Don’t Be Afraid to Save On Halloween

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You don't need a financial fright to have fun with Halloween. Stacy finds out the most popular costumes for the season and gives advice for saving on spooks.

The most frightening part of Halloween is how much money we spend on the holiday: almost $6 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. That works out to about $66 per American for costumes, candy, and decorations.

But there’s no reason to carve up your wallet along with your pumpkin, if you’ve got a little time and can muster up a little creativity. Halloween’s one holiday where cheesy, cheap tricks actually work well. You can even pull off homemade versions of some of the most popular costumes this year. As mentioned in the video, for instance, pop sensation Lady Gaga is a common choice this year – which means you can wear just about anything, including meat – although that might be biting off more than you can chew.

Going Gaga

If you want to pull off this look, hit the closets and garage sales with this list:

  • Elbow-length gloves
  • Huge belt
  • Crystals & crazy jewelry
  • Wings and collar
  • Sunglasses (very big or odd looking ones)
  • Platinum wig and wild makeup.

Vampires are still in style as well, and thanks to the Twilight flicks, you don’t need to look like a Victorian-era aristocrat to pull it off. Pale skin, maybe some cheap plastic fangs, and a haunted expression will work well with casual clothes. Try applying some light foundation – if you’re a guy, ask a female friend to help you out if you don’t know what that is – to achieve the “undead” look, or suntan lotion can work in a pinch.

Thrift stores can provide you with cheap outfits, too. And if you’re only spending a few bucks, there’s no harm done if you make some alterations. You can cut things up for a ragged or patchy look, add some fake bloodstains, or redecorate as you see fit. Be creative.

Homemade makeup easy and cheap.

Whether it’s for you or your kids, here’s a simple and cheap way to make white face paint to pull off any look — from a joker to a vampire. Mix these together for white or add food color for creepy colors.

  • 2 tsp white shortening
  • 5 tsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp white all purpose flour
  • 3-4 drops of glycerin

Add some realistic blood.

Need to add some blood for effect without bleeding out your budget? Here’s a super simple recipe with ingredients you probably already have at home. Mix corn starch and water in large bowl while stirring in the corn syrup and cocoa. Add food color slowly.

  • 2/3 c. corn syrup
  • 1/3 c. warm water
  • 5 tsp corn starch
  • 4-6 tsp red food color
  • 1 Tbsp powdered cocoa
  • 2 drops of green or yellow food color (optional)

Bruises, scabs and moles.

Need to add a few skin defects to your costume? Check these out:

For bruises, use deep blue eye shadow and apply with a wet brush. Use your fingers to add a bit of grey and blue eye shadow. Finish the edges with olive green eye shadow and blend it all with a small brush and dust lightly with foundation powder.

For decorations, check your garage or closet for stuff you’re never going to use again anyway, or hit up the dollar store. Styrofoam can make a cheap tombstone, and might not look too shabby if you spray-paint it. You can cut up some cardboard boxes and make simple shapes like spiders or bats, then hang them from string. If you’ve got a long box, you’ve got a coffin. Cotton balls can be stretched into cobwebs.

If you’re still at a loss for ideas, check out Halloween Tips for suggestions on costumes, props, treats, games, and party ideas. Coolest Homemade Costumes has a photo gallery with hundreds of ideas, too. Want to add a few more creepy ideas? Here’s everything from fake hands to aliens in jars.

The bottom line for saving money on Halloween is creativity – what people pay top dollar for is really just plastic and prepackaged ideas. You can keep your cash for other holidays and have more fun just by thinking up your own decorations and costume. But don’t skimp on the candy. Disappointing a sugar-high host of four-foot-tall monsters can be pretty scary.

Stacy Johnson

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