The most frightening thing on Halloween this year might be the economy, but that isn’t stopping revelers from dressing up and celebrating. According to the National Retail Federation’s Halloween Intentions and Actions Survey, the average consumer will spend $66.54 to celebrate this year, compared to $64.82 in 2007.
“Seems like it might give buyers a little stress relief to forget about their finances for a night of fun,” says Don Holland, who runs The Halloween Store, an online shop where sales are up. But why not forget your finances and have a little more cash leftover?
Here are some alternatives that don’t come in a bag, and cost between $3 and $25.
Joe the Plumber
Estimated Cost: $3
Since Halloween arrives just a week before the elections, politics will no doubt play into fright night. “Obama masks are outselling McCain five to one,” says Holland, “and Palin-style rimless glasses are a very hot item this year.” If you’re still undecided about who to vote for and prefer not to side with either candidate when it comes to dressing up, than go as Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber. The overnight Republican star is one of the easiest costumes to assemble. If you don’t have the guts to shave your head, pick up a bald cap for about $3. Finish the look with some old jeans, a sweatshirt and a plunger—which you should already have.
Estimated Cost: $10
Wear a costume that’s current and topical, and you have your Halloween party icebreaker ready to go. Capture the nation’s home mortgage crisis by dressing up as a McMansion. All you need is a large cardboard box, a box cutter, and some cheap paint. Home Depot (STOCK QUOTE: HD) sells returned cans for as little as $1. After cutting out holes for your head and arms, paint the box to resemble a house (add windows, a door, etc). Then take the leftover cardboard and make a “Foreclosed” sign to hang around your neck.
Large box: $3.75
Box cutter: $3.48
Estimated Cost: $25
The 2008 Beijing Olympics provided some of the best television we’ve seen all year (and the highest ratings to boot). Who can forget the drama that ensued when competitors from China’s women’s gymnastics team were accused of being underage? Thankfully, you don’t need to be able to balance on a four-inch beam to relive the highs and lows of the Summer Games. All you need is a leotard or tracksuit and bright, glittery makeup. And depending whether you’re on the U.S. or Chinese team, you can either wear a few medals around your neck or make a birth certificate to prove your age.
Estimated cost: $25
Bloodsuckers never grow old, never die, and when it comes to Halloween, they never go out of style. And if you’ve seen HBO’s True Blood, you know a little fake blood can go a long way. Mix together water, corn syrup, and red food coloring to create Dracula’s favorite beverage, and then snap up a pair of fangs from your local Halloween store. Finally, wear white face makeup and draw bite marks on your neck with the fake blood. Or dress up as a bat by splitting an old umbrella in two and sew each part (now a wing) onto an old sweater. Use the remaining fabric as bat ears.
White crème powder, $6.50
The Joker Nurse
Estimated Cost: $25
We hate to break it to you, but everyone will be looking to The Dark Knight for costume ideas. Holland counts the Joker and the bank robber clowns from the film as some of his bestsellers. If you’re thinking of paying tribute to Heath Ledger, go for the Joker Nurse. First, apply white makeup all over your face; smear black cream shadow around your eyes and paint your mouth and surrounding “scars” with dark red lipstick. You can buy a uniform from a medical supply store for as little as $20—beats spending almost $50 on a similar costume.