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10 Budget-Friendly, DIY Costume Ideas

All of the Halloween fun, without the scary price tag!

If you’ve carefully planned and budgeted for the ultimate Halloween costume—which has been safely tucked away for the big day for weeks (at least!)—then this post isn’t for you.

No, this post is for the last-minute crowd. But just because the Halloween spirit hit you a little late, doesn’t mean you can’t look your ghoulish best! Keep reading for ten costume ideas that are cheap, fun and suitable for all ages. Plus, they’re easy enough to throw together when you’re down to the last few days (and, in some cases, the last few minutes).

1. Bat

Even if you’re sticking with an, essentially, normal outfit, why not add some bat flair? These wings are too cute (and cost-effective) to miss! All you need is a cheapie, black umbrella and a teeny-weeny bit of assembly. I bat you’ll love wearing them all night, too.

Optional: Wear all black, and add a headband with some paper or felt ears. Or, choose a colorful umbrella, and make yourself a butterfly or fairy costume, instead.

2. Lion

With this simple costume, you’ll literally be golden. To claim your throne as the king of the jungle, all you need is an all-gold (or beige) outfit and a feather boa. It’s as easy as getting dressed and wrapping the boa around your head.

Optional: Snip the end off your boa, grab six inches of string, and make a tail. You can also draw yourself a beastly nose with some black or brown eyeliner.

3. Ninja

This one is the epitome of a stealthy costume. With zero sewing, using nothing but an ordinary t-shirt, you can transform yourself into a ninja! To make your DIY No-Sew Ninja Costume, all you need is an all-black outfit, plus a long-sleeved t-shirt.

Optional: Make flying stars with duct-tape, foil or cardboard.

4. Robot

If you want to be an, ahem, automatic hit, how about this shiny robot costume? Most big-box grocery stores and retailers will donate their old boxes. Just be sure to ask a few days ahead of time (that’s today!), before they hit the recycling bin. Then, apply a genorous coat of silver spray paint or duct tape.

For the legs, adults can wear silver leggings or tights, and kids can wear dryer exhaust hose (as pictured).

Finally, attach doodads (all robots have them). You can use whatever you find laying around the house—be creative. You could use pencil erasers, bottle caps, sink plugs, or even old game pieces. Or draw or paint yourself some buttons.

Optional: Head to Home Depot and wander the aisles for wires, knobs, etc. That’s what Shannon, from YNAB’s customer support team, did for her daughter. When she rolled up to the register, the staff were so impressed, they gave her a 20 percent discount! Shannon said, “They saw my cart and were like, ‘Oh boy, what project is she trying to tackle?!’ because I had things from almost every aisle in the store.”

5. Rosie the Riveter

Dress like an icon of female economic power, Rosie the Riveter, with little more than a blue shirt, jeans, and a red bandana (or scarf, this doesn’t have to be perfect). Then march into the party, flex your bicep, and look people right in the eye.

Optional: Curl your hair and carry a wrench. Coveralls would be a nice touch, too, if you got ‘em.

6. Sheep

This idea came to me when a friend posted on Instagram about sewing cotton balls, individually, to a white t-shirt for her son’s sheep costume. Why not, make it easier? First, dress in all black—leotard and tights are great, or pants and a hoodie, depending on your weather. Then wrap a few layers of pillow batting around your middle. For ears, attach some paper or felt to a headband. Then draw yourself an eyeliner nose.

Optional: If you’re a mom, wear a dress. Your kids can be sheep. Boom! You’re a modern-day Little Bo Peep.

7. Cactus

This costume is so cute, you won’t have to worry about your prickles scaring away new friends. Grab a green sweater, and then safety-pin or sew on some white string. Finish the look with something pink to wear on your head—a loofah or fake flower would work perfectly.

Optional: If you have green pants, make this a head-to-toe effort.

8. Lumber Jack

Just about everybody has a plaid shirt and a pair of jeans. The only downside to emulating Paul Bunyan? People might not realize you’re in costume.

Optional: Put some leaves in your hair and make a fake, cardboard, axe. If you’re beardless, may I refer you back to my #1 Halloween hack? (Draw one with eyeliner, obviously.)

9. Sushi

As sushi, you’ll be deliciously odd and sporting Halloween colors, in one fell swoop! First, dress in a base layer of white. Then find something orange (or pink)—a backpack, hunting vest, beach towel, blanket, or perhaps some of those floating arm thingies that kids wear in the pool. Finally, attach the orange item to your back by tying something black around your waist. A thick belt or scarf would work nicely.

Optional: Draw a soy sauce packet on cardboard, cut it out, and carry it with you. Or use two hiking sticks to emulate chopsticks. Your choice.

10. Error 404

If you really waited until the last second, all is not lost … it just can’t be found. Grab a piece of paper and write the following “Error 404: This costume has not been found.” Now pin it to your chest, and brave the party! You probably, possibly, might get some eye rolls.

So, What Will You Be?

Decision time! Cancel your plans with the candy bowl (kids don’t go door-to-door these days, anyway, apparently), and tell me what you’ll be!

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