Spend-or-Treat: Costume Creation on a Budget

It’s that time of the year again – my FAVORITE time of the year. The air is crisp, the leaves are swirling to the ground in patterns of gold, red and brown, and Halloween is just around the corner. As adults, I feel that many of us tend to lose that sense of fun and wonder surrounding the holiday. I can agree that as time goes by, holidays in general tend to become more commercialized and, quite frankly, more expensive. Have you seen how expensive adult sized costumes are? Unless I was Heidi Klum and could afford to splurge on Halloween fabulousness, it has become RARE that I purchase anything apart from fake blood and spider webs from the Halloween shops.

While my husband and I typically DIY our costumes each year, I thought I’d change it up a bit this time; while the execution would remain the same, this year I let my kids decide what my costume fate would be. I want to demonstrate that anyone can look spooktacular on a budget.

When I pitched this idea to the kiddos, they were pretty stoked. I was met with the shouted suggestions of “PRINCESS!” and “SUPER HERO!” until I calmed the masses with the promise of a game of “spin-the-bottle”, in which the winning costume idea would be chosen by spinning a wine bottle. You know…keeping it real classy like.

They each were allowed five costume suggestions, which were as follows:


  • Super Hero

  • Poppy (from Trolls)

  • Spiderman

  • Witch

  • Unicorn

Parker -

  • Zombie

  • Bunny

  • “Skellatin”

  • Supper Girl (Which is of course meant to be spelled SUPER girl, but I like to imagine a girl who really enjoys afternoon meals)

  • Bat Girl

It was apparent that the odds of me being some kind of superhero was pretty high, so I halfway prepared myself to wear some underwear over a pair of tights.

After carefully arranging the choices in an alternating pattern around the wine bottle, the kids decided that Parker would be doing the spinning. To my relief, the bottle landed on witch. The first thing I thought was, “OH HELL YES, I will be serving up some AHS Cult realness!” But that’s when I heard the excited chatter about the “scary witch with the green skin.”

Ok, kids. You win. I will be your wicked witch. But you’re crazy if you think I won’t throw a little bit of sass in the mix.

I knew that I had the outfit already; black stockings, black booties, sassy black dress. I already have a lot of craft supplies, because let’s be real: you can’t ever have too much crafting supplies. All I needed was a hat, some green skin, and probably some glitter because…duh. I did run into a slight problem when gathering supplies. We recently moved halfway across the country, so ALL of my craft supplies were still packed away. Do any of you remember that big purple dinosaur, Barney, and his “Barney Bag” full of various odds and ends that seemingly never stopped flowing from that bottomless pit? That’s how I felt going through my boxes of supplies.

 Behold: the garage of many wonders! AKA it has been 2 months and still no unpacking progress.

Behold: the garage of many wonders! AKA it has been 2 months and still no unpacking progress.

After sifting through the mountains of things I didn’t necessarily need to pack, I was fairly sure I had everything I needed, minus the few odds and ends that I would be shopping for. What I settled on was:

  • My cutting mat (not required, just my preference for keeping hot glue in check)

  • Scissors

  • A glue gun (If you do not have one, you can find cheap but functional ones from $3-$6)

  • Hot glue sticks (You can find hot glue sticks in the dollar store craft aisle!)

  • Scraps of leather from my husbands leather stash

  • A couple of fat quarters of fabric (you can find these at Wal-Mart for .97 for a single or $6.00 for a bundle of cute patterns)

  • Cardboard

  • Card stock

  • Tape

  • A small plate for tracing

  • Not pictured: a headband I stole from my daughter

I purchased the rest of my supplies at Wal-Mart. This is not a plug for Wal-Mart. I hate going to Wal-Mart. But it was near my house, the Halloween stuff is cheap, and it served the exact purpose I needed it for. Pictured above are the few goodies I walked away with, which include:

  • 1 green and 1 white tube of cream makeup ($.98 each)

  • 1 palette of All-Over glitter ($2.98)

  • 1 set of voluminous lashes ($2.98)

  • 2 decorative succulents ($2.00 each)

Now for the fun part! It’s a game I like to call: “how many times can I burn myself with hot glue?”; AKA building a witches hat.

For the first half of the hat project, I taped 2 pieces of card stock together. This was probably unnecessary, and you would more than likely be fine with just one, but I was going for sturdiness.

After taping, I rolled the card stock into a cone and trimmed the ends off of it to give it a smooth, flat bottom.

Next I made notches around the bottom of the cone that were about 3/4 of an inch apart and fanned them out. This makes gluing the top of the hat to the brim much easier.

I took the small dessert plate and traced it on my piece of cardboard. After the circle is cut out, you have the brim of the hat, which I then glued the top to (as centered as my poor eyesight would allow for).

The fat quarters I chose to work with had a really fun, geometric gold pattern on them. Who says witches can’t be shiny and fabulous? I measured out an approximate amount and began to wrap, glue and trim the fabric starting at the top of the cone and ending at the brim.

For the second half of the witches hat, I took the remainder of the fat quarter I trimmed down for the top, folded it in half, and cut 2-3 inch long notches in the center in the in the shape of an X. This allowed me to easily slide the fabric over the top of the cone and lay it flat over the brim.

Next came a lot more trimming, notching and gluing, making sure the fabric on the top of the brim was pulled taught.

As you can see, when I finished gluing, the bottom of the had had a ton of exposed cardboard and generally just looked bad. To fix this, I took the small plate, traced another circle out of another fat quarter of fabric, and glued it to the bottom.

Let me say this: There probably is a much better way to do this, but this entire project took me about 30 minutes. If I had taken my time, it would have probably been unnecessarily elaborate and had more attention to detail. Luckily, the theme today is “quick and cheap”.

For the finishing touches, I measured the leather (which was a REALLY pretty, ornate belt that was too small for my husband to use for anything else), and glued it around the center of the hat.

To add a touch of whimsy, I glued one of the decorative succulents to the top of the hat to cover up the hole at the top of the cone.

Next came the headband, which I admit was not as secure as I would have hoped for, but that is something that can be solved by pinning the hat to your hair.

As a final step, I dug out some ribbon from my craft boxes and glued it around the brim of the hat to hide the rough edges. I pinched sections of the ribbon as I glued to give it a bit of texture.

VOILA! I present to you, a cute, unconventional witches hat. All that’s left is to look the part.

Look, I will never claim to be on the same level as those incredible YouTube makeup gurus or FX experts, but I do think the look came out pretty dang cute for my level of amateurism. All I did was take the green and white cream makeup and make 3 different shades of green by mixing the colors, elementary school style.

I painted my entire face the lightest shade of green that I had on the plate for consistency, used the darkest shade to hollow out my cheeks a bit, and the mid-tone for a bit of definition here and there.

FYI: This cheap paint SUCKS. I really had to cake it on for it to look halfway decent, so if you have the money to splurge on the good stuff, I say go for it.

I finished up my face by throwing on some full, fake lashes and adding a ridiculous amount of glitter (because my witch is going to be scary fab).


Hat? Check. Sassy black outfit? Check. Broom? Check. Copious amounts of green paint and glitter? Check.

There you have it! In 30 minutes I was able to create this cute witchy look. The total amount spent was, with tax, about $13.00. Had I purchased the glue sticks, gun and fabric, it would have brought the total to roughly around $20.00.

This article was originally meant to provide an example of being able to create a killer costume on the cheap, but out of this I was able to take so much more. The behind the scenes bits were my favorite part. Getting my kiddos into the Halloween spirit and showing them how to harness their creativity and imagination was priceless. After it was all said and done, we planned out their costumes, played “Mommy Witch and Baby Witch” and cackled around the house. Even if Halloween is mega commercialized these days, it still is a day out of the year where you have the opportunity to create something magical and have loads of fun.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!