Ask my 4-year-old daughter Ellie what she wants to be for Halloween and she’ll tell you a cat. Ask her the next day and she’ll tell you a witch. Wait a few more days and then ask her again. She’ll tell you a mermaid-cat-witch. You get the idea. I’ve dealt with this costume conundrum for the past 10 years with all three of my kids. It’s been one of the most hilarious and expensive Halloween-inspired parenting battles I’ve experienced thus far.

As cute as it is to see my little girl change her mind about what she would like to be for Halloween, I’d like to celebrate this year’s holiday with minimal tears in the costume department. Tackle the aisles of Target and Walmart this month like a pro with these 5 simple tips.

halloween icon pumpkinWAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE

Yep. Seriously. You might think this is a bad idea but unless your child is 100 percent sure she knows what she wants to be for Halloween, wait it out. We’ve all had those years, OK maybe two, when our child goes through a Princess Sophia or Sheriff Callie stage. When that season of character obsession comes along, by all means…get the costume. But your child will someday move on to like a variety of characters and mythical creatures (unicorns anyone?) and every time I have been to the store right before Halloween, there has always been a costume my child will wear. It may not be the exact costume she wanted, but since she couldn’t make up her mind to begin with, she’s easily swayed into being the best Princess Leia on the block.



Who doesn’t love a fun game of dress-up? I know my kids do and we’ve had some of our best memories chasing each other throughout the house with me in a Ninja costume and my three kids piecing various bits of random costumes together. One time I saw Ellie come downstairs with a Spider-Man mask on her face and a cat costume on her body while riding a stick pony. I know you can relate.

Kids always want to wear their Halloween costumes before Halloween. To avoid telling my kids no to and to prevent getting spaghetti sauce stains on their new costumes, I let them wear the previous years’ costumes whenever they want. Because let’s be real, we all know the month leading up to Halloween dressing up is THE most important thing to our kids. Who am I to squash their playful imaginations? I’ve actually coined myself the best-mom-ever (courtesy of my kids) for keeping every single costume we’ve ever bought so they can indulge in as much dressing up as their hearts desire at no additional cost to me.


Borrow your friends’ costumes. You know those character obsessions I talked about earlier? If your son wants to be the Hulk this year, seek out the friend whose son has already gone through his Hulk season in life and ask her if you can borrow his costume. She might say no if her son is planning on being the Hulk again this year or if he’s super territorial about his costume. Chances are, she’ll think the idea of trading costumes is brilliant. Return the favor by offering up one your son’s costumes and, if you don’t have anything fun between the two of you, bring another friend into the mix.



Head to the resale stores. These stores are your best friends and if you don’t know that by now, don’t worry, there’s still room for you. These are the stores you want to go to if your child changes her mind every day about what she wants to wear. You can buy three costumes, maybe even four, for the price of one brand-new costume which means it’s OK if your daughter changes her mind the day of Halloween because you’ll have several back-ups.

You might even find what she’s looking for with the tags still on. It’s happened before. My favorite thing about these stores is that you’ll often find costumes that weren’t even on your radar. Resale stores always have a vast selection of current characters, but they also have ones that you might not have thought of but that your daughter loves.

One year I took my middle daughter to look around and she found a witch costume that I recognized from an expensive children’s catalogue. She absolutely loved it because it was so different than the traditional witch costumes with its glittery, lime green and hot pink adornments. We grabbed it off the rack for $8 and it was in perfect condition. I happened to have the catalogue at home, so I looked up the original price. It was over $100 brand new and you know what? This is still one of her favorite costumes today and I get so giddy every time I see how happy she is wearing it because it was so inexpensive.


Shop after Halloween for next year’s costumes. If you don’t know this tip by now, you need to get on the bandwagon. The day after Halloween, costumes go on sale but not low enough that you want to start buying them. You’ll need to wait three to five days before costumes get down to 70 to 90 percent. Most of them will be picked over by then, but they’ll be so cheap you can piece different costumes together or keep them for your kids’ dress-up bin.

I like to divide and conquer so I park myself in one store and my friend will go to another. That way we can hit up more than one store at the same time. We’ll call each other if we see something one of our kids might like and then we’ll reconvene over coffee and get all excited about how much money we’ve saved.

You’d be surprised how many times the same costume comes out the very next year or a similar costume comes out with only one or two minor changes from the original. You can often times get these super cheap after Halloween and just tuck them away at home for the following year. Plan on spending some time digging through the racks though. Sometimes costumes are folded, dropped or tucked behind random items in the store from people who were going through them just like you are now. Their idea of the store not having a broad selection just might be your jackpot for finding the perfect costume.

Parenting journalist Meagan Ruffing gets so excited about going on a hunt for Halloween costumes every year. She loves finding good deals and gets just as excited as her kids do when she finds the perfect costumes for them. You can check out more of her articles on Pinterest, Facebook and