BALTIMORE - Take a stroll down the Halloween costume aisle at local stores or click on a few of the costume offerings at websites such as DisneyStore.com. The price tags are downright scary.
For $70, you or your kid can celebrate Halloween as a giant yellow chicken. Forty bucks will buy you a full-bodied banana get-up. And for $29.62, plus shipping and handling, your daughter can be Disney's Belle. And that's the sale price.
Then consider the amount of time your child will spend in this gear before it's relegated to the back of the closet or the dress-up trunk.
If you'd rather not spend monstrous amounts of cash for Halloween costumes, there are alternatives.
Here are a few of my very best no-spend or low-spend ways to save on costumes:
Borrow before you buy. Contact family, friends and co-workers. If your child wants to be a pirate this year, you're bound to know someone whose kid was a pirate last year. They might even thank you for taking the outfit off their hands.
Hit the secondhand stores, a discounted treasure trove of Halloween costumes. Becky Lytle, spokeswoman for Goodwill Industries of Eastern North Carolina, said most stores have a designated rack of costumes.
But Lytle said the best costumes are often mined from the regular clothing racks and bins.
Consignment shops are another secondhand sales venue, though prices are a bit higher than thrift stores.
Costume remakes. Many years ago, when my now-grown son wanted to be a magician, I sewed him a black cape. He wore black pants, a white dress shirt and a top hat from a magic kit. That cape became an investment piece. My younger son wore it with a pair of round spectacles as Harry Potter, and most recently my daughter wore it as a vampire. It's still in the closet, waiting for its next reincarnation.
If you must buy a costume from a traditional retail store:
Think long term. Buy a costume suitable for a boy or a girl so that younger siblings or cousins can wear it in future years.
Go traditional. Pirates, ghosts, clowns and princesses are just as popular today as they were 50 years ago. They can easily be handed down or resold. Steer clear of trendy TV characters that kids five years from now won't recognize.
Make it multipurpose. One year, my daughter desperately wanted to dress up as a doctor. After searching thrift stores, craigslist and garage sales for a miniature pair of scrubs, I broke down and bought her a pair for $20. She wore those scrubs as pajamas for three years.
Watch for a sale. Check advertising for discounts.
Think ahead. When this year's costumes are on clearance, starting Nov. 1, plan for next year. But be sure to stick with classics.
(Contact Amy Dunn at amy.dunn(at)newsobserver.com.)
Must credit The News and Observer of Raleigh, N.C.
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