Plan ahead and save on your kids' Halloween costumes

Halloween costumes can be pricey. If you have more than one child, you can end up paying a small fortune. Kids wear them for a day and then hang them in the closet.

Savvy shoppers buy costumes on clearance for the following year. Some costumes can be passed on to another child, swapped with friends or family or used for dress-up boxes. But you can make unique and easy homemade costumes too.

Do-it-yourself costumes cost much less than you'll pay in retail stores. You might have some of the supplies already and any remaining won't break the bank.

Sweat suits make a great foundation for a variety of fun costumes, so you don't have to resort to a white-sheet ghost costume.

One reader, Cheryl in North Carolina, shares: "Make a simple bunny costume: pink sweats with bought bunny ears. Paint whiskers on the face, and attach a cotton puff for the tail. Or a sheep costume: black or white sweats with cotton balls attached."

What types of homemade costumes have you made? Here are a few ideas.

KERMIT THE FROG: Use a green sweat suit as the base for the costume. Use a set that has a hooded sweatshirt. Buy white and lime-green felt and peel-and-stick Velcro. Refer to a picture of Kermit for inspiration. Form rounded circles from the white felt. Stuff with batting. Using a permanent marker, draw eyes (circle with two lines extending out from both sides). Attach with Velcro onto the top of the hood. Cut triangles from the lime felt, and using Velcro, attach them around the neck of the hoodie.

CUPCAKE: Use a pink sweat suit (hooded top). You'll need aluminum foil, a large red pompom or a Styrofoam ball and red spray paint (cherry), brown pipe cleaner (cherry stem), assorted colored felt and pompoms (sprinkles), pink ribbon (suspenders), batting and pink spray paint (frosting). Glue or peel and stick Velcro to attach cupcake decorations and a roundish laundry hamper (cupcake liner). Cut a hole into the bottom of the hamper. This is so it can be worn. Cover the hamper with aluminum foil. Tie the ribbon onto the hamper to make suspenders, and adjust to fit the child. Spray-paint the batting. Once dry, glue the batting around the top of the hamper. Attach pompoms and felt, cut to look like sprinkles. Attach the large red pompom or painted Styrofoam ball onto the top of the hood. Glue the pipe cleaner to it to form a stem. If you can't find a hoodie, use a winter hat.

BUTTERFLY: Use a black sweat suit (hooded top). You'll need a headband, black pipe cleaners and two small pompoms or Styrofoam balls painted black. You can buy the wings separately. Wrap the pipe cleaner around the headband. Glue one pompom to each pipe cleaner to form antennae. Or you can use a black winter hat and simply coil the pipe cleaners, poke through the hat, and bend to attach. Along the same lines, you can create a fairy costume by buying fairy wings instead of butterfly wings. Then make a no-sew tutu by using the directions at www.gophotography.com/tutu.

GRAPES: Use a purple sweat suit (hooded top). Attach purple balloons with safety pins to sweat suit (top and bottom). Cut a couple of grape-leaf shapes from green felt, and glue a couple of green pipe cleaners coiled to look like grapevine to the underside of the leaves. You can use small pieces of brown felt rolled to form a stem, too.

AUTUMN LEAVES: Use a red, brown or orange sweat suit (hooded top). Buy silk fall leaves. Glue (or attach using safety pins) leaves to entire sweat suit. Child can carry a small toy rake.

For more on the Halloween season, go to our Halloween Headquarters.

Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village ( http://www.frugalvillage.com/ ), a Web site that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. To send tips, comments or questions, write to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or e-mail sara@frugalvillage.com .


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