We moms and dads know that the scary cost of Halloween costumes can seem more like a trick than a treat.

There are ways, though, to slash those prices and still have awesome costumes for your family.

Thrift stores, dollar stores and Goodwill can be a gold mine for pre-made costumes, accessories and unique touches on the cheap.

Taylor Petersen got a brand new astronaut costume for her 3-year-old son at Savers for $20. She said that at regular stores it probably would have been over $25.

Petersen also likes to put together her own costumes using items from her closet and accessorizing with cheap finds.

She looks at premade costumes for inspiration.

"I like to figure out how I can put it together so it doesn't look like what everybody else has, by using pieces from thrift stores, the Goodwill or Target."

With a little imagination, you can make costumes from random things you find around the house.

Tucson resident Michael Shack said his dad used to make "awesome Halloween costumes" for the kids.

"A Baskin-Robbins cardboard ice cream bucket became Boba Fett's helmet; a large, square cardboard box and squares of poster board became a Rubik's Cube; a cut bleach bottle and some gold paint became King Tut's hat, etcetera."

If you need a little inspiration, there are tons of do-it-yourself ideas online.

My favorites involve cardboard boxes. You can make dice, a Rubik's Cube, Lego-Man or an X-Ray machine.

I decided I'd experiment with the X-ray machine. With just a few supplies, a couple hours and about $6, I made a unique costume that my 5-year-old son loves. (Keep reading for a how-to.)

"I like it because it's so cool. It's like you're a real X-ray," Noah told me.

I also put together a pirate costume using pieces from home and accessories from the 99 Cents Only Store at Golf Links and Kolb.

When Noah looked in the mirror wearing this scurvy outfit he said, "Whoa! I'm a pirate! It's 100,000 times cool!"

In kidspeak, that's pretty awesome.

'So cool': DIY ideas for Halloween costumes


Materials: Cardboard box, white paint, black posterboard or construction paper, skeleton cut-out. Optional: bottle tops, cut out letters, colored pencils.

Instructions: Cut arm holes in the sides, and one on top that will be big enough to slide over head. Paint the box white. When the paint dries, glue black poster board on the front. On top of that, glue on the skeleton cutout. Trim to fit in the black "screen" area. Using markers or cut-out letters, write "X-Ray" or "Radiation." Paint bottle tops and glue them onto the top of the box.

Cost: $6.


Materials: White shirt, black pants, boots, pirate scarf, eye patch, pillowcase, bandanna, gauze material or vest, construction paper and colored pencils. What I didn't have at home, I purchased at the 99 Cents Only Store.

Instructions: Cut pillowcase into strips. After the pants, shirt and bandanna are on, drape a strip of gauze over each shoulder and tie a pillowcase strip over it around the waist. Add pirate scarf and eye patch. On light yellow construction paper, draw a map and roll it up. Tuck pirate gun or sword and treasure map in sash.

Cost: $4.

Variations: Draw a mustache with eyeliner. If you don't already have boots, get felt from the craft store and make boot covers to go over the calves.

Eight quick tips

1Look at premade costumes for inspiration.

2Check your closet or your friends' closets for items you can use.

3Swap costumes with friends.

4Shop the sales after the holiday for stuff you can use next year.

5Dollar stores, thrift stores and yard sales often have unique finds for very cheap.

6Summon your inner artist and make your own costume.

7Use makeup for a cheap transformation.

8Tease, curl, crimp, gel and spray your hair.


Star reporter Angela Pittenger became a "centsible mom" the hard way.

She and her husband, Clint, were both laid off from their jobs for part of 2011. They went without health insurance for several months, which was terrifying, Angela remembers, since Clint has diabetes, and their son, Noah, was only 4 at the time.

The Star rehired Angela about a year ago. Her husband is a mobile DJ at events such as weddings and Angela sometimes takes the photos; she's also a fledgling artist on the side. But there are many slow months in Tucson for such work.

In this new, occasional column, Angela will share tips, ideas and news about how Tucson consumers can find value and stretch their budgets. She lives those goals every day herself.

more online

The Internet can be a great resource for cheap costume ideas. Here are some from www.ehow.com online:

• Play on words costumes: Wear all pink, carry a feather and say you're tickled pink. Be a black-eyed pea or God's gift to women … you get the idea.

• Cardboard box costumes: Using paint or squares of colored paper, make a Rubik's Cube.

• Paint a box white and use cut-out circles to make dice.

• Rock star: Rip some old jeans and T-shirts to make a rocker outfit. Tease, crimp or gel hair into a crazy style. Paint faces with make-up. Make a guitar out of cardboard and paint.

Disney's Family Fun website, familyfun.go.com/halloween online offers a ton of ideas with step-by-step directions for do-it-yourself kids' costumes.