I am a fierce defender of Halloween, King of Holidays. It is unabashedly pro-fun, pro-candy and pro-ghouls and goblins. If for some reason I was given the power to rewrite the calendar, I would add a Halloween to each month just so we had more opportunities to dress up like idiots and eat sweet junk.
At the same time, I’m a fierce defender of not wasting tons of money on a costume. Last year, Americans spent $9.1 billion on Halloween—$3.4 billion on costumes alone. Some estimates place the average cost of a Halloween costume at nearly $71, which is a lot for an outfit I’ll probably only wear for one night. We all want to have a good time on Halloween, but it can be tough to afford (or justify) one-off expenses like that.
There is, thankfully, an easy solution to this problem: Create your own costumes out of the clothes you already own.
This may sound like a Halloween cop out. That’s because it is a Halloween cop out. But with a little imagination and a lot of prefatory explanations to your friends, any outfit you own can become the absolute cheapest DIY Halloween costume imaginable.
Everyone can dress like Mark Zuckerberg, the famous Facebook CEO who recently was responsible for 50 million account hacks. All you need is a gray T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Ta-da! How’s it feel to be scrambling to bolster security and respond to the Cambridge Analytica scandal? Pretty spooky, right?
Not every Halloween costume has to be supernatural or scary. Sometimes it’s enough to simply be aspirational. If people ask you why you’re wearing slacks and a nice shirt, tell them that you’re dressed as the mayor of a very casual town. No top hat, monocle and cane required for this town—no sir! Jeans and a nice shirt work for this municipal manager.
Do you own underwear and enough aluminum foil to wrap around your limbs? Put two and two together, my friend.
People assume that every political costume is a smart costume, so take advantage of their ignorance by claiming your everyday outfit is a piece of political satire. You can say that you’re dressed as a “swing voter,” or, if you hold out both of your arms and puff out your cheeks, you can claim to be the “national debt.” The best part is that people will feel obligated to laugh no matter what you say, simply because they don’t want to seem uninformed.
Werewolves are a Halloween staple. But who has the time or money to buy fur and glue it to your hands and face? Instead, think outside the box by dressing as a pre-transformation werewolf who hasn’t been hit by moonlight yet. Maybe during the day, your werewolf dresses in sweatpants and a tank top. Maybe they’re business formal. The choice is yours!
Scarecrows are the original hipsters, with their preference for flannel, ripped jeans and dumb hats. Wear your worst clothes, don’t wash your hair and walk around claiming to be a scarecrow that came to life. To add a layer of believability, you can talk nonstop about how much you love corn and hate birds.
If you’re out of time, money and ideas, here’s a surefire backup plan. Show up to a costume party in your normal clothes, look everyone dead in the eyes and say that you are “Sam.”
Being “Sam” is all about confidence. If you truly believe you are “Sam,” no one is going to question you. The best part about Sam? Sam wears whatever Sam wants! Sam just wants to be comfortable. That’s what makes Sam so cool and hip.
This is just the tip of the pumpkin spiceberg. Halloween is meant to be the most imagination-friendly holiday of the year, so anything you can think of, you can become. That means it’s the perfect time to add a little creative spin to whatever clothes, accessories or props you already own, so you can have a good time without feeling bad about spending your weekly grocery money on an outfit you’ll probably never wear again.