-doubt” on my face. No one understood it, but it was a great conversation starter.
A baby: For Halloween when I was in college I wore pajamas and slippers, put my hair in pigtails and drew freckles on my face with eyeliner (yes, more eyeliner).
A tired housewife: Unless you think this one is just TOO real, throw on a robe, curlers, and a mud mask and carry a coffee cup. Although the mud mask might start to itch after awhile. Green Halloween makeup also works.
A witch: Any old witch hat will do. Bonus points if you’re a big guy and you add a cape.
An animal: Cat ears. Done. Or bunny ears. Or dog ears. Or cheetah ears. Tail and false nose are optional. Oh, and you can always draw whiskers on your face with eyeliner (again, with the eyeliner).
A pirate: When I was pregnant with Preemie I wore hubby’s big, long-sleeved polo shirt and maternity khakis, tied a belt from a robe around my ample waist, and wore a bandanna on my head. Hubby and Princess were pirates too but J-Dog and J-Dub were at those ages where they don’t want to match their parents and want to get character costumes from fancy-schmancy brick and mortar stores. Psssh.
Costumes for Couples
Angel and Devil: I bought us cheap angel/devil costume kits. His had wings and a halo and mine had horns, a tail and a tiny pitchfork.
Farmers: Hubby and I did this when we were first married. We wore plaid shirts and jeans, he wore a cowboy hat, and I wore pigtail braids and drew freckles on my cheeks with, you guessed it, eyeliner.
Pick your decade: This is especially fun as a couple. If you have any paraphernalia from the 70’s or 80’s lying around, this is a great time to break it out. If not, go thrift shopping! And dollar stores sometimes have costume-y decade-themed items this time of year.
Harry Potter characters: Wear white shirts and ties, graduation robes, and carry sticks for wands.
A nerd couple: Nerd glasses, suspenders, pocket-protectors, bow-ties, etc. are almost always available at the dollar store. Don’t forget to roll up your pants!
A tourist couple: Chances are, you’ve been tourists for real at some point so you’ve got all the stuff already. Visors, fanny packs, a map, a camera, Hawaiian shirts, and socks with sandals are all good options.
Prom king and queen: A suit and a Burger King type of crown for him, a fancy dress and a sash and tiara for her. I’ve even seen toilet paper sashes.
Salt and Pepper: A white “S” on her shirt and a black “P” on his. Or vise versa.
Going Steady: Pretend you’re back in high school. Dress in the era you went to high school. Gals, wear his old Letterman’s jacket and have him “carry your books.” Maybe your teenagers even have some big textbooks lying around unused (heh heh).
Each other: One year Hubby and I dressed as each other. He stuffed one of my bras with socks, wore my workout clothes, a blonde wig, and makeup. I wore my own dress pants, his dress shirt, tie, work jacket, and hat and attempted to draw a five o’ clock shadow with brown eyeliner. It was amazing. The costume idea, not the eyeliner. OK, but honestly folks, for someone who never wears eyeliner I sure use it in a lot of costumes. You could use Halloween makeup instead. Or Sharpie. Yeah, definitely use Sharpie (Do NOT use Sharpie).
Costumes For Kids
Darth Vader: Whatever your kid’s favorite character is, you can probably pull together something for a simple costume. For J-Dog one year I bought a cheap Darth Vader mask (not a whole helmet), had him wear all black, pinned black fabric as a cape, and then made a little control panel (y’know, that he has on his chest) out of cardboard and paint or Sharpie or something. Now that I think of it, you can just google it and print a photo. See? Always learning how to be more lazy.
General Grievous’ bodyguards: I’m really proud of this one because it’s so dang obscure and I still pulled it together out of things from home. Both boys insisted on being these lesser-known characters that apparently were really cool in the Lego Star Wars video game, and mommy sure delivered (if I do say so myself). Beanies, makeup, bed sheets, brooms with foil and purple marker. Not fancy, but they were happy.
Luke Skywalker: J-Dub wore all black with a glove on one hand and carried a light saber. Boom: Luke from Return of the Jedi.
Wolverine: I ripped the sleeves off of a t-shirt, gelled J-Dog’s hair and made claws out of cardboard and aluminum foil that he held between his fingers. He LOVED it.
Woody: We already had everything for this except for the vest so I made it out of felt. I think I sewed 3 felt sheets together and then glued on felt cow spots.
Billy Idol: When J-Dub was a year old we had him wear black jeans, a black t-shirt with ripped-off sleeves and we spiked his blonde hair. We might have also drawn a tattoo on his bicep with the ever-present eyeliner.
Fairy Princess: You can always get a tutu, a tiara, wings and a wand at the dollar store. Throw in a little face glitter if you’re feeling up to it. I convinced my girls to do this 3 years in a row because it was so cheap, but they loved it!
Sports star: If you have any old sports uniforms lying around they make a great last-minute costume.
Santa hat: Perfect for the “I’m too old to dress up” crowd.
Injured: For the “I’m not too old yet , but I forgot that the church Trunk-or-Treat was today” crowd.
Costume for the Dog
A different animal: Break out those animal ears again and make your dog into a cat or something. Trust me, it’s hilarious.
The goal with all of this is minimal effort so do whatever works for you. Let me know what cheap and easy ideas you’ve had. I’m always looking for new ones!