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Strapped for cash this Halloween? From one parent to another, here’s some quick and cheap costume ideas

Go back to basics with cheap costumes this Halloween. Image: Shutterstock.
Go back to basics with cheap costumes this Halloween. Image: Shutterstock.

Gone are the days when Halloween meant carving a neep and rummaging for a bin bag to transform your kid into a witch.

It’s hard not to cave into the pressure to deck out your house and pour your time and money into Halloween costumes.

But as the cost of living crisis deepens, many parents just don’t have the cash to spare. Maybe it’s time for a throwback Halloween – cheap, cheerful and just a little bit tacky.

After all, it’s the haul of sweets that the kids are really interested in.

This year, my kids both went down the zombie theme – my daughter wants to be a corpse bridesmaid and my little boy a zombie footballer. Thankfully, neither one needs much skill.

Here are their costumes, together with some more ideas for cheap and easy Halloween costumes you can make at home.

Zombie footballer

Reiss Sinclair as a zombie footballer

This is a back-of-the-cupboard creation! Take an old T-shirt – ideally a football one but any plain top could work – and add some rips.

The next bit is fiddly but doable with some patience. Cut a foam football in half and glue it, sew it, or tape it to the t-shirt. I couldn’t get a foam ball so I cut a regular bouncy ball in half, and discovered it was white on the inside. I attached it with some stitches and drew on the pattern (badly!) with a sharpie.

Add some spooky face paint and lashings of fake blood to complete the look.

Cost: £6 for football and fake blood

Corpse bride/bridesmaid

Ava Sinclair as a corpse bridesmaid.

My daughter’s best friend is going to their Halloween party as a corpse bride, so in a rare show of co-operation, Ava offered to be her bridesmaid.

Cue one happy mum because this outfit is easy. A while back Ava was given a dress that she said she wouldn’t be seen dead in – making it perfect for her undead costume!

Simply take an old dress and hack it up with cuts and rips. Ava had fun helping with this. On reflection, the light blue dress didn’t look spooky so I added a Halloween tablecloth I had lying around. The above photo is a trial run but I plan to make it look like a layered dress and safety pin in place.

We added a black bouquet (my mum’s unwanted decorative flowers with lashings of paint) and a black hairband from the supermarket. I did some quick make-up and fake blood for that just-risen-from-the-dead look. With more time you could really get creative and there are some amazing make-up looks online.

Cost: £6 for optional accessories (but it could be done cheap or free depending on what you have at home)

Glow in the dark skeleton

This is a cheap but effective Halloween costume. Have your child dress from top to toe in black, close-fitting clothes. Then simply use clear packing tape or glue to attach glow sticks in any design you like. It could be a stick man or a skeleton. Activate the sticks carefully, as late as possible before your little one goes out guising or partying. This outfit looks really cool on a dark night and has the added bonus of making them easy to see!

I actually found a glow stick skeleton kit in B&M for £3 but any glow sticks would work.

If you don’t fancy this one, here’s Pinterest with two other super simple skeleton ideas: a white t-shirt torn to make ‘ribs’ and an ‘Operation’ inspired costume with stick-on organs.

Cost: £3-5 for glow sticks

Classic ghost

DIY ghost Halloween costume
Slash up an old voile curtain and decorate with cobwebs and chains for a classic Hallowe’en ghost.

I mean, what parent hasn’t gone down the emergency white sheet route for a last-minute costume? Of course, the quickest and simplest way to do a ghost costume is the classic sheet over the head with cut-out eyes.

If you have a bit more time, you can do something more creative without adding to the cost.

When my daughter was a toddler I got some old white muslin and tore it into lots and lots of strips, of varying lengths. You can then pin, stitch or use hemming tape to attach them to a more substantial white sheet. I cut out rough holes for the head, arms and legs, and the strips of muslin hid how rough and ready it really was.

I added cobwebs, a plastic chain (note: bad idea for bouncy castles, as I later realised) and a black wig and make-up.

Cost: Free if you have an old sheet or fabric at home.

Wednesday Addams

A cheap Halloween costume that’s also trendy, as Netflix prepares to release Tim Burton’s new Addam’s Family spin-off ‘Wednesday’ next month.

The classic Wednesday look is a simple black dress – even a school pinafore would work – with the addition of a white collar. This could be cut from an old shirt or simply made out of cardboard.

Add the iconic plaits and some gothic make-up, and you have the perfect Wednesday.

Bonus points for the brilliant Cousin IT trick-or-treat bucket made from an old mop!

Cost: Free, depending on what you have at home.

Bin bag witches

Kathryn shares an old 80s snap of her cute little witches

Here’s a throwback to a simpler time. My mum’s friend Kathryn shared this fab photo of her daughter and friends all dressed up and ready to go, as cute little witches. Kathryn writes: “Halloween, when bin bags come into their own!”

It’s a reminder that Halloween is meant to be fun, not a stress fest. So dig out the bin bags and get creative. Kathryn says she sometimes added tin foil stars, or you can make a broomstick from wrapping paper tubes. I love the cute pearls, too.

Channel your inner Blue Peter and give these cheap Halloween costumes a go!

Cost: Free, depending on what you have at home

Cardboard creations

Got some old boxes lying around? A quick internet search offers a whole lot of inspiration. You’re only limited by your own creativity – and patience!

I love the ideas shown in the pin above, but there are simpler options too. You could make an Ace of Spades playing card and attach some shoulder straps. Or try out these super cute costumes for toddlers: a wind-up dolly or a cheeky snail shell made from packing paper.

Rag craft pirate skirt

A cute pirate skirt made of torn-up fabric scraps.

Young kids love a pirate costume, and accessories like a hook, cutlass and pirate hat are easy to make from card and foil. A stripy top and jeans tucked into wellies will complete the look.

Pictured above is an outfit I made for Ava when she was small. Admittedly, I bought some Halloween fabric because it was too cute to resist, but any dark print – or splashes of red – would work just as well.

Simply take some old clothes or rags and cut into strips of varying lengths. These can then be attached to a skirt using safety pins or iron-on hemming tape. An old black shirt can be cut up into a waistcoat, or you can make a no-sew version with felt.

Cost: Roughly £5 if you want to buy some accessories, but this could be done for free.

Send us your photos!

Did you try any of our ideas for cheap Halloween costumes? Do you have your own creative hacks to share? We’d love to see your photos. Send them to with your child’s name and age.

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